ASCJ 2009

Session 9: Room 11-209 (Saturday June 20, 13:15-15:15)

Gender and Migrants of Japanese Ancestry in Japan

Organizer: Hugo Córdova Quero, Sophia University

Chair: Alberto Fonseka Sakai, Josai International University

Discussant: Keiko Yamanaka, University of California at Berkeley

Description of the Panel:

Since the mid-1980s and the so-called “bubble economy,” Japan has received an increasing number of migrants, including thousands of Japanese descendants from the Americas. They come to Japan in order to offer their work as factory workers, as English teachers, or as white-collar employees. Traditionally, their migration experience would be mainly seen through the eyes of their relation to the Japanese labor market. Despite the importance of this analysis, this panel takes a different route. The presenters seek to interrogate how Japanese Peruvians, Japanese Americans and Japanese Brazilian migrants differently understand and negotiate notions of gender, gender roles and gender expectations amidst Japanese society. Using gender as a lens for analysis, the daily lives of migrant in Japan are examined by intersecting racial and ethnic identities, cultural, social, and economic notions of capital, mass media discourses, and religious experiences.Aware that gender cannot be equated solely with “women”, the panelists investigate the interactions of women and men in the formation of families; the gender constructions within the ethnic mass media; dynamics of power and the politics of subordination, citizenship and labor; as well as the importance of religious experiences among Japanese descendants migrants in Japan. The panel is an interdisciplinary dialogue among young scholars who have conducted fieldwork among different populations of Japanese descendant migrants in Japan.

Paper 1: Gendering Faith in Japan: Religious Experiences among Japanese Brazilian Migrant Women

Hugo Córdova Quero, Sophia University


Based on interviews among Japanese Brazilian parishioners within Roman Catholic communities throughout the Kanto region this paper seeks to explore the positive role of religious experiences involved in the dynamics of migration and adaptation of the Japanese Brazilian women. Female migrants negotiate gender expectations both in Japanese society and within ethnic communities, whose gender expectations are sometimes related to religious beliefs. Although this may be beneficial in many cases, in others it results in the reification of hetero-patriarchal normativities. By intersecting religion, migration, ethnicity and gender studies, this paper contributes to reveal spaces of resistance, re-negotiation and re-construction in the experience of transnational migrants such as Japanese Brazilians and their faith experiences while in Japan.

Paper 2: Gendered Representations of Nikkei-Brazilians

Cherrier, Pauline, University of Lyon (France)


While endogamy has always been considered as an indicator of a population’s integration in its host society, the case of Brazilians of Japanese ancestry has indeed often been debated to gauge their degree of integration in the Brazilian society. The focus this population has benefited from owing to 2008’s commemoration of the centenary of Japanese immigration to Brazil, seems to have occasioned new interpretations of their integration, or at least, of their status in the Brazilian society. On the other side, as the majority of Brazilians living in Japan are of Japanese descent, such reinterpretations should also be taken into account to gauge their position towards Japanese society. While migrants’ shared experience of factory working in Japan often entails a restructuration of their conjugal and family behaviors, we will pay attention to the way these relations and to the way women are described in the Portuguese written ethnic media, namely a powerful tool of expression among the Brazilian community in Japan. The analysis of such issues as inter-racial marriages or women’s representation will allow us to see what Brazilian ethnic media discourses reveal of Brazilian conception of gender and multiculturalism and how this conception matches, or not, Japanese official discourses on multiculturalism. Although we will mainly focus on contemporary articles of the ethnic media, the confrontation with other articles from main Brazilian media, earlier in time, will prove to be enlightening and revealing about the evolution of discourses on this Nikkei-Brazilian population.