Session 42: Room 11-311
Individual Papers on Migration and Gender

Chair: James Farrer, Sophia University


1) Gitte Marianne Hansen - Copenhagen University/Waseda University
Balancing Femininity: Eating disorders, Self-harm, and Female Subjectivity in Japanese Cultural Expressions

The incidence of eating disorders and self-harm behavior among Japanese females has been on the rise since the 1980s. Although such self-destructive behavior on one level is always related to unique individual experiences, these behaviors are also understood as a social phenomenon specific to a particular historical and social setting. My study proposes that in the Japanese context the motivation for females to engage in eating disorders and self-harm behavior is rooted in cultural and historical constructions of femininity, is driven by the fear of social disintegration, and expresses a paradox: an attempt to ‘over-perform’ and ‘escape’ the obligation to balance the ‘contradictive femininity’ – the normative femininity that emerged in the post-war years and today requires women to perform a contradiction where they must be both self-sacrificing and individual consumer subjects.

Interestingly, since the early 1980s, eating disorders and self-harm have become an increasingly common theme in Japanese cultural expressions such as literature, manga, animation, and film. These works can be placed into two main categories; works that explicitly thematize eating disorders and self-harm behavior, and works that do not explicitly thematize such behavior, but through embedded storylines, link female subjectivity to actions of eating disorders and self-harm. This presentation will examine the theme of eating disorders and self-harm behavior in contemporary Japanese fiction in relation to the normative ‘contradictive femininity’.

2) Kumiko Nemoto, Western Kentucky University
Long Work Hours and the Corporate Gender Divide: How Does Overwork Shape the Gender Division in the Japanese Workplace?

Japan's long work hours have drawn significant attention over the years: first they were seen as a sign of national diligence and rapid economic development, but now they are viewed as a problem due to the health risks they impose on workers. While men's overwork in Japan has long been perceived as a social problem, how such work hours have shaped women's experiences hasn't been studied. In the context of the U.S. workplace, it is well known that the organizational belief in the image of the ideal worker as a "man with a housewife" has caused male workers who work long hours to be rewarded. Women have also been more likely to be penalized by cultural expectations that they should remain caretakers and mothers, and have resorted to the gender strategies of remaining single or "opting out." Building on previous studies of gender inequality in the workplace, this paper explores how organizational cultures emphasizing long work hours in Japan have reinforced gender inequality in the workplace. Through in-depth interviews with 64 workers, I look at five firms in two industries that have distinctly different gender compositions in their regular workforces: the cosmetics industry and the financial services industry. The paper focuses on three aspects of workplace dynamics, in which the organizational norm of long work hours influences gender division and reinforces workplace gender inequality: 1) women's career paths and future prospects; 2) gender stereotypes; and 3) the overburdening of working mothers.

3) Djamila Schans, Ochanomizu University/Maastricht University
Immigrants of African Origin in Japan: Pathways of Incorporation  

Although research on immigration in Japan has increased over the last decades, most studies focus on immigrants from other Asian countries or so-called `ethnic Japanese`:  immigrants from Brazil and Peru. In contrast, this paper will present research on the (sub-Saharan) African community in Tokyo and discuss their migration histories and motives, their experiences in Japan and their relationships with the Japanese. The paper is based on secondary analysis of Japanese government statistics, in-depth interviews with 15 members of the African community in Tokyo and 5 Japanese wives of African immigrants as well as on participant observation in various activities organized around the African community in Tokyo. African migration to Japan cannot be easily explained by a simple push-pull migration theory. African immigrant communities develop their own dynamics and logic, largely independent of economic and political processes in their country of origin. The strength of social networks and ties with native Japanese provide opportunities and determine whether African immigrants perceive a future in Japan for themselves.

4) Michael Sharpe, York College/City University of New York
What does Blood Membership mean in Political Terms? The Case of Latin American Nikkeijin (Japanese Descendants) in Japan

Japan's newest minority consists of over 300,000 Japanese coethnic immigrants or Nikkeijin from Brazil, Peru, and other parts of Latin America. The Japanese government prohibits unskilled immigrants. Faced with a 1980's booming economy and the need for foreign labor to do 3D jobs in combination with increasing presence of foreign workers from the Middle East and declining Latin American economies (Kashiwazaki, 2000) ,  Japanese policymakers thought that creating an opportunity for Japanese coethnics to come and work in Japan would be less of a risk to public order than other "foreigners". (Tsuda, 2003) This resulted in the 1990 Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act which created a "side door" (Brody, 2002) for unskilled labor by establishing visa for overseas ethnic Japanese Nikkeijin up to the third generation (sansei) to have a renewable stay of up to three years with unlimited restriction to employment or labor markets. (Tsuda, 1999; 2003) Even spouses and children also able to stay for up to one year both with unlimited renewals enabling a mass transnational family immigration. (Tsuda, 1999; 2003; Yamanaka, 2000) Co-ethnicity implies "full community membership" (Marshall, 1992) that should facilitate immigrant political incorporation. Why are Nikkeijin being included as "local citizens" (Pak, 2000) by some defiant local governments, without formal political rights, in Japan?  What limits or facilitates the political incorporation of Japanese Nikkeijin immigrants from Latin America in Japan? This paper will analyze this and argue that a variety of structural barriers and a powerful "myth of return" (Yamanaka, 2000) to their native countries limits the political incorporation of Nikkeijin. This qualitative and quantitative analysis is based on government  and NGO data and fieldwork consisting of 25 interviews over several months with three local governments with high concentrations of Latin American Nikkeijin, politicians in the upper and lower houses of the Diet, NGO's, community activists, and  journalists in Japan.

5) David Roh, University of California, Santa Barbara
Importing Korean America: Literary Constructions of Zainichi Identity

Despite having spent several generations in Japan, Korean Japanese, colloquially referred to as "zainichi," face difficult and complex nuances in negotiating interiority in Japan. For example, many zainichi have changed their names from Korean to Japanese, and for all intents and purposes, may "pass" as Japanese.  Still, in a legal sense they are not Japanese - many have Korean passports despite never having set foot in Korea and must carry with them an alien registration card and produce it on demand or face a penalty in either heavy fees or jail time.

More recent generations of Korean Japanese have a different view of themselves—abstaining from any sense of nationalistic patriotism for a Korea they never knew. In Kaneshiro Kazuki's 2000 novel, GO, the North Korean protagonist Sugihara struggles to come to terms with what it means to be Zainichi in contemporary Japan.  In forming his own sense of self against the backdrop of his dominant father, Sugihara looks toward an unlikely source for inspiration - Korean America. I argue that Korean America informs Sugihara's model for himself—at once transnational, fluid, pugilistic, and heterogeneous. The policies and global transactions among the three nations - America, Japan, and Korea, create fissures and crevices through which displaced persons must construct themselves.