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Living under more than one sun: The Nikkei Diaspora in the Americas

Currently more than 2.5 million Americans living on the South and North American continents are Nikkei or descendants of Japanese migrants. The history of their forefathers’ emigration from Japan and the meaning of ethnicity and citizenship while living in the diaspora has attracted considerable scholarly attention, which was renewed by the recent wave of sojourner migration by Latin Americans of Japanese origin into Japan. Virtually nothing is known so far about the impact of “return migration” and the “returnees’ remigration” on the diaspora in Latin America. To what degree have ideas of ethnic or political loyalty, of national and cultural identity, been shifting one way or the other due to the increased proximity to their ancestors’ place of origin? And how have hostile or discriminatory treatment by homeland and hostland societies impacted on the collective image of the Nikkei in Latin America? The Nikkei experience of living abroad bears the potential for rethinking the meaning of diaspora. As the return migration to the land of their ancestors has not fulfilled the postulated ‘negation of a diaspora’ (Clifford 1994), it has squared the sensation of being diasporic in the sense of being displaced twice and having multiple relationships with distinct nations which are neither just homeland nor hostland. Based on multi-sited fieldwork in Japan, Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay, I analyze the shifting functions of the pillars of migrant communities, i.e. family household, school and hometown associations. I argue that the Nikkei are entangled in a “squared diaspora” in which the juxtaposition of homeland and hostland itself becomes questionable, instable and fluctuating.


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Contemporary Japan


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