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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

National Worlds, Transnational Lives: Nikkei-Brazilian Migrants in and of Japan and Brazil
by LeBaron von Baeyer, Sarah, Ph.D., Yale University, 2015, 359; 3663656
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation I explore the range of life trajectories and variable ways of being both Nikkei (of Japanese descent) and Brazilian that exist for transnational Nikkei-Brazilian labor migrants and their children. I demonstrate how gender, generation, and class intersect with Nikkei-Brazilian migrants' expression of ethnic belonging, within and across national boundaries, and in the contexts of family, work, education, and religion. By examining simultaneously the institutional structures (e.g. two different sets of legal, employment, and educational systems), social exchanges (e.g. among families and peers at work, school, and church), and individual events and emotions they experience, I show the ways that Nikkei-Brazilian transnational migrants and their children actively create and express multiple forms of belonging in Japan and Brazil. Building on theories of globalization, transnational migration, and ethnicity and diaspora, I term this ongoing process hybridizing belonging, and illustrate the ways in which it challenges accepted standards of insider versus outsider, whether conceived of as Japanese versus Brazilian or migrant versus immigrant.

Over twenty years have passed since Japan revised its immigration policy to allow people of Japanese descent—primarily South American—to enter the country to work in unskilled labor. As the population of Nikkei-Brazilian migrants continued to increase, many of them brought families to Japan, raising children partially or entirely outside their country of origin. Then, in 2009, in response to the global economic crisis, the Japanese government offered to pay. Brazilian migrants to "go home." Despite their dramatic drop in numbers in the years that followed, Brazilian nationals remained the third largest group of registered foreigners in Japan and continue to be one of the country's most important sources of nonnative labor. Today, in the third decade of Nikkei-Brazilian labor migration between Japan and Brazil, the horizon of possibilities for migrants and their children includes long-term settlement in Japan, circular/repeat migration between the two countries, and temporary or potentially final return to Brazil.

In exploring multiple life trajectories and variable ways of creating and expressing belonging, I draw from participant-observation and interviews conducted during nearly two years of fieldwork in Japan and Brazil, between 2009 and 2013, with over 100 transnational labor migrants and their children ranging in age from 11 to their mid-80s. I organize my observations and interviews according to three main axes: work and social (im)mobility, education, and religion. These themes are examined in further detail through the lives of three Nikkei-Brazilian families: one residing partly in Japan and partly in Brazil, one settled in Japan to the point of naturalizing to Japanese citizenship, and one returned more or less permanently to Brazil.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kelly, William W.
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 76/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Keywords: Belonging, Dekasegi, Japan, Mobility, Nikkei-Brazilian, Transnational Migration
Publication Number: 3663656
ISBN: 978-1-321-96070-9
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