Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Japanese Trans-Pacific Migration and the Making of Japanese Empire and Nation, 1870–2011

AHA Session 210
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Room A706 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level)
Jun Uchida, Stanford University
Andrea Geiger, Simon Fraser University

Session Abstract

This panel examines the crucial role of Japanese overseas migration to both Asia and North and South America in Japan’s process of empire-building, as well as in its transition into a nation-state after World War II. While stories of migration have been either marginalized or deemed irrelevant in established narratives for understanding modern Japan, this panel demonstrates important ways in which the Japanese modern nation and empire were formed and transformed by the ideologies and practices of emigration abroad. Furthermore, papers in this panel illustrate that Japanese colonial migration in Asia and the Japanese trans-Pacific diaspora, previously studied in isolation, were profoundly interrelated via the flows of people, ideas and capital that crossed the Pacific Ocean.

Sidney Lu traces the ideological origins of Japanese migration to America to the Japanese empire’s colonial expansion to Hokkaido at the beginning of the Meiji era. The major discourses behind the first wave of trans-Pacific migration to America, the necessity of relocating declassed samurai to the frontier of the national expansion, and the anxiety about overpopulation on the archipelago all originated in the government’s programs of migration to Hokkaido in the 1870s. Andre Kobayashi Deckrow argues that Japanese migration to Brazil in the 1920s should be considered part of Japan’s imperial expansion, which connected the personal success of Japanese peasants in Brazil to the wellbeing of the Japanese empire. Pedro Iacobelli Delpiano examines the Okinawan migration campaigns of the early 1950s in the context of the American Occupation of Japan and illustrates how migration became a way in which Okinawan leaders achieved their autonomy through bypassing the authorities of the US occupation. Toyomi Asano examines the transition of Fukushima Prefecture from a migration sending area before WWII into a region where Japanese repatriates of the empire’s former colonies resettled after coming back to Japan in the postwar era. This historical transition is crucial to understanding the reconstruction of Fukushima after the disaster of March 11, 2011. 

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