Document Type

Honors Project (Campus Only)


This thesis focuses on how the Japanese-Brazilian diaspora constructed the imaginary of identity within the context of global displacement. The rich photographic history of the Japanese-Brazilian migration illuminates the processes behind the diasporas’ identity constructions. My research unpacks these negotiations of identity through a visual culture analysis of the relationship between desirability, identity and labor. Comparing the two diasporic time periods of Japanese-Brazilian migration--1908 to 1941 and 1980 to 2009--I focus on the desirability of the deterritorialized Japanese body, the relationship between Japanese labor and its representation, and resistance to top-down articulations of national identity espoused by Brazilian and Japanese state institutions.

The thesis argues that the first diaspora to Brazil developed an image of Brazilian identity characterized by articulating their belonging to the Brazilian national project, largely through pictorial representations of differing forms of respectability and “Brazilianness.” The second diaspora to Japan in the 1980s were defined externally as “Brazilian” and part of a perceived third-world backwardness. This rejection complicated their acculturation into Japanese society, eventually hastening the expulsion of many of these migrants in 2008, in effect, restarting the cycle of emigration, this time to their older home of Brazil.



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