This article examines the different ways Africans present themselves in Japan and considers what these differences explain about the function of ethno-racial categories and discourses in the Japanese context. Specifically, it highlights the importance of cultural factors in shaping the ways Japanese discourses conceptualize and engage categorical difference, as well as the limitations of examining difference in solely racial or ethnic terms. This article considers data from Africans who present themselves as being from places other than continental Africa and demonstrates how these presentations elucidate the dynamic cultural, geographic, socioeconomic, and contextual variables that inform how Japanese discourses construct cultural Otherness. In constructing such Otherness, Japanese discourses project domestic identity ideologies differently onto foreign populations, which simultaneously highlight the functionality of these ideologies. This article suggests that by constructing Otherness in such ways, Japanese discourses are able to reconceptualize notions of domestic Japanese identity in a renewed sense within a global framework.
Bibliographical noteThis research was enabled in part by generous grants from the University of Iowa. I would also like to thank Paul Hansen for comments on an early version of this paper, as well as two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments. The editors of this journal also deserve a very special thanks for their insightful feedback.
- African diaspora