Matrilineal Canadian Nikkei Generations: Representations of Belonging and Transnational Nikkei Identities

Abstract

The Japanese in Canada have a complex cultural identity relating to their sense of (not) belonging in Canada, their imaginings of Japan as homeland, and the growth of Nikkei identifying themselves transnationally. This paper compares representations of Canadian Nikkei families in the post-Redress (1988) and post-Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1988) period by Canadian Nikkei authors. It examines relationships amongst generations in novels within the critical context of the mother-daughter dyad in Asian American literature. Canadian Nikkei families have to compete with the global media and new technologies which are changing the way Nikkei cultural identities are constructed.
The paper draws on a combination of primary source materials from recent fieldwork conducted in Canada including narrative textual readings, interviews, archival work, and ethnographic research. It considers Joy Kogawa's seminal novel Obasan in which the protagonist Naomi's relationships with her mother and two aunts frame her understanding of her own cultural identity. It also uses Hiromi Goto's novel Chorus of Mushrooms which has a family that problematises Japanese diasporic identities and asks questions of Canada's multicultural mosaic (and the place of minorities such as Canadian Nikkei within it). Canadian Nikkei--who were called ‘the yellow peril' when they first arrived in Canada but are now seen as a ‘model minority'--offer a window for exploring many of the most important issues around identity of Japanese diasporas worldwide today.



Author Information
Lyle De Souza, Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2014
Stream: Cultural Studies

This paper is part of the ACCS2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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