Racism without racial difference? Co-ethnic racism and national hierarchies among Nikkeijin ethnic return migrants in Japan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although immigrant minorities in Western countries are often racialized as culturally different, Japanese Americans and Brazilians who “return” migrate to their ancestral homeland of Japan are initially racialized as culturally similar Japanese-descent Nikkeijin. Nonetheless, these ethnic return migrants are eventually deemed culturally foreign because they have been living for generations abroad. As a result, they are hierarchically ordered by nationality in an unequal class structure in Japan, producing a type of “co-ethnic racism” among members of the same racial group. After the Japanese, the Japanese Americans enjoy the most privileged status, whereas Japanese Brazilians are positioned lower in the hierarchy, experience more cultural discrimination, and are confined to unskilled jobs. Although co-ethnic racism is directed toward groups that are not phenotypically distinct, it is still “racist” because their cultural traits are essentialized as inferior and based on apparently immutable national differences, producing structural inequalities that are difficult to overcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Co-ethnic racism
  • Japanese Americans
  • Japanese Brazilians
  • ethnic return migrants
  • racism
  • social inequality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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