When identities become modern: Japanese emigration to Brazil and the global contextualization of identity

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Local immigrant histories cannot be truly understood unless they are contextualized within changing global conditions. The ethnic minority status and identity of the Japanese in Brazil have been historically constrained by Japan's changing position in the global order. Immigrants from Japan were officially accepted by the Brazilian government and treated with a certain respect in the early 1900s because of Japan's newly acquired global stature as an emerging industrial power. However, as Japan continued to rise in global status and eventually became an imperialist menace, the Japanese in Brazil were subject to ethnic repression, causing most of them to react by asserting an ultra-nationalist, Japanese identity in opposition to Brazilian discrimination. After a long period of post-war assimilation, the Japanese-Brazilians are again asserting a "Japanese" ethnic identity because Japan's current position at the top of the global economic hierarchy has made their ethnic heritage a source of prestige and respect in Brazil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-432
Number of pages21
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001



  • Ethnicity
  • Ethnohistory
  • Globalization
  • Identity
  • Japanese-Brazilians
  • Migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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