Trans-Pacific Japanese American Studies is a unique collection of essays derived from a series of dialogues held in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Los Angeles on the issues of racializations, gender, communities, and the positionalities of scholars involved in Japanese American studies. The book brings together some of the most renowned scholars of the discipline in Japan and North America. It seeks to overcome past constraints of dialogues between Japan- and U.S.-based scholars by providing opportunities for candid, extended conversations among its contributors.
While each contribution focuses on the field of “Japanese American” studies, approaches to the subject vary—ranging from national and village archives, community newspapers, personal letters, visual art, and personal interviews. Research papers are divided into six sections: Racializations, Communities, Intersections, Borderlands, Reorientations, and Teaching. Papers by one or two Japan-based scholar(s) are paired with a U.S.-based scholar, reflecting the book’s intention to promote dialogue and mutuality across national formations. The collection is also notable for featuring underrepresented communities in Japanese American studies, such as Okinawan “war brides,” Koreans, women, and multiracials.
Essays on subject positions raise fundamental questions: Is it possible to engage in a truly equal dialogue when English is the language used in the conversation and in a field where English-language texts predominate? How can scholars foster a mutual respect when U.S.-centrism prevails in the subject matter and in the field’s scholarly hierarchy? Understanding foundational questions that are now frequently unstated assumptions will help to disrupt hierarchies in scholarship and work toward more equal engagements across national divides. Although the study of Japanese Americans has reached a stage of maturity, contributors to this volume recognize important historical and contemporary neglects in that historiography and literature. Japanese America and its scholarly representations, they declare, are much too deep, rich, and varied to contain in a singular narrative or subject position.
This volume, a first in Japanese American studies, involves US and Japanese scholars discussing positionality, language, insight, and interpretations within the historical context of early immigration and Japanese American incarceration and racialization, as well as initiating conversations on Japanese imperialism and enthonationalism [sic] and its impact in the Japanese American community. Essential.
Trans-Pacific Japanese American Studies expands the intellectual breadth and depth of Japanese American studies because it deliberately brings together the conversations of scholars in North American and Japan to dismantle the hierarchy within the scholarship in the field. . . . [It] is accessible to those at both undergraduate and graduate levels. For scholars interested in current issues within Japanese American historiography, this is an important book, and it will have a long shelf life.
Takezawa and Okihiro make a sustained case that Japanese American studies is best conceptualized in terms of an interactive ‘trans-Pacific’ dynamic rather than simply a transnational, diasporic, or even global, framework. Consequently, because of its innovative ideas, foci, and methodologies, this will become an invaluable, state-of-the-art collection.
Trans-Pacific Japanese American Studies: Conversations on Race and Racializations is an intellectual feast, and an enormously useful and challenging book. Nineteen scholars—roughly half from Japan and half from the continental United States, Canada, and Hawai‘i—took part in several years of trans-Pacific conversations and meetings. No scholar of Asian American studies can afford to ignore Trans-Pacific Japanese American Studies. Many scholars of ethnic studies more broadly will benefit from spending time in the pages of this book. And scholars in all fields would do well to imitate the long-conversation method that went into its making.
Trans-Pacific Japanese American Studies sits on the cutting edge of research in Japanese American studies. Each section features unique juxtapositions of diverse perspectives, illuminating issues like community making and unmaking, gender and racial politics, and representations and elisions in the scholarly record. The final section on ‘positionality’ is enlightening, exploring the ways in which scholars occasionally encounter prejudice in both Academia and society at large, and are often exposed to eye-opening experiences when crossing national boundaries. An excellent model of international joint research.
Although this work is primarily targeted at other scholars and advanced university students within their common transpacific field of inquiry, its well-grounded and illuminating introduction, 14 essays, and 7 perspectival responses to the book’s contents have much to offer a general readership. . . . This book is an important milestone in Japanese American studies and its core message for how the Japanese American community should be studied and represented in the future needs to be heeded.
Yasuko Takezawa (Editor)
Yasuko Takezawa is a professor of anthropology at the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University.
Gary Y. Okihiro (Editor)
Gary Y. Okihiro is a professor of international and public affairs and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University.
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