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Transculturation and National Signifiers: "Japan" In, After, and Via Diaspora and Return

UCLA Center for Japanese Studies Annual Graduate Student Conference held on April 22nd 2006.

The annual UCLA Graduate Conference on Japanese Studies was held on April 22, 2006 and explored issues pertaining to the margins and ends of "Japan" as an imagined community. Pushing the limits of the term "Japan" as a national and cultural-rather than geographic-signifier, this conference sought to articulate cultural connections across disciplinary, geographic, ethnic, and political divides. As Japan sees the continuance of the legacy of emigration, travel, cultural and educational exchange that solidified in the Twentieth Century, the intersection, influence, and mutual dependence of cultural production both in diasporic communities and in Japan has become an issue of increasing interest. If "Japan" doesn't mean like it used to, how can we understand Japanese cultural production in and outward from zones constructed in various ways as marginal or diasporic? In what ways do emigrant, Nikkei, and 'returnee' arts impact Japanese culture and society? How do they draw on, subvert, and hybridize Japan's traditional cultural heritage? What are the grounds for classifying 日系 (Nikkei) artists as such? Where is the 日? What is the 系? How do critical apparatuses draw on notions of ethnicity and culture in constructing diasporic Japan as such? What critical and theoretical possibilities lie in examining the relation between Nikkei and Japanese art forms? How does this connection reconfigure academic designations such as Asian American Studies and Japanese or Area Studies?

Topics included:

  • Japanese-language newspapers, journals, and other publications in immigrant communities abroad
  • 'returnee' cultural imports: capoeira, salsa, 'ethnic' cuisines, restaurant communities, etc.
  • imagined Japanese communities (a la Benedict Anderson) and their maintenance in/through Japanese-language institutions such as museums, cultural centers, markets, churches, labor unions, archives, lending libraries, co-ops, communes, colonies, schools, clubs, chatrooms, dating services, and other virtual communities
  • the (re)con-/de-struction of national and ethnic canons in the arts
  • flows of influence between diasporic communities and Japan
  • comparing national consciousness and imagination in Nikkei and Japanese communities
  • the borders between Japanese and Nikkei ontology and political subjectivity
  • the consumption of contemporary and classical Japan in the Japanese diaspora
  • legal conceptualizations of "Japaneseness" and their effects on Japanese diapora
  • the critical reception in Japan of disaporic cultural artifacts
  • the representation of returnees and Nikkei-jin in Japanese film, television, and literature
  • the politics of institutional funding of the arts
  • the consumption of 'host country' cultural artifacts in returnee communities
  • the floating significance of 'homesickness' as disease, nostalgia, loyalty, patriotism, maladjustment, and source of unity
  • the Japanization of non-ethnic Japanese immigrants and the perpetuation of 'Japan' in Japanized foreign communities
  • theoretical forays into the implications of such connections to disciplinary and departmental divisions of ethnic, comparative, and area studies in the academy and its print milieu

For the full list speakers and participants at the conference, please download the program.

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