- New Worlds, New Lives: Globalization and People of Japanese Descent in the Americas and from Latin America in Japan
New Worlds, New Lives: Globalization and People of Japanese Descent in the Americas and from Latin America in Japan is a product of the International Nikkei Research Project's (INRP) effort to document the Nikkei's experiences in diverse social and geographical contexts. The concept of Nikkei is broadly defined as "people of Japanese descent living outside Japan"(xiii) and serves as the conceptual ground in which individual participants engage in their case studies about specific geographical regions and/or theoretical issues. The resulting collection is an impressive compilation of information concerning Nikkei experiences in the past century. However, there seems to be an uneasy tension within the volume between its mandate to be comprehensive and the editors' scholarly intention to be focused. In the end, the editors accommodate the book's overall goal to be comprehensive by refraining from editorially intervening in each essay. Unfortunately, this absence of consistent editorial presence ultimately makes it extremely difficult to appreciate the complex picture that the volume as a whole portrays.
The essays not only discuss empirical cases but also address the larger theoretical implications of these cases. The collection indeed covers diverse regions (Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Japan) and concerns itself with various issues relevant to Nikkei communities (education, national identity, generational gap, gender tension, Okinawan legacies, dekasegi—the Nikkei who seek temporary employment in Japan, etc.). Many individual contributors draw on theories emergent from their respective disciplines as they [End Page 326] offer fascinating insights into the complex history of Nikkei experiences. Jeffrey Lesser examines Brazilian Nikkei's struggles to establish their own place against Brazil's drastically changing political climate. Resonating with other essays that testify to the diversity of the Nikkei, Lesser emphasizes the competing strategies employed to construct Japanese-Brazilian identities. Doris Moromisato Miasato and Naomi Hoki Moniz similarly remind the reader of the existence and impact of competing interests within Nikkei communities by examining the gender issues in Nikkei history. They show that though largely excluded from the Nikkei's formal organizations, women have been important agents in Nikkei identity formation.
Such testimonies to Nikkei diversity and Nikkei struggles to carve out their own spaces in host countries are augmented by the discussions of other topics as well. Makoto Arakaki investigates the negotiation of boundaries between Okinawans and mainlanders in Nikkei communities. Edoson Mori, Masao Ninomiya, Marcelo G. Higa, and Yasuko I. Takazawa examine various aspects of the dekasegi phenomenon. And, differences stemming from generational shifts and from the timings of arrival to host counties are the backdrop against which Kozy Amemiya examines Nikkei efforts to commemorate their historical experiences in the Santa Cruz region of Bolivia.
Individual contributors to this volume tackle the difficult task of incorporating empirical data while offering interesting perspectives on the cases they discuss. However, the constraints placed on them ultimately prevent their essays from fully realizing their potential: There is simply not enough space allocated for each essay. The three short sectional introductions and twenty articles are tightly fitted into 346 pages. At average (after subtracting the pages for the short introductions), each essay has merely 16 printed pages to introduce, develop topic(s) and to conclude as well as to provide proper citations (some essays have extensive notes). Given the complexity of the issues the contributors try to analyze and their desire to be as comprehensive as possible in doing so, this is not nearly enough space: the volume's constitutive pieces consequently read more like encyclopedia entries than critical essays.
Furthermore, the essays are burdened with the task of representing either geographical regions and/or theoretical issues. The overarching structure of the volume, albeit not expressed explicitly as such, is to place each contributor's discussion within a nomenclature of knowledge concerning Nikkei experiences. Harumi Befu's effort to categorize the Nikkei into eight...