- Japanese Brazilian Saudades: Diasporic Identities and Cultural Production by Ignacio López-Calvo
Japanese Brazilian, Nikkei, Brazil, Japan, Immigration, Migration, Nationalism, Ethnicity, Diaspora, Hybridity, World War Ii, Marginalization, Dekasegi, Ignacio López-Calvo, Suma Ikeuchi
In this important and venturesome monograph about Nikkei cultural production, Ignacio López-Calvo makes a valuable contribution to the study of Japanese Brazilians and, by extension, to the scholarship on Brazilian and diasporic identities. The book primarily focuses on Portuguese-language works by Nikkei (i.e., Japanese Brazilian) writers and filmmakers in Brazil since the 1980s, with occasional inclusion of materials by non-Nikkeis and Japanese-language works from Japan. The selection of diverse cultural productions provides a glimpse into the ever-evolving worlds of Nikkeis as they have lived through two diasporas: the immigration of Japanese to Brazil from 1908 until the 1970s and the so-called "return" migration of their Nikkei descendants to Japan from the late 1980s to the present. Not surprisingly, Nikkei identities are endlessly malleable and infinitely layered. López-Calvo does justice to this dizzying kaleidoscope of identity puzzles by analyzing the chosen works with steadfast nuance and resolute inclusiveness—the analytical principles that best serve the people under study, whose ethnic flexibility and ambiguity defy essentialization.
In "Introduction: Diasporas, Unstable Identities, and Nikkei Discourse," López-Calvo introduces some key concepts such as epistemicide, which refers to the Brazilian government's attempt to impose a Western value system and Brazilian culture on the Nikkeijin and to thereby destroy their Japanese language and culture (15). Nikkei cultural production resists this epistemicide by asserting a more heterogeneous picture of Brazilian national identity in which people like them (often referred to as amarelo or "yellow" in Brazil) can also enjoy uncontested recognition. To this end, the analyzed Nikkei works employ "a twofold strategic, rhetorical engineering: the affirmation of ethnocultural difference, on the one hand, and the collective assertion of citizenship and belonging to the Brazilian nation, on the other" (14–15). Consequently, López-Calvo argues that most works under consideration must be considered Brazilian (9) and the Nikkeis in Brazil "should be treated as Brazilians rather than as foreigners" (8).
Chapter 1, "Historical Memory and Claiming Place," analyzes the Nisei writer Júlio Miyazawa's two novels, Yawara! A Travessia Nihondin-Brasil (Yawara! Crossing Nihondin-Brazil, 2006) and Uma Rosa para Yumi (A Rose for Yumi, 2013). Both chronicle the affective shifts between Nikkei generations "from an initial collective 'unhomeliness' … to slowly identifying with their native Brazilian culture or having multiple identities" (49). The arc of Brazilianization Miyazawa celebrates, however, is not assimilationist. This is because his novels favorably highlight the historical memories and cultural difference of his ethnic group to "validate and vindicate symbolically the hard-fought Brazilianness of the Nikkei" (48). López-Calvo summarizes the essence of Miyazawa's works as follows: "there [End Page 121] is no need to reject one's ethnocultural heritage, because there are different ways of being Brazilian. It follows that there are also different ways of being a Brazilian Nikkeijin" (59). Consequently, Miyazawa's writing "contests the purported fixity, purity, or homogeneity of both Japanese and Brazilian cultures" (74) from the hybrid, liminal, in-between space of Nikkei cultural production.
Chapter 2, "Between Assimilationism and Cultural Celebration," delves into diverse themes such as racial discrimination, miscegenation, transculturation, and ethnic tradition manifest in the Nikkei writer Ryoki Inoue's Saga: A História de Quatro Gerações de uma Família Japonesa no Brasil (Saga: The History of Four Generations of a Japanese Family in Brazil, 2006). Drawing on Jacques Derrida's concept of "trace" (86), López-Calvo demonstrates the flexible, contextual process of identity formation born of binaries and contrasts. For instance, Inoue's depiction of mainland Nikkeijin's discrimination against Okinawans shows the saliency of the Naichijin/Okinawan dyad in diaspora (87–89), a case of "trace" at work. Still, López-Calvo summarizes that Saga is primarily "a celebration of Nikkei sociocultural and economic success" (103) and ultimately "a claim for national belonging" in...