Negotiating identity politics: Exploring Brazilian children's experiences at a Japanese school

Kyoko Morita, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Since the early 1990s, more and more Brazilians of Japanese descent have migrated back to Japan and settled in Japanese local communities. As they send their children to Japanese public schools, these children sometimes have difficulty adjusting both academically and socially. This dissertation presents case studies of three Japanese-Brazilian students enrolled in a Japanese elementary school. I describe various dimensions of their experiences in school, and I follow their crosscultural adjustment over time. Data come from ethnographic research conducted during three four-month cycles, in the school and surrounding community. Analysis of these data indicates that two key factors influenced these students' acculturation in the Japanese school: (1) interpersonal identity, in which the students constructed positive senses of themselves as they participated in social groups and built relationships with other co-members; and (2) intra-minority politics, in which the students constructed positive senses of themselves by either associating themselves with or differentiating themselves from students who were also different from the mainstream. The analysis shows how the three students actively took control of their identities and struggled to create positive senses of themselves. Because of the agency displayed by the students, these data show the need for theories that do not rely solely on mismatches between minority and majority students' ways of behaving. These students managed to integrate socially and advance academically, by creatively using the skills and identity-resources available to them, thus showing how the supposedly homogenous and homogenizing Japanese educational system can in fact serve ethnic-minority children. ^

Subject Area

Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Anthropology, Cultural|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Kyoko Morita, "Negotiating identity politics: Exploring Brazilian children's experiences at a Japanese school" (January 1, 2002). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI3043918.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3043918

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