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Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? Old Password. New Password. Racial formations occur as links are made between social structure and cultural representation. In this study I examine several events which I call "projects": assimilation, internment, redress, multiculturalism.
For this reason, Omi and Winant's conception of the racial project is helpful in identifying the links between, for example, the representation of Nikkei as "enemy aliens" during the Second World War and their internment in road camps, ghost towns, and prisoner-of-war camps. This theoretical model also accommodates exclusions involving ideas of class, gender, and ethnicity that have specific material realities for certain groups identified by race. Because I am primarily concerned with the representations rather than the events of a history of exclusion, Miles's concept of racialization is particularly useful in recognizing how these representations reflect [.
This complex of signification and action, where it occurs systematically over periods of time, has structural consequences. Racialization assumes that ascribed characteristics occur naturally; it locates the source of the problem in the arriving group, and it obscures the agent of the signifying process. Immigrants from Japan become "Japanese immigrants" with whom Canadian citizens must interact, a race whose arrival has created a "race relations problem.
I 'intellectuals"' I am suggesting that to recognize a text's strangeness is to accept that 10 agree with Frankenberg and Trinh Minh ha that systems of domination are clearest to those oppressed by them.
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With Frankenberg, I generally regard those who are the targets of racism to be "racially different from white people, and from each other" Thus, I interweave Nikkei and non-Nikkei perspectives throughout my analysis. These combined perspectives help me to discriminate among the material implications of social relations that are ordered by race; while the stakes are usually higher for those who are the targets of racism, all are affected. Personal reflections and research on the uprooting and internment of Nikkei during the Second World War have emphasized the racist nature of those actions Mulroney ; Adachi ; Kogawa Relinquishing the scholarly preoccupation with race as "real" need not hinder investigations into such racism as an expression of what Frankenberg calls the "real, though changing, effects of race in the world" Accepting that race is a social construction informed by a complex process of signification prepares investigators to analyze just how that racism has been nurtured by the conceptual specifics of race, such as the historical willingness to view Nikkei as indelibly and foremost "Japanese.
That is, Canadians have imputed belonging, and its concomitant idea of nation, according to criteria of inalienable race; having been assigned "minority" status, non-whites sustain the white national centre by occupying its margins. In the years leading up to the Second World War, Canada implemented official projects of assimilation in order to achieve national economic and political growth without sacrificing the idea that maintaining a white Canada was a worthy and necessary goal.
The uprooting, internment, and dispersal of Nikkei familiar unitary theoretical approaches are incomplete. That is, they depend on the category as both explanans and explanandum, whereby they "constitute 'race relations' as a discrete object of analysis, about which theories can be formulated, tested and reformulated" 8.
Frankenberg's emphasis on race as a social construction avoids such pitfalls because it emphasizes the unstable nature of the construction as a process in flux, rather than a discrete, fixed category. In Chapter One I examine some of the many ways in which Nikkei writers have engaged energetically with the discourse of assimilation. At its most tolerant, the official multiculturalism of the s and 80s represents a sophisticated version of s assimilation. As the Multiculturalism Act defines it, the ideological pliability of Canada's "fundamentally" multicultural nature means that Canada's true nature could be invoked as evidence that exclusionary practices like the internment were idiosyncratic "mistakes" in our history.
By examining accounts of resistance and other oppositional textual representations of the internment years, I demonstrate how, despite the stereotypical images of silent suffering and willing assimilation, Nikkei women have been active and vocal throughout these projects of silencing.
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Following the established tradition in social science, researchers have also incorporated the discourse of assimilation in their analyses of marriage practices and the transmission of culture among Nikkei. Generally, researchers studying Nikkei intermarriage accept marriage to someone outside a Nikkei community as a reliable index of assimilation.
Complementing this assumption in both scholarly analyses and popular discourse is the stereotypical idea of women as the bearers and keepers of culture—the most "traditional" members of community who transmit culture as they socialize children. The logic of this assumption impels us to consider marriage between a Nikkei man and a non-Nikkei woman as the ultimate signifier of cultural assimilation.
In Chapter Two I begin testing this logic by examining popular and academic discourse about the effects of intermarriage on individual and group ethnicity, and on the transmission of culture within the family, For Nikkei discourse concerning intermarriage I consult issues of the 1 7 Mulroney When the New Canadian first began running articles on the topic, Nikkei generally agreed in print that intermarriage was a likely route to assimilation, although they expressed strong and varied opinions about the desirability of that outcome.
As the adult children of intermarriage became vocal, opinions have further diversified. Many of these adults identify strongly as Nikkei, and are active in community affairs.
Reading these accounts, watching my children negotiate their own racialized identities,19 and witnessing signs of my family's increasing identification with, and participation in, Okinawan communities has caused me to question further the cultural threat posed by non-Nikkei mothers of Nikkei children. Therefore, as one way of getting theoretically "closer" to the practice of intermarriage, I have supplemented this section with a survey20 designed to explore textualized accounts of cultural transmission in intercultural families. I emphasize the supplemental nature of this information for two reasons.
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First, as this is a study of Nikkei women's writing, I did not want to lose sight of my primary focus. Second, given the small sample size and qualitative nature of my research, I have not treated the responses to these questionnaires as a challenge to the substantial body of quantitative research into intermarriage. This persistence of culture in spite of or, as I discuss below, because of intermarriage challenges the predictive value of many categories of being. I do incorporate other Nikkei sources, including fiction and scholarly analysis.
However, many nisei whose prime marrying years coincided with the formation of the New Canadian in relied on the newspaper as a forum for their concerns and opinions. This practice has yielded a synchronic record of the opinions of a vocal cohort group that was directly affected by intermarriage, a helpful counter- or sub-text to the dominant discourse.
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There is already a well-established anthropological tradition of investigation into the primacy of food as a cultural symbol Levi-Strauss ; Douglas ; Pitt-Rivers , but although fiction and poetry have always incorporated images of food, literary theorists have only recently shown increasing interest in the significance of food as a metaphor for language Furst Among literary theorists there is also growing interest in food and eating as forms of resistance Schofield ; Van Herik ; Ellman Because food has occupied a central position in many different discourses for so long, and because women have always been intimately connected with food in its various forms—to the point of being food for their infant children—this is perhaps the most interdisciplinary chapter.
Here I address the pervasiveness of food as a symbol of identity by tracing its incorporation as language and as a central component of mythology. Both western and Japanese creation myths posit a foundational symbolic connection between food, language, and identities of the individual and nation. Despite this transnational importance of food, many theorists of ethnicity and critics of official multiculturalism in Canada limit food to the status of metaphor, signifying assimilation and trivial ethnicity.
Yet in the writing of Nikkei women, food is a primary site and vehicle in the construction of individual and communal identities. These texts demonstrate how the state used food as a means of controlling ethnicity during the uprooting and internment of Nikkei during the Second World War. Those held in Hastings Park before being sent to camps or finding themselves otherwise dispersed were fed communally an inadequate, mostly non-Japanese, diet.
By contrast, Nikkei men sent to road camps were beguiled with large amounts of delicious food—fuelled for their task of building roads and railways for British Columbia. As Nikkei women write about food, they recount processes by which they ordered their disrupted environments and resisted disciplinary food practices. In their narratives they also inscribe various transformations whereby food becomes a vehicle of desire and a creative element in the formation of unconventional selves. In this section I review some of the particular ways Nikkei women writers articulate desire by writing "through" the body.
They are also writing back to the histories written by those outside their communities—stories that sketched the exotic body. Often, stories from both sides of the ethnic boundary simply left an empty "woman's" space. Sometimes Nikkei women write in response to these images, adjusting the outlines with their versions or layering other images over top.
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But Nikkei women have always been writing, and when we read these "old" stories alongside the contemporary, it becomes clear that feminist history is not simply a matter of filling in textual blank spots. Rather, taken together, Nikkei women's stories interweave, "working off' each other, offering a complex re-imaging of history through the body. One textual response of Nikkei women to conventional textual images of themselves has been to write a desire that lies outside the boundaries of submissive heterosexuality.
Thus, the writing of lesbian desire is a central project in some texts. To date, Mona Oikawa and Tamai Kobayashi have dedicated their writing to the construction of a lesbian Nikkei imaginary. In addition to countering historical interpretations of a singularly heterosexual community, this writing challenges linguistic boundaries. In place of- a symbolic system defined by separation from the mother, Nikkei lesbian writing privileges a "mothertongue" Kobayashi and Oikawa ; Uyeda This 2 1 "Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes, and rhetorics, regulations and codes, they must submerge, cut through, get beyond the ultimate reserve-discourse, including the one that laughs at the very idea of pronouncing the word 'silence', the one that, aiming for the impossible, stops short before the word impossible and writes it as 'the end'" Cixous The literal exercise of the metaphorical mothertongue in lesbian sex also erases conceptual divisions between language, food, and desire.
Hiromi Goto has introduced another significant textual image that synthesizes the body and desire in what I call the "bawdy Obachan. This image is not yet a common figure in Nikkei women's writing, but it departs so drastically from received images that it creates an imaginary space of abundant possibility. From this place, Roy and Mary Kiyooka and Daphne Marlatt have woven together the story of Mary Kiyooka, a woman raised during the Meiji era to be both a samurai and a dutiful wife.
The textual gaps in Nikkei women's history are emblematic of the experiential chasms between old and young Nikkei women.
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Effects of assimilation such as the loss of language, the scars of the internment, and detachment from Nikkei cultural values are among the many factors that combine to alienate young women from old and, hence, from themselves. Like Joy Kogawa's novel Obasan and Hiromi Goto's Chorus of Mushrooms, Ohama's text depends stylistically and fhematically on listening to one's Obachan's stories, partly as a way of discovering self and community, but also as a way of communicating and knowing.
Of course, there is an irony in these writers representing and encouraging listening—an action that requires the suspension of language—by filling a book with language. This irony is not lost on Ohama. One way she addresses the challenge is to incorporate large expanses of "empty" space on the page. For their part, Kogawa and Goto both rely on the image of the absent and "speaking" This "mothertongue" is not identical to that which Roy Kiyooka imagines in Pear Tree Pomes [sic].
This idea of an extended or expanded form of listening may suggest passivity,23 but it also represents a challenge to dualistic constructions of action and non-action, speaking and silence. Each of these writers who tests the definition of "speech" encourages us to consider the larger notion of how we construct comfortable conceptual limits. In this textual zone of apparent paradox interdisciplinarity meets both its object and itself. Throughout this study I speak of theory that happens in the spaces where worlds meet, in gaps and fissures, and what may seem unlikely places.
I also refer to texts under study as both theoretical sources and voices of authority. I maintain that there is a need for theorists to "submit" to the conventionally labelled "voices of experience," and to recognize the potential for ideological violence2 4 in the apparently self-reflexive and egalitarian theories of cultural construction. Taken together, these adjustments compose what I call the "theoretical pause" that is necessary to hear Nikkei women's writing speaking "in its own theoretically informed voice.