AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 293

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Session 293: Space of Movement: Anthropological Studies of Social Space for Transnational Migrants in Asia and Beyond

Organizer and Chair: Tetsu Ichikawa, Rikkyo University, Japan

Since the notion of transnationalism and globalization has pervaded among researchers in humanities and social sciences, cultural anthropologists have reflected on how to analyze and understand the extent of their research fields. Nowadays, many anthropologists appropriate the notions in the field of human geography, such as space, place, landscape, territoriality, and locality, to seize the spatial expansion of the people whom they encounter during their fieldworks. Therefore, the study of the social space of immigrants has become more and more important for the anthropologists who research transnational issues. As transnational phenomena, such as flows of people, money, knowledge, information, media, and ideology, cannot be ignored in the contemporary world, anthropologists have to face these phenomena and try to examine the nature of them in their ethnographic research. To enhance the understanding of these phenomena, the anthropologists who conduct fieldwork among the transnational immigrants should carry on intensive ethnographic research to enable them to analyze the nature of the immigrant’s social spaces. The presenters of this panel will discuss the social spaces of transnational immigrants by comparing their research findings from a common framework. The following specific case-studies will be discussed: The notion of homeland for Papua New Guinean Chinese, Japanese ex-immigrants’ spirit-consoling tour in Micronesia, Dominican migrant sports activities in Japan and the U.S., the ethnic and religious landscape of Yunnanese Muslim in Taiwan, refugee camps in the Thai-Burmese borderland and the Iranian immigrant community in Los Angeles.

Ancestral Homeland and Their Own Homeland: Multiple Meaning of "Home" for Papua New Guinean Chinese
Tetsu Ichikawa, Rikkyo University, Japan

The aim of this presentation is to discuss the meaning of the homeland for Papua New Guinean Chinese. Papua New Guinea (PNG) has had Chinese community since the colonial period. Australia colonized southeast part of New Guinea since 1905 and governed northeast part of New Guinea since 1914. The Australian government allowed the Chinese residents in this area to acquire Australian citizenship in late 1950s. After that most of the Chinese obtained Australian nationality and went to Australia for their higher education. After the independence of PNG in 1975, the Chinese started re-migrating to Australia. Nowadays the community of PNG Chinese in Australia is bigger than the one in PNG. The PNG Chinese have migrated from China, and then re-migrated to Australia for several generations. As a result of this serial migration process, the PNG Chinese have lived in three countries; namely China, PNG and Australia. The experience of the migration and settlement in three countries, the PNG Chinese attach different meanings to these countries. For the first generation Mainland China is their homeland, while the local born generation does not attach importance to Mainland China. On the other hand, the younger generation who were born in PNG does not have close contact with their relatives in mainland China. The significance of China differs among the generations. Instead, the younger generations who live in Australia tend to regard PNG as their homeland.

Maintaining the Space of Commemoration in the Overseas Homeland: Spirit-Consoling Tours Conducted by the Ex-Immigrants from Okinawa to the Nan'yo (Micronesia)
Shingo Iitaka, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Japan

This presentation aims to investigate how the ex-immigrants from Okinawa to the Nan’yō (the Japanese colony in Micronesia from 1914-1945) created and have maintained their space of commemoration after their evacuation to their homeland at the end of World War II. The cases in Palau and Saipan will be investigated. During the time when Micronesia was administered by Japan, a great number of immigrants from Japan, especially from Okinawa, came to live on the islands. Although all the immigrants were repatriated after World War II, some of them came back to the islands in the late 1960s to conduct spirit-consoling services and build memorial monuments for those who died before and during the war. It is difficult to maintain such activities unless the local population is sympathetic and cooperative, and unless the descendants of former immigrants continue the tradition. In fact, some groups from Japan have been unable to continue their activities and some memorials are deteriorating nowadays. Yet the groups from Okinawa have succeeded in continuing their spirit-consoling services in spite of the problem of the aging of core members. They also communicate well with the indigenous people and even organize cultural exchange activities, including educational programs against war and in favor of peace. While indigenous people may interpret the meaning of memorials differently, the space of commemoration in the former overseas homeland is maintained through close interaction between ex-immigrants and the indigenous peoples

Ethnic and Religious Landscapes of Yunnanese Muslim Migrants in the Transnational Social Sphere
Mizuka Kimura, Osaka University, Japan

This paper aims to present and analyze the Yunnanese Muslims migrants’ means of constructing the ethnic and the religious landscapes in the transnational social sphere of China, Myanmar, Thailand and Taiwan. In the end of the 19th century, the Yunnanese Muslims had been migrating from China’s Yunnan province to the northern region of Myanmar. After settling in Myanmar, some of them moved to Thailand and Taiwan because of political reasons or commercial activities. Through the process of migration, they were able to extend the Yunnanese Muslim network and have been constructing a transnational social sphere in these countries. Even though the Yunnanese Muslim migrants have been establishing and maintaining their networks and social spheres, ethnic commonality did not lead to the continuity of their ethno-religious practices. The flow of ordinary Yunnanese Muslim migrants constructed a transnational social sphere, where people are firmly bound together and closely influenced each other. This very network allowed Taiwan-based Yunnanese Muslims to recruit well-educated religious leaders from other countries, such as Myanmar or Thailand, through their tightly bound connections. It should be noted, however, that the flow of religious information does not necessarily follow the ethno-religious activities they had been practicing in Myanmar or Thailand. Most of the religious leaders recruited to Taiwan, for instance, were educated and practice Islamic teachings from Middle Eastern or North African countries. Different flows of people (ethno-scapes) make different religious landscapes in a transnational social sphere.

From Dependency to “Autonomy”: Refugees’ Self-Help Activities
Tadayuki Kubo, Otsuma Womens University, Japan

This paper examines the process of achieving refugees’ “autonomy” by focusing on their self-help activities in refugee camp on the Thailand-Burmese border. Camp is the place where local and transnational value across. In this context, refugees’ “autonomy” stands for how do they apply “globalized” value as in-between refugee. “Development-oriented” refugee assistance provided by International NGOs promotes refugees’ “self-reliance” and “self-help” activities. This approach provides refugees to “the grammar” to express their problems, how to show what they want to be, and provide ways to solve problems. Forming CBOs (Community Based Organizations) in is major method. But this approach raises social problems as well, especially between youth and elders. These problems are; irreverent attitude to parents and teacher, shotgun marriage, friction between husband and wife caused by “women rights” and lack of mutual help and so on. Refugees say it is happen because of the pervading “globalized culture” or “NGO culture” and there is no “culture” of themselves in refugee camp. In this way, “western culture” is described negative manner. On the other hand, pervading “western” value describe positively as “development”. Thus, refugee CBOs “mimic” methods of INGO and try to educate, enlighten other refugees to get back their value of “culture”. “Development-oriented” assistance of refugees cause social problems AND provide the method to solve it. But there is another dilemma if they follow “global” way or restoring their “culture”. It comes out from self-questioning “who they are” as in-between refugee.

The Social Space of Baseball: A Case Study of Dominican Immigrants in Pennsylvania and Japan
Satoru Kubota, Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Japan

The aim of this presentation is to examine the social space which Dominican immigrants create through their sports activities. I will focus on the case study of Dominicans living in P.A. and Japan. Far from their country, they express a strong feeling of nostalgia for their homeland through their close engagement with baseball. Dominican emigration has largely increased since the 1960s. Now about 3 million Dominican people live in various foreign countries. My fieldwork shows they express a sense of belonging to their homeland at two levels. The first one is keeping a direct connection through frequent visits to their homeland and remittances to their families. The second one is expressed through their everyday cultural practice. The existing studies on Dominican emigration dealing with transnational identity have focused on various aspects of everyday culture (food, language, etc). However, these studies have paid scant attention to another important aspect of Dominican culture – baseball. Even though baseball has established itself as the most popular sports in the country, part and parcel of Dominican everyday life, it has been omitted by most research on immigrants’ identity. Here I will show how immigrants’ baseball activities contribute to strengthening the relationships between the immigrants and their homeland. I will present the case study of two Dominican baseball teams – in P.A. and Japan. Focusing on the players’ sports activities, I will examine how immigrants try to re-construct their homeland inhabiting a space of memories based on what I call ‘Dominican baseball culture’.

How to Get to Tehrangeles?: A Consideration of the Production of Space for Migrants
Atsuko Tsubakihara, Osaka University, Japan

Since the late 1980s, anthropologists have questioned the trinity of group, culture and space as a basic assumption. The processes of realignment of group, culture and space in transnational migration have since been well studied. However, when it comes to the study of local life for migrants, it is insufficient to merely reconsider the disjuncture/conjuncture between group (such as ethnicity or race) and geographical space. This effort has been incomplete partly because anthropologists have tended to focus only on “representations of space,” in H. Lefebvre’s terms; and the question of “spaces of representation,” which is to say how a specific location affects people’s daily life, has been left unsolved. In this presentation, I will focus on the city of Los Angeles as a geographical setting which enables Iranian people to perform their daily interactions, and explore why a movement for naming a specific area, “W,” as ‘Tehrangeles” has failed despite shared perceptions of it. The area “W” includes non-ethnic businesses such as a chain of coffee shops and a discount clothing shop, as well as Iranian grocery stores and bookshops and many Iranian offices. Iranians who visit the area learn the meanings of each place and how to behave there. However, the configuration of this space is market-driven and there has been no singular development planning. It is embodied in a “landscape,” in T. Ingold’s terms; however, there has been no agreement about naming the area “toward others,” because the people concerned cannot be “subject” to those representing it.