Contemporary Japan 29, No. 2

Special issue “Cultural representations of identity in and of the Japanese diaspora”

Issue editor: Wolfram Manzenreiter, University of Vienna

We are currently preparing a special issue on the topic of “Cultural representations of identity in and of the Japanese diaspora” Guest editor for this issue is Wolfram Manzenreiter, University of Vienna.

Living in one space and dreaming of another is at the heart of the diaspora, its essence and fragility alike. Contrary to the nation-state, in the diaspora identity predates space, while the re-creation of space is essential for the production and reproduction of diasporic identity. A rich amount of scholarship has demonstrated how diasporic communities do not attach their sense of belonging to a territory and realm of state power, but rather to the shared myths and imaginations of places of origin, wandering and other reference points from the past. How diasporic identities emerge and how they are maintained across national boundaries and against pressures of assimilation has been thoroughly discussed by social scientists over the past twenty years. As more and more disciplines acknowledged the heuristic value of the diaspora concept as a key metaphor for late-modern identity politics in a complex and complicated world void of certainties, but rich of possibilities, diaspora became ‘a global word that fits a global world’ (Dufoix 2008).

This special issue on cultural representations of identity in and of the Japanese diaspora looks at the various ways in which ideas, objects and habituations are mobilized to negotiate the identity of overseas communities of Japanese ancestry that are frequently labelled as Nikkei. The journal editor invites empirical and theoretical papers that explore strategies and techniques of cultural representation applied by Nikkei communities to present and represent coherent ideas of who they are and how they want to be seen by others. What are the messages that cultural representations convey to members of overseas settlements, among Nikkei communities, and towards host societies and the homeland, imagined or real? How do Nikkei communities draft and mobilize ethnicity and citizenship claims as strategic resources to secure their members` individual and collective life chances and political rights? How do they write their own history? How are traditions crafted and recreated away and apart from their original functions and meaning? And more specific in the context of today's Japanese diasporas, how are their representational strategies impacted by patterns of return migration, circular migration and transmigration?

We invite papers focusing on but not limited to the following topics:

  • cultural heritage
  • chronicles, historical accounts and museum displays
  • monuments, paintings and visual arts
  • dance, theatre and performative arts
  • sports and physical culture
  • festivities and ritual practice
  • food culture

Contributions should not exceed 8000 words, including references and appendices. For details see our submission guidelines at For inquiries and submission please contact Wolfram Manzenreiter (

Submission deadline: 31 October 2016; Publication: August 2017