Lesser's work reveals the convoluted workings of Brazil's wartime immigration policy as well as the attempts of desperate refugees to twist the prejudices on which it was based to their advantage. His subtle analysis and telling anecdotes shed light on such pressing issues as race, ethnicity, nativism, and nationalism in postcolonial societies at a time when "ethnic cleansing" in Europe is once again driving increasing numbers of refugees from their homelands.
The concepts of home and diaspora are engaged and debated throughout the volume. Drawing on numerous sources—oral histories, interviews, private papers, films, myths, and music—the contributors highlight the role ethnic minorities have played in constructing Brazilian and Japanese national identities. The essayists consider the economic and emotional motivations for migration as well as a range of fascinating cultural outgrowths such as Japanese secret societies in Brazil. They explore intriguing paradoxes, including the feeling among many Japanese-Brazilians who have migrated to Japan that they are more "Brazilian" there than they were in Brazil. Searching for Home Abroad will be of great interest to scholars of immigration and ethnicity in the Americas and Asia.
Contributors. Shuhei Hosokawa, Angelo Ishi, Jeffrey Lesser, Daniel T. Linger, Koichi Mori, Joshua Hotaka Roth, Takeyuki (Gaku) Tsuda, Keiko Yamanaka, Karen Tei Yamashita
Lesser draws on a wide range of sources, including films, oral histories, wanted posters, advertisements, newspapers, photographs, police reports, government records, and diplomatic correspondence. He focuses on two particular cultural arenas—erotic cinema and political militancy—which highlight the ways that Japanese Brazilians imagined themselves to be Brazilian. As he explains, young Nikkei were sure that their participation in these two realms would be recognized for its Brazilianness. They were mistaken. Whether joining banned political movements, training as guerrilla fighters, or acting in erotic films, the subjects of A Discontented Diaspora militantly asserted their Brazilianness only to find that doing so reinforced their minority status.