Go to  Advanced Search

When Nikkei women write : transforming Japanese-Canadian identities 1887-1987

Show full item record

Files in this item

Files Size Format Description   View
ubc_1998-345572.pdf 22.91Mb Adobe Portable Document Format   View/Open
 
Title: When Nikkei women write : transforming Japanese-Canadian identities 1887-1987
Author: Iwama, Marilyn Joy
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Interdisciplinary Studies
Copyright Date: 1998
Subject Keywords Women -- Canada -- History; Japanese Canadians -- History
Abstract: Describing historical accounts of Canadian Nikkei1 experience, historian Midge (Michiko) Ayukawa (1996) writes that these accounts represent "history in the passive voice, and that it is necessary to retell it with the eyes and ears of the people who were directly involved" (3). For Nikkei women, "history in the passive voice" has either completely overlooked their experiences or narrowly defined their social role in terms of domesticity and submission to a patriarchal authority. The dominant image of the Japanese Canadian woman has been that of the "good wife, wise mother" (Ayukawa 1995). This ideal image of womanhood emerged as a component in the dramatic processes of social reform in Meiji Japan (1868-1912). Both Caucasian and Nikkei historians have sustained the power of this mythical image by characterizing those experiences that exceed its conceptual boundaries as merely idiosyncratic. Simultaneously, however, Nikkei women have been weaving narratives of their history which both duplicate and subvert this image of quiet domesticity. This study contrasts processes of identity formation in twentieth-century writing by and about Canadian Nikkei women. I approach these narratives by first analyzing the categories of race, class, ethnicity, culture, and gender that historians, anthropologists, literary theorists, and theorists of ethnicity have constructed in order to interpret and contain them. I then examine how the narratives engage with three dominant discourses of being, namely those concerned with food, sexuality, and the transmission of culture. For several reasons, I treat this body of writing from an interdisciplinary and multi-theoretical perspective. My sources include published and unpublished texts from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, history, literature, and geography. These texts embrace a wide range of genres, among them fiction, poetry, autobiography, the essay, the journal, the letter, so-called conventional scholarship, and responses to an ethnograhic questionnaire that I have collected. The texts are also informed by both Japanese and "western"2 cultural ideas and practices, and sometimes by several additional cultural influences. Their writers create a complex interrelation of textual identities which invites a range of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives. Thus I examine the texts by engaging with a number of theories, including deconstructive postmodernism, deconstructive feminism, feminist anthropology, feminist history, and close textual analysis. I base this study on the theoretical premise that to treat narratives of experience rigorously, the researcher must regard the texts as both objects of study and authoritative critical voices (Cole and Phillips 1995; Chow 1993; Trinh 1989; Clifford and Marcus 1986). Therefore, I look to writing by Nikkei women for its reflections on Nikkei women's experiences, but also for guidance in interpreting the texts under study. As well, I read these texts for their critical comment on the conceptual categories that conventional scholarship has used to manage the unruliness and ambiguity of Nikkei women's narratives and experience. By welcoming the categorically disruptive, my analysis offers a theoretical perspective that may help to ensure a creative interrelation of theory and praxis. [Footnotes] 1 "Nikkei" are individuals of Japanese descent living outside of Japan. 2 Some researchers favour the upper case "Western" to describe North American and European theoretical traditions across disciplines (Mennell 1985). I include in the category of "western" all those ideas that become a body of thought as they are used to distinguish them from "eastern" or "oriental." With the success of European and American imperialist projects from the nineteenth century to the present, this "setting-off against the Orient," as Said calls it (Orientalism 3), exceeds national boundaries. One can say, then, that there are critics of Japanese ancestry, residing in Japan and elsewhere, who write from a western point of view. Thus, I depend on the lower-case "western," to emphasize the constructed nature of western ideology, as opposed to the stricter geographical or political connotations suggested by the proper noun.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/9486
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show full item record

All items in cIRcle are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved.

UBC Library
1961 East Mall
Vancouver, B.C.
Canada V6T 1Z1
Tel: 604-822-6375
Fax: 604-822-3893