International Encyclopedia of Education
2010, Pages –,
Various studies have illustrated the socially constructed nature of ethnicity. Newcomers to a society often highlight the reconstruction of concepts related to diversity, since they alter existing cultural boundaries and relationships. Japan is an interesting case in this regard, since it was said to be one of the most homogeneous countries in the world, at least certainly one of the most homogeneous-minded societies in the world, and yet in the past two decades, it has experienced the largest influx of foreigners in its postwar history. The newcomers are often more visibly different than the traditional ethnic minorities in Japan because of their language, customs, and skin color, and thus are challenging the assumption of homogeneity that dominated Japanese thinking. This article focuses on how the emergence of these newcomers (e.g., Latin American workers of Japanese descent, Asian wives of Japanese) are forcing existing categories of cultural minorities to change, and how that reflects the construction of the Others in the Japanese context. The article focuses on: (1) the emergence of the newcomers and how they have been conceived in relation to the existing ethnic minorities; (2) how the newcomers are discussed in relation to the Japanese returnees (e.g., both are described as agents of internationalization, though one is working class and foreign, and the other is middle class and ethnically Japanese); and (3) the implications the emergence of the newcomers has for how cultural diversity is constructed in the Japanese context.
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