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Trans-Pacific Japanese American StudiesConversations on Race and Racializations$
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Yasuko Takezawa and Gary Y. Okihiro

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780824847586

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824847586.001.0001

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date: 16 July 2018

Negotiating the Boundaries of Race, Caste, and Mibun

Negotiating the Boundaries of Race, Caste, and Mibun

Meiji-era Diplomatic and Immigrant Responses to North American Categories of Exclusion

(p.133) Chapter 6 Negotiating the Boundaries of Race, Caste, and Mibun
Trans-Pacific Japanese American Studies

Andrea Geiger

University of Hawai'i Press

Cultural attitudes rooted in the Tokugawa-era status system (mibunsei) provided an interpretive framework for the race-based hostility Meiji-era Japanese encountered in the United States and Canada, informing the discursive strategies of Meiji diplomats who sought to refute the claims of anti-Japanese exclusionists by distinguishing Japanese labor migrants from themselves, aiding in the reproduction of Japanese as an excludable category when anti-Japanese elements turned their arguments against all Japanese. Concerns about social hierarchy and the significance of historical status categories (mibun), including cultural taboos associated with outcaste status, also mediated the responses of Meiji immigrants to conditions they encountered on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, including white racism and job opportunities. Japanese immigrant negotiations of race and identity in the North American West can be fully understood only by also considering mibun, in addition to more the familiar paradigms of race, class, and gender, in analyzing Meiji-era Japanese immigration history.

Keywords:   Meiji Japan, North American West, Canada, United States, immigration, mibunsei, mibun, race, caste, outcaste status

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