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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: 22 July 2018

What Brings Korean Immigrants to Japantown?

What Brings Korean Immigrants to Japantown?

Commodifying Racial Differences in the Age of Globalization

(p.238) Chapter 10 What Brings Korean Immigrants to Japantown?
Trans-Pacific Japanese American Studies

Sachiko Kawakami

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter explores the invisible nature of today's racism by drawing attention to the "silent affinity" of Korean immigrants in San Francisco's Japantown (Nihonmachi). Nihonmachi has functioned as a geographical base for Korean immigrant communities in San Francisco since the 1970s. In this sense, Nihonmachi remains one of the most culturally familiar and practically useful neighborhoods for Korean Americans in San Francisco. However, the informants of the study who live, work, and socialize in Nihonmachi repeated the phrase “Japantown is Japantown, emphasizing their otherness, foreignness, and invisibility. In order to highlight this conflicted position and subjectivity of Korean immigrants in Nihonmachi, the author proposed a concept of “silent affinity” instead of articulated identity as a source of their privatized livelihoods as well as a source of their racial struggles. The Korean immigrants in Nihonmachi have participated silently in the construction of Nihonmachi not just simply as citizens. Rather, their invisibility was highlighted and strategically used by themselves as they prioritized their everyday survival in the realities of experiencing the blurred ethical divides between “discrimination” that needs to be fought against and “differentiation” that is sometimes deemed empowering and progressive for the lives of racial minorities.

Keywords:   Korean immigrants, San Francisco, Japantown, Nihonmachi, silent affinity, invisible racism

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