Title of the Week: The Citizenship of “Return” Migrants
*Meyer, John. 2007. Immigration, Return and the Politics of Citizenship: Russian Muslims in the Ottoman Empire, 1860–1914.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 39 (1):15-32.
*Danış, Didem & Ayşe Parla, 2009. “Nafile Soydaşlık: Irak ve Bulgaristan Türkleri örneğinde göçmen, dernek ve devlet.” Toplum ve Bilim 114.
*Tsuda, Takeyuki. 1999. “The permanence of “temporary” migration: The structural embeddedness of Japanese-Brazilian migrant workers in Japan.” Journal of Asian Studies 58 (3):687–722.
Week 11 was a fantastic week for three of us to work together. Well, in fact any week is Ok for us to work together. However what made this week so special was that the articles were investigating three different case studies one of which even takes its subject from history, and which is spectacular because we usually don’t focus on articles related to history.
On one hand, Mayer’s article is interested in investigating the ways in which what we call today transnational movement of people is happening between Russia and Ottoman Empire a long time ago. In a time period in which borders of nation states aren’t strictly determined, either their citizenship policies or bureaucratization and a total centralization are, the ways in which the citizens operate on these two ambiguous borders, function as manipulation of this ambiguity. Besides, there is this psychoanalytical perspective by which one might indicate that the people’s transnational movements through ambiguous borders are what one might refer to the intrusion of the Real to the Symbolic. This type of discourse would connote that people back that time made use of this ambiguity which exists in yet immature nation states’ policies, which is the Lacanian Symbolic order. And the intrusion of the Real implies the ways in which those ambiguities are manipulated and those gaps are made use of. Yes, it is certainly possible to conduct a Lacanian psychoanalytical reading on Mayer’s portrait of late 19th and early 20th century in which nation states are the Super-ego’s, but not yet fully in power.
As we did in lecture, I now move on to Danış & Parla article, where we can clearly see the development from an immature super-egoto a perfectly designed and very powerful one which makes it impossible even to resist. I think, according to Danış & Parla, migrants are Kafkaesque characters who find themselves in constant dilemmas and oppression. At least, this is what the article implies. Nation states are not only obsolete, but they are the main determinants of transnational migrant movements in contemporary societies. Anyway, this paper is not expecting me to criticize this article in details, and I believe I did a pretty good job in posing critical questions as much as I could during the lecture hour. I will only say one thing as a conclusion: We shouldn’t give up our hopes, like we don’t give up running after the “trans-nationalism dream”. Peace, to come. (Remember Derrida’s “democracy to come”)
Well, for my part, I will not be going into psychoanalysis in Tsuda’s article. I really tried to do so but I can’t. This article is too much for Lacanian psychoanalysis which is not sufficient to explain Tsuda’s theoretical approach towards structural embeddedness of Japanese Brazilian immigrant workers in Japan. This is not an irony I’m making here; Tsuda suggests a pretty complex relationship between transnational movements and nation states in late 20thcentury Japan and Brazil.
Tsuda reminds us that Japan was the only industrial country which didn’t have need for foreign labour until mid 80’s. They were not only continuously rationalizing and mechanizing production but also including female and elderly workers to industry in order not to be in need of foreign labour. Well, then what is this obsessive approach against foreign labour? For Tsuda, this is firstly related to the interest of Japanese society in ethnic homogeneity. Secondly, Japanese refused to accept any unskilled labour workers.
Due to the change in industrial needs in Japan in the mid 80’s, there came up urgent need of unskilled labour force. Here, one should better investigate two different linguistic expressions; nikkeijin and dekasegi. According to Tsuda, nikkeijin refers to “Japanese descendants born and living abroad” (p. 688), while dekasegi connotes “people who reside temporarily abroad to earn money” (p. 689). Tsuda claims that it is not enough for one to be nikkeijin to reside in Japan; they have to be dekasegi. Later on Tsuda explains “the perceived temporariness” of Japanese Brazilians who, by the same temporariness became permanently structurally embedded in Japanese society. On the other hand, in Danış & Parla article, one doesn’t come across a linguistic expression to define Bulgarian Turks or Iraqi Turks. As far as I know, they are called “muhacir” in society, and there are several “göçmen mahallesi” in which those immigrants reside. The two cases; “nikkeijin” and “göçmen mahallesi” are similar to each other in the way that the two linguistic expressions indicate the continuation of a discourse on immigrants in Japan and Turkey. However, in class discussion, we agreed on the fact that Japanese society is much more persistent on ethnic homogeneity that the Turkish society. Surprisingly, Japanese do not only linguistically construct the distinction between nikkeijin and dekasegi, but they have also assigned names for Japanese immigrants living abroad from one generation to another. For example, Wikipedia said to me that “Issei” is a word in Japanese to specify the first Japanese migrated to North America, South America and Australia. Moreover, Nisei, Sansei and Yonsei respectively connotes the second, third and fourth generation immigrants. I find these linguistic expressions assigned for different generations significant because it reveals the ways in which the intention towards an ethnically homogenous society is accompanied by language which on the other hand enables the continuation of this tendency towards homogeneous Japanese society.
Tsuda’s article mentions of economic determinants which strengthens the embeddedness of Japanese Brazilians to Japanese economy: Long term economical disparities between host and home countries, labour shortage and the fundamental change in Japanese economy. For Tsuda, Japanese economy is and will be in need of foreign labour force, especially Japanese Brazilians. During 90’s there was an economic recession in Japan, which didn’t weaken their structural embeddedness, firstly because of their ethnic affinity with Japanese and secondly the reliance on extensive network of labour broker firms. Furthermore, Tsuda mentions of cultural and social embeddedness of Japanese Brazilians. When these migrant groups realize that they will stay longer in Japan, they begin to work less and interact more with society. They turn out to be permanent consumers in Japan. Some of these people bring their families to Japan. Their children get assimilated in Japanese society, and forget their Brazilian origin. Eventually this creates generation conflicts.
As mentioned in class discussion, Tsuda’s understanding of culture is problematic. He mentions of “culture of migration” which is just a habit, an interest and has nothing to do with culture. Additionally, whenever he begins to explain socio-cultural factors of embeddedness, he exemplifies his arguments with financial and economic interests of immigrants. On the other hand, Tsuda underscores two groups of migrants; the ones who stay temporarily but for long term in Japan and the ones who shuttle back and forth between Brazil and Japan. He explores these two groups on the basis of economic relations, but he generally highlights the ones who shuttle back and forth due to their transnational identities. The article is not sufficient in explaining the problems, difficulties that the temporary long term residents experience; in this regard, one cannot figure out whether there is no issue as such or is it the blind spot of Tsuda’s argumentation. Similarly, the article mainly focuses on immigration; do the temporary residents have any intention to be admitted as citizens in Japan? We don’t know this either. He might have discussed these points in a different chapter or article, however I think it would be useful to explore these questions in this particular article which debates on structural embeddedness of immigrants. On the other hand, there is this notion of “return” which Mrs. Parla emphasized in class discussion. For her, it is an ambiguous notion which reveals several assumptions. In Parla & Danış article, in Turkish case of immigration there is the issue of law and conflicts generated around law which directly affects the belongings of immigrants. In this case, Tsuda doesn’t mention of law; instead, whenever they return to Japan, Japanese Brazilians are perceived as not fully Japanese and eventually they identify themselves as Brazilians, as mentioned in Tsuda’s other article which I didn’t have the chance to read. Therefore, I cannot posit a sophisticated analysis on this distinction but I think this might be related to the ways in which two articles explore and handle the case of immigration. Parla & Danış article is oriented around the policies of nation state and the ways in which migrant groups counteract those policies; whereas, Tsuda chiefly discusses the two way relation between immigrants and nation state not on the basis of law but economic needs and goals of immigrant groups and nations states all together.
Although Danış & Parla article and Tsuda’s seem to be contradicting each other in terms of the ways in which they interpret the functions of nation states, in the end both reveal that nation states aren’t obsolete. Tsuda mentions of some scholars who think that nation states dissolve due to the transnational identities occurring in deterritorialized migrant movements. He disagrees. He thinks that the phenomenon of transnationalism and structural embeddedness don’t oppose to each other. He describes the act of migration as “the continuous circulation and interchange of individuals between countries” (p. 711). In this regard, for him, Japanese Brazilians are structurally embedded but aren’t territorially immobilized. Thus they are “true transnationals and ideal postmodern subjects with multiple and hybrid loyalties” (p. 711).
Tsuda concludes his article by claiming that within the structural embeddedness there is an interdependent relation between economic and socio-cultural determinants. Besides, the act of “circular migration” is caused by both economic relations and cultural ones which he calls as “culture of migration”. As this paper mentioned above, socio-cultural factors that Tsuda claims to have discussed are not sufficient. However, Tsuda succeeds in not distinguishing the phenomenon of transnationalism and nation states from each other, as two separate actors which contradict each other. In Japanese Brazilians case, the economic needs of Japanese industry trigger the transnational movements which strengthen the power of nation state in return. In comparison with Danış & Parla article, there is a glimpse of hope here in Tsuda; yes, nation states are still powerful, and will continue to be but it will be the very act of deterritorialized transnational migrant worker movements that will enable the nation state to reproduce its power. The Japanese nation state is addicted to transnationalism, so to speak.
Well, this is why there is glimpse of hope. I’m expecting a Japanese Brazilian to be Karl Marx in the future, crying out loud: “All transnational subjects of the world: Get united!”