"I am Not an Immigrant But I Happen to Live Here": Negotiating Ethnicity Among First-Generation Post-1965 Japanese Migrants in US Immigrant Gateway City
Bratter, Jenifer L.
Master of Arts
The history of Japanese immigration to the United States is a well-established inquiry in Asian American scholarship. However, we know less about the incorporation experiences of contemporary Japanese who migrated to the United States after 1965. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 25 first-generation post-1965 Japanese migrants in Houston, Texas, this study examines how their understandings of immigrant status shape ethnic boundaries and ethnic identity formation. The findings indicate that many respondents do not see themselves as immigrants despite being long-term US residents, which corresponds to two types of ethnic boundaries. The first type is intergroup boundaries between themselves and other contemporary US immigrants, sharpened by the motivations for migration and the pursuits of American citizenship. The second type is intragroup boundaries among the Japanese population, not only with prewar Japanese immigrants, reflecting differences in social class, but also with Japanese expatriates in the host society and other co-ethnics living in Japan who embody a more authentic Japanese ethnic identity. The findings of this study reveal the dynamic nature of the immigrant label that contemporary migrants negotiate and redefine in the process of ethnic identity formation. Further, it contributes insights into the global North-North migration characterized as non-labor migration.