Gender and construction of the life course of Japanese immigrant women in Canada
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This thesis explores social construction of the life course of post-war Japanese immigrant (shin ijuusha) women in Canada, based on interviews with 48 Japanese women in Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa. First, why women leave Japan is explored. Their emigration occurs in contexts of tourism, Japanese longing for America/the West constructed through Western popular culture, and gender and the life course. Japanese women negotiate their lives, cleverly using multiple meanings attached to the migration experience. Second, their lives in Canada are examined. Advantages Japanese women found in Canada include freedom and different perspectives, whereas they face serious disadvantages such as language/cultural barriers and difficulty finding employment. They cannot really recognize the existence of racism, however, because of their language/cultural barriers and of subtlety of today’s racism. Though dispersed and invisible, shin ijuusha networks have developed in Toronto since the early 1970s, with a major motivation to provide Japanese language education for nisei children. Shin ijuusha mothers tend to regret that their children have acquired only basic Japanese, but some have successfully connected their children to Japan/Japanese culture. Japanese immigrant women often attach emotional meanings to immigration status. Some choose their status with their family in mind. Subjectively, they tend to feel they are “Japanese,” hesitating to claim to be “Canadian.” They have internalized the mainstream gaze and see themselves as “others” in Canada. Meanwhile, many women feel that Canada is their home. They tend to transform Canada to a homeland over their life course, establishing meaningful social relations. Third, shin ijuusha women’s transnationalism is explored. They keep ties with Japan, especially for social connections. Many women provide transnational care provision for their aging parents in Japan, which is a new gender role invented after World War II. Shin ijuusha women’s transnationalism is associated with life-course transitions. Spatial connection between Canada and Japan is still contingent in societal context, however. Finally, how migration to Canada has changed lives of Japanese women is considered. Although the migration did not necessarily empower women, they tend to view it positively, because migration helped them to acquire plural perspectives that have deeply enriched their lives.