Who are They? Complex Lives, Contingent Tactics, Part 2
How to think about the situation of people moving from Fuqing to Japan in recent years.
David R. Ambaras
How should we characterize the family in the 2010 Osaka case? Are they “left-behind” Japanese who (including those with attenuated connections) are “returning to Japan,” or are they “mobile Chinese” who are “emigrating to an economically advanced country”? In fact, they incorporate and exceed both of these constructions. Japanese and East Asian regional space is constantly being constructed and reconstructed through the operations of markets, networks, and flows that interact with the workings of territorial power under specific, historically contingent circumstances. In their movements, the family carry the histories of the Fuqingese men who went to Japan as peddlers in the early twentieth century and of the Japanese women who accompanied them back to Fuqing, as well as the tortured history of Sino-Japanese relations in the era of modern imperialism and in the postwar and post-postwar decades. And as their worlds are shaped by these layers of history, these ordinary people on the move, looking for better lives, find themselves defined as out of place, both caught up in and engendering emotional discourses on Japanese vulnerability and Chinese predation, and embodying and contesting the borders that have marked the region in the modern era.