Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Race, Racism, Japan

Major Advisor

Dr. Bandana Purkayastha

Associate Advisor

Dr. Davita Silfen Glasberg

Associate Advisor

Dr. Gaye Tuchman

Associate Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Holzer

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


This dissertation is a theoretically grounded and systematic study of the concept of race and racialization processes in contemporary Japan, using semi-structured interviews of foreign residents in Japan and Japanese individuals and archival data. I examine how the state, its structural positioning, cultural representations and dominant discourses of different foreigner groups both condition Japanese individuals’ understanding of race and marginalize foreign migrants in Japan based on the differences in their perceived racial statuses. Japan is an interesting site because, there is little history of direct subordination, gap in economic development, and little physical presence of individuals from Western societies. The findings suggest that the Japanese state has actively been involved in promoting racial state projects in order to maintain its political-economic stability and growth. The current Japanese racial landscape has developed into its current state by combining the old and new racial paradigms. They were developed to manage racial relations in light of the larger state projects, namely imperialism and intensifying globalization. The old racial paradigm introduced the racial boundary based on nationality, in order for the state to justify imperial aggression against those who shared similar phenotypic appearances as Japanese nationals. The new racial paradigm, on the other hand, reflected the globalized Western/U.S. racial ideologies and hierarchies, as Japan began to become integrated deeper into the globalizing political economy. Thus, conceptualization of race, racial distinctions, and ideologies in contemporary Japan draw from intersection of nation states of origin and phenotype; my analysis shows that the Japanese way of understanding racial distinctions and ideologies differ from findings documented in existing studies, which often presuppose phenotypes as sole racial markers. The findings also showed that indeed theoretical frameworks on racialization and global racism provide useful lens through which to understand the mechanism of racialization processes in the Japanese societal context, where there has been few studies on race and racialization.

Available for download on Sunday, May 05, 2024