Yuko Okubo, a sociocultural anthropologist, is a social scientist at Fujitsu Laboratories of America. She received her master’s in education from Kyoto University and her doctorate in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. She conducted postdoctoral research at the National University of Singapore and research funded by the Abe Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests include migration and transnationalism, the (nation-)state, and education/learning. She looks at how concerns of race, ethnicity, and nationality are translated into the everyday practices of schooling, and reshaping ideas about national culture and identity in Japan. Currently she is examining ICT in education to explore novel ways of learning in the digital age based on fieldwork at schools in the Bay Area.
An educational institution is a space where citizens of modern-nation states are produced and where socio-cultural expectations of each society are contested and negotiated. Children bring their own cultural capital from their families and local communities to school, where they encounter, negotiate, and learn the mainstream cultural norms of the state. This is true for immigrant children in Japan and the United States. These cultural negotiations become more complex when the children are second-generation immigrants or first-generation citizens of each society, whose cultural norms and values differ from both their parents’ and peers’. Although learning also takes place in our everyday lives, the school nevertheless remains an important state institution for mediating mainstream society’s relationship to these children. An examination of the school-community allows us to gain a better understanding of socio-cultural factors contributing to the localization of multicultural education, the differentiation of immigrant children who went through the education program, and thus, the cultural production of immigrant youths in each locality. In this proposed research project, the comparison of multicultural education program and the second-generation immigrants will take place in my former field site, Osaka, Japan and Oakland, California, the United States. Accordingly, this research contributes to Japan’s development and implementation of educational policies for immigrants. This research focuses on second-generation immigrants, especially children of the Vietnamese refugees and Chinese return migrants in Osaka. Similar to other immigrant children, second-generation immigrants not only learn about Japanese social and cultural norms in school, but also learn how they – as first-generation Japanese citizens/second-generation immigrants – are perceived in Japan, where their parents are recognized as foreigners. A number of studies have been conducted on second-generation immigrants in the United States; however, few publications exist on the lives of the second-generation immigrants in Japan. The reality of second-generation immigrants in Japan needs to be investigated. The significance of this research project is as follows: First, my ethnographic research reveals the reality of second-generation immigrant youths in Osaka, Japan. This contributes to our understanding of Japan’s development and implementation of immigration and employment regulations facing the aging society with a declining birthrate, as well as education policies. Secondly, by combining an in-depth ethnographic study with a comparative study of Oakland, the proposed research offers insights on multiculturalism and education in the United States and other advanced industrial societies where “newcomers” are entering pre-existing minority communities. Third, since the marginalization of new ethnic cohorts happens partly due to the increasing cultural assimilation of previous minorities (Burakumin, resident Koreans) and the internationalization movement (kokusaika) that has influenced the local community since the mid-1990s, I argue that the phenomenon captures a unique moment in Japanese cultural history, one that requires further examination. Although my ethnographic study is limited in its geographic location, by applying a comparative perspective to the implementation of multicultural educational policy and practice in the United States, the proposed research takes advantage of a unique opportunity to examine the significant issue of multiculturalism and the incorporation of immigrants into society in advanced industrialized societies.