Presentation Title

The Ainu in Japan: Examining Issues of Self-Identity

Format of Presentation

15-minute lecture to be presented the Saturday of the conference

Location

IB 1008

Start Date

24-3-2018 2:45 PM

End Date

24-3-2018 3:05 PM

Abstract

Japan’s national narrative of ethnic and cultural homogeneity has been utterly devastating for minorities living within its borders who face the challenge of navigating the conflicting positions of invisibility and inferiority. The Ainu are the indigenous peoples of Northern Honshu, Hokkaido, the Kuril Islands, and Sakhalin who, although now politically considered Japanese (or Russian), continue to occupy a much more complex space in Japanese society than is implied by their citizenship status. A fair amount of scholarly research has been conducted into the investigation of Ainu traditional culture and historical association with their southern neighbour; however, questions of Ainu self-identity are still not given the attention they deserve. Little interest in their contemporary struggles has been shown by Japan, while many “westerners” remain ignorant of Ainu existence.

Through a critical examination of historical, political, anthropological and sociological works, I hope to help rectify the issue by bringing to light how their cultural traditions, tenuous legal status, collective resistance, and lived experiences of discrimination have shaped modern Ainu identity. Due to the partial destruction of many traditional practices, the Ainu identity has primarily reemerged as a political entity, largely focused on combating their disadvantaged position in Japanese society. Discrimination in daily life causes many Ainu to conceal their heritage, making it difficult for a cultural identity to form. Japan’s continued resistance to implementing major change in discrimination and its perpetuation of the “homogeneous” narrative, indicates that issues of Ainu ethno-politics will continue for the foreseeable future.

Department

Sociology and Anthropology

Faculty Advisor

Dawn Farough

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Mar 24th, 2:45 PM Mar 24th, 3:05 PM

The Ainu in Japan: Examining Issues of Self-Identity

IB 1008

Japan’s national narrative of ethnic and cultural homogeneity has been utterly devastating for minorities living within its borders who face the challenge of navigating the conflicting positions of invisibility and inferiority. The Ainu are the indigenous peoples of Northern Honshu, Hokkaido, the Kuril Islands, and Sakhalin who, although now politically considered Japanese (or Russian), continue to occupy a much more complex space in Japanese society than is implied by their citizenship status. A fair amount of scholarly research has been conducted into the investigation of Ainu traditional culture and historical association with their southern neighbour; however, questions of Ainu self-identity are still not given the attention they deserve. Little interest in their contemporary struggles has been shown by Japan, while many “westerners” remain ignorant of Ainu existence.

Through a critical examination of historical, political, anthropological and sociological works, I hope to help rectify the issue by bringing to light how their cultural traditions, tenuous legal status, collective resistance, and lived experiences of discrimination have shaped modern Ainu identity. Due to the partial destruction of many traditional practices, the Ainu identity has primarily reemerged as a political entity, largely focused on combating their disadvantaged position in Japanese society. Discrimination in daily life causes many Ainu to conceal their heritage, making it difficult for a cultural identity to form. Japan’s continued resistance to implementing major change in discrimination and its perpetuation of the “homogeneous” narrative, indicates that issues of Ainu ethno-politics will continue for the foreseeable future.