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Ongoing Colonialism in Postwar Immigration Policy

Tue, June 23, 9:00 to 10:55am, South Building, Floor: 9th Floor, S904


Since the arrival of the discourse of multiculturalism in the late 1980s from North America and Australia, progressive scholars in Japan have been pointing out its relevance to the multiethnic Japanese empire. As the concept of kyōsei (living together) became central to Japanese multiculturalism, its connection to the discourse of a Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere became clearer to them. Those scholars talk of the persistence of the worldview characterized by concentric circles with Japan in the center, but without substantiating their perception. This paper analyzes in concrete terms how this worldview has been deeply engrained in the mentality of postwar policymakers by comparing immigration policy and colonial policy. Most scholars of immigration policy have been situating the issue of foreigners in relation to the domestic Japanese labor market and the transnational flow of labor. I examine immigration policy as reflecting the state’s control of national boundaries by comparing it to the empire’s control of peoples in the homeland and colonies. In this examination, I make a distinction between newcomers, those who have arrived in Japan during and after the 1980s and have contributed to the spread of tabunka kyōsei, and postcolonial foreigners, i.e., former colonial subjects from Korea and Taiwan and their offspring. I demonstrate how the postwar government has approached these two groups with the same worldview it inherited from the colonial past. The effectiveness of this approach has become increasingly questionable in twenty-first-century Japan, which can no longer pretend to be the center of Asia.