When people hear that my research topic is international marriages, a spark lights up their eyes, quickly followed by the comment, ‘Oh, living with a foreigner must be difficult...’ When I ask, ‘Why do you think so?’, people quickly answer with ‘cultural differences’, but pushing further, language differences is also mentioned as one of the biggest issues that concern people. So, what is it about language and culture that make it difficult for people to understand each other? Don’t we all have different cultures? Will knowing a spouse’s language help? Is there anything else that makes it difficult for people to connect and understand each other?
Having those and many other questions in mind, I conducted my research on marriages of Russian-speaking women from former Soviet Union countries, who live in Japan and are married to Japanese men. I did not intentionally ask participants to talk about differences in customs or ways of living, but no matter what we discussed, the conversation would eventually reveal how spouses experienced and compared each other’s languages and cultures.
My Identities article, ‘International marriage in Japan: reconstructing cultural toolkits in marriages between Japanese men and women from the former Soviet Union’, introduces the voices of Russian-speaking wives and Japanese husbands, and explores their thoughts about marriages and culture. I analyse some of my participants’ remarks about their communication with spouses, such as Lyubov, who described the way she talked with her husband:
Well, now [we speak] in Japanese, but it happens on very rare occasions, because we are ‘ideal Japanese family’, where everybody lives in their own space. We barely talk, only about children and whether there is enough money for living. That is more or less it.
I was wondering how this is an ‘ideal Japanese family’, when in another interview, another participant, Alexandra, said:
I don’t bother him [her Japanese husband] with every little thing anymore: when he forgets to turn off the light, or doesn’t clean the sink after shaving… I do it ‘like a Japanese woman’, [silently] clean it after him. He must have felt horrible in the first year of our marriage…
Why does doing things silently or not talking to a husband seem to be interpreted as an ‘ideal Japanese family’ or ‘ideal Japanese wife’? How did they come up with these images? How is an ‘ideal family’ different from the ‘ideal Japanese family’? And, what do Japanese husbands think about their marriages with these women?
I respond to these questions by analysing how women from former Soviet Union countries and their Japanese husbands think of and use culture in their everyday lives. In my analysis, I utilise Ann Swidler’s (1986) concept of culture shaping, a repertoire or ‘toolkit’ from which people construct ‘strategies of action’. Women in international marriages faced the burden of recognising their original cultural repertoire and the need to reshape it to create new strategies of action to fit into the life in Japan. On the other hand, their husbands lived in familiar environments outside the family, but had to deal with different ideals and customs inside their international marriages.
Thus, the correctness of husbands’ cultural strategies was reinforced by the Japanese society, while they had to negotiate cultural differences inside the international family. Having different social and cultural backgrounds, Japanese husbands and Russian-speaking wives had difficulties performing roles as their spouses expected. Their perceptions of marriage and customs differed, and therefore the rules they followed in the relationships were different and could lead to conflict. For this reason, it was important to analyse how international couples navigated and restructured their toolkits, and what values shaped their new strategies of action.
I hope my research sheds light not only on the many facets of such seemingly simple notions as ‘family’ and ‘marriage’, but also provides readers with an insight into how spouses in international marriages rationalise these differences; the way in which they change or persist in their habits; and how their ideas evolve and grow with new understanding.
Swidler, A. 1986. Culture in action: symbols and strategies. American Sociological Review 51: 273–286.
Blog post by Viktoriya Kim, Osaka University, Japan
Read the full article: Kim, Viktoriya. International marriage in Japan: reconstructing cultural toolkits in marriages between Japanese men and women from the former Soviet Union. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1677325
In 2014, at his house located in central Okinawa, Kiyoshi Takamiyagi reminisced about his childhood in Saipan, the former mandate territory of Imperial Japan, today the main island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a US unincorporated territory. Takamiyagi was born and raised in Saipan as a son of a colonial migrant worker on a sugarcane plantation. He spoke about the social hierarchy in the colony, where the Japanese government officials and corporate executives were regarded as first-class citizens (ittō kokumin), Okinawans and Koreans as second-class citizens (nitō kokumin) and the indigenous islanders as third-class citizens (santō kokumin). He then tearfully recalled his family’s suffering during the Battles of the Marianas in 1944, in which some 44,000 Japanese soldiers, 10,000 Japanese civilians (more than half of whom were Okinawans) and an estimated 1,000 Koreans and indigenous islanders were killed. During the battle, Takamiyagi, then a young boy, witnessed the brutal firebombing deaths of his father, younger brother and two younger sisters. The 82-year-old man then caught me by surprise: 'I loved Saipan. I miss Saipan. In fact, I have visited there four times, most recently three years ago' (Takamiyagi 2013, interview).
In 2013, I visited the home of Marta Diaz Muna-Mendiola, an indigenous islander in her late 80s, in Saipan. She shared her childhood memories during the Japanese mandate era, which the locals call ‘Japan time’. She went to Japanese government-run public schools for indigenous islanders, where she learned the Japanese language, sewing, abacus, farming and vocational skills. Muna-Mendiola sprinkled her responses in English and the indigenous Chamorro language with clearly enunciated Japanese words – rattling off the names of Japanese-owned stores she frequented as a child and her Japanese homeroom teacher’s name – and broke into singing Japanese children’s songs. Every time I asked her about her childhood under Japanese rule, she insisted, in Japanese: 'It was great [yokatta desuyo] … We experienced no hardship [Kurou shinakatta desuyo]' (Muna-Mendiola 2013, interview).
In reality, Japanese colonial rule over Micronesia was hardly benevolent for Okinawan colonial migrants or indigenous islanders (Camacho 2011; Poyer et al. 2001, 2008; Spoehr 1954). The colonial rule and mass migration of the Japanese, Okinawans and Koreans to the islands displaced the local Chamorro and Carolinian Islanders, while all upper-level administrative jobs in the colonial government and Japanese businesses were reserved for Japanese mainlanders. It was striking for me, therefore, to observe the shared nostalgia among the former colonial migrants and the colonised islanders. This study, as discussed in my Identities article, 'Transcultural nostalgia for the colonial past: intersecting memories among Okinawans and the Northern Mariana Islanders', examines how the two social groups formed an intersecting longing for the past.
How do different cultural groups forge a shared longing for the past, or transcultural nostalgia? My Identities article suggests that each group’s past and present political-economic conditions are key contributors to transcultural nostalgia. It also illustrates that travel between spaces and encounters during the travel are a key means of transcultural remembering among two different groups. The article historically and ethnographically examines the transcultural nostalgia among Okinawans who had migrated to the Northern Mariana Islands under the Japanese rule and repatriated after WWII, and the indigenous islanders who had grown up as Japanese colonial subjects, as well as the repatriates’ post-war ‘spirit-consoling’ pilgrimages to the Marianas.
Camacho, K.L. 2011. Cultures of commemoration: the politics of war, memory, and history in the Mariana Islands. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Poyer, L., S. Falgout and L.M. Carucci. 2001. The typhoon of war: Micronesian experiences of the Pacific War. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Poyer, L., S. Falgout & L.M. Carucci. 2008. Memories of war: Micronesians in the Pacific War. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
Spoehr, A. 1954. Saipan: the ethnology of a war-devastated island. Chicago: Chicago Natural History Museum.
Blog post by Taku Suzuki, Denison University, USA
Read the full article:
Suzuki, Taku. Transcultural nostalgia for the colonial past: intersecting memories among Okinawans and the Northern Mariana Islanders. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1686879
It may be a truth not so universally acknowledged that editing a special issue of a journal can often be a nerve-wracking affair. Guest editing a forthcoming special issue for Identities titled 'Archives of Coloniality and Solidarity: Kashmir and Palestine, in medias res', goes beyond this experience. The razored concertina wires, the militarised checkpoints, the open brutality, the violence against the living and the dead, and the permanent warfare against entire populations that characterise the experiences of Palestinians and Kashmiris permeate this special issue. These experiences may not be exceptional to those editors and authors working on state violence and occupations. However, the experience itself must be acknowledged.
Author emails in the summer of 2019 demonstrate the porous ways in which the occupations of Palestine and Kashmir have pervaded this guest editing process.
Two months into the Kashmir siege — a complete communication blackout and a military blockade imposed on the 5th of August by the Indian state — a friend of an author who had visited Kashmir informed us that the author would be sending the paper via pen drive. As we write, 8–9 million people of the Kashmir Valley remain under siege, caged by a million Indian forces. Thousands of civilians including minors have been arbitrarily detained, including politicians, business leaders, clergy, university lecturers and students. Those not under detention face the brunt of India’s army and paramilitary forces who are marauding homes in night raids, molesting women, torturing ordinary people and harassing journalists. India’s political leaders, successors of Nazi-inspired fascism, deem this the new normal in Kashmir.
A co-authored photo essay, due on the 5th of August (the day the siege was imposed), is yet to be submitted. The Palestinian co-author sent us an anxious email about not being able to reach her Kashmiri counterpart: 'She doesn’t have Internet, the situation in Kashmir is very bad right now. I don’t know if we can submit it later'. Her mention of not knowing if they would be able to turn it in at all sums up the uncertainty and the injustice of life under occupation. Their photo essay is about gendered resistance and memory in Kashmir and Palestine. We continue to hope they will be able to submit soon.
For Ather Zia, co-editor of this special issue and a Kashmiri, the siege has been doubly fraught since she was not been able to reach family for a couple of months. The so-called ease on landline restrictions by the end of August was erratic. As we write this blog, only post-paid mobiles have been allowed to function. The Internet remains shut. Speaking and writing about Kashmir is part of the war against the ‘normalcy’ lie of the Indian state.
Scholarship on Palestine and Israeli settler-colonialism continues to proliferate. Yet, authors Nadera Shalhoub Kevorkian and Teodora Todorova illuminate some fresh aspects in this special issue. This summer Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian wrote to us of the incarcerated body of ‘a 14-year old child, Ezareyyeh Nassim Abu Roumi, allegedly accused of stabbing, shot and killed by the police on the 15th of August 2019. Shalhoub-Kevorkian said ‘his body had been withheld by the authorities for over two weeks’. In this special issue, her article extends the necropolitical dimensions of Israeli settler-colonialism to examine its new modes of power through ‘necropenology’, where the dead themselves are captive, on trial, colonising not only death itself but the affective and political space of mourning. Todorova’s article, 'Vulnerability as a politics of decolonial solidarity: the case of the Anarchists Against the Wall', examines the Butlerian concept of vulnerability as a decolonising politics through the expression of solidarity.
The Israeli state was carved through the violence of a settler-colonial project; the Indian state has now set the stage for settler-colonialism in Kashmir, transforming the nature of its colonial relationship with Kashmir that has existed since 1947. Ajit Doval, India’s National Security Advisor, and the architect of the transformation of India’s relationship with Kashmir from that of puppet colonial rule to a settler-colonial one, is credited with the policy of an Israeli-style creation of ‘facts on the ground’ when the facts on the ground do not suit the colonial power. The annexation of Kashmir on the 5th of August has also meant the abrogation of Article 35-A, a clause of the now-revoked Jammu and Kashmir constitution which protected Kashmiri ownership of land. Thus, the threadbare vestiges of Kashmiri autonomy that protected indigenous Kashmiris and their land ownership rights from Indian settler ownership has vanished overnight. Kashmir is now saleable by the colonial state ostensibly for developmental purposes though an old Hindutva vision of a demographic change, or ethnic cleansing, from Kashmiri to non-Kashmiri, from Muslim to Hindu.
While the articles in this forthcoming special issue of Identities were written before the 5th of August military siege of Kashmir, they indicate the ways in which Kashmiris have been living under Indian colonial occupation since Jammu and Kashmir’s Maharajah hurriedly acceded to India in 1947, with the proviso that Kashmiris would one day determine their own future. The complex story of the accession may be gleaned from the essays themselves as from recent scholarly sources. Farrukh Faheem speaks of the difficulty of accessing archives in the context of secrecy and state violence, and comments on the nature of what may be constituted as an archive in an occupied zone. In the article, 'Counter-maps of the ordinary: occupation, subjectivity, and walking under curfew in Kashmir', Mohamad Junaid explores through ethnographic work ‘counter-maps of the ordinary’, or the spatial dimensions of walking and stone-throwing as resistant practices, part of Kashmiri aspiration for freedom.
Kashmiri longing for freedom can be witnessed in their historical solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Ather Zia’s article (forthcoming) traces the resonant and affective solidarity of Kashmiris for Palestine. In the article, 'Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity', Goldie Osuri examines the historical and contemporary routes of anti-colonial solidarity between India and Palestine (state and non-state), arguing for re-routing this anti-colonial solidarity via Kashmir.
As an archive of coloniality and resistance solidarity in Kashmir and Palestine, this special issue of Identities points to another truth that must be acknowledged. The praxis of ‘decolonial solidarity’, as Todorova has described it, is perhaps all that we can hope for in the face of the current maelstrom of the open barbarity of militarised security states, whether in Palestine or Kashmir or elsewhere.
Blog post by Goldie Osuri, University of Warwick, UK, and Ather Zia, University of Northern Colorado, USA
Read the Identities articles from this special issue:
Junaid, Mohamad. Counter-maps of the ordinary: occupation, subjectivity, and walking under curfew in Kashmir. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1633115
Osuri, Goldie. Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1675334
Todorova, Teodora. Vulnerability as a politics of decolonial solidarity: the case of the Anarchists Against the Wall. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1647663
Read related Identities blog articles:
Decolonial solidarity in Palestine-Israel by Teodora Todorova
Everyday dilemmas of walking under curfew in Kashmir by Mohamad Junaid
Boxing fans and pundits might be familiar with the term 'undisputed' champion. Reserved mainly for boxers, the 'undisputed' champion is seen as the unquestioned champion of (mainly his) weight division. To achieve this status, he must become champion of the various worldwide boxing organisations. Of course, the boxer must constantly defend this status over and over again in order to maintain his place atop the boxing hierarchy. In other words, being an undisputed champion is fleeting, unpredictable, and always in flux.
In my Identities article, ‘Undisputed’ racialised masculinities: boxing fandom, identity, and the cultural politics of masculinity', the term 'undisputed' is repurposed to theorise and allegorise how it is fraught with contradictions. My findings highlight how the undisputed status of racialised masculinity is constantly struggled over, negotiated and contested by male boxing fans of colour. Based on fieldwork observations during a Manny 'Pac-Man' Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez boxing match in 2011, interviews conducted with 1.5 and 2nd generation Filipina/o Americans, and close analysis of 'Gayweather,' it analyses how male fans of colour seek an undisputed masculinity in complex and problematic ways.
Undisputed racialised masculinities are fraught with issues of power inequalities including homophobia, sexism and conservative views of belonging to a nation. Employing a queer of colour critique and women of colour feminism, undisputed racialised masculinity is complicated by race, class, sexuality and nation. During ethnographic observations at the Manny 'Pac-Man' Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez weigh-ins for example, homosocial spaces and relations — made up primarily of Latino and Filipino men — produced racially heteronormative ideas of nationalism. These ideas were manifested in homophobic chants (fans chanting ‘puto,’ a Spanish homophobic slur) and heterosexist ideas about who can belong to the imagined national community.
Filipina/o Americans also deployed homophobia and sexism by devaluing African American boxer Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather’s masculinity. Informants pointed out that Mayweather is Pacquiao’s biggest boxing rival and a gauge with which they measured Pacquiao’s success. They shared that Pacquiao is known to take risks and invite pain. In other words, he isn’t ‘scared’ to stand ‘toe to toe’ with his opponents. In this way, Mayweather’s masculinity works in relation to Pacquiao’s boxing style.
While my article primarily documents how men of colour assert their ‘undisputed racialised masculinity,’ some women challenge this status. During an interview with Louise, a 1.5-generation Filipina American, she brought to my attention the term 'Gayweather' and the discomfort she experienced whenever some of her Facebook friends posted the image. She shared:
'I do feel uncomfortable because yes, Mayweather is Manny’s competitor, but I don’t like the way a lot of people have [given him] that nickname "Gayweather." It just makes me feel really uncomfortable because of the implications that it does have. I’m all for being proud and having support for Manny Pacquiao but when it goes into that and I know they’re doing it just because they’re rooting for Manny. But when it gets to things like that, they’re calling him names that have to do with belittling homosexuals and stuff. It makes me cringe.' In fact, the racialised, gendered and sexualised term circulates on the internet as memes and GIFs by queering Mayweather. This is accomplished by superimposing images onto his body to mark his 'queerness' (e.g. wearing pink dresses and kissing other men).
In order to combat ‘undisputed racialised masculinity,’ the article concludes by pointing to an ethics and politics of care that asks us to imagine differently. To imagine differently means changing social patterns and relations, to radically alter how we live with each other in order to imagine more egalitarian relations.
Blog post by Constancio R. Arnaldo, Jr., University of Nevada, USA
Read the full article: Arnaldo, Constancio R., Jr. 2019. ‘Undisputed’ racialised masculinities: boxing fandom, identity, and the cultural politics of masculinity. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1624068