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When Nikkei women write : transforming Japanese-Canadian identities 1887-1987 Iwama, Marilyn Joy 1998

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W H E N NIKKEI W O M E N WRITE; T R A N S F O R M I N G J A P A N E S E C A N A D I A N IDENTITIES 1887-1997 by MARILYN J O Y IWAMA B.S., The Univeristy of British Columbia, 1990 M A . , The University of British Columbia, 1992 A T H E S I S S U B M I T T E D IN PARTIAL F U L F I L L M E N T O F THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE D E G R E E OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Interdisciplinary Studies [Anthropology / Asian Studies / English / History]  We accept this thesis A s conforming to the required standard  T H E UNIVERSITY O F BRITISH C O L U M B I A September 1998 © Marilyn Joy Iwama, 1998  In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment  of the requirements for an advanced  degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department  or by  his  or her  representatives.  It  is  understood  that  copying or  publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission.  Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada  Date  DE-6 (2/88)  jJLnt •  i^Qi  II ABSTRACT  Describing historical accounts of Canadian Nikkei experience, historian Midge (Michiko) 1  Ayukawa (1996) writes that these accounts represent "history in the passive voice, and that it is necessary to retell it with the eyes and ears of the people who were directly involved" (3). For Nikkei women, "history in the passive voice" has either completely overlooked their experiences or narrowly defined their social role in terms of domesticity and submission to a patriarchal authority. The dominant image of the Japanese Canadian woman has been that of the "good wife, wise mother" (Ayukawa 1995). This ideal image of womanhood emerged as a component in the dramatic processes of social reform in Meiji Japan (1868-1912). Both Caucasian and Nikkei historians have sustained the power of this mythical image by characterizing those experiences that exceed its conceptual boundaries as merely idiosyncratic. Simultaneously, however, Nikkei women have been weaving narratives of their history which both duplicate and subvert this image of quiet domesticity. This study contrasts processes of identity formation in twentieth-century writing by and about Canadian Nikkei women. I approach these narratives by first analyzing the categories of race, class, ethnicity, culture, and gender that historians, anthropologists, literary theorists, and theorists of ethnicity have constructed in order to interpret and contain them. I then examine how the narratives engage with three dominant discourses of being, namely those concerned with food, sexuality, and the transmission of culture. For several reasons, I treat this body of writing from an interdisciplinary and multitheoretical perspective. My sources include published and unpublished texts from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, history, literature, and geography. These texts embrace a wide range of genres, among them fiction, poetry, autobiography, the essay, the journal, the letter, so-called conventional scholarship, and responses to an ethnograhic questionnaire that I have collected. The texts are also informed by both Japanese and "western" cultural ideas and 2  "Nikkei" are individuals of Japanese descent living outside of Japan. Some researchers favour the upper case "Western" to describe North American and European theoretical traditions across disciplines (Mennell 1985). I include in the category of "western" all those 1  2  practices, and sometimes by several additional cultural influences. Their writers create a c