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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Diasporic and transnational notions of belonging : a case study of Cambodians in Japan Hara, Hiroko


In this thesis, drawing on feminist writers and pedagogues, I examine diverse notions of belonging in the postcolonial, diasporic, and multicultural world. While feminist writers and pedagogues have discussed notions of belonging by closely looking at the cases of the migrant, the exile, the nomad, and hyphenated people, I examine what "belonging" means to the refugee by focusing on the case of Cambodian refugees in Japan. Applying concepts of the "third space" discussed by Trinh T. Minh-ha (1994) and of "global-nomadic citizenship" presented by Sara Ahmed (2000), I create a fluid and open critical cartography of Cambodians as global nomads moving beyond borders. This allows us to see more of the third space. In addition to the analysis of selected diaspora literature by Jamaica Kincaid (1988), U Sam Oeur (1998), Dionne Brand (2001), and Kugo Ponnaret (2001), ethnographic interviews with eight Cambodian refugees living in Japan and participant observation were conducted in research for this thesis. They reveal the perspectives of Cambodian women and men, and their positive and negative experiences and emotions of belonging surrounding history, home, food, language, education, time, space, travelling and dwelling. In the cartography, I aim to attain four conceptual objectives: (1) to clarify transnational movements of Cambodians, examine the concept of transnationalism based on their experiences, and reveal their reactions to themselves as transnational citizens; (2) to determine the uniqueness of Cambodians’ notion of belonging; (3) to analyze the impact of education on their notion of belonging; and (4) to delineate voices of transnational citizens and provide an alternative notion of belonging, referring to their experiences. The critical cartography of Cambodians created in this thesis shows the possibility of alternative notions of belonging. The transnational movement of Cambodians provides us with a model of fully participating in the postcolonial, diasporic, and multicultural world in the twenty-first century. The Cambodians’ act of transgressing not only national but also cultural and ethnic boundaries indicates what is necessary to join in the third space and interact with other global nomads.

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