Hybrid Identities and Adolescent Girls: Being 'Half' in Japan

Author: Laurel D. Kamada

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This is the first in-depth examination of "half-Japanese" girls in Japan focusing on ethnic, gendered and embodied 'hybrid' identities. Challenging the myth of Japan as a single-race society, these girls are seen struggling to positively manoeuvre themselves and negotiate their identities into positions of contestation and control over marginalizing discourses which disempower them as 'others' within Japanese society as they begin to mature. Paradoxically, at other times, within more empowering alternative discourses of ethnicity, they also enjoy and celebrate cultural, symbolic, social and linguistic capital which they discursively create for themselves as they come to terms with their constructed identities of "Japaneseness", "whiteness" and "halfness/doubleness". This book has a colourful storyline throughout - narrated in the girls' own voices - that follows them out of childhood and into the rapid physical and emotional growth years of early adolescence.

This timely, fascinating and academically rigorous book provides a rich contribution to the study of shifting identity, gender and ethnicity and how a linguistic approach can shed light on these. Having lived half of her own life in Japan, and as the parent of a 'multi-ethnic' child, Laurel Kamada writes from a position of strength and understanding. Her study is a qualitative, longitudinal one, drawing on a variety of analytical frameworks. The data shows us the lived experiences of these 'multi-ethnic' girls, from their tribulations to their celebrations of self. Importantly, Kamada never underestimates the fine-grained complexity of her topic.

Mixed-race identities in Japan pose a host of intriguing questions that need to be demystified. Hybrid Identities and Adolescent Girls presents a groundbreaking study that addresses intersections of race, gender, class, and language among teen girls of Caucasian and Japanese heritage. Kamada's fascinating analysis enables the readers to understand how "doubleness" not only constitutes their Japanese/White identities but also signifies dual meanings of bullied/envied, grotesque/cool, and othered/privileged. This unique study provides the field with innovative knowledge.

This is a ground-breaking study in that it is the first attempt ever to investigate hybrid identity construction among 'half-Japanese' girls in Japan. It also offers a timely and valuable contribution to the field of discourse and identity by identifying a largely under-researched area. Overall, Kamada's book is a solid, well-written and insightful text, and the study is well grounded in careful and rigorous data analysis as well as detailed descriptions of the author's observations. Despite the complex ideas the book contains, it is written in a clear and highly accessible style. I would strongly recommend the book to scholars who are interested in or engaged in research on language and identity, language and gender, discourse analysis, and bilingualism and multilingualism. 

Discourse Studies 13(2) 263-274, 2011

This review has highlighted only a few key aspects of this intriguing study. Those with an interest in identity, gender and ethnicity, and interdisciplinary discourse analysis will undoubtedly find that this book is well written, thought provoking and extremely insightful.

Feminism and Psychology 20(4) 538-567 2011

As a pioneering text examining the construction of multi-ethnic identities in Japan, Hybrid Identities and Adolescent Girls is an excellent academic work, theoretically and methodologically sound.

JALT Journal 33.1, May 2011

Laurel D. Kamada is a Lecturer Professor at Tohoku University in Japan. She has published in such areas as: bilingualism and multiculturalism in Japan; gender and ethnic studies; marginalised (hybrid and gendered) identities in Japan; and discourses of ethnic embodiment and masculinity. Her other interests include theoretical and methodological discourse analytic approaches to the examination of identity. She serves on the editorial board of the Japan Journal of Multilingualism and Multiculturalism and is on the Advisory Council of the International Gender and Language Association.

Chapter 1: Constructing Hybrid Identity in Japan

Chapter 2: Examining Discourses of 'Otherness' in Japan

Chapter 3: The Participants and the Data Collection

Chapter 4: Negotiating Identities

Chapter 5: Claiming Good Difference; Rejecting Bad Difference

Chapter 6: Celebration of Cultural, Symbolic, Linguistic, and Social Capital

Chapter 7: Discursive 'Embodied' Identities of Ethnicity and Gender

Chapter 8: Discursive Construction of Hybrid Identity in Japan: Where has it Taken Us?

Postgraduate, Research / Professional
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