Introduction: Heritage, Nationhood, and Language

Migrants with Japan Connections

Author: Neriko Doerr


The latter half of the twentieth century saw the notion of "heritage" become one of the critical global tropes, through which many have voiced their preoccupations and aspirations. At the heart of heritage politics are three questions: what heritage is, who decides what it is, and for whom is the decision made. Researchers on heritage language education have rarely asked these questions. Determining what constitutes one's "heritage language" is a complex effort; for migrants, claiming which language is their heritage language can also be a political statement. Based on ethnographic research in Bolivia, Peru, the United States, and Japan, the articles in this two-part series, "Heritage, Nationhood, and Language," investigate diverse subjectivities of migrants with connections to Japan and analyze the processes by which they negotiate, contest, support, and rupture the notion of heritage. The articles examine the disjunctures between the notion of social justice and the experiences of empowerment and marginalization among these migrants. This series sheds light on the conditions, processes, and effects of a particular language becoming one's "heritage." Intersecting factors that influence the ways a language becomes one's "heritage" include a desire for belonging, a drive for social status, aspirations for economic gain, fear and guilt about discrimination, and an obligation and hope for social justice. This introduction outlines the historical and theoretical backgrounds to the subject and introduces the main arguments of the articles in the two-part series.

Regions: East Asia
Countries: Japan
Topics: Migration

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© 2004 ILO/Cassidy K.