Borders of Self: Return Migration and Global Pentecostalismamong Nikkei Brazilian Migrants in Japan

by Suma Ikeuchi

Institution: Emory University
Year: 2016
Keywords: transnational migration; return migration; Pentecostalism; Global Christianity; Nikkei Brazilian; Japan; Brazil; nationalism; Cultural anthropology; Religion; Asian studies
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2115589
Full text PDF: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/rgw1j


This dissertation responds to the growing need to explore the intersection of migration and religion with a case study of Japanese-Brazilian (i.e. Nikkei) migrants who have converted to Pentecostalism in Japan. Their lives unfold at the intersection of two growing trends in contemporary globalization: return migration and global Pentecostalism. In Asia, it is increasingly common for nation-states to promote the 'return' of their diasporic populations by devising legal systems that accommodate such movements. In Latin America, the fast-growing Pentecostal Christianity has been developing a global web of faith networks, oftentimes relying on the transnational mobility of Latin American migrants. This dissertation is among the first to investigate the phenomenon of religious revivalism among those who partake in return migration. It examines why and how Nikkei migrants convert to born-again Christianity in a country where Buddhist-Shinto syncretism predominates. I conducted 14 months of fieldwork at the churches of Brazilian denomination called Missão Apoio, primarily in Toyota, Japan. Using mixed methods, including participant-observation, interviews, and surveys, I found that many migrants experience Pentecostalism as 'the third culture' that can help them transcend the world of ethno-national boundaries, where they have long been placed in in-between space of hyphenated identity. The dissertation focuses on five major themes to analyze the interrelations between ambiguous ethnic identity, contested national belonging, and conversion to Pentecostalism: time, kinship, affect, self, and belief. From different angles, it illuminates how migrant converts start to reinterpret their ambiguous national belonging as a spiritual asset with which to realize the impermanence of man-made realities such as 'nation.' In other words, the experience of living 'between' nations has sensitized them to the ethical vision of 'transnational transcendence,' in which they see themselves as conveyers of morality and godliness in the global mission to evangelize. Despite the numerous predictions that have been made about its wane, religion remains a pervasive and contentious force in the new century. This project helps understand why Pentecostalism has flourished at some of the most fluid and contested boundaries of the globalizing world today. INTRODUCTION  – Japanese Blood, Brazilian Birth, and Transnational God  –  – 1  – CHAPTER 1  – Return to the Present:  – 'Temporal Tandem' of Migration and Conversion –  –  –  – 45  – CHAPTER 2  – Of Two Bloods:  – Kinship, Religion, and National Belonging –  –  –  –  –  – -77  – CHAPTER 3  – Culture of Love:  – Family, Ethnicity, and Religion in Affective Terms –  –  – 105  – CHAPTER 4  – Accompanied Self:  – Debating Christian Personhood in Multicultural Japan –  – 153  – CHAPTER 5  – Layered Faith:  – Language, Meaning, and Belief in Pentecostal Practice – -184  – EPILOGUE  – National Borders, Ethnic Boundaries, and Ethical Margins-226 Advisors/Committee Members: Shore, Bradd (Committee Member), Lesser, Jeffrey (Committee Member), Ozawa-de Silva, Chikako (Thesis Advisor).