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Abstract

My dissertation, “From Picture Brides to War Brides: Race, Gender, and Belonging in the Making of Japanese America,” examines the ways in which ideas about race and gender shaped the process of immigration and settlement for Japanese immigrant women in the United States. I argue that Japanese women were both included and excluded based on dynamic racial and gendered ideologies that either feared or embraced their perceived reproductive power and labor contributions in and out of the home. I begin my analysis with the first wave of Japanese women’s immigration to the US spurred by the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908 and end with the second mass migration of Japanese women after the passage of the War Bride Acts in the post-World War II era to uncover how marriage and female domesticity facilitated Japanese women’s immigration to the United States creating what I call a gendered diaspora. In doing so, my project complicates conventional narratives of Japanese exclusion by demonstrating how gender and sexuality created pockets of inclusion for Japanese women that circumscribed their lives once in the United States. By analyzing a robust collection of historical records my project makes three key interventions. First, it examines Japanese picture bride and war bride migration in relation to one another. There has been very little scholarship examining both streams of migration. My work bridges this gap to uncover how institutions such as marriage and domesticity facilitated Japanese women’s immigration to the US between 1908 and 1952. Second, the history of Japanese immigration to the United States is dominated by discussions of racial exclusion exemplified in the wartime incarceration of the Japanese. My work, however, decenters wartime incarceration as the main point of analysis in Japanese American history and instead focuses on the ways gender and heteronormativity shaped the making of Japanese America. Finally, Japanese war brides and their families have not been fully integrated into Japanese American communities or the scholarship exploring those communities. My work seeks to correct this omission by situating the post-WWII migration of Japanese war brides within the larger narrative of Japanese immigration, incorporating these women and their mixed-race children into the history of Japanese America.

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