Diasporic indigeneity: Kanako Uzawa, ‘”Crafting Our Future Together”: Urban Diasporic Indigeneity from an Ainu Perspective in Japan’, PhD dissertation, The Arctic University of Norway, 2020


Abstract: This dissertation discusses living experiences and stories of urban Ainu youth, Indigenous people of Japan in the twenty-first century. I have weaved my own experiences as a Tokyo Ainu into the discussion in order to illustrate forms of Ainu cultural revitalization in cities. In the thesis, I ask: What attributes in cities facilitate the process of Ainu cultural revitalization? The dissertation investigates Ainu living experiences in the cities of Tokyo and Sapporo by introducing the concept of urban diasporic Indigeneity as an analytical tool to conceptualize contemporary Ainu lifestyles in cities. The dissertation is based on three publications. Firstly, I set out to investigate how Ainu culture comes into life in Tokyo with a focus on the Ainu restaurant Rera Cise (House of Wind). This is done through various cultural practices of food culture, dance, and most importantly, sharing experiences. The dissertation later expands the discussion of Ainu cultural revitalization in cities to social encounters between Ainu and Wajin (Wajin refers to people of non-Ainu ethnicity) youth, with the case study of Sapporo University Urespa club. I argue that Urespa is a social venture that transforms individual and collective values of Ainu people and Ainu culture into more positive experiences. Lastly, the dissertation discusses the bonding of Ainu and Wajin youth together through Ainu cultural practices within Urespa. The main findings of the dissertation are (1) Ainu cultural revitalization goes beyond the boundary between the Ainu and Wajin relations, and (2) geographical locations do not limit the possibilities for Ainu cultural revitalization. Findings in my research indicate that Ainu culture is still alive, and continues to be carried forward with new inspiration and vision for the future.

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