Claiming Birthright: Japanese-Filipino Children and the Mobilization of Descent
This thesis examines the material dimensions of ethnic identity constructions and identity claims through the study of Japanese-Filipino children in the Philippines and of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) advocating on their behalf. Most JapaneseFilipino clients of NGOs in the Philippines were raised by their Filipino families with little knowledge of their Japanese fathers and no lived experience of Japan. Although these children and young adults are often called ‘multi-cultural’ by NGO workers, they grow up as Filipinos with no connection to Japan other than the awareness of their Japanese parentage and the availability of global Japanese cultural products equally accessible to most Filipinos. In this study, I examine the construction of the “JFC”, the Japanese-Filipino Child, through NGO discourses as well as the utilization of Japanese-Filipino children’s Japanese descent in claims-making and in struggles over resources. I argue that filiation can be leveraged on to gain access to resources not only through the legal implications that are provided by biological relationships, but also through the symbolically salient claims for belonging to a nation or people, by virtue of descent. I employ the concept of consanguinal capital which I consider as a form of capital, drawing upon Bourdieusian arguments. Consanguinal capital should primarily be understood in politically symbolic terms, mobilized in processes of claims-making and based on notions of ‘blood’ and belonging and their frequent conflation with ethnicity. In politicizing the issue, NGOs have endorsed essentialist ideas of ‘Japanese blood’ and framed their Japanese-Filipino clients as Japanese ex-patria, making claims for recognition from their ‘other homeland’. The abstraction of actual filiation between Japanese fathers and their children into politically symbolic ‘blood ties’ linking JapaneseFilipino children as a whole to the imagined community of Japanese, is part of the ideological work performed by NGOs to transform consanguinal capital into other forms of capital: economic, cultural and social.
Seiger, F.K. (2014, August 31). Claiming Birthright: Japanese-Filipino Children and the Mobilization of Descent. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/123052