Voice, Silence, and Self: Negotiations of Buraku Identity in Contemporary Japan
The Burakumin. Stigmatized throughout Japanese history as an outcaste group, their identity is still “risky,” their social presence mostly silent, and their experience marginalized in public discourse. They are contemporary Japan’s largest minority group—between 1.5 and 3 million people. How do young people today learn about being burakumin? How do they struggle with silence and search for an authentic voice for their complex experience?
Voice, Silence, and Self examines how the mechanisms of silence surrounding burakumin issues are reproduced and challenged in Japanese society. It explores the ways in which schools and social relationships shape people’s identity as burakumin within a “protective cocoon” where risk is minimized. Based on extensive ethnographic research and interviews, this longitudinal work explores the experience of burakumin youth from two different communities and with different social movement organizations.
Christopher Bondy explores how individuals navigate their social world, demonstrating the ways in which people make conscious decisions about the disclosure of a stigmatized identity. This compelling study is relevant to scholars and students of Japan studies and beyond. It provides crucial examples for all those interested in issues of identity, social movements, stigma, and education in a comparative setting.
Christopher Bondy is Associate Professor of Sociology at International Christian University in Tokyo.