Monday, March 2, 2009

Half, Haafu or Double?

(ILLUSTRATION BY EMI YOKOYAMA; Image borrowed from Japan Today, 3/2/09)

This interesting image caught my eye this morning while cruising the internet. It comes from a commentary by Corey Gaskins about the challenges of being of mixed ancestry in Japan. I have had students comment about this issue as well by placing it within the context of globalization. One student referred to herself as "double" rather than half as she found having parents from two different cultures to be empowering and allowed her to have multiple perspectives.

This issue also reminds me of being hard of hearing in Japan. It is a similar situation where you are half in the hearing world and half in the deaf world but not really a member of either. The sign for hard of hearing in JSL is an open hand, palm facing the side, moving from the head to the torso as if cutting the body in - you guessed it - half. As Gaskins talks about organizations for haafus in Japan, there are organizations for hard of hearing people as well.

Japan is certainly an interesting and problematic place to explore the concepts of self identity and group identity. And I think the illustration above works well to bring attention to this important dialogue. Nice visual anthropology...

Link to Gaskins' commentary at Japan Today:

Link to a similar commentary form a former student:

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