Sociologist to Discuss Nikkei Cultural Conflicts at JANM

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Dr. Arthur Sakamoto, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas-Austin, will discuss the inherent conflicts between aspects of Japanese and American culture and how they historically affected Japanese Americans in a public program set for Saturday, July 28, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, First and Central in Little Tokyo.

Dr. Arthur Sakamoto

Sakamoto will lecture on “Japanese and American Aspects of the Japanese American Experience.” Among the basic premises is the observation that Japanese traditional culture favors collectivism while American society promotes individualism. Japanese Americans, especially the Nisei generation, whose parents came from Japan, faced that contradiction most profoundly growing up in America with Japanese cultural values. Sakamoto will illustrate this situation by citing notable incidents in Japanese American history.

In a paper he co-authored on the Japanese American family, Sakamoto wrote that the Issei immigrant generation’s “culture emphasized group obligation over individualism, and behavioral obedience to authority over personal verbal expression.” The paper also noted that typical American families would “encourage democratic-style exchanges between parents and children, (while) the Issei family was more hierarchical, authoritarian, and patriarchal.”

Sakamoto cites the late sociologist Harry Kitano’s observation that Nisei children were brought up with “a strong emphasis on obedience, especially to the Caucasian teachers, to study hard, to keep quiet, and not to complain (monku).” This is in direct contrast to American democratic principles, which emphasize the need for each individual to speak up for himself/herself, especially if there are issues.

A member of the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas-Austin since 1989 and full professor since 2007, Sakamoto was born in New York City and raised in St. Louis. A graduate of Harvard, he earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He taught English and studied in Japan from 1981 to 1983. He has lectured at JANM before, including on the subject “How Japanese Are Japanese Americans?” in 2011.

This program is free to museum members or with admission. For information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.

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