Afro-Asia as Neoliberal Intimacy: Black-Japanese Mixed-Race Experiences in Contemporary Japan


In this presentation I use the case of mixed-race peoples of black and Japanese descent in contemporary Japan to interrogate the existing literature on Afro-Asia. Much of the scholarship examining the intersections between the African and Asian diasporas has done so vis-à-vis these diasporic communities’ shared experiences of and ongoing efforts to contend with the legacies of Western colonial domination. However, the case of black-Japanese and similar Afro-Asian encounters throughout China, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, including as result of Japan’s and China’s economic ascent, offer a critical opportunity to situate and explore these complex and intimate encounters. I argue for the value of a “multipolar” global approach to reflect the more fully international dimensions and dynamics of the Afro-Asian encounter in Japan today, and for the particular value of ethnographic work in exploring their lived resonances and effects.

Speaker Bio:

Marvin D. Sterling is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington. His interests center on cultural transnationalism, performance theory, race and global blackness, Afro-Asia, and human rights. He is author of “Babylon East: Performing Dancehall, Roots Reggae, and Rastafari in Japan” (2010, Duke University Press). His current book project ethnographically explores the experiences of mixed-race Japanese individuals who are partly of African descent.