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.
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.