A critical study of discursive practices of "othering" in construction of national identities
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This study investigates images of Japan/Japanese from a critical perspective by drawing on the methodology of discourse analysis. Theoretically, I attempt to synthesize critical discourse analytic perspectives with micro-analytic traditions from a linguistic anthropological perspective, with particular reference to the Critical Discourse Analysis and Conversation Analysis controversy. The primary data was collected from learners of Japanese as a Foreign Language at a U.S. institutional setting. By the analysis, I argue that there are tensions between unifying or essentialized national identities and fragmenting or cosmopolitan identities. Specifically, I found that, on the one hand, there are social realities of immigrants, diaspora or exchange students in the local community, who are both long-term and short-term residents. At the same time, cultural materials such as games or music produced in Japan are consumed by American learners of Japanese. These forces work in the direction of fragmenting tendencies of culture. On the other hand, the participants are dominated by the ideology of nationalism, which strongly essentializes or permanently fixes national identities, which leads to the unifying directions. The discourses that the participants produced exemplify both tendencies, though the analyses indicate that the unifying forces are stronger. In this study, I critically focus on the essentialist discourses because of its exclusive and potentially violent nature. In the end, I propose a critical pedagogy, with particular reference to teaching Japanese culture, which emphasizes anti-essentialist national identity in order to live with ‘difference’ or with multicultural orientations in the globalized world.