GV 4th year students have worked on Individual Research Projects (IRP). Now I consider it as a kind of grand finale of our 4-year studies. The goal of the IRP seminar is for each GV 4th year student to set a topic of one’s own interest, conduct research, and ultimately complete and present his/her research outcome in a 10-page paper and oral presentation, both in English. I have gained a lot of knowledge in law and politics since entering the university, but it was my first time to set a hypothesis and demonstrate it on my own, which I believe is essential and meaningful for undergraduates to conclude their 4-year learning at university. The IRP seminar allowed me to pursue and deepen my academic interest, to which I had never imagined reaching this level in the beginning.
In this blog, I’d like to share the journey of my learning with a project I’ve carried out for the last one year.
I wrote a paper about the impact of social context on the identities of Issei (一世) and Nisei (二世) Japanese Americans. I’ve long been interested in immigration policy and critical-minded of the lack of education in Japanese schools about what happened to Japanese Americans during and after the World War II. To raise the awareness and better understand Japanese Americans in the historical and social contexts, I decided to study how their identities were formed. The issue of self-identity is not merely about how one has been perceiving oneself. The identity is formed by the influences of people and environment surrounding that person. I focused on studying the peculiar immigration policy of Japanese government to see how it affected the minds as well as the physical migration of the Japanese Americans at the time. Combined with the result from the interviews I conducted with several Japanese Americans, I reached a conclusion that their identity struggle can be understood in the social/policy context at the time when Japanese Americans were initially treated as failure in Japan and then as complete aliens in the new land of migration. They were not fully accepted as members of either Japan or of the U.S. Self-identity is supposed to be fluid, and multiple identities should be able to co-exist as long as one wishes. However, I found that, affected by the government policy and the social climate at the time, many Japanese Americans were forced to have an inflexible sense of belonging and choose only one identity – as either a Japanese or an American. I shared the key findings of my research at the final session of GV IRP Seminar with faculty members and my friends in the same year group. Based on that experience, I also had the honor of presenting my research outcome to Japanese Americans who helped my research.
Looking back, I realize that every learning, experience, and network with many people in and out of the campus contributed to the completion of my paper. I relied on the concept of social context and discourse analysis as the research method, which I learned from my seminar for international politics. Also, I was lucky to be able to conduct the interview with Japanese Americans and listen to their family stories and their struggle with dual identities thanks to the network of US-Japan Council where I was interning for the past eight months. The entire process of my research helped me think back how every learning opportunity and experience has created a synergy effect and led to such achievement.
This learning journey has never been possible without the support of my supervisor and friends who worked for the same goal together. In order to present my research progress to others, I needed to organize and simplify my thoughts over and over again. Simple but penetrating questions from my friends made me realize what I was overlooking or what I had never thought about. Regular one-on-one meetings with my supervisor showed me the next step to be taken. These repeated process and interactions effectively helped me revise and keep improving the quality of my paper. Also, seeing my friends working hard in the same space (GV Room) always motivated me to work harder. I am sure that the real purpose of IRP seminar lies there – we help each other and work together for the common goal of managing a research project.
It has already been more than a month since I graduated. Nevertheless, after the wonderful experience of conducting research on my own, I have every intention to keep my learning active and continue to deepen my academic interests. My journey to self-growth will never stop.
If you are interested in my research, please find the video of my research presentation below. Thank you very much. (Click: Impact of Social Context on Issei and Nisei Japanese American Identity)
Momoko Tajima (Graduate of 2021)