On Becoming Japerican
Sachiko Tankei-Aminian

On Becoming Japerican on Vimeo.
A performance about cross-cultural adaptation.

Artist Statement

This autoethnographic performance attempts to capture my cross-cultural adaptation process and formation of a new cultural identity as a sojourner from Japan living in the US. The performance illustrates what it is like for sojourners/immigrants to go back and forth between their original culture and new culture, as well as to form a new third cultural identity, inmeshed in liminality, while shedding light on how socio-historical forces influence the adaptation process. In liminal transformation, I live at once as Japanese and not-Japanese, as not-American and not-not-American. In this performance, I try to turn the table by placing the audience in a position of being in a "foreign" cultural sphere. For instance, when audiences enter the theater, they are greeted with a bow and Japanese speech; they are often immersed in Japanese language without translation; and they are asked to engage in a ceremonial hand clap with the performer as a Japanese closing ritual at the end of the performance.

Original performances of On Becoming Japerican ocurred in 2004 at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (co-directed with Stephanie Howell and Antoinette McDonald), with five additional Japanese cast members (Hironobu Arima, Yusuke Kakinuma, Mitsuhiko Sato, Ken Watanabe, and Naoko Watanabe). From 2004-7, I performed a solo version of the show at several universities (including the University of Kentucky, Wittenberg University, Ithaca College, and Cornell University) and at conferences, all of which allowed opportunities for open-dialogue about cross-cultural adaptation, intercultural identities, power and oppression, and Japanese culture.

I acknowledge that my solo performance, recorded here without an audience, has a different dynamic for audiences than a live performance or a full-cast performance. Yet, it is my intention that this piece captures an essence of experiences from the original Japanese cast members and that it also provokes critical awareness of the experiences and processes of cross-cultural adaptation. This version of the performance was filmed and edited by Farshad Aminian-Tankei. By blending performance with cinematic elements, we seek a possible hybrid creative technique that we like to call "cineperformance."

This performance was inspired by Tadasu Todd Imahori's essay "On Becoming 'American'" (In Among Us: Essays on Identity, Belonging, and Intercultural Competence, eds. Myron W. Lustig and Jolene Koester, NY: Longman, 2000. 68-77).

The following works are quoted in the performance

Denzin, Norman K. Performance Ethnography: Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2003.

Madrid, Arturo. "Missing People and Others: Joining Together to Expand the Circle." Change 20 (1988): 55-9.

Sachiko Tankei-Aminian is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Philosophy at Florida Gulf Coast University.

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