Extending Citizenship to the Diaspora: Ethnic Return Migrants as Legal, Racial, and Cultural Citizens

Takeyuki Tsuda

Monday, March 7th 2016
16:20 – 18:20 Panel 3: Kin-State Citizenship as Identity and Experience


Ethnic nation-states have reached out to their diasporic descendants born abroad in order to encourage them to return migrate to their ancestral homeland. These ethnic return migrants are often imagined as racial and cultural citizens who are members of a broader ethnic nation beyond state borders. Homeland governments either confer formal, extraterritorial citizenship to these diasporic descendants, which gives them the right to return migrate, or offer them partial citizenship and rights through preferential visas. Ethnic return migration apparently provides ethnic nation-states with a much-needed unskilled labor force without causing ethnonational disruption because the immigrants are presumed to be co-ethnics with cultural citizenship. The presentation first compares ethnic return migration policies in European and East Asian countries and their relevance for various types of citizenship and national belonging across borders. It then analyzes the development of such policies in Japan, which has encouraged the ethnic return migration of Japanese descendants (the nikkeijin) living in various South American countries. Although the Japanese government assumed they would be ethnically similar as cultural citizens, they have not assimilated and socially integrated into Japanese society as expected. As a result, Japan (and other ethnic nation-states) have imposed restrictions on ethnic return migrants.

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