Japan invites scholar to take part in government programme

  • October 15, 2018
Japan invites scholar to take part in government programme

Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada has been invited by Japan to attend a governmental programme.

I am honoured to have been selected to participate in this impressive programme...It offered me valuable insights on some important aspects that my doctoral research seeks to address. 

Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been extended an invitation by the Japanese Government to participate in a prestigious programme to promote understanding of Japan in the world.

Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada [2016] was invited by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to participate, alongside other Latin American representatives, in the  ‘Strengthening the dissemination of information about Japan by members of the Nikkei Community in Latin America’.

The invitation is presented to individuals, who are descendants of Japanese, and whose achievements contribute to deepening and promoting knowledge and understanding of Japan in the world.

This year it was extended to representatives from 15 countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay and Venezuela. Recipients come from a myriad of backgrounds, ranging from journalism, law, architecture, community organisations and academia.

The highlights of the programme were a visit to the Imperial Highnesses at the Residence of Prince Akishino and to the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, H. E. Kotaro Nogami, at the Prime Minister's Official Residence, as well as a formal dinner hosted by Japan's Ministry of Foreign  Affairs's Director General of Latin America and the Caribbean, Takahiro Nakamae.

Most of the events were held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' main quarters in Tokyo. Intellectuals, researchers and representatives of political, business and cultural circles presented lectures and led semi-formal discussion meetings.

Additional activities included a visit to technology and innovation hubs, to the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum in Yokohama and to the  prefectures of Kanagawa, Iwate and Miyagi which have cultural heritage of outstanding value but have also faced the challenge of natural disasters.

Japanese migrants in Mexico

Jessica was selected to participate in this programme based on her doctoral research on 'the life stories, experiences and trajectories of Japanese migrants and their descendants in Mexico from 1897 to the present', and her involvement with the Japanese and Nikkei communities in Mexico. Her doctoral research also allowed her to work on the Survey of Nikkei Communities in Latin America commissioned by the Japanese government.

Jessica is conducting this survey in Mexico as main researcher under the coordination of Shozo Ogino, recognised as the chronicler of the Japanese colony in Mexico.

Jessica says: "I am honoured to have been selected to participate in this impressive programme and would like to express my gratitude to the Embassy of Japan in Mexico, in particular to Ambassador Yasushi Takase and Consul Kazuyoshi Shimizu, to Shozo Ogino, and to former recipients of this scholarship, in particular to Taro Zorrilla, for their trust, advice and support. I am also very grateful to the Japanese and Nikkei communities in Mexico for allowing me to learn more from their histories. Participating in this programme has offered me valuable insights on some important aspects that my doctoral research seeks to  address."

Jessica's doctoral research is concerned with understanding the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion of 'foreign' migrants and their descendants in the context of a place like Mexico. Mexico has traditionally been conceived as an emigrant country, particularly to the US, but less attention has been paid to the role of foreigners in the building of Mexico's modern nation state. Jessica says Japanese people are a particularly interesting type of 'foreigner' as they do not fit into the national narrative of mestizaje. Mestizaje is a foundational discourse of the Mexican state and national cultural identity that posits the origins of Mexicans in the mixing of indigenous and Spanish colonisers.

Jessica's research aims to contribute to broadening current understanding on how foreign minority groups have negotiated their position in the discourse of mestizaje to confront its dynamics of racism, inequality and its colonial legacy. She is also interested in understanding how Japanese migrants and their descendants have organised to create communities and how those communities have worked to serve as a bridge between Mexico and Japan.

Personal history

Jessica's visit to Japan has given her insights on Japan's policies towards communities of Japanese people in Latin America, the experiences of these communities in different regional contexts, and has also allowed her to connect with a part of her own personal history. Jessica's maternal great grandparents emigrated from Fukuoka, Japan, to Mexico in the beginning of the 20th century and survived many of Mexico's upheavals, including the Second World War.

She says: “The Second World War particularly affected Japanese people who were harassed, persecuted and concentrated in Mexico by both the United States and Mexican governments, resulting in many of them being dispossessed of their properties, freedom and citizenship rights. Despite this, they became honourable Mexicans by working hard to improve their lives while making a contribution to the progress of Mexico.”

Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada

Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada

  • Scholar
  • Mexico
  • 2016 PhD Latin American Studies
  • Emmanuel College

Jessica is a qualified lawyer and human rights defender with over five years of experience in legal practice, research and advocacy work. Her doctoral research examines overlooked Asian minorities in Latin America. In particular, she focuses on Mexican Japanese experiences of racism, mestizaje and transnational identity. Jessica is currently building upon her master’s dissertation on graphic novel representations of mestizaje, the positioning of afro-descendants, and the operation of race and racism in Mexico. Her research interests include the history of race relations, overlooked ethno-racial minorities, and nation-state formation in twentieth century Mexico. Previously, Jessica completed an MA in Latin American Studies (with Distinction) at University College London, and a BA (First Class Honours) in Law at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. She was the principal researcher for the Survey of Nikkei Communities in Latin America commissioned by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Historical Studies at El Colegio de México; and co-founder of the CRASSH Graduate Research Group 'Power and Vision: The Camera as Political Technology'. Jessica is co-organiser alongside Dr. Rin Ushiyama and Zeina Azmeh of the interdisciplinary conference Memories in Transit, supported by The Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement, at the University of Cambridge, and the British Academy.

Previous Education

University College London
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico

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