Scholar is awarded a prestigious scholarship by Japan

  • October 15, 2018
Scholar is awarded a prestigious scholarship by Japan

Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada has been awarded a prestigious scholarship by the Japanese government

I am honoured to have been selected to participate in this impressive programme...It provided valuable insights for my doctoral research. 

Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been awarded a prestigious scholarship by the Japanese Government to deepen understanding of Japan in the world

Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada [2016] was awarded a scholarship by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to participate, alongside other Latin American scholars, in an interdisciplinary programme in Japan to deepen and promote knowledge and understanding of Japan in the world.

This year, the scholarship was awarded to participants from 15 countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay and Venezuela. Recipients come from a range of backgrounds, from journalism, law and architecture to community organisations and academia.

Scholars attended lectures in Tokyo about Japan’s history, culture and economy delivered by established academics, researchers and practitioners. They also engaged in stimulating semi-formal discussions about everything from film theory to artificial intelligence.

The main activities included a visit to the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum in Yokohama, to technology and innovation hubs and to the prefectures of Kanagawa, Iwate and Miyagi, which have cultural heritage sites of outstanding value which have faced challenges as a result of natural disasters.

The programme included a courtesy 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 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s Director General of Latin America and the Caribbean, Takahiro Nakamae.

Japanese migrants in Mexico

In her application to participate in this programme, Jessica expressed her interest in visiting historical and archival sites in Japan to deepen her understanding on ‘the life stories, experiences and trajectories of Japanese migrants and their descendants in Mexico from 1897 to the present’. The scholarship enabled her to visit historical, archival and family memory sites on Japanese migration to 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 Mr 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. I have gained new perspectives to continue developing my research.”

Jessica’s doctoral research is concerned with understanding the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion of Asian migrants and their descendants in multi-ethnic countries such as Mexico. Mexico has traditionally been conceived as an emigrant country, particularly to the US, but less attention has been paid to the role of Asians in the construction of Mexico’s modern nation state built on the basis of mestizaje. Mestizaje is the dominant discourse of the Mexican state that posits the origins of Mexicans in the racial mixing of Spanish and indigenous peoples.

Jessica’s research aims to contribute to broadening current understanding on how Asian/Japanese minority groups have negotiated mestizaje’s colonial legacy, racial dynamics and inequalities. She is also interested in understanding how Japanese migrants and their descendants have carved out a sense of belonging, participated in communities and served as a bridge between Mexico and Japan.

Personal history

Jessica’s visit to Japan enabled her to gain insights on Japanese migration to Latin America and the experiences of diasporic communities in different regional contexts. It has also allowed her to connect with a part of her own personal and family history. Jessica’s maternal family emigrated from Fukuoka, Japan, to Mexico at 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 Mexican families who were harassed, persecuted and concentrated by Mexican state officials, resulting in many of them being dispossessed of their lives, properties and citizenship rights. Despite this, many Mexican Japanese families have worked hard to re-build their lives and make significant contributions to Mexico.”

Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada

Jessica Fernandez De Lara Harada

  • Alumni
  • 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 examined the overlooked historical experience of Asians in Latin America. In particular, she focused on the experiences of Mexicans of Japanese origin across five generations in relation to the 'mestizo' racial system, citizenship and state violence, as well as repertoires of resistance in Mexico. This study built 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 from a transnational lens. Her research interests include the trans-pacific history of racialised exclusion and belonging, nation-state building, and imperial and colonial formations 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 a Research Fellow at the Centre for Historical Studies at El Colegio de México; co-founder of the CRASSH Graduate Research Group 'Power and Vision: The Camera as Political Technology'; and co-organiser of the 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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