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Announcement: When Death Becomes Her Question: Death, Identity, and Perceptions of Home Among Okinawan Women Return Migrants

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology
School of Social Sciences
Ateneo de Manila University

 cordially invites you to

  When Death Becomes Her Question: Death, Identity, and Perceptions of Home Among Okinawan Women Return Migrants

 Johanna O. Zulueta, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor in Sociology
Faculty of International Liberal Arts
Soka University, Japan

 10 February 2014
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
F 114, 1st floor Faura Hall

             The subject of death is seldom, if not rarely, touched upon in the migration literature, particularly those about migrants who are still alive and well, such as elderly Okinawan women migrants.  The issue of death though, is a crucial part of one’s life course, and for these women, it comprises a significant aspect of their lives that at the same time also talks about family, tradition, and continuity.  Upon one’s death, Okinawan women are supposed to be buried in their husband’s grave as tradition dictates, but a problem arises when their husband is a non-Okinawan.  Married to Filipino men who were recruited to work in U.S. military installations during the U.S. Occupation of Okinawa, most of these women migrated to the Philippines and lived there for decades.  While a significant number still reside in the Philippines, not a few of these women have returned to Okinawa in recent years.

             A large number of these Okinawan women are converts to Catholicism and most of those who returned to Okinawa have bought their own ossuary in Catholic churches there due to the fact that they could not be buried in their natal family’s grave.  The question of where to be buried – whether they be buried in an ossuary in Okinawa or together with their husbands in the Philippines – has become an important one in these returnees’ lives as they reach this advanced stage in their life course, and this decision carries with it notions of identity, “home”, and family that are very much gendered and intertwined with experiences of migration and return.  This is an exploratory study that aims to shed light on the question of death as an important part of the migrant’s life course and hopes to contribute to existing literature on return migration.

Lecture Series on Society and Culture 2013 – 2014
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Ateneo de Manila University

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