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The Rhetoric of the Foreign Worker Problem in Contemporary Japan

Morooka, Junya (2006) The Rhetoric of the Foreign Worker Problem in Contemporary Japan. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The dissertation conducts a rhetorical analysis of Japan's foreign worker problem from the early 1980s to 2005. To this end, it provides three episodes in a two-decade case study in media representations of "llegal" foreign workers, specifically the emergence and the dominant framing of the foreign worker problem in the media and one organized resistance to the dominant framing of the problem. Chapter 2 provides an overview of Japan's foreign worker problem to set contexts for rhetorical criticism in subsequent chapters. Specifically, it outlines Japan's immigration policies, offers a historical account of its foreign worker problem, and supplies statistical data to document the recent trends and current status of labor migration in Japan. Chapter 3 explores the gendered nature of Japan's foreign worker problem. A distinctive feature of the migratory pattern in postwar Japan is that those who came to Japan for work initially consisted overwhelmingly of women. Nevertheless, their influx was not cast as a foreign worker problem; instead, it was generally framed as a peculiar issue of Japayuki-san. Importantly, the term Japayuki-san functioned to fixate the stereotyped image of female migrants as young sex workers from poor Asian countries. Chapter 4 demonstrates that the popular media, through a barrage of alarming crime reports interspersed with frightening visual graphics, play a critical role in constructing the public knowledge that "llegal aliens" are posing an unprecedented security threat to Japan. Chapter 5 underscores the importance of collective symbolic struggles by investigating how overstaying foreigners, activists, and academics collaborated during a special residence permission campaign from September 1999 through February 2000. The chapter also suggests that sustained and favorable media attention was crucial in bringing the campaign to success. In conclusion, the dissertation stresses the need for contesting the very language used for framing the foreign worker debate. Under the current discursive frame, foreign workers are inevitably reduced to economic units, which in turn limits the scope of the controversy to assessments of economic benefits and costs from accepting foreign workers. A rhetorical move needs to be made from "foreign worker" discourse to "immigration" discourse so that full-blown discussions about immigration could take place.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSimonson, Petersimonson@pitt.eduSIMONSON
Committee MemberHashimoto, Akikoahash@pitt.eduAHASH
Committee MemberMitchell, Gordongordonm@pitt.eduGORDONM
Committee MemberOlson, Lesterolson@pitt.eduOLSON
Date: 2 June 2006
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 22 February 2006
Approval Date: 2 June 2006
Submission Date: 13 March 2006
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Labor migration in postwar Japan; media studies; Pierre Bourdieu; communication studies; rhetorical criticism
Other ID:, etd-03132006-093210
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:32
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:37


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