Author Archives: acoberme

An Eighty-Five Year-Old Case of Plagiarism

Posted by Amy Obermeyer, doctoral student in Comparative Literature at NYU

My time in the archives at the Biblioteca Nacional de Perú , like most archival work was filled with its shares of disappointment big and small—of missing materials and dead-end leads, of bad ideas and boring ones—alongside the daily monotony of combing through ancient periodicals and government documents, finding largely the useful, but expected and the unsurprising.

Yet there was also the occasional serendipitous encounter. I’d like to make use of this, my last dispatch from Lima, to describe one such event.

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“Un caso sensacional y atentatorio a la soberanía del País”

Posted by Amy Obermeyer, doctoral student in Comparative Literature

On May 13, 1940, a series of anti-Japanese riots took place in Lima. The tumult continued for days. Despite massive violence and unrest, police took no action to quell the tension; ten were dead, damages totaling $6 million were reported, affecting in total 620 households, and 316 individuals repatriated to Japan as a result (Riger Tsurumi 20; Higashide 110). Given the timeline, this is perhaps not entirely surprising; as a result Japanese aggression in the Asia-Pacific War, as well as rising tensions during World War II broadly, anti-Japanese sentiment was smoldering all over the Americas and beyond. Continue reading

Modern and Stateless: A Case Study of the International, Racialized Modernity of the Peruvian Nikkei

Posted by Amy Obermeyer, doctoral student in Comparative Literature at NYU

The history of Japanese immigration to, and their descendants in, Peru is a vexed story that seem more at home in a spy novel of “international intrigue” than in the pages of academic scholarship. It begins in the late-nineteenth century on a stranded ship with a “cargo” of Chinese indentured workers bound for the now-illicit Peruvian “coolie” trade, becomes entangled with extraordinary rendition during World War II, and rises to international attention at the end of the twentieth century, with the ascent of an infamous dictator who, during campaign appearances, was photographed in turn carrying samurai swords and dressed in “traditional” Incan apparel. While such incidents may appear as merely interesting or perhaps salacious episodes in the continuously-developing process of global capitalism, they are not singular. Rather than being an exceptional case, the trajectory of Peruvian-Japanese relations underscores the systemic paradoxes at the heart of liberalism and modernity, paradoxes that cannot fully be accounted for within a traditional area studies framework, which typically separates Japanese imperialism from the historically subaltern position of Japanese Latin Americans. These paradoxes have remained partially-hidden specifically in the Peruvian Nikkei context by way of a conjuncture of state interventions and academic limitations. Yet to elide the multifocal world-historical context of these events is not only to subtly reify the dispossession and physical erasure of scores of individuals at the conjuncture of three sovereign states, but also to miss potential insights into the rationale of modernity in the global context. Seiichi Higashide’s 2000 testimonio, Adios to Tears, however, provides a means of positioning such paradoxes within the multiple and sometimes competing histories, while reinscribing subjectivity in a world-systems context.

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