Syada Dastagir | Representations of South Asians in Japanese Popular Culture

Since the 1990s Japan and India have been slowly cultivating their political, economic and cultural ties through politicians, businesses, bysiness investments, cultural organisations, etc. This has also led to a significant rise in Indian migrants to Japan, the latest phase in a long but often overlooked history of contact between the two countries. Since the 1980s Japan has also seen an increase in migrants from other south Asian countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. In a country that is seemingly very selective and cautious about immigration, how can we chart the significance of this recent influx of highly visible newcomers into Japan?

Race is a social construct. What  it means or represents, and how we experience race depends largely on the socio-political climates of any particular given society. Typically, these constructions are produced and transmitted with the help of the media. Japan provides us with rich and diverse media platforms to examine how different minority groups have been portrayed. This thesis engages critically with the mediums of Japanese animation (anime) and idols/celebrities (aidoru/tarento), in order to understand the constructions behind representations of South Asians. It is important to link these portrayals with history and politics, as a way to understand why this particular minority is being presented in a particular way at this time.


After completing her BA in French with Film Studies, Syada completed the MA Japanese Cultural Studies at Birkbeck in 2012 and subsequently chose to pursue this research project at the university. She is also a PhD tutor for the Brilliant Club, a charity which encourages students from low-participation schools to take part in higher education, and also tutors French to GCSE/A-Level students.