This article analyses a discourse around the ascendancy of Jero, an ‘African-American’ male dressed in hip-hop attire singing enka, a genre of music that has been dubbed ‘the heart and soul of Japan.’ Since his debut in Japan in February 2008, Jero has attracted much media attention. This article analyses a prominent discourse, ‘Jero is almost Japanese because he sings enka well.’ While many argue that to challenge stereotypes and racism is to introduce alternative role models, we show that such alternative role models can also reinforce the existing regime of difference of Japanese vs. the Other and perpetuate related racism. We suggest instead a need for various cultural arrangements to stop capitalizing on the difference between races and start noticing differences (and similarities) in other regimes of difference (e.g. taste, style) in order to challenge stereotypes.
African-American, discourse, enka, Japan, media, music, race politics, regime of difference, stereotype
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Doerr, Neriko Musha and Kumagai, Yuri, "Singing Japan’s Heart and Soul: A Discourse on the Black Enka Singer Jero and Race Politics in Japan" (2012). East Asian Languages & Cultures: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.