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Publication Date


First Advisor

Malcolm McNee

Second Advisor

Velma García

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Latin American and Latino/a Studies


Non-place, visual testimony, diaspora, homeland, identity, Brazil, Japan


In 1888, Brazil became the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery. This prompted a bilateral agreement to satisfy the country’s post-abolition labor shortage with Japanese migrant workers. Today, Brazil is home to the largest Japanese diaspora in the world. This study examines representations of this diaspora in 20th and 21st century Japanese-Brazilian film and television. I treat this corpus as a form of ‘visual testimony,’ as elaborated by Brazilianist Ana Paulina Lee, to find evidence of sentiments and meaning that elude the written word. My media analysis examines how motion pictures visualize permanent conditions of non-place and liminality to describe diasporic experience beyond what can be articulated in a colonial lexicon. I also focus on the spatial materiality and mise en scène of the medium itself. I analyze how set designers dress these spaces of non-place to portray the states of liminality inhabited by São Paulo’s Japanese-Brazilian community. I find that these cultural productions visually enact the desire to return home by displaying Japanese difference in the Brazilian context. A condition of non-place or permanent liminality manifests through the affect of these visual narratives–that is, a state evoked emotionally in reaction to the community’s displacement and marginalization. This state of transience can paradoxically linger permanently, raising questions of how to visualize belonging to a non-place, to a Japanese space, to a Brazilian space and to the indivisibility of these in cultural productions.


©2023 Emilia Helena Tamayo. Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




76 pages, with color illustrations. Includes bibliographical references (pages 74-76)