John Ostermiller

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Nevada, Reno, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10530

Approve Date

April 6, 2023

Project Title

Ostermiller, John (Nevada, Reno, U. of) "Between piety and popularity: cultural code-switching and Muslim migrant communities in Japan"

Muslim migrants are a growing portion of Japan’s blue-collar workforce and more international exchange students study in Japan annually. As a pluralistic ethnic and religious minority, Muslim migrants negotiate their religious lives in a nominally secular country. Muslim migrants navigate ethnocultural and secularist discourses that perpetually reinscribe Japanese social boundaries that imagine Japanese society as homogenous, harmonious, and secular. Because many Japanese people have limited personal experience with Muslims, perceptions of Muslims are shaped by stereotypes and fears about Muslims. This project investigates the various strategies Muslim migrants use to navigate Japanese society, and how various of Muslim migrants’ identities influence the challenges and opportunities they encounter in Japan. Preliminary research suggests that Muslims in Japan maneuver around Islamophobia by emphasizing Muslim ‘culture’ (e.g., food, clothing, art) instead of religious practices. Yet many Muslims debate the permissibility of disconnecting practices from religious contexts and distinguish ‘religious’ from ‘cultural’ practices. This project compares the experiences, practices, interpretations of blue-collar migrants, exchange students, business owners, and other Muslims in one Japanese prefectural capital city. Through 12-months of ethnographic fieldwork I study how religious and ethnic migrants negotiate secular societies to contribute to broader conversations about religion, ethnicity, migration, and secularism.