It took only one visit, three years ago, for Japan and its culture to leave a long-standing impact on Paige Pendergrast ’19, a cinema and media studies and Asian studies double major.
On this immersive trip, Pendergrast, for the first time, was able to observe authentic Japanese culture in practice, an experience that catalyzed her interest in Asian studies.
Since coming to Hamilton, Pendergrast has furthered her study of Japan, quickly finding a passion for the beautiful language, and support from the attentive Japanese department. After learning more about the topic of monoethnicity (the existence of a single ethnic group in a given region or country), or lack thereof, in Japan, she knew she wanted to continue to analyze the issue. And, thus, her 2017 Emerson Grant proposal was conceived.
“In an increasingly diverse country and world, I think now more than ever we need to analyze the concepts of race and how mixed race people define their identity,” said Pendergrast. With the aid of Associate Professor of Japanese Kyoko Omori, Pendergrast has compiled a thorough melange of scholarly articles, essays and books on the subject, as well as a collection of related documentaries. While well-informed on the topic of mixed race in Japan, Pendergrast herself does not pretend to possess a firsthand insight on the subject. So, instead, she is consulting people who do.
Majors: Cinema and Media Studies, Asian Studies on the Japanese Track
Hometown: Chatham, N.J.
High School: Chatham High School
Over the course of the summer, Pendergrast plans to interview a group of half-Japanese women about their experiences as individuals of mixed race, and then create a short documentary about the personal stories collected.
“I believe the medium of film is one of the best forms for people to be able to speak for themselves and tell their stories in a way that gives broader audiences the chance to empathize and learn compassionately about a subject,” she said.
By highlighting the experiences of a few half-Japanese women directly, Pendergrast hopes to construct an honest narrative about the contemporary lived experience of a small segment of mixed race people. “I’d like my film to be a tiny addition to a growing body of work about people who are mixed race, but more specifically I would like the documentary to show how film can let people tell their own stories and share their experiences in a way that adds to academia without diminishing humans to subjects,” she said.