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Jones ’21 Studies Racial Formation in Japan


As a double major in Asian studies and anthropology, the founder of Anthropology Club and the secretary of Anime Club, rising junior Shavell Jones has thrown himself into studying Japanese culture and society. Interested in Japanese culture when he came to Hamilton, he completed an Emerson research project on the relationship between African Americans and Japan during World War II last summer. So this summer’s Levitt research project on Japanese racial formation comes as no surprise.

“What I’m mainly trying to see is just exactly how race is constructed and how race is interpreted in Japan,” Jones said. His research project takes the notion of racial formation, a theory about how race is constructed in American society, and applies it to Japan. In doing so, he focuses on how “Japanese people interpret [biracial persons’] race and interpret how exactly they fit into society,” helping him “get a better understanding of just how race works at all in the Japanese context.” Looking at the treatment of people of mixed races, he anticipates that he will be in a better position to determine the politics of race in Japan.

Jones currently has three topics that he wants to explore within his research. He first plans on analyzing immigration policy in Japan and how it influences the number of biracial children within the country. He will then look at works created by mixed-race individuals to see how they perceive themselves, and he finally intends to look at Japanese media portrayals of mixed children. Jones will conduct research until mid-July, and then he will start writing a final essay on his research.

about Shavell Jones ’21

Majors: Asian studies, anthropology

Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.

High School: Achievement First Brooklyn High School

read about other student research

Jones’ inspiration for this project comes partly from the Emerson research project he conducted a year ago. While studying the relationship between African Americans and Japan during the war, he became more familiar with and curious about the “Afro-Asia diaspora,” which concerns African and Asian culture and their connections. This summer’s project allows him to further explore the diaspora and now approach it from a more anthropological viewpoint, which he hopes will help him prepare for writing his theses.

“I honestly hope that my project and just the work that I do in general gets us to talk about this area of interaction that’s between African people and Asian people,” Jones said. “I think Asia plays a role in the African diaspora, and yet no one talks about it, no one acknowledges that fact.” Jones said that he felt that his area of research has not received the attention it deserves. He likewise believes that his work will motivate further interest in the intersection of African and Asian life and culture. Jones concluded, “I hope that my project is able to get more people interested in these topics that are under-researched.”

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