Joshua Hotaka Roth

Professor of Anthropology; on leave fall 2019
Migration and ethnic minorities; risk and governance; car cultures and driving; consumption and exchange. Area specializations are Japan, Brazil, and Asian Americas

Joshua Hotaka Roth describes himself as “a skinny guy from Queens, New York with a funny middle name. Hotaka means ‘tall rice stalk,’ generally imagined bending under the weight of mature grains.” The name of one of Japan’s tallest snow-capped mountains, Roth’s mother chose it for him based on fond memories of her mountain-climbing days as a student in Japan.

Roth’s first research project explored the ways that people imagine identity and difference in migration. It resulted in several articles and a book, Brokered Homeland (Cornell University, 2002), that focused on Japanese Brazilian migrants in Japan and their interactions with Japanese in factories and neighborhoods. “Like other groups that fall on the margins of Japanese society, Japanese Brazilians allow us to see how Japanese define themselves,” explained Roth. “Is having Japanese ancestry a sufficient condition to be considered Japanese? Is linguistic fluency also required? Is a broader cultural fluency? Under what circumstances have Japanese Brazilians been accepted as legitimate members of Japanese workplace communities and neighborhoods?” More recently, Roth has begun work on safety, manners, and emotions involved in Japan’s car cultures. In particular, he is interested in how driving is governed, and the meaning people find in their cars and the ways that they drive.

As a teacher, Roth says he encourages students to confront situations and ideas to which they are not accustomed, and provide the tools with which they can better make sense of issues and communicate their ideas. “My broader goal is to provide students with the tools to search out new perspectives on whatever topics we focus on in class, weigh evidence, judge the logic of arguments, and be able to formulate arguments of their own."


Joshua Hotaka Roth teaches courses in political and legal anthropology, economic anthropology, research methods, anthropology of Japan, the United States, and Asian/Pacific/American studies. His research interests include migration, ethnic minorities and diasporas, industry, risk, popular culture, and communications technologies. His area specialties are Japan, Brazil, and Asian Americas.

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Selected Publications


Brokered Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Migrants in Japan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Winner of the 2004 Book Award in Social Science from the Association for Asian American Studies


In Press: The Shared Road: Cars, Pedestrians, and Bicyclists in Japan (chapter in Wheels of Change: Cars, Automobilty and Development in Asia, ed. by Avre Hansen and Kenneth Bo Nielsen, Routledge Press).

2015  Hoko onchi:  Way-finding and the Emergence of Directional Tone-Deafness in Japan, Ethos v. 43 i. 4 (December):  402-422

2015 "Interpreting Minority Experiences of Japan's March 2011 Triple Disasters" (chapter in East Asia and the World, edited by Anne Prescott, M.E. Sharpe).

2015  Japanese Brazilian Croquet in Sào Paulo: Ethnic Identity, Contestation, and Integration,  in Sports Culture in Latin American History, edited by David Sheinin, Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press.

2014  Is Female to Male as Lightweight Cars are to Sports Cars? Gender Metaphors and Cognitive Schemas in Recessionary Japan (chapter in Vehicles of Moral Imagination, edited by David Lipset and Richard Handler, Berghahn Books)

2014 Lightweight Cars and Women Drivers: The De/construction of Gender Metaphors in Recessionary Japan, (chapter in Capturing Contemporary Japan, edited by Satsuki Kawano, Glenda Roberts, and Susan Long, University of Hawai'i Press).

2012 Heartfelt Driving: Discourses on Manners, Safety, and Emotion in Japan's Era of Mass Motorization. The Journal of Asian Studies, v. 71: pp 171-192

2012 Drivers Education in Japan: Personality Tests and 'Road Rage'  The Asia-Pacific Memo, Memo #158, May 24, 2012

2011 Harmonizing Cars and Humans in Japan's Era of Mass Automobility. The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Vol 9, Issue 45 No 3

2009 Off with Their Heads! Resolving the ‘Garbage Problem’ of Autumn Leaves in Kawagoe, Japan published online at

2007 Adapting to Inequality: Negotiating Nikkei Identity in Contexts of Return. Creolization: History, Ethnography, Theory, edited by Charles Stewart. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press

2006 A Mean Spirited Sport: Japanese Brazilian Croquet in São Paulo’s Public Spaces. Anthropological Quarterly, v. 79, n. 4 (Fall): 609-632

2005 Political and Cultural Perspectives on Japan’s Insider Minorities/ In The Blackwell Companion to the Anthropology of Japan, edited by Jennifer Robertson. London: Blackwell Publishing

2005 Political and Cultural Perspectives on Japan’s Insider Minorities (expanded version) published online at

2003 Responsibility and the Limits of Identification In Doing Fieldwork in Japan, edited by Theodore C. Bestor, Patricia Steinhoff, and Victoria Lyon Bestor. Honolulu: Hawaii University Press

2003 Urashima Taro’s Ambiguating Practices: The Significance of Overseas Voting Rights for Elderly Japanese Migrants to Brazil/ In Searching for Home Abroad: Japanese Brazilians and Transnationalism, edited by Jeffrey Lesser. Durham: Duke University Press