For Rafael Reyes-Ruiz, the line separating the personal
from the professional is practically invisible. A native
of Colombia, the visiting assistant professor of anthropology
specializes in theories of
identity–with an emphasis on the identities constructed
by immigrant communities living outside their homelands.
"Although I am a naturalized citizen, people still
see me as a Latino," Reyes-Ruiz says. "I've
experienced first-hand how I need to reconstruct myself
both personally and academically in order to fit into
the category I've been assigned."
After Reyes-Ruiz completed his undergraduate degree he traveled
through Asia, working as an English teacher. During a stint
in Tokyo, he discovered a thriving Latin American immigrant
community that existed at the margins of traditional Japanese
society. Fascinated, Reyes-Ruiz began collecting the immigrants'
stories and researching their social conditions.
"There are about 365,000 Latin American immigrants living
in Japan, but they are by and large an invisible community,"
he says. "Latinos might mingle with the Japanese, but there
is little assimilation. Even though 80 percent of Latinos in
Japan are also of Japanese descent, they are not likely to be
regarded as Japanese by the Japanese people."