Urespa (“Growing Together”): the remaking of Ainu-Wajin relations in Japan through an innovative social venture
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Urespa, meaning “to grow together” in the Ainu language, is a social venture founded at Sapporo University in 2010. The Urespa club brings Indigenous Ainu and Wajin (i.e. non-Ainu) students together in a curriculum-based environment to co-learn the Ainu language and Ainu cultural practices. The initiative’s aim is to restory the conventional narrative of Otherness in Japan by creating a transformative space or “micropublic” in which students can work collaboratively across ethnic difference. In this paper, we argue that Urespa succeeds in effecting an inclusive social setting for both Ainu and Wajin students through the design and implementation of a process which promotes and, recursively, is shaped by, a transcultural form of social encounter. The challenge this makes to the promotion of multicultural programming within Japan in recent decades is important although not without controversy.
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Asian Anthropology on 09 jan 2020, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/https://doi.org/10.1080/1683478X.2019.1699599.