Members of all societies learn to navigate social interactions using various identities that shift situationally; maintaining a particular identity in one setting does not guarantee that it will continue in
another. As Giddens notes, identity is a reflexive project, shaped by one’s past in preparation for the future and is maintained until challenged by a fateful moment.
The connection between an experienced past, both individually and collectively, to an expected future is key in the formation of an identity. These preparations for the future are created and maintained in a specific time and place where the exposure to outside influences can be controlled. For the youth from the buraku districts in this study, this “protective cocoon” is structured, based, in part, on the education system in Japan. Once the youth leave the protective world of junior high school, the probability of risk rises dramatically. This paper will show that as the students move from the protective cocoon of their community and school, they face new situations for which they must reflexively reassess/adjust their identity. For these youth, this means managing their identity through passing, deflecting, or sharing their background.
Christopher Bondy is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University.