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Jessica A. Fernández de Lara Harada

E-mail: Twitter: @jessharada

PhD title

Becoming Japanese and Mexican: A Trans-Pacific Social History of Race, Mestizaje, and Resistance Across Five Generations.


Jessica is a qualified lawyer and human rights defender with over five years of experience in legal practice, research and advocacy work. Before coming to Cambridge, Jessica completed an MA in Latin American Studies (with Distinction) at University College London, and a BA (First Class Honours) in Law at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Jessica is based at the Centre of Latin American Studies, and her doctoral research is funded by the Gates Cambridge Trust.  


Jessica’s research is concerned with migration, ethno-racial boundary making processes, and inequalities across generations. Drawing on critical studies of race, ethnicity and resistance, Jessica examines the experiences of mestizaje – the racial project of Euro-Amerindian admixture– of Mexicans of Japanese descent. Each chapter focuses on a different generation: Issei and Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei and Gosei. Jessica analyses their experiences of structural, institutional and everyday racism, including the rightlessness of Issei and Nisei during WWII, and the transformation of these practices toward Sansei, Yonsei and Gosei. Jessica’s research expands understandings of racialized exclusion towards Asian/Japanese minorities, and repertoires of resistance, recognition and belonging. 

Jessica’s research also addresses the politics of repress-entation, reflexive positionality and collaborative practices. Her methodological approach involves multiple methods, including multi-sited ethnography, interviews, survey questionnaires and archival research. She conducted fieldwork research in the US, Mexico and Japan from January 2018 to January 2019, and travelled extensively to the main cities of settlement for Japanese migrants and their descendants in Mexico where she interviewed 180 families, assembled oral histories and cultural productions.

Jessica's research is building upon her master’s dissertation on graphic novel representations of mestizaje, the positioning of afro-descendants, and the operation of race and racism through popular culture in contemporary Mexico from a transnational frame.

Research Interests

Jessica’s research interests include decolonial thought; legacies of transpacific labour migrations; the social history of race relations; racism, inequalities and anti-racism; gender, class and racial mixture; mobility controls; political violence; repress-entations; memory; citizenship; transnationalism and nation-state formation in the late nineteenth and twenty first centuries.

Research Collaborations

  • Co-founder and co-convener of the CRASSH Graduate Research Group 'Power and Vision: The Camera as Political Technology
  • Co-organiser and facilitator of the conference Memories in Transit supported by the British Academy and The Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement.
  • Convener of the ENIUGH 2021 panel colonial borderlands, nationalism and foreign others: mobility controls, practices of citizenship and the definition of marginal subjects in the 20th century.

Teaching and Supervisions

Jessica teaches on the MPhil module Race, Racism and Anti-Racism, in the Centre of Latin American Studies, at the University of Cambridge.

Selected Visual, textual and digital co-creations

  • Jessica wrote a blog piece about her doctoral research.
  • Jessica served as advisor and presenter of a two-part documentary about the experiences of Mexicans of Japanese descent, broadcast on Canal 11, a National Public Television Broadcasting Service.
  • Jessica contributed to The Scholar magazine with a photo-essay about her fieldwork research tracing the histories of Japanese migrants and their descendants in Mexico.

Selected Conference Papers

  • Traces of the erased: coloniality, subjugation and Mexican Japanese agency amidst ruling mestizo narratives. México Section Panel: Más allá de México mestizo, LASA (2021)
  • Mexican Japanese: Experiences of Mestizaje, Ethno-racial Exclusion, and Strategies to Attain Equality’, International History of East Asia Seminar Series, Easter Term, University of Oxford (2021).
  • "Chino, Chino, Japonés: Orientalism, Racial State Formation, and National Politics of Mestizaje in Mexico”. Through the Nation: Interdisciplinary Symposium, University of Cambridge Nationalisms & Identities Research Group (UnCaNI) (2019).

Selected Public Engagement

  • Volunteer for the BAME Students Mentorship Gates Programme at the University of Cambridge.
  • Curatorial Intervention for the Altar of the Day of the Dead at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to bring awareness to past and present overlooked Migrants and Ethnic Minorities in the Americas. For the altar - Camino a Mictlān – Jessica drew inspiration from previous celebrations in Mexico City, and with the MAA, Mexican and Migration Societies, dedicated it to Chinese, Korean and Japanese labour migrants, Jewish and Political exiles, Indigenous peoples, and Latin American youth in their transit to Mexico and the US (Interview for BBC Radio & Cambridge TV).
  • Participation in the podcast AnalisisMX to discuss from historical, sociological and public policy perspectives the subject of racism, its social impacts and its relationship with the modern project of the Mexican nation, that is, Mestizaje.

Other Interests

Jessica enjoys reading world literature, listening to podcasts while walking, and more recently baking. She also loves pottery, writing short stories, long country walks and playing squash.