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Wed, 05 Jul


Room 711, Building 19, Waseda University

[Mini-symposium] Vietnamese Migrant Workers in Japan and the UK

A roundtable discussion (in-person and online) with Dr. An Huy Tran (Bielefeld University), Dr. Sebastian Rumsby (Queen Mary University of London) and Dr. Aimi Muranaka (Duisburg-Essen University) on Vietnamese migration workers. *Refreshments provided* ** This event will be recorded

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[Mini-symposium] Vietnamese Migrant Workers in Japan and the UK
[Mini-symposium] Vietnamese Migrant Workers in Japan and the UK

Date and Venue

05 Jul 2023, 18:00 – 20:00 GMT+9

Room 711, Building 19, Waseda University, Japan, 〒169-0051 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Nishiwaseda, 1-chōme−21−1 早稲田大学 西早稲田ビルディング

About the Event

1) Breaking the ties that bind? Refashioning patron-client relations among Vietnamese migrant workers in the UK - Dr. Sebastian Rumsby 

Estimates of the number of undocumented and semi-documented Vietnamese migrants who have entered the UK in the past two decades vary wildly from 20,000 to 50,000. This influx has been facilitated by a corresponding boom in Vietnamese-run nail salons which have spread to every city and town across the UK. Punitive post-Brexit immigration policies and controls force irregular Vietnamese migrants to work 'under the radar' in ethnic enclaves, putting them at risk of police raids, fines and possible deportation. This paper explores the ambivalent and evolving power relationships between Vietnamese nail salon bosses and their co-ethnic workers, as discourses of solidarity and patronage clash with accusations of exploitation and ingratitude. I frame these tensions within the neoliberal governance of precarious migrant labour which has the potential to undermine or refashion Vietnamese cultural values of work loyalty and patron-client relations.

Bio: Dr Seb Rumsby is a lecturer of Southeast Asian Politics at Queen Mary University of London. He is an interdisciplinary researcher with a wide range of interests including everyday politics, labour exploitation, undocumented migration, ethno-religious politics, grassroots development and non-national histories. What connects Seb’s work is a regional focus on Southeast Asia and, in particular, Vietnamese people, state and society. His PhD thesis concerned the everyday political economy of market expansion, Christian conversion and ethnic inequality among a marginalised minority group in northern Vietnam, and has recently been published as first monograph, Development in Spirit: Religious Transformation and Everyday Politics in Vietnam’s Highlands (University of Wisconsin Press). Since then, Seb has turned his attention to exploring the lived experiences of undocumented Vietnamese migrants living and working under the radar amidst an increasingly migrant-hostile UK society and political regime.

2) Navigating the (working) life in Japan:  Study on Vietnamese IT professionals in the Japanese labour market - Dr. Aimi Muranaka

Similar to many other countries, Japan now seeks to obtain the foreign skilled professionals, to bring “innovation” to the country and to secure the necessary workforce. As an emerging foreign population in Japan, Vietnamese IT and engineering professionals attract the interest from the Japanese business. Including these professionals, skilled migrants are regarded as privileged and being mobile without much obstacles. However, after entering the labour market, they are constrained from accessing the desired career mobility. Previous studies have shown how these skilled migrants in Japan access to an employment through the limited migration channels. Afterwards, how the Vietnamese IT and engineering professionals navigate in the Japanese labour market? This presentation draws on data from both online and offline interviews with over 40 Vietnamese workers in Japan. The talk sheds light on how the Vietnamese IT and engineering professionals engage with their working environment, manage and seek to improve their working and career situations in Japan, but they simultaneously have to manage other non-working related factors, often family issue, by combing with their career aspiration.

Bio: Aimi Muranaka is a post-doc at Institute of East-Asian Studies in Duisburg-Essen University in Germany and a visiting scholar at Sophia University. She is working on a collaborative project “Qualification and Skilled in the Migration Process of Foreign Workers in Asia (QuaMaFA)” funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany. Using the qualitative research methods, her current project investigates how the Vietnamese IT professionals navigate in the Japanese labour market. Her research interest is marketisation of migration, skills/qualifications in migration and brokerage in/between Japan and Vietnam.

3) Charging Masculinity: Gender Aspiration, Transformation, and Circular Migration among Vietnamese Migrant Men in Japan - Dr. An Huy Tran

The motivation and aspiration of transnational mobility are often tied to the wishes for economic and education betterment or the enhancement of the family’s livelihood. Looking at transnational mobility from a gender perspective, this presentation examines how gender aspiration in terms of masculine status, subjectivities, and identities acts as a crucial power dimension in shaping the trajectory and experiences of transnational mobility. Engaging with the case study of male Vietnamese migrants in Japan, I argue that the journey of transnational migration has important meanings for men’s upward mobility in terms of not only socioeconomic position but also their masculine status. Specifically, transnational migration can be considered a pathway to manhood during which male migrants accumulate different kinds of resources and capital to transform from young, inexperienced men to capable, well-articulated, and mature men. These processes of migrating abroad, articulating capital, and transforming through migration then allow Vietnamese migrant men to “charge up” a certain kind of masculine capital and adhere to the Vietnamese masculine ideologies and perceptions of ideal manhood upon the expected return migration. Suggesting the notion of “charging masculinity”, the presentation sheds light on how these men’s migration aspiration also includes the claim of social and gender privileges in the home country after having migrated. In that sense, transnational mobility becomes a site of gender performance and becoming in which the aspiration for moving up the hierarchy of idealized masculinity is the lodestar for migrants’ mobility trajectories and experiences. Such a gender approach allows a more nuanced understanding of the politics of aspiration in contemporary migration as well as the mapping of migration trajectories across time and place.

Bio: An Huy Tran is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Duisburg-Essen with a research project on the intersection between transnational migration, sexualities, and masculinities among male Vietnamese migrants in contemporary Japan. Tran’s research expertise focuses on the sociology of migration, transnationalism, sexuality, and gender with the regional knowledge of East Asia (Japan and Vietnam). Tran’s research interests also include student mobility, migrants’ entrepreneurship, intermediaries/brokerage, and the migration industry.

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