top of page
Hof_profile picture.jpeg

Dr. Helena Hof

Visiting Researcher

Helena Hof, PhD, is a Visiting Researcher at the Institute of Asian Migrations (IAM), Waseda University and an alumni of Waseda’s Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies. In her doctoral and postdoctoral research at Waseda, she focused on the entanglements of physical mobility, career mobility and social mobility in European migrants’ early-career trajectories in the global cities Tokyo, Singapore and Sao Paulo. Helena’s home institution is the University of Zurich where she is a Senior Research and Teaching Fellow at the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies. She also holds an affiliation as Research Fellow with the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany (MMG-MPG) where she started a new four-year research project in March 2021. She is currently developing a book manuscript based on her dissertation and has additionally taken up the position of book reviews editor at the academic journal Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration.

Research Projects

Tokyo's attractiveness for global talent: a comparative study of Tokyo, Singapore, and Sao Paulo, JSPS Early-Career Scientists award, 2019-2022

This qualitative project examines Japan’s low attractivity for skilled foreign labor in a comparative perspective. As global nodes in the world economy, the three metropoles Tokyo, Singapore, and Sao Paulo, regional headquarters for their respective regions, potentially appeal to so-called ‘global talents’, yet Sao Paulo similar to Tokyo struggles to attract and more so to retain such talent. The theoretical framework of the ‘alternative global city’ offers an original angle to study the challenges and opportunities of incorporating ethnically diverse foreigners into the domestic labor markets and increasingly multicultural city populations and aims to provide Japanese policy makers and firms with recommendations how to retain global talent more successfully.

Foreign Entrepreneurs in Tokyo's and Singapore's knowledge-intensive start-up sector,

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), 2021-2025

In this joint project, entitled "'Skill' in the Migration Process of Foreign Workers in Asia" and funded by the BMBF, Helena will conduct independent research at the Max Planck Institute, and cooperate in the larger project with Dr. Ruth Achenbach and Dr. Joohyun Justyn Park at the University of Frankfurt, Dr. Aimi Muranaka at the University of Duisburg-Essen, and Dr. Megha Wadhwa at the Free University of Berlin. Helena investigates migrant-led innovation in Tokyo’s and Singapore’s knowledge-intensive start-up sectors and focusses on the link between foreigners’ involvement in local entrepreneurial networks and the development of their business, as well as their overall embedding in the host society. During her fieldwork in Tokyo, Helena will be based at IAM and hopes to gain insights in Tokyo’s start-up ecosystem and to speak to practitioners and policy makers concerned with innovation and entrepreneurship.


  • Hof, Helena and Jaafar Alloul. Forthcoming. Migratory class-making in global Asian cities: The European mobile middle negotiating ambivalent privilege in Tokyo, Singapore, and Dubai. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

  • Hof, Helena. 2022. 'The EU Migrant Generation in Asia: Middle-Class Aspirations in Asian Global Cities.' Bristol University Press.

  • Hof, Helena. 2022. The mixed embeddedness of foreign entrepreneurs in Tōkyō’s startup ecosystem [in German] In: Chiavacci, David; Wieczorek, Iris. Japan 2022. München: VSJF – Vereinigung für sozialwissenschaftliche Japanforschung, 233-259.

  • Hof, Helena. 2022. Book review of “Transnational Musicians. Precariousness, Ethnicity and Gender in the Creative Industry” (Beata M. Kowalczyk, 2020, Routledge). Intersections, 47 (July 2022).

  • Hof, Helena. 2022. ‘How COVID-19 changed migration (research): Constrained research practices, constrained migrant subjects.’ Blog post of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, 3 June (

  • Hof, Helena. 2022. Book review of “Studying Japan: Handbook of Research Designs, Fieldwork and Methods” (eds. Nora Kottmann and Cornelia Reiher, 2020, Nomos). Social Science Japan Journal.

  • Hof, Helena, Simon Pemberton and Emilia Pietka-Nykaza. 2021. 'EU migrant retention and the temporalities of migrant staying: A new conceptual framework.' Comparative Migration Studies. 10.1186/s40878-021-00225-5

  • Hof, Helena and Yen-Fen Tseng. 2021. 'When “global talents” struggle to become local workers: The new face of skilled migration to corporate Japan.' Asia and Pacific Migration Journal 29: 4. DOI: 10.1177/0117196820984088

  • Hof, Helena. 2020. Book review of Expatriate Managers: The Paradoxes of Living and Working Abroad, Anna Spiegel, Ursula Mense-Petermann and Bastian Bredekötter (2019). Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration 4(2): 275-277.

  • Hof, Helena. 2020. 'Intersections of Race and Skills in European Migration to Asia: Between White Cultural Capital and ‘Passive Whiteness’. Ethnic and Racial Studies. DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2020.1822535.

  • Hof, Helena. 2020. 'Opting Out for Getting In: Existential Mobility in  European Graduates’ Migration to Asia.' Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies. DOI: 10.1080/15562948.2020.1755761.

  • Hof, Helena. 2020. ‘Locally Embedded Cosmopolitans? European Millennials’ Boundary Work in Singapore and Tokyo’ In Contemporary European Emigration, Brigitte Suter and Lisa Åkesson (eds). Routledge: p. 39-57. 

  • Hof, Helena. 2019. 'Mobility as a Way of Life: European Millennials’ Labour Migration to Asian Global Cities.' PhD Dissertation, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University. 

  • Hof, Helena. 2019. ‘The Eurostars Go Global: Young Europeans’ Migration to Asia for Distinction and Alternative Life Paths.’ Mobilities. DOI: 10.1080/17450101.2019.1643164.

  • Hof, Helena and Gracia Liu-Farrer. 2019. ‘Gender, Labour and Migration in Japan.’ In The Routledge Companion to Gender and Japanese Culture by Mark Pendleton, Jennifer Coates and Lucy Fraser (eds.). Routledge: p. 189-98.

  • Hof, Helena. 2018. ‘‘Worklife Pathways’ to Singapore and Japan: Gender and Racial dynamics in Europeans` Mobility to Asia’, Social Science Japan Journal, Special Issue Winter 2018, 21 (1): 45-65.

  • Liu-Farrer, Gracia und Helena Hof. 2018. ‘Ōtebyō: the Problems of Japanese Firms and the Problematic Elite Aspirations.’ Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies (Waseda), 34: 65-84.

bottom of page