Gracia Liu-Farrer, "Immigrant Japan: Mobility and Belonging in an Ethno-nationalist Society" (Cornell UP, 2020)


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Immigrant Japan? Sounds like a contradiction, but as Gracia Liu-Farrer shows in Immigrant Japan Mobility and Belonging in an Ethno-nationalist Society (Cornell University Press, 2020), millions of immigrants make their lives in Japan, dealing with the tensions between belonging and not belonging in this ethno-nationalist country. Why do people want to come to Japan? Where do immigrants with various resources and demographic profiles fit in the economic landscape? How do immigrants narrate belonging in an environment where they are "other" at a time when mobility is increasingly easy and belonging increasingly complex? Gracia Liu-Farrer illuminates the lives of these immigrants by bringing in sociological, geographical, and psychological theories—guiding the reader through life trajectories of migrants of diverse backgrounds while also going so far as to suggest that Japan is already an immigrant country.

In this interview we talked about what has contributed to the formation of "ethno-nationalism" in the history of modern Japan and how the growing population of immigrants and the complex reality of their lives offer us a more comprehensive understanding of "belonging" and "displacement" in contemporary Japanese society. After discussing the problems that prevent us from clearly seeing Japan as an immigrant country I asked Gracia two questions about the present and the future of this country:

  1. "Does the COVID19 pandemic introduce any new problems that fall outside the purview of this book, or does the book provide any new insights into current situation?"
  2. "What could people do to create a robust sense of belonging that is inclusive of everyone in Japan?"

Her answers were as insightful and salient as her analysis of the relationship between migration and belonging in Japan.

Gracia Liu-Farrer is Professor of Sociology at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, and Director of Institute of Asian Migrations, Waseda University, Japan. She is the author of Labor Migration from China to Japan and coeditor of the Routledge Handbook of Asian Migrations.

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