Face to Face Lecture (Munich, Germany): Aspirations and Capabilities of Further Mobility among Middle-Class European Migrants to Japan

Assoc. Prof. Miloš Debnár, PhD, Ryukoku Unversity, Kyoto

15.12.2022 18:00 Uhr – 20:00 Uhr

Japan-Zentrum Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Seminargebäude am Englischen Garten, Oettingenstr. 67, 80538 München, Raum 151

No registration is required.

The question of how migrants decide whether to stay in the country for a longer period or if and when they leave represents one of the important yet still relatively understudied issues particularly in the case of Japan. With the increase of Japan’s migrant population – and despite the official policy of not promoting permanent settlement – the number of permanent stay permits and their share has been continuously increasing as well. On the other hand, the scholarship on the skilled and high-skilled migration identified several institutional, cultural, or social factors that have negative effect on migrant retention in Japan and emphasize the temporal character of such migration and the negative consequences it has for the labour market. This presentation aims to further develop our understanding on migrants’ choices of staying and leaving Japan on a case of middle-class migrants from Europe to Japan. While not representing a typical case of high-skilled migrants, their national origin, race, or assumptions on their social status often render them as unproblematic and welcomed migrants. Moreover, the choices of further stay taken by middle-class or more privileged migrants are often not fixed and being constantly (re-)negotiated, and such migrants are often associated with possessing more resources that allow them to make choices according to their aspirations. This presentation argues that it is essential to scrutinize both, the role of agency as well as to identify and acknowledge the role of various constraints that inevitably shape these decisions. This study, in a novel approach, analyses interviews with individuals that are both, still staying in Japan and those who have decided to leave Japan and are currently living in Europe and highlights the complex interplay of agency and structural factors in shaping their aspirations and decisions.

Miloš Debnár is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of International Studies, Ryukoku University in Kyoto and currently a Visiting Researcher at the University of Vienna. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from Kyoto University in 2014 and his main research interest is sociology of European migration to Japan. He has written on migration patterns, social integration and the role of race and whiteness in the integration. His current projects are a comparative study analysing choices of staying and leaving by European migrants to Japan, and a collaborative project with the University of Vienna on study abroad in East Asia by students at Central European universities. He is the author of Migration, Whiteness, and Cosmopolitanism: Europeans in Japan (Palgrave, 2016) and some of his recent publications include a forthcoming chapter Privileged, Highly Skilled and Unproblematic? White Europeans in Japan as Migrants that will be published in Expatriation and Migration: Two Faces of the Same Coin (ed. Sylvain Beck, Brill, 2023).

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Workshop „Digital Transformation in East Asia. Impacts on Economy and Society III. Digitalisation in Transformation” (Fr. 9-Sa.10.12.2022)

In the context of the emergence of capitalism in England, Karl POLANY (1944) argued
that the transformation of society began with the commodification of phenomena which
had not previously been commodities: human life (to labour), nature (to real estate),
exchange (to money). He outlined how the market economy became disembedded from
society and then appropriated the non-commodified parts of society. Thus, society
became subsumed into the market. The great transformation was a historical process with
the successive annexation of society into the market economy which started after the
abolition of the Speenhamland system in 1834.

While POLANY was concerned with the transformation that tilted the relationship
between society and the market economy, Max WEBER (1904/1905) had highlighted the
mechanism by which an unintended dispositional transmission of unquestioned everyday
practices such as those motivated by the Protestant ethic can become a driving force of
capitalism and provide a subliminal transformation of social individuals. Luc BOLTANSKI
and Ève CHIAPPELO (2006) also identified a hidden but at the same time intentional,
discursive instrument of capitalism that triggers a transformation in the minds of those
living in the system. According to this approach, discourses influence the
subconsciousness of social actors leading to a transformation of a society.

From the perspective of the anti-anthropocentric approach, the actor-network theory
by Bruno LATOUR (1999) and the critical posthumanism by Rosi BRAIDOTTI (2016)
scrutinise the current transformation by postulating that bipolarity between society and
nature is socially constructed. Everything is closely interconnected and could be defined
as “the vital force of life itself, Zoé” (BRAIDOTTI 2016). The backlashes from the hitherto
neglected half of society i.e., nature, women and labour are considered collateral effects
of the still ongoing lopsided modernity in our monistic universe. Thus, the transformation
to the second modernisation would take place reflexively when suppressed issues break
the boundaries of their confined realm and discharge themselves from it (BECK 1994;
GIDDENS 1994).

We are now living in a globalised world and are facing an indisputable transformation
of all levels of society from both human and natural causes. The war in Ukraine with the
resulting energy insecurity and cost-of-living crisis in many industrialised countries; the
coronavirus pandemic; the climate emergency and its effects on our natural environment
are all contributing to this transformation. However, we were warned of these
consequences at the time of the reorientation towards neo-liberalism with the demise of
Fordism in the 1980s and 1990s (BECK 1984; BECK 1994; GIDDENS 1994). The last
bastion of so-called Rhine capitalism, in Germany and Japan, the latter being in a state of
agony since the bursting of the bubble economy, both abandoned what had previously
been considered virtuous economic practices and followed the (global) trend towards
deregulation, privatisation, financialisation, i.e., the extended line of the first modernity.
Are we currently experiencing the backlash of this first modernity toward the next
great transformation? In this age of transformation, what role does and can digitalisation
play? Is digitalisation the crucial key to resolving the present and rising issues in the
transformation or just another factor of generating issues? How can we deal with the
digitalisation in this systemic transformation?

The international workshop “Digitalisation in Transformation” which is the third in
our series of presentations in respect of our research project “The Digital Transformation
in East Asia”, explores digitalisation in the process of systemic transformation in East
Asia. It is organised by the Institute of Oriental and Asian Studies, University of Bonn
and the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, University of Tübingen within the
framework of the research project “Digital Transformation and the Changing World of
Work in East Asia” which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research
(BMBF) and the Ministry of Culture and Science of the Federal State of the North Rhine-
Westphalia (MKW) as a part of the Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and
the States. This project is further associated with the DFG priority programme,
“Digitalisation of the Working Worlds. Conceptualising and Capturing a Systemic
Transformation” (Prof. Dr. Sabine PFEIFFER et al.).

The workshop will be organized in a hybrid format, welcoming participants joining physically onsite at the University of Bonn (for internal persons) as well as those joining online (for external persons)! Attendance is free and possible for both days together, as well as just on one day. For participation, advance registration (full name; e-mail; associated institution/ organization) via email is required: japanologie@uni-bonn.de

We look forward to seeing you at the international workshop.

Best regards, 

Takahiro Nishiyama (University of Bonn)


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Webinar invitation: Labour participation & gender equality, December 5, 2022 (Monday) 17:00-19:00 (Japan time)

The webinar Invitation: Labour participation, gender equality, and work-life balance

The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation holds a ZOOM webinar with Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Nordic Council of Ministers, WAW! (World Assembly for Women), RIETI (Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry) on the theme that attracts the most attention now. This invitation is a very short notice, but please check the details from the link below and apply.

Link for the application

Date & Time: December 5, 2022 (Monday) 17:00-19:00 (Japan time)

Main speakers:

TOYODA Yukiko, Japan Bureau Chief, Reuters (Moderator)

SUNAMI Atsushi, President of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation

Tanja JÄÄSKELÄINEN, Ambassador of Finland to Japan

Guðni Th. JÓHANNESSON, President of Iceland

OGURA Masanobu, Minister of State for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

Kjersti Misje ØSTBAKKEN, Research Director Work and Welfare, Norwegian Institute for Social Research

YAMAGUCHI Kazuo (in person), Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology, University of Chicago, and Visiting Fellow at RIETI

MITSUI Mariko, Women’s Policy Researcher, Former Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Member

Karen ELLEMANN, Coming Secretary General for the Nordic Council of Ministers, former member of the Danish Parliament and Minister of Gender Equality and Minister of Environment

MURAKAMI Yumiko, MPower Partners General Partner, Member of the Prime Minister’s Panel for New Capitalism and former head of the OECD Tokyo Centre

FUKUSHIMA Yoshihiko, Professor, Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University

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Invitation for the Hybrid Seminar organized by IEEJ, EU Delegation and EUJC, Friday, December 2, 2022 10:00-12:00 Tokyo

The Institute of Energy Economics, Japan,

the EU Delegation to Japan and

the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation Joint Hybrid Seminar

The EU response to today and tomorrow’s energy challenges facing its economy

Friday, December 2, 2022 10:00-12:00 Tokyo

Venue: Delegation of the European Union to Japan (See appendix) + ZOOM Webinar with Simultaneous Interpretation/ Free event

The Institute of Energy Economics, Japanthe EU Delegation to Japan and the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation invite you to a seminar on the EU’s policy response to the current and long-term energy challenges European citizens and businesses are confronted with following the Russian aggression on Ukraine and the transition to carbon neutrality by 2050. Please refer to the details here and join us. 


9:30-  Welcome Coffee

10:00- Welcome

10:00-10:10  Opening remarks

10:10-10:30  Presentation- The EU’s energy policy

  • Florian Ermacora Head of Unit, Directorate-General for Energy, European Commission

10:30-10:40  Japan and EU collaboration perspectives on energy

  • Ryo Minami Deputy Commissioner for International affairs, and Director-General for International Policy on Carbon Neutrality at the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)

10:40-11:15  Comments from Japan side

  • Kei Shimogori Senior Researcher, International Situation Analysis Group 1, Strategic Research Unit, the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan
  • Norihiko Ishiguro Senior Executive Vice President, NEC Corporation

11:15-11:55  Q&A/Discussion

11:55-  Closing remarks

–    Manuel Hubert Managing Director, EU-side, EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation


–    Yasuo Tanabe Managing Director, Japan side, EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation

For onsite participation (capacity 100 people): Click here

For ZOOM webinar participation: Click here

Contact: Enoki / kaya.enoki@eu-japan.or.jp or Sasaki / ko.sasaki@eu-japan.or.jp EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation

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