Friday, May 15, 2015

Embedded Ethnic Populations: Why They Matter Personally

1.  Definition

  • Embedded (Full Local Knowledge)

               + long-duration (vs. short-term: tourists, work-related)

  • Ethnic (Distinct/Wider Set of Rights)

               + spousal, child/descendant (vs. activity, skill-based visa)

  • Historical contingencies

               + war, colonization, state policy


2.  Examples of Embedded Ethnic Populations
  • Koreans/Taiwanese in Japan (From WWII labor)


  • Filipina wives of Japanese

  • Mexicans in USA/Turks in Germany
               From the Bracero/guest worker programs of 1960s
  • Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar
               From multiple historical contingencies


3.  Why They Matter Personally

  • How do I belong to a group?
               >Membership based on race
                              -Korean/Taiwanese legal status settled only in 1981 

               >Membership based on values 
                              -Does low prestige ascribed to entertainers limit membership?

               >Membership based on benefits
                              -Mexicans biggest group without legal status

  • Who are not in your group? (and how do I feel/act towards them?)
               >Tolerance
               >Respect for Difference
               >Inclusive Diversity
               >Call to action


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Session support naterials for download:
1.  Powerpoint presentation
2.  Reading List
3.  Glossary (English and Japanese)
  • Embedded (to be inserted/buried deeply)
    埋め込む [うめこむ (umekomu)]

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Inclusive Diversity: Understanding Hidden Migrant Populations

Diversity in human mobility includes those migrants who are marginalized by legal, cultural or personal stigma -- either manifest or perceived, or both.  Overstayers, entertainers, migrants’ offspring  (those disenfranchised or mal-integrated in varying degrees) become “hidden” populations as they (choose to) remain anonymous to lessen stigma and/or they are misunderstood given that their issues are incoherently verbalized.  While their hiddenness does not equate with invisibility, local communities – either as ethnic pockets in host states or ancestral villages in source states – struggle to leverage a fully inclusive cultural diversity as they work toward local goals. Indeed a selective diversity is a contradiction.

The recent media coverage of the 2015 Miss Universe Japan not being "Japanese enough" makes us, yet again, pause and reflect on "Japaneseness."  This word has come to embody, on the one hand, Japan’s reluctant, internal-looking globalization (“it’s because we are Japanese”) or, on the other hand, Japan’s outward-yet-localized globalization (“Japaneseness is what we contribute to the world”).  Japaneseness is brought to the fore when the external influences the internal – uchinaru kokusaika or “internationalization within” (Ryhuhei 1985 cited in Morris-Suzuki 2010: 194; Chung 2010) – or when local and global influences seamlessly bear down on Japanese identity – or a “multiculturalism within” (Morris-Suzuki 2010:197-198).

But another equally important aspect to Japaneseness has received less attention – how can there be better understanding between the Japanese public and foreigner residents?  Thus it is important to find new pathways to understanding foreign residents – most specifically those segments of the foreigner community in Japan who may be viewed as “hidden migrant populations.”

These “hidden migrant populations” are difficult to study because consensus on a research framework is elusive.

By "hidden migrant populations" I refer specifically to three Filipino migrant groups as examples of these difficult-to-study populations:

1) "Bilogs" or irregular migrants (or those legally classified as outside formal society);

2) "Japayuki" or entertainers (or those within formal society but ascribed lower prestige);

3)  Japanese-Filipino children (JFCs, either disenfranchised or mal-integrated in varying degrees or both).

To illustrate my point, while sexual exploitation is a common theme about Filipina entertainers in Japan, some of the perspectives applied by researchers expound on this common theme as 1) inescapably reinforced and propagated by media representations (Suzuki 2011); 2) brought upon themselves by their informed choices (Sellek 2001); or 3) as both a limited choice between two evils and a staging point for subsequent employment in other sectors (Ballescas 1992, 2009).  These expositions and arguments point to social ontologies (what is real, what exists) based on holism (structures determine all else/i.e. Suzuki), individualism (active choices define structures/i.e. Sellek) or some middle point between holism and individualism (structures and individuals acting together define each other/i.e. Ballescas).

To be sure, a diversity of perspectives promotes a fuller engagement of a research topic.  However, if ontological (and thus methodological) assumptions of researchers remain incomplete or non-inclusive – or at worst remain implicit – their findings become debatable, encouraging opposing proponents to fixate on divergences rather than building upon convergent results.

Further complicating this fractured research approach is the social stigma latching onto members of these groups as they fulfill their multiple social identities (as breadwinners, as family heads, as community role models, etc.), making them reluctant respondents.

It is for these two reasons that I argue that bilogs, entertainers and JFCs are hidden migrant populations.

They are “hidden” not in the literal sense – as they in fact freely mingle and their issues and concerns actually make the public acutely aware of their presence – but in the sense that their (perceived) discordant formal or social status keeps them on the periphery of de facto "mainstream" research themes on migrant groups in Japan often involving those within formal structures (legal migrants and legitimized descendants) or those with ascribed high prestige (skilled migrants).

One course of action is to forge an inclusive research framework on hidden migrant populations that will allow proponents of various perspectives to collaborate and achieve synergy in their findings.  This is only the first step in “seeing” the hiddenness of bilogs, entertainers and JFCs – opening pathways to understanding their issues and concerns.  These opened pathways are realized not by forcing compliance to an externally-imposed research agenda, stunting the creative conceptualization of research questions by investigators trained in a multiplicity of perspectives.  The pathways are found at a more foundational level, that is, social ontologies and epistemologies and their ensuing methodologies (henceforth SOEM) that are open for constructive engagement by peers.  Engagement is enabled because first SOEM is now made explicit – making discussion points across various proponents now clearer – and second because research variables operationalized differently can now be systematically tackled by researchers with opposing perspectives.  In the end, this inclusive research framework (of all existing perspectives now with their respective SOEM declared) will allow a multi-disciplinary, multi-perspective and therefore a comprehensive and exhaustive understanding of hidden populations to emerge.

I experienced first-hand this dual disability during my own research on bilogs in Japan over a six year span (from 2009-2015).  My philosophical school of choice was (and still is) critical realism and I could not effectively configure my research to interface with the work of other researchers (wanting to focus my limited resources on still unresolved issues) because 1) SOEM assumptions of other related literature were not explicit and thus 2) variables I measured could not adequately dialogue with similar variables operationalized differently by other authors.  For example, my research developed an integrated framework explaining how migrant illegality is sustained over time and across both host and source states.  I could not fully test if the SOEM assumptions of my framework would remain valid when applied to a different hidden population (entertainers or JFCs) or if my framework is able to coherently accommodate new variables that may have been formulated with different, though implicit, SOEM assumptions of other authors.  Achieving “interoperability” or “external validity” of my research findings in both depth (increasing number of variables) and breadth (increasing number of hidden groups) is the logical next step, thus this current project.

continuing essay.....

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Some Implications of a Morphogenetic Migrant "Illegality"

One significant implication of a morphogenetic migrant "illegality" is its meaning to the recent opening up of Japan to more caregivers and tourists.

Concluded in 2009 and starting just four years ago (in 2011) the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement has paved the way for the entry of Filipino caregivers to Japan.  In 2013 Japan waived the visa requirements for tourists from Thailand and Malaysia coming to Japan on short-term visits; and offered multiple-entry visas for Filipinos and Vietnamese tourists.

This “opening up” is not the first of its kind.  Parallels can be seen in the “newcomer” phenomenon of the 1980s and 1990s when Japan witnessed a rapid growth in both flows and stocks of foreigners (among others, Filipinos, Thais, Malaysian) other than its “oldcomer” Korean and Taiwanese populations.  That the recent opening up is due to direct government and bilateral action also has parallels in the aggressive recruitment of international students in the early 2000s and the recruitment of technical trainees in the 1990s.

Moreover, one difference between the above-cited instances of “opening up” is related to the “kind” of foreigners they are bringing in.  I enclose in quotes the word kind to represent its pregnant meaning.   Kawamori (2015) attempts to dissect this difference by suggesting that the newcomer influx of the 1980s and 1990s, bannered mostly entertainers and workers (recruited as skilled, technical trainees but arguably utilized in unskilled work), differs in visibility from the current crop of new entrants, mostly nurses:  the former group being less visible since their services catered to a limited section of the population (specifically bar goers or, generally, only customers of the entertainment industry and the latter group) and the latter group being more visible since caregiver work is more person-to-person service and caters to a much larger target client base (given Japan’s rapidly aging population).

I offer to further Kawamori’s reflections by suggesting that what he crystallized as visibility might also be possible to theorize in two other ways.  The first way is to think how visibility may be a proxy for prestige/acceptability of the work type.  True, entertainers and blue-collar workers may have had direct contact with a smaller segment of the Japanese population and may thus be considered less visible.  Bringing in the distinction made by a Critical Realist ontology – that of the empirical (experienced), the actual (known as true but not experienced directly) and the real (empirical and actual plus the emergent realities from their interaction), I venture that Kawamori’s reflection on visibility inhabits the empirical domain and that prestige/acceptability inhabits the actual domain.
Indeed only the direct customers of entertainers and the direct co-workers or employers of foreign workers may experience their services.  However, these two work types are highly publicized by the media both for their merits and demerits (with longer recall probably being on the latter).

Thus while the wider population may not have experienced the realities of entertainers/workers on the empirical domain, I venture to say that entertainers and workers are nevertheless within the purview of this same wider population but in the actual domain.  Irate wives or significant others of men who patronize entertainer services, families of men who become spouses of entertainers, local workers who may feel the pressure of downward wages attributed to cheap foreign labor – all of these segments of the Japanese population to which entertainers/workers are not empirically visible, in fact have visibility in the actual domain.

On the other end of the spectrum, that Kawamori attributed high visibility to the caregiver work given its direct relevance to the wider aged population may also be reinterpreted to be doubly high in visibility given that it also has a comparatively higher prestige/acceptability than entertainer/worker jobs.
Now since visibility exists in the actual domain, the cultural or ideational conditioning of the population on the work type of entertainer/worker is not benign.  The wider population then has some formulation of the acceptability of these work types directly resulting from their assignment of value or prestige in them.  As I argued in this paper  - citing most notably Yu-Jose (2007), Suzuki (2011), Sellek (2001) among others – the prestige assigned to entertainers is low.

Thus Kawamori’s reflections may be reinterpreted to mean that because of this low prestige attributed to entertainer work, they may be said to be less visible in terms of/when juxtaposed against the more significant, more meaningful, higher prestige (and at this time, highly needed) caregiver work.  Visibility and prestige then, in this formulation, are inseparable.

The second way to think about Kawamori’s crystallization of visibility is to reflect if this study’s findings on a transacted, accretive and functional “illegality” may have any value in proactively managing this impending new influx of foreigners – now theorized as imbued with high visibility/prestige/acceptability.

In this regard, one more point of reflection Kawamori brought up is whether this higher visibility of nurses (now re-theorized as due to higher prestige/acceptability) may foster a new era of multiculturalism.

This catchword/phrase for multi-ethnic diversity in Japan also has several notable ideational transformations through the past three decades.  The way Chung (2010: 155) discusses the Japan government’s internationalization campaign of the 1980s (participation in international institutions, local adoption of technological innovations, etc). one may get the impression that what is meant by internationalization is a Japan bringing in external elements into Japanese society.  Morris-Suzuki (2010: 194), on the other hand, in citing Hatsusei Ryuhei of Kobe University who she identifies as the originator of the term “uchinaru kokusaika” (translated as “internationalization within”), explains that what Ryuhei had wanted to capture through that term was a gradual process of evening-out, so to speak, brought about by the rapid modernization/globalization, as it was experienced in that era, where Japan’s culture incorporates values/practices accepted in a global scale.

Chung and Morriz-Suzuki were looking at opposite though in a sense complementary aspects to what I, for now, generically term as diversity.  Chung’s interpretation of internationalization can be said to be akin to a process of addition (bringing in of global elements into Japanese society).  Morris-Suzuki’s interpretation of Ryuhei’s formulation of uchinaru kokusaika was more of a process of achieving equilibrium (Japan incorporating same values as the global stage).  Chung’s interpretation was Japan-centric.  Morris-Suzuki’s view of Ryuhei’s formulation was global-centric.  Both views of internationalization were integrative.

In contrast to this integrative view was the non-integrative/tolerance view.  Yamamoto (2012), for example, interpreted the 2012 changes on immigration policy (concerning highly-skilled workers) as reflecting a “greater acceptance of difference.”  I interpret this to mean that yes the Japan-centric or global-centric processes may still be at work, but in the end, there will always be differences and these differences now have “greater acceptance” as reflected in the 2012 immigration policy revisions.   The process of acceptance can be highlighted as different from the process of toleration of differences which Morris-Suzuki (2010: 197-198) interpreted to be the prevailing flavor of the 1980s/1990s.

Finally, Morris-Suzuki’s (2010) now recognizing the unstoppable globalization forces (information, ethnic diversity influences, etc) sees just the a continuously transforming and emerging aggregation of diverse identity elements within each individual forming what she calls a “multiculturalism from within.”

Now going back to Kawamori’s use of the term multiculturalism to describe the impending increase in diversity given the expected latest, new influx of foreigners, the study’s implications may be as follows:

1.  In the event that from this new influx of high-prestige, high-visibility foreigners, there may arise a new batch of overstayers, the level of punitiveness that will meet this new batch of violators will not be any less than what faced their predecessors.  This is because, I believe, this new program was designed to meet valid needs of the aging population and the sanctioned population being brought in was carefully targeted on the assumption that there is a lesser risk of overstaying.  The weakening or dilution of the source of the ideational/cultural conditioning that feeds punitiveness to migrant “illegality,” in other words, was not the impetus to this new influx.  On the contrary, if in fact overstayers will come out from the high-prestige/highly-acceptable nurses, they will be under a double lense/double expectation of performance similar to how the oldcomer population are expected to be fully compliant to the Japanese way of life and be still responsible “outsiders.”

If on the contrary, the accretive “illegality” were to witness a new and pervasive layer that may be more condoning of overstayers coupled with the desire to integrate them (this layer is not, in my opinion, currently existing), then yes overstayers from errant nurses may be treated a tad differently (for the better).

2.  Knowing that the accretive “illegality” layer is fully intact, one implication of this study is that it calls out then to the Japan government to institute more proactive measures that will at least make potential overstayer-nurses think twice before they uncritically choose a transacted and functional “illegality” over the dangers of the accretive “illegality” which is alive and well.   Competitive salary levels, a more responsive support infrastructure, effective language support are among the changes in the JPEPA program for nurses that may provide a counterweight to the temptation to become Bilog.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Morphogenetic Migrant "Illegality"

A conceptualization of migrant “illegality” in Japan that 1) considers the dynamics of its three vested actors; 2) is informed by the specific historical context of the last century; 3) juxtaposes the roles and identities that are inextricably linked to migrants’ agency will provide a robust explanation to the three paradoxes cited above.

Migrant “illegality” can be conceptualized in the following formulation:  its value is transacted by vested interests within accretive ideational contexts forged in history through which roles and identities are negotiated and from which emerges functional, practical benefits.  
In this formulation, migrant “illegality” can then be summed up in one adjective:  migrant “illegality” is morphogenetic.  The term “morphogenetic” means that the persons engaged in a phenomenon within a social system continuously transform both themselves and that phenomenon.   In the particular cases of Filipino migrants discussed in this dissertation, we saw migrant “illegality” as morphogenetic given that forging bilog savings amidst structural and cultural conditioning points impacted social structure in ways that eborated it.  This elaboration can be seen in how migrants’ reflexive agency transformed their skills and activated their social networks to produce income surplus.  Moreover, we also saw that in this same case of bilog savings, outcomes that preserve or maintain the status quo – that is, that migrant “illegality” is a zero-sum game – is possible (given the cases of Yumi and Subaru coming home broke).  In these cases migrant “illegality” is morphostatic since it reproduces the status quo of the social structure.

Now understanding that migrant “illegality is at once morphogenetic and morphostatic, let us reflect on its possible significance.

First, we may now appreciate better how the Filipinos persist and/or thrive in Japan.  Embedded as Filipinos are as a newcomer group, day-to-day logistics of living are transacted within the defaults of social structure.  From active and reflexive agency opportunities then emerges and these are negotiated to produce functional or practical benefits.  Compatriots without legal status are able to tap into this same process – anchored on their ethnic membership, producing a migrant “illegality” that is morphogenetic or morphostatic.

Second, since we now see that migrants without legal status in Japan may be on a morphogenetic level – that is, that they are able to overcome the liabilities of migrant “illegality” in order to effect elaboration of the status quo – then our understanding of the importance of the international labor market must be expanded to include migrants without legal status.  This brings to the fore issues such as labor protection and human rights and how these must be extended to include even migrants without legal status given an appreciation of their productivity despite their legal handicaps.

Third, we now see better that both host and source societies must recognize that the active and reflexive agency of migrants may (morphogenesis) or may not (morphostatic) overcome the current zero-sum status quo of migrant “illegality.”   This then makes both host and source societies rethink whether the resources put into implementing a single strategy (zero-sum status quo in migrant “illegality”) may be better invested instead in a dual-strategy:  one that leverages “illegality”’s possible morphogenetic outcomes against its equally possible morphostatic outcomes for the long-term benefit of both societies.