People at the Margins: Belonging and (Im)mobility in Superdiverse Asia

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: People at the Margins: Belonging and (Im)mobility in Superdiverse Asia
Stream: Sociology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Helena Hof, Zurich University, Switzerland (organizer, presenter, chair)
Miloš Debnár, Ryukoku University, Japan (presenter)
Kim S. Lim, Waseda University, Japan (presenter)
Yujin Han, Waseda University, Japan (presenter)


Everyday realities in contemporary Asia are characterized by the multiple layers of diversification that have transformed its societies. This panel utilizes the concept of superdiversity which offers a fresh and promising angle for understanding the complexities of migration, mobilities and immobilities in contemporary Asia, a region at the crossroads of weighing the challenges and opportunities of a diverse population and citizenry.
The case studies presented here capture dynamics of superdiversification by analyzing social positions and identities of ‘newcomer European migrants’ in Japan (Debnar), highly educated yet professionally junior and legally precarious labor migrants in Singapore (Hof), stateless Chinese in an a benign authoritarian state with specific tenets for membership within the nation (Lim) and ‘permanently temporary’ North Korean defectors whose pre-migration careers are not recognized in Japan where they live in legal insecurity (Han). The four ethnographies reveal how despite all differences between these groups of ‘outsiders’ in terms of socio-economic, legal, and ethnic background, belonging or the wish to belong is defined in relation to involuntary immobility or the longing for mobility. These migrants are invisible in their host countries and the political discourse, either because they are stripped of citizen rights despite their long-term residency (Lim and Han) or because they are considered to be the frictionless mobile elite (Debnar and Hof). We hope to bring belonging and identity with migrants’ ongoing mobility or involuntary immobility into conversation. Through the lens of superdiversity and our empirical studies, this panel strives to stimulate discussions between the audience and presenters.