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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies

Growing up in Japan: Education, Mobility and Identity of Immigrant Children

Date and Time

November 08, 2018, 12:15 noon - 1:45 pm


University of Zurich, Room KOL H 321, Rämistrasse 71, 8006 Zürich


Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies - Japanese Studies


Prof. Dr. Gracia Liu-Farrer (Waseda University, Tokyo)

Short Bio

Gracia Liu-Farrer is Professor of sociology at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, and Director of Institute of Asian Migrations at Waseda University, Japan. She has conducted research in a range of topics, among them immigrants’ economic, social, political and identity practices in Japan, international student mobilities, the migration of the wealthy, education migration industry, migrants’ career construction through geographic mobilities, and transnational labor market. Currently she is conducting a comparative study in Germany and Japan to investigate how immigrants’ practices of career mobility through geographic mobility change meanings of work and how German and Japanese firms deal with such mobilities. She has published books, chapters and journal articles on a wide range of topics related to migration in Asia, particularly in Japan. She is the co-editor (with Brenda Yeoh) of Handbook of Asian Migrations (Routledge, 2018).


Three decades after the onset of large-scale migration, Japan is seeing more and more children of immigrants who have grown up in Japan. If the experiences of North American and European countries are any indications, immigrant children's social mobility outcomes and whether they are able to identify themselves with the host societies matter to not only their own wellbeing but also the wellbeing of the societies they live in. This presentation traces out immigrant children's education experiences and identity journeys. Japanese national educational system, especially at the elementary and secondary level, is unprepared for integrating immigrant children. Its mono-cultural institutional logic often alienates and marginalizes children of immigrants. However, parents' socio-economic locations in Japanese society as well as in the global hierarchy have a strong impact on their children's mobility trajectories and sense of self. Though most children of immigrants have experienced some difficulty growing up in an ethno-national education system, their parents' ability to maneuver resources to ameliorate situations and overcome obstacles affects how their mobilities unfold in their life course. For example, while most middle-class Chinese children growing up in Japan are able to attain educational mobility and cultivate a cosmopolitan self over the course of a transnational childhood, most Nikkei Brazilian children are mired in the increasingly precarious low-skilled labor market and occupy a marginal position in Japanese society. Moreover, Japan's ethno-nationalist identity still stands in the way of integrating these children. Though immigrant children can develop their identity and eventually find their own individual biographieh, Japan is at best a component in that biography, one color that constitutes the mosaic of their identity.

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