Temporary Transnational Migrants from East Asia to Japan As Unskilled Foreign Workers and Methodological Transnationalism in the Age of Globalization

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 2:45 PM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Kazuhisa NISHIHARA , Dept. of Sociology, School of Social Innovation, Seijo University, Tokyo, Japan
Mari SHIBA , Sociology, Japan Society Promotion of Science, Nagoya, Japan
The objective of our presentation is to show the juncture between the sociological concepts on transnationalism and people’s practices while referring to the temporary transnational migrants in Japan. In contemporary Japan since the 1990s, a large number of unskilled foreign workers (=trainees) from East Asian countries have been introduced to the urban and rural areas as temporary labors under the foreign trainees’ system. We focus on these trainees, called ‘Kenshusei/Jisshusei,’ at agricultural villages as well as the fishery manufactures in fishing villages, severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.

  Based on the field research, we will discuss a sociological concept named ‘methodological transnationalism,’ in parallel to ‘actual transnationalism’ and ‘ideal transnationalism.’ While recalling ‘methodological cosmopolitanism’ as a critique on ‘methodological nationalism’ by U. Beck, we will examine the meso-level perspective between methodological cosmopolitanism and methodological nationalism. In the present situation of North East Asia where nationalism and political tensions are continuously rising, the meso-level perspective in methodology is required, that is methodological transnationalism. This is also a standpoint that associates with a critical viewpoint against the traditional perspective of sociology.

  Another concept we discuss here is the ‘mediators,’ a proximate concept to the G. Simmel’s. However, we took further analysis on the concept and categorized them according to the level: from informal/sympathetic type up to formal/businesslike type. We particularly pay attention to the ‘bridge-type mediators,’ regarding as inevitable actors in transnational interactions.

  Based on the discussions above, we will examine an implication on conceptions of the nation-state and (civil) society as the most decisive points in sociology. It is the conception of ‘society beyond a nation-state’ along with the perspective of methodological transnationalism, that is also required to contemporary/future sociology.