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Towards a Transnational Sexual Field: Male Vietnamese Migrants in Contemporary Japan
9. June 2020 / 18:30h
An Huy Tran, University of Duisburg-Essen/Waseda University
Transnational movements of people across borders have been one of the most prominent forces in shaping sexualities and genders. While migrants’ economic and labour practices have constituted a relatively wide spectrum of both academic and non-academic interests, the sexual and gendered dimensions of migration attract less attention. In particular, sexualities have historically been marginalized, and are still ‘absent as a social factor in mainstream sociological studies of migration’ (Carrillo 2017; Manalansan IV 2006). Moreover, in contrast to female migrants’ sexual and gender identities and behaviours, the sexual and gendered experiences of male movers have not been adequately investigated.
This lecture took a closer look at the intersection of sexualities, genders and transnational mobilities in an East Asian context. Drawing on data from life-history interviews with male Vietnamese migrants in Japan and returnees in Vietnam, the lecture aimed to capture and conceptualize the ways in which migrants’ sexualities and masculinities are shaped and negotiated during various migration processes. It examined migrants’ everyday life experiences, and focused on the strategies to negotiate intimate relationships and encounters, sexual and gender identities in specific socio-cultural settings. The speaker also identified multi-level factors that contour migrants’ sexualities and masculinities in transnational migratory contexts, and analysed them from a Bordieuan field perspective to move towards a theorization of a transnational sexual field. Finally, he discussed various methodological challenges in the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The empirical focus of Tran’s study of the interrelation of sexuality/masculinity and transnational migration lies on male Vietnamese migrants in Japan (as well as returnees), with an average age of 24 (between 20 and 72) of which approximately 2/3 identify as heterosexual. His online lecture was attended by an international audience of more than 40 participants who contributed to a lively discussion on theoretical concepts and possible difficulties to conceptualize a transnational sexual field.
An Huy TRAN is a PhD researcher at the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of Duisburg-Essen and a visiting research fellow at Waseda University. His research interests include transnationalism, student mobility, migrants’ entrepreneurship, intermediaries/brokerage and the migration industry. Tran’s latest publication is Liu-Farrer and Tran (2019) “Bridging the Institutional Gaps: International Education as a Migration Industry,” International Migration 27(3), 235-249.