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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Relationships in motion: Doing belonging on a global stage

 seit September 2021

Transnational entanglements and global flows of people, ideas, concepts and technologies increasingly shape the ways individuals (can) relate and, possibly, belong. This project addresses ambivalent and intersecting layers and processes of (not) belonging through an empirical focus on highly mobile individuals—in particular, transnational professionals and their families—in urban settings. The primary questions include: How do individuals and families do belonging while moving or while being moved? Which possibly fragile, intersecting or gendered (dis)connections are emerging? What importance do (im)mobilities or fixities in time and space have? Are ‘spaces of (not)belonging’ evolving (or shifting) and how do they intersect with spaces of various other less privileged or (im)mobile groups? Focusing on relational practices and displays as well as their spatial configurations, this interdisciplinary project—situated at the nexus of family and migration sociology, human geography and urban studies—sets out to critically investigate ‘relating’ and ‘belonging’ in the context of transnationalities and (im)mobilities. On a conceptual level, it aims at contributing to a new transnational perspective on belonging and (future) ways of living together and organising social life.

The project is built on multiple ethnographic case studies in (global) cities around the world—nodal points of highly mobile demographics. Following a pre-study focusing on Japanese nationals sojourning in Düsseldorf (the city with Europe’s second largest population of Japanese nationals), the current case study is situated in Tokyo: this long-term ethnographic study employing a variety of qualitative methods focuses on family practices and investigates (not) belonging of so-called ‘expatriates’ in (and beyond) a global city in Japan with its specific socio-cultural, political and institutional features. Further case studies, particularly in South- and East-Asian cities, are under preparation. Ultimately, the ‘double’ focus on highly mobile individuals and families in metropolitan Japan and on Japanese citizens in urban settings around the world allows for multiple perspectives on Japan in a transnational, global context.