Adolescence and migration: Struggling to fit in

by Tomoka Adachi

Currently in global society, there is a comparatively broad definition referring to people who leave their home country and immigrate overseas as global citizens. An increasing number of transnational migrants have been challenging such concepts of the nation-state (Ohno,S 2008). The term immigration is not unfamiliar at all and has even been highlighted in recent years as more issues have been discovered.

Immigrants can be broadly categorized by generation, based on the period of time in their lives that they moved to the host country. In the more precise language of social-science research, the term second generation is usually reserved for those children of immigrants who are born in the host society, while the children who arrived at a young age and thus receive part or all of their schooling in the new society are called the 1.5 generation, a term invented by the sociologist Rubén Rumbaut (Alba & Waters 2011).

Adolescence is one of the most significant steps in the formation of self-identity. There are  outcomes internally and externally for children who migrate at a younger age. In the first place,  immigrant children have to get used to the new environment in the receiving countries, while apart from other close family members, peers and friends in the home country. Homesickness may appear in numerous forms as the result of the diversity of language usage, diet, customs, school system, and citizens from different ethnic groups. All those features certainly depend on the culture and social similarity and differences between the receiving country and home country.

Nevertheless, the efforts immigrant children should take is because they are disadvantaged under many conditions. They are considering who they are and what they tend to be, whether to change or not in the receiving countries as heavily affected by the relation to their surroundings. While at the same time still requires the recognition from people around. Youth immigration demanded changes to the social identity and culture identity in the social and culture environment. The youth may cope with the psychological pressure produced by such dissonance by seeking to reduce conflict and to assimilate (literally, to become similar) within the relevant social context (Rumbaut 1994). However, the invisible pressure which forced assimilation may lead in another direction, in a  reaction of refusing to fit in. For the 1.5 generation, the possibility of segmented assimilation happens in most cases.

In addition, when it comes to 1.5 generation regarding to assimilation, children more or less have the concept of certain social and culture value of their home country, so that it becomes  more of a challenge to define self-identity in the receiving countries. The border and notion of national identity in relation to citizenship belongings blurs.

Furthermore, the reality is that the mass of society tends to offer limited options to classify immigrants. Categories by questioning whether to belong to one culture or not, to socially belong to our culture or outside of our culture. Hence, the lack of social recognition for those who culturally maintained in the middle, such as the 1.5 generation, led those people to fill in the gap and to struggle to connect their self-identity to nation-state citizenship in order fit in the current social position.

References

Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Ohno, S. (2008) “Transnational Citizenship and Deterritorialized Identity: The meaning of Nikkei Diasporas’ Shuttling between the Philippines and Japan.Asian Studies 44(1):1-22.

Rumbaut, RG. (1994) The Crucible within: Ethnic Identity, Self-Esteem, and Segmented Assimilation among Children of Immigrants. International Migration Review 28(4):748-794.

The 1.5 Generation: Succeeding for the Family

by Tomoka Adachi

Among international immigrants, there are issues from family as well society, and those factors impact the 1.5 generation. Various external elements pressure each individual immigrant and help to develop the social life of immigrants in relation to the society, whether in the native country or the receiving countries.

Mostly, the social status in the home country is less significant when people migrate overseas. Social ties and qualified careers become less useful and less important in terms of the immigrant life in the host countries. There is a status shift for immigrants, especially the first generation, resulting in various forms which heavily affect the performance of the 1.5 generation. As a consequence, 1.5 generation children are under family pressure in terms of the parents’ expectations to have better performance and social success compared to native speakers.

I would like to take a personal experience to illustrate this problem. I am a 1.5 generation migrant to Japan. I migrated with my family right after I finished primary school. Even though my mother worked as a high school teacher for 15 years in the home country, she was working in the restaurant, shops and so on service-related sectors for part-time work, which are considered as lower-class jobs in Japan. Thus, I tend to push myself and want to improve Japanese language ability as soon as possible to cope with the school curricula.

There are mainly three reasons that drive me to think that way. The first reason is an acknowledgement of the sacrifice of my family members to fulfill my education and expenses in Japan. My parents are not only giving up their stable careers but also social status in the home country to migrate to Japan. This is an invisible and indirect pressure that has influenced me to take the responsibility to work harder on my school studies and activities outside of school to financially support the family.

The potential disadvantage as a foreigner in Japan is the second reason. Scholars have argued about the notion of ‘immigrant optimism’, in that Immigrant parents tend to have expectations about their children’s advance that are significantly higher than those of natives, or the working-class (Alba & Waters 2011). Although in Japan there are privileges as a foreigner, the 1.5 generation is not able to benefit from them. Sometimes they may even have a negative influence. Compared to my classmates, our starting line is different. I am disadvantaged in various means, such as a lack of language capability, social participation, access to the job market, and the possibility to enter university. Under this circumstance, I have been forced to take more effort to compete as a 1.5 generation migrant.

The limited education support and assistance in school is the third account I took. While I was in junior high school, it was tough for me to catch up with my academic studies because there were fewer learning directions and treatment by teachers to me as an international student. Thus, Japanese public schools, like their counterparts in other countries, continue to face the responsibility of preparing immigrant children for their futures in Japan (Moorehead 2013).

Overall struggles within the 1.5 immigrant generation are likely to be ignored, based on what is appeared on the surface.

Reference

Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Moorehead, R. (2013) “Separate and Unequal: The remedial Japanese Language Classroom as an Ethnic Project” The Asia-Pacific Journal 11(32):3. http://japanfocus.org/-Robert-Moorehead/3980

Citizenship and migration: Questions of identity and belonging

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Mayumi Futagami

As I read the article “Citizenship and immigration: multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the Nation-State,” I am reminded of my own family’s multi-cultural experiences with Japanese culture and Filipino culture. The book says that “immigration challenges and reaffirms identity” (Bloemraad, 2008) I also think that is true, because immigration makes you know and acknowledge a new environment in which you will be found out anew. These new things will change your knowing about the culture that you used to know.

Citizenship is important to have a legal status of “belonging to a country”. I know that we should belong to a country to group ourselves. However I have this kind of doubt for those people who have double blood lineage of other countries. Do we really need to be divided? How can we answer questions such as: What is your nationality?

In a situation in which you are born in the Philippines, your mother is Filipino, and your father has Japanese nationality, because of visa problems these parents have to apply for you to have Japanese citizenship because that citizenship makes it easier to go abroad. They think of your future. For instance my sister is “half” Japanese and Filipino. When you ask her what her identity or nationality is, at home she will proudly say “I am both Japanese and Filipino”, however when you asked her outside (e.g. supermarket, malls, schools) here in Japan, asking “Are you Filipino?, she will say “urusai” means “shut up”.

I feel that citizenship also matters through images. The rule of Japan that you could have a dual citizenship until age 22 is like just giving you time to think. It makes it really complicated for those young people for they are forced by the imagined tradition of the society. Citizenship makes the pressure of participation model in the society (ibid). When you say that your citizenship here in Japan is different, even if you have the lineage blood of Japanese you may feel a little shame. For as the transnational says about the image of your home country or maybe the home country of your mother or father, maybe both, does make differences good or bad. You may also think is true for the superiority of the country in which you live (e.g. comparing Japan and Philippines).

I don’t really feel ashamed of where I come from in social saying that I have Filipino and Japanese blood. However, it makes me feel sad and embarrassed when they compare those 2 countries in culture or tradition or daily lifestyles. It is because when they say something about it I feel like a little loss of which identity. I feel that why do we need to choose between 2 nations to find citizenship?

Sweden adopted dual citizenship in 2001 (ibid.). I envy this kind of policy in some points that when I am here in Japan I could say that “I am Japanese”, and if they say that “no you’re not”. I could say that, “even though I am Filipino I have Japanese citizenship.” As well as I go back to the Philippines I could also say the same thing because I already have the both culture that already compiled in my daily life.

Migrating for me here in Japan at first was a big challenge for even though I am Japanese in DNA, I felt at that time I am completely Filipino. However, as I migrate here and my father is Japanese I could find myself that I have the capacity or right to have the citizenship of Japan. I applied for it and did easily get it. I just feel it’s strange that we really need to have one kind of citizenship to define what kind of people we are. And some are forced, for there is what they called the “beautiful culture” of Japan and some “bad image” of the Philippines (in which people come to Japan to find jobs) which affects children.

Of course there are some exceptions of having the citizenship of the host country, e.g. Japan. Either you are born there, live there for long years, or marry a citizen there. This could happen to people who are old (come for work) or young people (come for education), etc. Taking Japan as a place where people migrate, there are many people do this and that they could find some loss of identity. Even though they are fully strangers in the host country, they feel that they somehow belong to it for they were able to adopt the culture and lifestyles.

A friend of mine in school here also feels that even though she is not really Japanese she could feel that she “culturally” and “traditionally” belongs to Japan. I don’t mean that it is citizenship that matters, I just mean that citizenship relates to identity. I see that citizenship is easy to answer when you never been out of the country. However as you try to move, taking the question where I belong is a really hard question, especially when you need to choose. I think it is not a matter of the society but also matters from your family decision of what to choose. I thought one reason was the importance of culture, or how advantageous it is to have that citizenship in the country or even overseas.

That is why I feel that citizenship matters in many aspects, where you belong, what you take important the most (culture or superiority), and more. In my point of view, citizenship is a hard thing to choose. However if I just think which is better for my future, Japan or the Philippines, maybe I certainly choose Japan as my citizenship for it will be easy for me to travel abroad.

International Migrant Integration through Education in Japan

by Curran Cunningham

Following on from my previous blog, which showed the importance of migrant remittances, I now turn my attention to the role of education in assimilating second generation international migrant families into Japanese society.

Yasuko Kanno’s paper ‘Sending Mixed Messages: Language Minority Education at a Japanese Public Elementary School’ focuses on that very subject. This blog will look at her interpretation—and criticism—of the Japanese education system at an elementary schooling level in this area.

Until the 1990s, it was considered a must that all courses and classes in Japan should be taught in Japanese. The purpose was to encourage integration among non-Japanese residents into Japanese society (Kanno, 2004).  Yet the method of teaching Japanese to non-native elementary students has thus far been ineffective. It has neglected the linguistic, thus academic, needs (due to the exclusively Japanese taught curriculum), of immigrant children. It has left migrants lagging behind, condemning them to become academic underachievers and marginalized as immigrants.

The system needs fixing. It cannot be disputed that a high proficiency in local language aids the understanding and even adoption of local culture. So it follows that Japanese language proficiency would allow second generation migrants to ascend the social hierarchy more easily. Without language proficiency, many migrants find their occupational choices narrowed to work not requiring Japanese fluency—work that is normally menial or at least low paying. And limited income affects educational opportunities, leaving no choice bur for parents to enroll their children into public schools instead of private schools, which must adhere to the Japanese Board Education’s defined curriculum, funding, and programs—notably lacking in L2 language support. This creates a self-perpetuating vicious circle, as generation after generation would be forced into a public school system which does not prioritise their needs.

Kanno underlines the importance of the role of teachers in the process of helping the next migrant generation assimilate into the host society. Teachers individually voice and project their messages, their beliefs and ideas onto the student, whether through simple language learning, cultural awareness-raising or even showing how to participate in a democratic society (Vaipae, 2001).

Teachers who educate migrants do not tend to be professionally trained and can communicate very little in the migrant’s first language (Kanno, 2004). Though the idea of diversity and ‘being proud of your origin’ is promoted in Japanese schools, little is done in keeping the migrant’s mother tongue alive (Kanno, 2004). Students may not develop knowledge of their first language much when learning their host country’s language, mastering neither properly in the end. Also there is a disconnect between Japanese and migrant students as they are taught in separate parts of the school. This obviously hinders communication between students, and stops Japanese student in turn taking advantage of migrant student presence to learn about the outside world.

Kanno wholeheartedly supports Cummins’s theory that “orienteers of culture and linguistic diversity are reflected in the policies and practices of school” (2000a, 2000b). Yet teachers in this respect engage in the ‘coercive relations of power’, as they do not question the social inequality found in Japan and reaffirm the status quo for minorities (Cummins, 2000a).  The education system is based around suppressing minority students’ linguistic and cultural identity as well as accepting the rules and values imposed by the dominant group as ‘natural, normal, universal…’ (Heller & Martin-Jones, 2001). With this, Kanno believes that not only teaching skills in general need improvement, but one must study the ins and outs of a society to create understanding.

Since the beginning, classes taught to migrants are academically lagging behind Japanese students of their age group. This gap widens as time goes on. Eventually they may find themselves in dire need of help and unable to compete in the job market. Interviews of teachers by Kanno at this particular Japanese elementary school showed that their lack of work ethic was in fact their parents’ responsibility. Teachers do not look at themselves as a potential reason for the problem and hence no changes are likely to happen in the near future unless there is a shake-up and reform of the Japanese schooling system.

References

Cummins, J. (2000a) Language, power and pedagogy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (2000b) Negotiating intercultural identities in the multilingual classroom. The CATESOL Journal 12 (1), 163-178.

Heller, M. and Martin-Jones, M. (2001) Introduction: Symbolic domination, education and linguistic difference. In M. Heller and M. Martin-Jones (eds) Voices of authority: Education and linguistic difference (pp. 1-28). Westport, CT: Ablex.

Kanno, Y. (2004). Sending mixed messages: Language minority education at a Japanese public elementary school. In A. Pavlenko (eds) Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Vaipae, S. (2001) Language minority students in Japanese public schools. In M. Noguchi and S. Fotos (eds) Studies in Japanese bilingualism (pp. 184–233).

Chinese as “honorary Whites” in Apartheid South Africa

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apa...

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apartheid era Español: “Sólo para blancos” – letrero de la era del apartheid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Krishna Vanstraelen

If assimilation theory seems to oppose the general trend for first generation Chinese migrant in recent years, it however sheds light and corroborates segmented assimilation theories for the second and third generations. The first wave of Chinese migrants in South Africa in the early 1900s has followed a so-called typical way of integrating a culturally foreign society. Though what drove Chinese migrants in South Africa to follow classic segmented assimilation theories is the succession of two distinct historical events, their entrepreneurship and desire to access the higher sphere of South African society, which is striking and somewhat unusual, given the political and social nature of the host country.

Much like current Chinese migrants to South Africa, first generation migrants tended to send their offspring to China, both to learn and preserve Chinese tradition and culture and to receive what parents viewed as a “proper” education. However, in the early 1950s, the Immigrants Regulation Amendment Act enacted by the newly established Communist Party, along with the strengthening of institutionalised apartheid in South Africa, made it increasingly difficult for Chinese to travel in and out of China, hindering thus education in the home country.

When examining the case of first, second, and third generations, Yoon Jung Park, the most cited scholar in this specific field, refers to them respectively as shopkeepers, fence-sitters, and bananas. Shopkeepers because these children born in the 1920s and 1930s usually received Chinese education, had little to no English proficiency, and typically ended up helping their parents as shopkeepers or working in unskilled or semi-skilled positions in factories, retail shops, or offices. Though second generation children as well, fence-sitters were born from the 1940s through the early 1960s, and were labelled as such due to an ambiguous identity.

Although growing in a climate separating whites and non-whites, Chinese migrants and their children were given concessions and privileges as their social status shifted progressively towards “honorary whites”. Hence, most Chinese children born during this time period attended private white church schools by means of a progressive loosening of discriminatory rules and heavy financial sacrifices made by their parents. Ineluctably, as children were gradually losing their Chinese language ability and increasingly conform to western culture, their identity and place in the South African society became equivocal.

Lastly, the bananas refer to the physicality of the fruit; yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Born in the late 1960s through the 1970s, these children had little to no experience of Apartheid-era discrimination, as Apartheid and its institutionalized rules were gradually fading away—at least for Chinese residents/citizens, who enjoyed a full primary and secondary education alongside white children in government and private white schools. As a result, most children of this generation developed a strong affiliation to western culture, low relations to China and its language, and an ever-growing number completing tertiary education allowing them to climb the social ladder (Park, 2009).

The crux of Chinese assimilation that trails segmented theories is found in the early 1950s, when regulatory rules hamper Chinese migrants to follow customary patterns in regards of their low integration and their offspring. When returning to their home country became less of an option, Chinese migrants generally estimated that providing their children with better/white education will facilitate and increase their social mobility. Through massive financial sacrifices and the withstanding of discriminatory rules and societal norms, parents of children born from the 1940s through the early 1960s (and onwards) were able to send them to white schools, allowing these children to access tertiary education and gain a foothold and recognition in the South African society.

Reference

Park, Y. J. (2009). A matter of honour: Being Chinese in South Africa. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Learning in Hong Kong—in English or Cantonese?

English: Hong Kong colonial coat of arms ‪中文(香...

English: Hong Kong colonial coat of arms ‪中文(香港)‬: 香港盾徽 ‪中文(简体)‬: 香港盾徽 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

by Liz Ma

I am writing a paper on education system in Hong Kong and Chinese immigrants. I want to know how exclusive (or not inclusive enough) the education system is, especially the medium of instruction, i.e., Cantonese and English. Here, I recognize as Chinese immigrants those who migrated from China, in particular, those who migrated after 1997.

Hong Kong used to be under British rule, thus the official language of the public sector and government departments was English, instead of Cantonese or Chinese. The foreign language was highly engaged in the general public’s life. The language environment gives rise to two problematic issues. The first is that parents debate hard on whether they should send their children to EMI (English Medium of Instruction) or CMI (Chinese Medium of Instruction – here I mean Cantonese).

Back in the days of British rule, being accepted to EMI schools was a prerequisite for “the winning group”. The reasons behind parental preference, if not the child’s own choice in most of the cases, are multiple. However, the most powerful pull and push factor is that English was the official language in Hong Kong and outside the border. Positions in the government (still running the pension system) and foreign invested companies (highly paid jobs) were the easiest way to achieve promising career prospect. To get those keen competitive positions, the least requirement was high English proficiency. If you were able to master the language, you enjoyed a higher chance of promotion, and being appointed as an overseas manager.

Flag of Hong Kong (1959–97) ‪中文(简体)‬: 香港殖民地时期旗帜

Flag of Hong Kong (1959–97) ‪中文(简体)‬: 香港殖民地时期旗帜 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Similar to the Chinese boom in many countries nowadays, English is a very preferable foreign language in Hong Kong. Not to mention how attractive going abroad is, most students holding a foreign degree (the United States and the United Kingdom are the top two choices for studying abroad) get a very sound job when they return. Some top government officials can speak very fluent English, Anson Chan was one of the well known ones. Therefore, we can see how people look towards English speakers (even if they are Asian rooted). People believe learning English means knowing how to achieve a successful life. In Hong Kong, Cantonese makes you normal, while English helps you to stand out of the crowd, to become elite.

We can see a discrimination created by government in silence, because of how the system operates, how discrimination is rooted and generated and confirmed by parents and then among students. EMI schools are desirable. It is true that most of the top ranking secondary schools are EMIs. The top university in Hong Kong puts more emphasis on scores on English subjects rather than Chinese subjects during their admission and interview process.

As for Chinese immigrants, most secondary schools do not provide support to them when they first come to Hong Kong. As I mentioned above, English is viewed as more important when compared with Chinese. Chinese immigrants in classroom therefore become the inferior group, and in term of attention from teachers, naturally less than their classmates. It might also because of teachers’ poor level of Chinese. It is a fact that Chinese has never been a must to learn. The situation has changed gradually in recent years, I believe.

I am still doing research on the subject, but it seems the first issue takes up the main part. Information now in my hands contributes, more useful for building up the first issue.

Brazilian immigrants children’s identities between expectation and reality

by Minako Sanda

“On the sports festival day, Brazilians were gathered and forced to dance Brazilian Samba. I hated it. While I was trying my best to assimilate to Japanese friends, being forced to dance with Brazilians felt humiliating. We studied about many countries, but there was no class that featured me (Japanese-Brazilian), but if any, I kept distance from or deleted those memories. Until I got into Junior High, I didn’t like to be seen as a Brazilian, in High School I started to think I don’t care, then in University I began to like it” (From an interview with a Brazilian immigrant, Amano, 2013)

The author’s interview with his Japanese-Brazilian friend sounded familiar to me because I have a friend in similar circumstances as this interviewee. I remember she had a hard time reading textbooks and had extended classes after school.

Nonetheless, I have known only a little about her feelings as a Brazilian immigrant as we spent a few years together in Kobe. I never saw my friend as someone different, except for what she knew about the different country where she had lived, and according to her—she belonged there. As a child I didn’t think ‘belongingness’ was something to ponder; we were in Kobe and that was where we belonged, at least I thought so.

Indeed, the feeling of belongingness is simple for those who lived in a culture and places where people speak a common language. The formation of self identity went along with the cultural environment. But those who have moved from one culture they know well to a foreign one, and then return to their home culture after assimilating to another environment, trying to identify themselves in multiple cultures suddenly starts to make them feel like their feet are off the ground, as if they were indecisive people in-between here and there.

Throughout our class, we have learned how some can choose to take advantages of an in-between lifestyle, for instance I now understand that I benefit by choosing to study abroad, knowing cultural differences, and assigning such advantages as part of my identity. However, for people who did not have choice—in the following contexts, children of immigrants—and therefore have had to struggle to identify where to call their home, the feeling of belongingness is not so simple.

I imagine this struggle is vivid in the case of children in lower grades of elementary school. Moving to another place when they may have just began developing solid identities does not simply mean the struggle of language acquisition. There must be an entire reconstruction of personality and identity in order to gain comfort ‘standard’, in other words, to be treated just the same as everyone else in host country.

According to Amano (2013), who interviewed migrant children, the parents of the interviewee (in the beginning of this paper) had a strong will to put him in Japanese education. Likewise, many immigrants recognize Japanese schools have better education than those in Brazil. This interviewee came to Japan with his parents when he was in grade 3, and studied in Japanese school till he graduated university.

I think this expectation puts a great pressure on Brazilian children who not only need to catch up with language but also learn the ‘standard’ level of contents. This was a serious task for them because they have to fight against the stereotype which tends to be easily put on individuals as ‘lazy’, ‘not serious’ Brazilian, despite the lack of adequate language support that matches the on-going contents of other Japanese children are learning.

“Japanese public education envisions an egalitarian and communal notion of citizenship, in which students become equal members of the nation-state and part of tightly knit, cohesive social groups. To this end, teachers strive to provide students the necessary skills. However, in the space between the school’s ideals and reality, many immigrant children are left behind in the Amigos Room to idly complete worksheets and play, as the years until graduation pass them by” (Moorehead, 2013).

Is this a failure of Japanese education system not providing tailor-made support to immigrant children? Even if they are giving special support to immigrants. somehow it ends up segregating the children from the average Japanese children’s learning contents? Or is it their parents who are putting too-high expectations on the children? Or, could it be, children who are really just lazy?

As a result, children stand between their parents’ expectations and reality. Their parents expect their children to grow as ‘successful Brazilians who got educated in Japan’, whereas in reality they are failing to identify themselves in neither a fully Brazilian community nor as well-assimilated foreigners in Japan.

References

Amano, Masato. (2013). Study of the Actual Condition of the Foreign Student in Japan by Interview ―The Importance of The Degree of Expectation and The Identity―. インタビューを通した日本の外国人児童の実態に関する研究 ―期待度とアイデンティティの重要性について―, Departmental Bulletin Paper. Aichi:Japan.

Moorehead, Robert. (2013). Separate and Unequal: The Remedial Japanese Language Classroom as an Ethnic Project. The Asia-Pacific Journal 11(32):3. Retrieved July 26, 2014 at http://japanfocus.org/-Robert-Moorehead/3980

Thai-isation: Removal of Chinese traces in Thailand

Anonymous student post

Although it is stepping back a few weeks, I would like to look at the assimilation of ethnic Chinese in Thailand. I think it is an important case to consider as it generally accepted that Thailand has successfully overcome the difficulties of incorporating the Chinese into the Thai national identity. Balasegaram (2001) writes of how “integration … of the community has been the greatest in Thailand and Philippines”.

To begin, we have covered the theoretical approaches to assimilation and segmented assimilation, which have been generally centred around Milton Gordon‘s “Seven Stages of Assimilation” as a linear process, in one way or another. For example, Alba and Nee (1997)

Garuda as national symbol of Thailand

Garuda as national symbol of Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

presented highly influential work concerning the “causal mechanisms” that generate assimilation, but this all still lays on the foundations that Gordon laid out. Some have called for a fresh direction of assimilation, not by completely rejecting Gordon’s initial work, but argue that it is outdated in current circumstances, at least in the United States that is. Moon-Kie Jung (2010) offers that we should move away from “assimilation” and instead give greater attention to the “politics of national belonging”.

We have additionally looked at the effects of the assimilated or semi-assimilated, both first and second generation, such as their progression in the educational institutions, the workplace and society’s acceptance at large, including self-identity. From this, I became curious in how assimilation, or attempted assimilation, takes place at the policy-making level. Prof. Moorehead’s link regarding Amy Chua‘s most recent work, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America (2014), reminded me of a particularly outstanding chapter in her 2003 book, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, which is titled “Mixing Blood: Assimilation, Globalization, and the Case of Thailand”.

Chua notes that Thailand’s population of ethnic Chinese stands at 10% of the Thai population, but the Chinese are practically invisible following years of assimilation. A closer look however reveals that the “ethnic Chinese” in Thailand account for a “wildly disproportionately wealthy, market dominant … minority” (Chua 2004:179). According to Chua, they dominate the largest banks and conglomerates and “all of Thailand’s billionaires are ethnic Chinese”. Yet, there is a distinct lack of resentment. Intermarriage is much higher compared to surrounding countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. So how did this come to be?

Chua answers this question quite simply; “through decades of coerced assimilation” (p. 180). Following immigration from China to Thailand in the 19th century, Thailand began to take a nationalist stance against the Chinese, and it was in fact King Rama VI of Thailand that coined the term “Jews of the East” due to their economic dominance. The Thai government‘s solution to this issue took the form of what we can call “Thai-isation”, through a “systematic and ruthless campaign” (p. 183). Chinese schools in Thailand initially faced severe restrictions, and then were closed down. Chinese books were banned, as were newspapers and social organisations. Thai dress was enforced, Chinese industries were nationalised, remittance of money to China was criminalised and harassment ensued for anyone still showing signs of “Chineseness”. Those with a Chinese surname began changing their names to be more “Thai”, but as one of Chua’s students notes: “You can tell who the Chinese are because they’re the ones with the longest last names. That’s because they felt that had to “out-Thai” the Thai and because the Chinese weren’t allowed to take on a Thai surnames that already existed” (p. 184).

These events clearly show a more extreme angle of assimilation from a state-level. The repression of the Chinese in attempt to erase a minority’s dominance has only really made the issue cloudy and obscures a great deal. I wonder now to what level other national governments have gone to in order to try and create a more “harmonious” society. Japan? Britain? Australia? Have they followed routes like Thailand in the past, and do they today present a more politics of belonging approach?

References

Alba, R. and Nee, V. (1997). Rethinking Assimilation Theory for a New Era of Immigration, International Migration Review, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 826-874.

Balasegaram, M. (2001). ‘Analysis: South-East Asia’s Chinese’, BBC News, 29 August 2001. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1514916.stm on 22 June 2014.

Chua, A. (2004). World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. London: Arrow Books.

Jung, M, K. (2009). The Racial Unconscious of Assimilation Theory, Du Bois Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 375-395.

Why are migrants discriminated against?

by Yutaro Nishioka

However you define the term “globalization,” it must be associated with the exchange of goods, ideas and people around the world. As the wave of globalization heightens, people’s movements from a country to another, i.e. migration, also increase. Some can travel easily, while others can’t. According to Katharine Sarikakis’s article, “Access denied: the anatomy of silence, immobilization and the gendered migrant,” contrary to media representation of migrants costing the economy, overall, non-EU migrants make a significant contribution to labor input. However, the “mobility” in terms of geography, politics, culture, legislature, and society is not equally for everyone.  The article says that the status of migrant subjects is described as loss of communication rights, and that migrants, especially female ones, lose their status as an “interlocutor” through silencing and immobilization. The article also states that the status of female migrants is determined by the international gender division of labor, institutional patriarchy and sexual violence.

But why is that the case? Why are migrants, especially the female ones, deprived of their communication rights and mobility? The article quotes, “whether we are willing to debate seriously and pay attention to the conditions of people who are not citizens or voters is a test of this House and a test of our humanity.” So I would like to discuss the possible causes of the discrimination against migrants.

First, I argue that the fact that many people don’t even pay attention to or realize the conditions of the lives of migrants is one of the causes of discrimination against migrants. Those that have little “connection” with the migrants could not care less about the migrants’ lives, because the improvement of the condition of the migrants’ lives would not affect the lives of non-migrants. They are only concerned with and too busy trying to improve their own lives rather than the migrants’, just like the migrants would not be interested in improving the condition of the non-migrants’ lives. This lack of connection – connection in the sense that one does not care about the improvement of the life of a person in a foreign group of people – between the lives of migrants and non-migrants, I would argue, is one of the causes of discrimination.

Another possible cause of discrimination against migrants is associated with human psychology. According to Steven Neuberg, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, “people perceived as being foreign—perhaps because they look different than us, speak different languages, eat different foods—automatically activate perceptions of disease threat. And groups who are perceived to pose disease threats activate prejudices characterized by physical disgust” (Bushwick, 2011). Psychologists say that it is natural for people to over-perceive threats, which causes emotions of fear, anger, and disgust towards outsiders. “Whether it was Italians or Irish, Poles, Jews, Germans, Chinese or whomever, each of these groups were initially perceived to pose a wide range of threats and consequently evoked powerful prejudices. It was only once people came to see these groups as nonthreatening, usually as they were seen to adopt “American” norms, that they were perceived as Americans,” says Neuberg (Bushwick, 2011).

Neuberg seems to address discrimination only from an individual’s perspective, but his theory can be extended to the societal level to shed light on structural racism. Stereotypes and discriminatory ideas that stemmed from one individual’s interaction with another foreigner gets perpetuated to others and spread to a larger group of people, i.e. society, creating preconceived notions about people whom they’ve never even met.

This is why some foreigners are not perceived as a disease threat, and others are. Those that the natives came to accept as nonthreatening are today less discriminated against. Those that came to be accepted by the natives can be seen by the natives not only as “nonthreatening” but even as “beneficial.” For example, the natives could learn new culture, technology, etc. from the foreigners.

Although Neuberg fails to mention this in Bushwick’s article, historically, his theory has also presented itself as being bidirectional. This means that even after the foreign migrant group was seen as nonthreatening, certain historical events could affect this perception and revert them back to being seen as threatening; e.g. Japanese that had been allowed to live in the US became “threatening” to the Americans during WII when Japan and US were fighting. Therefore, foreigners that were once assimilated could be “re-discriminated” against by historical events.

According to the case study written by Huong, Huynh, Li, Lopez, and Yuda (2009), “migration can offer women important opportunities that include a chance to improve her economic, social, or gender-related status leading to improved lifestyle and self esteem.” However, many of those women are exposed to vulnerability through exploitation, human trafficking and abuse. The study states that much of the work done by migrant women is not regarded as “work,” because the kinds of work they engage in are often care work, domestic work, factory work, and entertainment, which is why their work is often under-paid and under-valued. Receiving countries’ laws often do not support permanent migration for unskilled labor workers, which may put women in a more vulnerable position as they are more likely to engage in undocumented migration and the informal labor sector with poor working conditions, exploitation, low wages and abuse.

As Neuberg suggests, people need to learn to see the “outsiders” as nonthreatening in order to prevent hostility and discrimination against them. We also need to raise public awareness of the issue so as to address the lack of “connection” between the lives of migrants and non-migrants, and the disadvantages that women migrants currently face.

Reference

Bushwick, Sophie (2011). “What Causes Prejudice against Immigrants, and How Can It Be Tamed?” Scientific American. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-causes-prejudice-aga/

Huong, H. T., Huynh, N. T., Li, W., Lopez, P., and Yuda, M. 2010. Migration case study: Why does gender matter in migration? In Solem, M., Klein, P., Muñiz-Solari, O., and Ray, W., eds., AAG Center for Global Geography Education. http://cgge.aag.org/Migration1e/CaseStudy4_Singapore_Aug10/CaseStudy4_Singapore_Aug10_print.html

Sarikakis, Katharine. 2012. Access denied: the anatomy of silence, immobilization and the gendered migrant. Ethnic and Racial Studies 35(1).

Echoes of female transnational migration: Care-giving jobs in Korea

by Yoon Jee Hyun (JeeJee)

According to United Nations (2013), female migrants represent about half of all transnational migration. Among women migrants, there has been an increase of number of women migrants working in care-giving jobs and health-care workers (Pyle, 2006).

Pyle’s article reminded me of Korea’s current popular phenomena of having care-givers who are transnational migrants. Since domestic workers do not wish to work as care-givers (due to the low wage compared to working times and the low social standing), a great portion of care-givers are transnational migrants. Also, with the increasing number of double-income families, wealthy Korean families have started to hire migrants from developing countries to take care of household chores at a cheap price.

In Korea, the role of care-giver is not only for household affairs but also for educating children of Korean family. At first, female migrants were wanted as they already have skills to take care of basic household chores learned from their own country. Yet, recently, as language ability has been highly encouraged, wealthy Korean families have started to look for hiring female migrants who are capable of speaking foreign languages such as English and Chinese. Many female Filipinos and Chinese are working in the care-giving industry in Korea, as they can take charge of both housework and language education.

This care-giving job system using female transnational migrants can benefit both sides; Korean families can get cheaper labor, and migrants can get a job which pays higher salary compared to the situation in their nation, and earn foreign currency, which they can bring back to their own country. Despite these merits, this phenomena echoes throughout the world, creating an endless circle of female migrants engaging in care-giving jobs.

Care-givers who are working in a foreign country can send money to their own country and family. However, as the ‘mother’ does not exist in migrants own family, the family needs to hire another cheap labored migrants as care-givers. Thus, this female transnational migration in care-giving labors echoes the phenomena of hiring care-giver migrants from a poorer country, a poorer country, and a more and more poorer country, and so on. The endless circle of becoming and hiring care-givers is created and the continuous circle traps female transnational migrants under its re-echoing system.

Reference

Pyle, J. L. Globalization, transnational migration, and gendered care work: Introduction. Globalizations 3:283-295.