Old and new migrations and diversifications in the UK and Japan

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology


The proposed network brings together researchers with expertise in the social sciences, arts and humanities from across the UK and Japan. The network is based on a hub and spoke model with the University of Birmingham's Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) and Waseda University's Institute for Asian Migration (IAM) at the centre expanding to encompass other academics from across the UK and Japan. The involvement of early career researchers is encouraged through provision of fully funded workshop places. Although migrants already form a part of many societies in some countries such as the UK and Japan, where immigrants are long-established, we are currently witnessing the intensification of diversity which is proceeding at unprecedented speed, scale and spread. Japan and the UK have many political, economic and social differences yet they share one major challenge: a shortage of labour. Both have attempted to resist high levels of migration, yet now accept that future prosperity depends on international labour migration. Post-Brexit the UK expects to move beyond the EU for its migrant labour whilst at the same time Japan, housing relatively small numbers of migrants compared to the UK, is opening its doors to labour migrants. The aim of this network is to bring social sciences, arts and humanities academics from the UK and Japan together to develop new knowledge and insight about diversification and integration resulting from old and new migrations. The project will offer new directions for scholarly work comparing migration in Japan and UK. The project is highly original in its fusion of East/West intellectual traditions and knowledge that is both interdisciplinary and comparative. Activities are designed to establish a sustainable academic network, new and enduring collaborations, high quality written outputs and ideas for new primary research.

The project commences with a workshop in Brussels (May 2019) wherein key IRiS and IAM academics present and discuss an overview of: 1) immigration history; 2) economy; 3) societal responses and outlooks; 4) politics and policy; and 5) literature and discourse. Themed discussions will enable all those present to develop a comprehensive and interdisciplinary understanding of both contexts. Following the workshop, five themed working and briefing papers will be produced pulling together information on Japan and the UK. The project lead and co-investigators will produce an overview document setting out the key themes emerging from the workshop. After consultation with delegates, the overview will be used as the foundation for a call for papers for a symposium. A five-day symposium in Tokyo (Dec 2019) will unite leading scholars in migration and superdiversity studies with early career researchers. Using a combination of keynote lecture, plenary, workshop, field-trip, literature readings and masterclasses intended to share existing knowledge and develop new ways of thinking we will explore several key questions identified in the Brussels workshop. Papers will be selected from Japanese and UK scholars following the call for papers but will also include the work of the project leaders. The final days of the symposium will be devoted to collaboration activities in which academics form pairs or small groups with Japanese and UK (senior and early career) scholars to prepare an abstract for a high profile special issue. The conveners will select the most promising abstracts for inclusion in the special issue offering the authors five three-week exchanges in both Japan and the UK in which the joint papers selected are co-written and future project ideas are outlined. Project outputs include a website, working papers, a special issue journal, training on funding international research and promoting academic work via social media and a sustainable academic research network setting the agenda for world-leading comparative research on migration and diversity in the UK and Japan.

Planned Impact

The project engages with academic debate on migration and superdiversity across a range of disciplines developing new collaborations and knowledge that are interdisciplinary and comparative. Its primary impacts are undoubtedly academic. Yet given the timing of the application around the UK and Japan's new endeavours to open their borders to international labour migrants, the network will interest policymakers, practitioners and non-governmental and non-profit organisations. Short-term impacts develop from engaging stakeholders in the network's activities while medium term effects occur through reaching out to a wider range of stakeholders. We focus on 1) academic beneficiaries 2) policymakers, politicians and practitioners 3) other stakeholders, including writers and translators.

Migration scholars across the social sciences, arts and humanities will benefit from a new critical mass of work and associated research agenda. Using the hubs' existing networks such as IMISCOE, Royal Geographic Society and the Japan Sociological Society and through presenting our work at conferences and posting on listservs we can reach out to other academics encouraging them to think about migration and superdiversity from a new perspective. The prerogative to produce joint written outputs from the workshop (working papers), the symposium (joint presentations) and the exchanges (journal article) will ensure that academics work together towards a shared goal. The profile of participating academics will be promoted via the website. The network is open to all scholars interested in UK/Japan research. In the medium term, collaborative grant proposals will be prepared for ESCR/AHRC, Wellcome Trust etc to expand the body of knowledge.

Our events will be open to policymakers and practitioners who will be invited to the workshop and symposium to join discussions and participate in co-authored outputs. The network website provides a locus on which Japan/UK materials will be published, the profiles of academic and non-academic participants and their associated projects promoted and news from the project shared widely including policy and practitioner relevant information. The working papers form the basis of a different policy summaries and briefs which will outline key learning across the two countries in both Japanese and English. Dr Sigona will take the lead for impact and provide training on reaching wide audiences. The project team have existing connections with senior UK and Japanese civil servants with responsibility for immigration and integration policy.

Other stakeholders including NGOs and humanitarian organisations, business and local writers and artists will be engaged. Our working papers, pulling together key policy and practice evidence from across Japan and the UK will provide useful new insight into different approaches to policymaking and service delivery and will cover issues such as integration, international development, cultural activities and dealing with negative discourse. Both institutes have considerable expertise around labour migration and the diversity dividend which they can share to bring new knowledge about how their countries' can best benefit from labour migration. Existing contacts include UNICEF and UN, UNHCR, Solidarity Network with Migrants (Japan), top Japanese businesses, OECD, CEDEFOP and literary and translations institutions.

With our extensive connections, the new critical mass of knowledge accumulated by the network, state of the art website, engagement of selected stakeholders in our events and reaching out through targeted briefings promoted by social media the network has the potential to become the place to go for policymakers, practitioners and other actors when they are seeking information about policies and actions in Japan/UK that can bring new insight into addressing the challenges, and making the most of opportunities, associated with migration and resultant superdiversity.


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