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Transnational Capital and Student Migrant Flows: Mapping Student Migration between East and Southeast Asia

Organiser:
Jocelyn O. Celero
Waseda University, Japan
joyous_ph@yahoo.com

Chair:
Yoonhee Kang
Seoul National University
yhkang@snu.ac.kur

 

Panel Abstract

This interdisciplinary panel looks at contemporary transnational student migration between East and Southeast Asia as illustrated in the following cases: South Korean educational migrants in Singapore; Japanese-Filipino children pursuing education in both Japan and the Philippines; Malaysian-Chinese student-turned skilled migrants in Singapore and London; and mainland Chinese student immigrants participating in the competition for “foreign talent” in Singapore.

As a precursor to skilled migration, student migration is becoming an increasingly significant phenomenon driven by a globalized labor market, the internationalization of (English) education, and widening economic, social, and demographic disparities between states.  The papers in this panel show variation in the ways (im)migrant children/youth are utilizing transmigration between East and Southeast Asia as a strategy to (re)generate economic and socio-cultural capital.  Concurrent and mutually constitutive to these transnational educational experiences are processes of (re)construction, and negotiations of identity, selfhood and belonging.

These papers draw on life histories, interviews, archival and ethnographic data to analyze the complexity of student migrant and capital flows in and between East and Southeast Asia, in which roles as recipient, transient, sending states have become indistinguishable, and where notions of homeland and foreign land have to be re-examined. This panel offers nuanced perspectives on (1) the shifting role of Southeast Asia in transnational population mobility and student migration that links East and Southeast Asia into the global chain of human capital accumulation; and (2) how migrants negotiate issues of identity and belonging, while seeking to maximize the social, economic, and political incentives of transnational migration.

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Paper 1: “It’s about time!”: Temporalities and the social construction of self among South Korean educational migrants in Singapore 

Yoonhee Kang
Seoul National University
yhkang@snu.ac.kur

In this paper, I explore the intersections between the experiences and practices of time and self-identities, by analyzing a case study of South Korean educational migrants in Singapore. Recently, a growing number of Korean young students in their primary and secondary schools have moved to Singapore for their ‘early study abroad’ (jogi yuhak). These young children are usually accompanied by their mothers, while their fathers remain in Korea to financially support their families abroad.

By adopting Bakhtin’s concept of chronotope, a spatial-temporal frame for a specific type of personhood, this study discusses how Korean students and their mothers experience time and temporality in the context of transnational migration and how such time experiences are linked to their construction of desired personhood and identities in this rapidly globalizing world. More specifically, I will show how Korean migrant children and their mothers experience time in different ways; the children understand their time in Singapore in a type of sequencing in the pursuit of ‘global leaders,’ while the mothers experience and conceptualize a ‘condensed’ time for their intensive mothering in this specific transnational time-space.

Based on my ethnographic research among Korean educational migrants in Singapore between 2008 and 2012, this paper illustrates how the Korean migrants negotiate and redefine their identities through their experiences and imaginations of chronotopes, a cultural model for time-space-personhood in their migratory trajectories.

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Paper 2: Freedom of choice or constrained options? Patterns of transnational education and logics of citizenship of Japanese-Filipino Children (JFC)

Jocelyn O. Celero
Waseda University, Japan
joyous_ph@yahoo.com

Who are Japanese-Filipino children (JFC)? How does their citizenship influence their current and future socio-economic trajectories? While existing studies tend to focus largely on the marginalized positions of Japanese-Filipino children/youth either in Japan or in the Philippines, this study utilizes a transnational approach to capture their diverse educational experiences and prospects for employment in both societies.

This ethnographic research examines the narratives of citizenship, migration, and education of Japanese-Filipino children of Filipino migrant mothers in urban Japan.  It begins with a comparative overview of the education system of Japan and the Philippines, the position of each state in the global economy, and the issues and challenges to socio-economic integration of Japanese-Filipino children in both societies. Next, using life vignettes, field notes from participant observation, and FGDs conducted with (30) Filipino mothers and JFC in Tokyo, it identifies typologies of Japanese-Filipino children based on their patterns of migration, education, and employment options.  Third, it analyzes the economic, social, and political logics that inform JFC’s decisions to envisage multiple, often segmented life chances.

This paper aims to establish that whereas most JFC tend to have fixed legal notions of Japanese and Filipino citizenship, a combination of national, cultural, linguistic, and emotional capital (Bourdieu 1986, Hage 2000) acquired from both societies direct JFC to construct complex and ambivalent socio-economic futures between Japan and the Philippines, or a third country of migration.

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Paper 3: Desiring home, nation and citizenship: the flexible ‘regime shopping’ discourse and practice of mainland-Chinese ‘foreign talents’ in Singapore

Yang Peidong
University of Oxford
y.peidong@gmail.com

Aihwa Ong’s expression ‘flexible citizenship’ which denotes a strategic/calculative attitude towards formal citizenship has become a landmark conceptual idiom in in the scholarly studies of contemporary human experience of transmigration. This paper examines the discourse and practice of ‘flexible citizenship’ in the case of mainland-Chinese (or ‘PRC’) student-immigrants as ‘foreign talents’ in the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore.

Drawing on a 16-month long ethnographic fieldwork across the two countries (China and Singapore) and, more specifically, recorded in-depth interviews with 20 PRC ‘foreign talents’ aged in their late 20s who had graduated and were working in Singapore, I examine how these Chinese subjects imagine about, talk about and go about ‘shopping’ countries – ‘regime shopping’. Specifically, I outline the ‘tripartite comparative methodology’ they use in their shopping—a methodology that puts Singapore as a middle station between China on the one hand and the ‘real’ Western countries on the other, in relation to various comparative criteria and dimensions. The logic of ‘flexible citizenship’ seems so entrenched in this methodology that it appears to be taken for granted by my research participants.

In contrast to Vanessa Fong’s notion of “filial nationalism” and/or patriotism, my research participants demonstrate what I call a ‘discursive patriotism at a safe distance’. In other words, while many of the Chinese ‘foreign talent’ immigrants in Singapore claim deep attachment to their home country China, I contend that such attachment is largely maintained symbolically through media and imagination. These Chinese subjects are flexible citizens for whom neither Singapore nor China is home, if only because for them the idea of home has profoundly changed.