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The Influence of Whiteness on Social and Professional Integration: The Case of Highly Skilled Europeans in Japan  

Miladinovic, Adrijana (Department of Sociology at Keio University)
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Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia / v.19, no.2, 2020 , pp. 84-103 More about this Journal
Spurred by the ongoing globalization, an increase in mobility has diversified migrant categories and strengthened intercultural rapport. Alongside the "traditional" migrants, "White" (Caucasian) individuals are coming into greater focus of migration studies as "lifestyle migrants". Although White migrations are not a new phenomenon, the deep-seated idea of White supremacy continues to play an important role in contemporary intercultural communication, awarding Whites across communities a "cosmopolitan" status of highly educated cultural elites. As such, the focus of this research is on highly skilled White European migrants, on their subjective experiences of integration in Japan, and whether they perceive Whiteness as an obstacle or an advantage in this process, if integration is desired at all. To discern the connection between race and integration, this research investigates the non-White majority society of Japan as it has established racial hierarchies according to the Western models, consequently influencing the status of its contemporary White immigrants. Privileged, yet singled out as racial and cultural role models, White Europeans' integration seemingly becomes nearly impossible. The data obtained in fifteen semi-structured interviews confirms that Whiteness grants advantages when entering the Japanese job market, but remains an obstacle in everyday community integration. European professionals do not feel accepted and abandon efforts to integrate, if such were made, retreating into "cosmopolitan islets" wherein they renegotiate their White European identities.
Whiteness; integration; migration; highly skilled Europeans; Japan;
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