Japan

Organized Panel Session

4 - Making Osaka One’s Own: Place-Making in Times of Displacement among Foreign Scientists in Japan

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Thurgood Marshall East, Mezzanine

Along with science policy makers around the world, the Japanese government increasingly relies on the recruitment of international researchers to ensure participation in the global rhetoric of research excellence. However, despite Japan’s efforts to brand its research institutions as welcoming to foreign scientists, the presence of international researchers in the country is imbued with ambivalences at a national, local and individual level. Not only do foreign researchers encounter considerable uncertainties in their work and personal lives due to the temporary nature of their employment, but they also experience a sense of displacement in the cities where they live and work.


Based on ethnographic research with foreign life scientists in Osaka, my paper engages with the question of how young international researchers practice place-making in the context of at times profound perception of being out of place. I suggest that my interlocutors seek out and rely on networks of other “foreigners” to carve out spaces and places in Osaka to temporarily mark and designate as their own, reversing the roles of those who belong and those who are positioned in the margins. In addition, as the narratives of my interlocutors show, a place – the city of Osaka in particular and Japan in general – is turned into an explanatory framework for global patterns of uncertainty embedded in the mobility of highly skilled workers. My paper thus highlights how the city-bounded practice of place-making among foreign researchers is inherently intertwined with the production of socio-economic certainty at a national and transnational level.

Ieva Puzo

Riga Stradins University, Not Applicable, Latvia

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