Society for East Asian Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
“I will stay here for the time being, I don’t have plans to move anywhere else.”
This statement by a male urban settler in his late twenties embodies the tension between aspirations to blend in and difficulties to connect to rural residents and their quotidian values and practices. Discussing empirical data from extended fieldwork across Japan, I explore what practices urban neophytes engage in to enact belonging in their newly chosen places of residence, how they seek to pursue emotional well-being by pursuing multiple forms of belonging. Drawing on Lise Gundersen’s notion of “home is where you are; home is the moment you are in.” (2008: 27), I contend that the simultaneous cooptation of belonging and disconnect that is salient in settlers’ trajectories indicate the paradoxical pressures individual face in post-growth Japan. Negotiating their daily lives between agency and anomie, perspective and resignation, urban migrants engage in practices to enforce intersubjective belonging (mostly with other non-local settlers) in rural places that often segregate and exclude non-local residents in more or less subtle ways. Some migrants organize events targeted at other non-local residents. How does liminality resulting from this sense of belonging through communities of non-belonging affect individuals?
Tracing individual narratives between aspirations to belong and feelings of disconnect, ingrained nomadism and local commitment, I depict ‘moratorium migrants’ bridging the grey zone between personal fantasies of the ‘good life’ and the neo-liberal reality of individual responsibilization as ‘enterprising subjects’ (Rose 1992: 142).