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The Global Studies Seminar presents “Precarity and Hope among Permanently Temporary Subjects: Survival Tactics among Asylum Seekers in Japan” by Denison University’s Professor of International Studies Taku Suzuki.
This presentation provides an overview of Japan’s asylum policies, and sheds light on some of the most acute challenges that asylum seekers face while living in Japan. It also examines how those asylum seekers whose applications for refugee recognition have been denied or are pending manage to survive as “provisionally released” subjects with severely restricted rights. Based on my ethnographic fieldwork among provisionally released asylum seekers and those who are currently detained by Japan’s Immigration Service Agency (ISA), and the interviews I conducted with non-governmental organization members and individual activists who help them, the presentation suggests that the asylum seekers’ very survival while being denied to the “right to have rights” (Hannah Arendt) is an act of resistance against the Japanese state, which insists on an extremely strict interpretation of the refugee eligibility. The provisionally released asylum seekers are confronted with “deportability” (Nicholas De Genova), a condition which constantly threatens individuals with the possibility of deportation, and “liminal legality” (Cecilia Menjívar), a gray area between authorized and unauthorized migrant status. By ethnographically portraying the opportunistic, collaborative, and networked tactics that deportable and liminally legal asylum seekers and their allies use to survive in Japan, the presentation suggests that their daily struggles and efforts to overcome them exemplify the precarity and hope among permanently temporary and contingent citizens (Rainer Bauböck) around the world.
Suzuki is Professor of International Studies, East Asian Studies, and Global Health at Denison University. Trained in cultural anthropology, he has conducted ethnographic research on such topics as ethnic and national identity formations among the Okinawans in Bolivia and Okinawan-Bolivians in Japan, and the politics of memory among the post-WWII Okinawan repatriates from the former Japanese colonies in Micronesia. Currently, he is engaged in collaborative research on digital divide in Central Ohio’s Bhutanese refugee community and a research on survival tactics among migrants and asylum seekers in Japan with provisional and liminal legal status.