Hope amidst uncertainty: foreign scientists in contemporary Japan

Ieva Puzo 1
  • 1 University of Pittsburgh


The recruitment of foreign researchers has become an indispensable component of Japanese policy makers’ efforts to globalize and improve the country’s scientific institutions. By promoting the employment of foreign scientists in temporary research positions, Japan participates in the increasingly transnational circulation of academic knowledge workers. Scientists, discursively conceptualized as highly skilled workforce, are seen as participating in privileged global movements. However, the young foreign scientists enlisted to advance Japan’s research sector encounter considerable uncertainties in their work and personal lives.

Focusing on the experiences of young life scientists in Osaka, this article investigates transnational scientific mobility from below. It complicates the notion of scientific workers as privileged global travelers, and examines how mobility is embedded in the minds and enlivened n the bodies of scientific workers themselves. By inquiring into the underlying relationship between the practice of mobility and hope, the article explores the diverse methods foreign researchers employ to account for the uncertainties they encounter during their own transnational movements. Demonstrating how young researchers experience and make sense not only of mobility, but also its loss, the article highlights the ways foreign scientists engage with Japan, and elaborates on the significance of immobility practices and imaginaries.

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Journal + Issues

Contemporary Japan is the peer-reviewed biannual journal of the German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo. The international editorial board consists of distinguished Japan specialists from a broad array of disciplines. The journal publishes in-depth, original work from all disciplines as they relate to contemporary Japan and her historical roots. Beginning with Volume 25, Contemporary Japan is available open access at De Gruyter Online.