AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 3

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Session 3: The ‘Myth of Return’ in Transnational Migration: Issues of Leaving Home, Return and the Way its Imagined amongst Asian migrants. PANEL 1 of 2

Organizer and Chair: Michiel M. Baas, Independent Scholar, Netherlands

The myth of return of migrants is perhaps as old as the process of migration itself. Many migrants entertain the idea of returning to their country/region of origin after completing a certain migratory phase abroad. In practice, however, a return is often an illusive goal that is continuously being postponed to an indefinite point in the future. In this panel we would like to re-examine the meaning that transmigrants give to the idea and experience of leaving home, belonging and possible return in a transnational migratory context. • What does leaving home mean in a transnational context? How do issues of leaving, belonging and the myth of return feature into transnational migration? • How do people narrate about leaving home, belonging and the desire-to-return? How do these narratives relate to everyday experiences of migration? • How does the variety of roles Asian migrants have in transnational configurations shape the ideas and experiences of leaving, belonging and the desire-to-return? This panel will deal with these questions in detail. In particular this panel will investigate what the experiences of undocumented or forced migrants are in this regard. Such migrants often face additional difficulties when they contemplate to leave (the risk of forced deportation, the possibility ever to return, the chances for future legalization, etc.) It’s our intention to turn the submitted papers into a special issue in a peer-reviewed journal or an edited volume.

“‘It’s Still Home Home’: Notions of the Homeland for Filipina Dependent Students in Ireland”
Diane Sabenacio Nititham, National Louis University, USA

Ireland, previously known as a country of emigration, has become a “new” immigration country. The economic growth during the Celtic Tiger in the 1990s saw the unprecedented and substantial return of Irish emigrants and a rise in numbers of international students, EU residents and asylum seekers. With this, too, came an increase of migrant labourers, many of whom were recruited from outside EU member states to fill in gaps in the labor market. The rights and entitlements accorded to non EU nationals continues to be a major factor in mediating one’s experience and levels of engagement in civil society. This in turn affects attachments to the homeland and notions of return. For non-EU immigrants, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) has designated 4 stamps which bear different rights and entitlements. These rights and entitlements include: access to social welfare, education and services; fair treatment in the workplace; the right to vote and for family reunification. Immigration status remains of particular political and social importance because members of one family may have different statuses. Children of non-EU migrant labourers are stamped as student/dependent status, which means they are not seen as “habitually resident.” In other words, once they turn 18, if they are not accepted into college as an international student or obtain work authorisation, they do not have right to remain in Ireland. Even if the student has been living in Ireland for 10 years, or his/her family remains in Ireland, he/she is not permitted to stay. Drawing on doctoral fieldwork with Filipinas in Ireland, this paper looks at the experiences of two young women who came to Ireland as dependent students who had complications changing their status. While both were successful in their applications, the first was accepted into college and the second was successful as a nurse, receiving a renewable green-card. Both were faced with the possibility of not being able to stay with their families. Underscoring the debate of student/dependent status it that immigration to Ireland is temporary. Ireland’s constitution, which states that “the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law,” recognizes the family as a cornerstone of Irish life. The possibility of family separation for migrant families, and the lack of the Irish Government to address this issue, suggests that Ireland’s protection of the family unit is accorded to citizens only. This undoubtedly affects migrants’ notions of settlement and attachment to the homeland. In focusing on the narratives of two Filipina dependent students, this paper not only highlights an underrepresented group in scholarship, but also the intersections of the everyday liminality produced by social policy and the dynamics of diaspora and migration. In addition, the students’ liminal experiences are compounded by their physical uprooting, family separation and experiences of discrimination, all which affect orientations to the Philippines and the attitudes towards return.

Japanese-American responses to the pressures of American social conformity prior to the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924
Helen Kaibara, Michigan State University, USA

The United States may be a land of immigrants, but the experience of each immigrant group is unique as it struggles to find a place in American society. For Japanese immigrants living on the West Coast in the first decades of the twentieth-century, the path to acceptance was impeded by de facto and de jure manifestations of a combination of racism and xenophobia called “yellow peril.” This paper examines the Japanese Association of America’s (JAA) role in early Japanese immigrant settlement, its sources of authority, and its cooperation with the Japanese government to transform the behaviors of Japanese living in the United States. The coalition sought to enhance the perception of Japanese immigrants which had been tarnished by the deleterious beliefs that they were drawn to the United States solely for economic gain, possessing neither the ability nor the desire to assimilate into mainstream society and settle permanently. The JAA and Tokyo sought to correct these misperceptions and take a step toward reversing discriminatory practices through a series of reform campaigns which encouraged the Japanese community to lay roots in the new country, cease immoral behavior like gambling and prostitution, and adopt American dress and mannerisms.

Korean-Chinese return migrants: the meaning-making process of transnational migration
Ji-Yeon O. Jo, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

Korea is experiencing a surge of migration flow from the outside world and a large portion of these migrants is ethnic Korean return migrants. Studies have found that the reasons for ethnic return migration can be explained in three ways. First, their return is influenced by global economic disparities and restructuring. Second, structural factors and policy changes in both leaving and arriving countries may also directly affect migration flows. And third and one of the salient reasons for ethnic return migrants is their “imagined” affinity and nostalgic sentiment for their ancestral homeland. The reality is, however, when they return, they are essentially returning to a country that is very foreign to them. Thus, diasporic homecoming often causes much confusion and contradiction in the lives of ethnic returnees. This study explores the “dream/imagined idea” and “reality” of ethnic Korean return migrants in contemporary Korea through their own narratives. It especially focuses on the lives of Korean-Chinese return migrants and explores their own meaning-making process of transnational migration.

The Politics of Brain Drains
Madeline Hsu, University of Texas, Austin, USA

Brain drains began as the mutually beneficial exchange of students--who would bring back to their homelands training and technical expertise acquired while contributing to research and defense projects--between the United States and less developed allies and nonaligned nations. In practice, however, the most avid Third World participants in this partnership "lost" many of their intellectual elites who chose to remain in the land of greater opportunities, thereby undermining American hopes that educational outreach might promote better foreign relations. This "crisis" attracted the vocal attention of governments on both sides of the problem, although few practical solutions were produced. This paper scrutinizes Taiwan's "brain drain," the largest migration flow of its kind during the 1960s, to explore the intersections between cold war international relations agendas and changing immigration laws and policies in the United States. Despite loud outcries against the problem of "brain drain," the United States did little to stem the influx of economically highly desirable trained scientists and technicians while starting in the 1970s Taiwan benefited from the delayed return of entrepreneurs and engineers who used their work experiences and well-established networks to help develop the island's now cutting-edge IT industries.

The Haunting Ghosts: Voice and Voiceless in Maxine Hong Kingston’s “Shaman” and “At the Western Palace”.
Yu Min Claire Chen, , USA

In Maxine Hong Kingston’s stories ‘Shaman’ and ‘At the Western Palace’, she asserts the necessity to have a voice through depicting the life stories of female immigrants including her mother, Brave Orchid, and of her aunt, Moon Orchid. The narrative moves from their life in China than to the States. The story explores the consequences of their sense of self, ability for adjustment and transformation when facing the new environment. One is active and brave enough to take on challenges and solve obstacles, as her name Brave Orchid implies, while Moon Orchid is passive, fragile and delicate. Brave Orchid saved the money her husband sent to her and was able to obtain a degree in medical school, fought with the school ghosts and later adjusted well to a harsh foreign life. Moon Orchid waited for her husband for her entire life. Later, when Brave Orchid arranged for Moon Orchid to come to the States, only then did Moon Orchid realize that she had been deserted and demanded to be mute. Kingston uses the metaphor of ghosts to address confrontation and the conflicts arising from cultural, racial and gender discrepancies. What is the ghost and who is the ghost? Does it refer to the visible or to the invisible ones, or to the ones who are forced to be silent? Is the ghost the haunting dead, or the living dead? Brave Orchid conquered the ghosts in the medical school and competed with the white ghosts that spoke a different language from her own. Moon Orchid, being timid and passive, later withdrew herself and went crazy as her husband attempted to mortify and silence her for even claiming her identity as the legal wife. The phantom then, symbolizes the invisible, the silenced, and the living dead that are rejected, forbidden and unable to recognize and claim their identity.