Performing foreignness: subjectivities in the workplace among foreign residents of Tokyo

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McKenzie, Evan
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This thesis examines the ways in which Western expatriates working in Tokyo businesses in Japan position themselves and are positioned by others in “foreigner” subject positions. I will argue that in post-Lehman-shock corporate Japan, this foreignness is performative and displaces other subjectivities. Foreignness can be understood as a fluid position on a flexible continuum between nihonjin (honourary Japanese) and gaijin (foreigner). This subject position describes the lived experience of translocal subjects, but also reflects larger global flows of capital, culture, and national identity. In the realm of international finance, Japanese corporations are also vying for positions with their outsiders seeking to find advantageous subject positions. This thesis also aims to contribute to an understanding of translocal subjects and the ethnographic methodologies required to decipher their positioning. This thesis is based on ethnographic observant participation in three corporate settings concurrently over a period of ten months, supplemented by semi-structured interviews, informal field notes and archival research.
Cultural anthropology, Transnationalism, Performativity, Subjectivities