Fachgruppensitzung Soziologie und Sozialanthropologie 2021

Organizers: Carola Hommerich (Sophia University), Nora Kottmann (DIJ Tokyo), Celia Spoden (DIJ Tokyo)

Foreign entrepreneurs in Tokyo’s and Singapore’s knowledge-intensive startup sector (Helena Hof, University of Zurich/Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity)

This presentation introduces a new comparative research project that studies migrant entrepreneurship in aging societies that are in need of innovation. At the comparison of foreign entrepreneurs in Tokyo’s and Singapore’s startup ecosystem, the project focuses on the link between migrants’ involvement in local entrepreneurial networks and their professional as well as overall incorporation in the host society. In the light of Japan’s and Singapore’s attempts to attract and retain entrepreneurs in innovative sectors the project examines the human side of these entrepreneurs’ presence in the host cities and their involvement in local businesses and communities. The main aim is to sketch a picture of the emergence of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tokyo and Singapore and to explore the relation between the diversification of businesses and that of society, as well as the potential of fruitful synergies between the two.

The project adopts an exploratory qualitative approach, including ethnographic observations and qualitative interviews with migrant entrepreneurs, their co-founders and staff, as well as stakeholders from the business community. This will help identifying the relevant institutions, people, and relationships that build and shape Tokyo’s and Singapore’s entrepreneurial ecosystems. Building on scholarship on innovation ecosystems the project will examine how the “social interconnectedness of the many innovation actors” (Drovenik and Rangus 2017) affects the sustainability of an ecosystem and what this entails for migrants’ inclusion in the host society. An intersectional perspective complements the analysis and is sensitive to the intersection of various markers of difference that matter when foreign and local entrepreneurs engage in each city’s complex entrepreneurial ecosystem. The project offers cutting-edge research on innovation in migrant-receiving aging societies and thereby contributes to social science Japan research, scholarship on innovation and entrepreneurship, and studies of international migration and social diversification.

The utilization of archaeology in Japan: Origin explanations and origin myths in contemporary identity construction (Marie Ulrich, Institute for Modern Japan, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)

Archaeological findings in Japan have been used for identity politics ever since the end of the Asia-Pacific War in 1945. To construct a specific narrative, archaeological and mythological approaches are regularly connected. Various actors, among them prefectural tourism departments, museums, and historical revisionists, are taking part in this instrumentalization of archaeology while pursuing different goals. Analyzing five different archaeological sites and considering region, age of the respective findings, and participating actors, my PhD project shows how different foci are chosen for an identity-political interpretation.

In international archaeological discourse, the relationship of archaeology and nationalism has been a topic of discussion for several decades already. In this debate, archaeology in Japan is generally viewed as pursuing nationalist research aims. However, studies that present a detailed analysis of the relationship of nationalism and archaeology in Japan are scarce. My project aims to address this lacuna.

Using fieldwork and (expert) interviews, I plan to extricate how the creation of origin narratives based on archaeological findings play a role in contemporary national identity construction in Japan. Considering the ongoing shift to the right in Japan, it is high time for a detailed analysis of the interpretation and presentation of archaeological findings as another aspect used to strengthen nationalist aims. Thus, my project contributes to a critical approach to the utilization of ancient times.

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Household Income and Mental Well-Being: Evidence from a Panel-Survey in Japan (Carola Hommerich, Sophia University (presenting), Hiroshi Kanbayashi, Tohoku Gakuin University, Naoki Sudo, Hitotsubashi University)

The present study examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s economic and psychological states using data from a four-wave online panel survey carried out in Japan from June 2020 to March 2021. Our results indicate that the pandemic amplifies pre-existing socioeconomic inequality by disproportionally affecting socially vulnerable groups. Lower socioeconomic status groups, who were already disadvantaged in the labor market prior to the pandemic based on gender or educational level, were more likely to experience economic downturn. Further, working in the service industry or in smaller companies was also associated with a higher risk of experiencing job loss or pay cuts.

In addition, we found that the pandemic has had detrimental effects not only on socioeconomic conditions, but also on mental well-being. Here also, socially vulnerable individuals are more strongly affected. With social distancing orders in place to curb the spread of infection, social capital—usually an important coping resource in times of disaster—could not function to counterbalance these negative effects. Instead, increase in distrust and loneliness further deteriorated the mental well-being of individuals. Overall, our results point to the urgent need for additional support for the socially vulnerable.