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Accepted Paper:

Dependence, obligation and improving livelihoods: the importance of remittances for Kenyan migrant athletes in Japan  
Michael Peters (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Kenyan runner migrants in Japan face enormous pressure to conform to a transnational system of dependence and obligation. My fieldwork identifies obstacles the runners face and explores how they improvise suitable responses to meet expectations of responsible adulthood.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation seeks to uncover and interrogate an important component of social and economic mobility and the path to a better life through an exploration of the experiences of Kenyan runner migrants in Japan. Fueled by a commonly held perception in Kenya that migrants are able to provide generously, Kenyan runners in Japan are embedded in a transnational system of dependence and obligations to meet the needs of family and friends. While this can stand in conflict with the ideals of fiscal and familial responsibility held by the Japanese organizations that the runners belong to, most of these runners intend to eventually return to Kenya and therefore cannot risk isolating themselves socially. A responsible adult is one who contributes to family and community; for the runners in Japan, the most feasible option to contribute is through remittances. From the receivers' perspective, remittances do not only satisfy their own immediate needs (e.g. housing, education), but can also serve to heighten status by providing a source of capital that may be redistributed among networks of relatives and friends. The Kenyan runners in Japan understand the importance of remittances and feel the pressure to provide more than what would normally be expected if they never left Kenya. This presentation will draw on my fieldwork in Japan to highlight the obstacles the runners encounter, the dynamics of lending and borrowing between the runners, and the benefits associated with remittances for both the senders and receivers.

Panel P008
Transnational sport migrants and human futures
  Session 1