Accepted Paper:

Challenging borders by creating transnational families: the case of Pakistani-Japanese couples  


Masako Kudo (Kyoto Women's University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the strategies and lived experiences of Pakistani-Japanese couples as they expand their family across national borders. Using longitudinal data, the study explores how the couples contest the borders and use various strategies to overcome the challenges they confront.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the strategies and lived experiences of Pakistani male migrants and their Japanese spouses by using longitudinal data related to their family making. This type of cross-cultural marriage increased from the late 1980s when Japan suffered a serious shortage of labor which lead to an influx of foreigners working under precarious conditions as "illegal workers." In a country that has not officially allowed the entry of "unskilled labor," marrying a Japanese woman was one way for a migrant to acquire the legal right to stay in Japan to work. However, after marriage the couples faced difficult challenges, including the exclusion of foreigners from the labor market and various forms of discrimination due to the negative representations of "foreigners" and "Muslims", particularly after 9/11. This study explores how the couples dealt with the challenges and employed strategies to expand their life across national boundaries. Of particular importance is the formation of transnational families whereby the Japanese wives and their children relocate to Pakistan or a third country, including the UK, and the Pakistani husbands remain in Japan to continue their business. Such a strategy reflects the hope of the couples for achieving economic success and maintaining their Muslim identity by raising their children in an "Islamic environment." By exploring the complex trajectories of family making by Pakistani-Japanese couples, this paper sheds light on their aspirations and struggles, as well as the contradictions that they confront as they pursue their strategies for expanding their lives beyond national borders.

Panel Mig006
Border control policies and borderland social practices