Temporality, civic engagement and alterity: Indo-kei in contemporary Japan

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Recent studies of civic engagement with ethnic others have attempted to rethink the ground of liberal multiculturalism by locating the migrant in coeval, not differential, time. Based on an ethnographic study of subcontinental migrants (Indo-kei) in contemporary Japan, this article draws attention to the limits of claims of coevalness, specifically its inadvertent reinscription of identitarian thought. Drawing on Kojin Karatani’s notion of the “borromean rings” of capital–nation–state, and the multiple times associated with each, the article tracks the figure of the Indo-kei within a fluid terrain of social relationality through the varied sites and spaces of capital, nation and state in twenty-first-century Japan. This enables a more nuanced understanding of the borders/lines/distinctions that shape the migrant’s journey through multiple zones of civic engagement/disengagement in different locales.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-29
Number of pages27
JournalAlternatives: Global, Local, Political
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • civic engagement
  • temporality
  • migrants
  • Japan


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