Erin Aeran Chung is the Charles D. Miller Associate Professor of East Asian Politics in the Department of Political Science, the Director of the East Asian Studies Program, and the Co-Director of the Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship (RIC) Program at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. She specializes in East Asian political economy, international migration, and comparative racial politics. She has been a Mansfield Foundation U.S.-Japan Network for the Future Program Scholar (2012-2014), an Abe Fellow at the University of Tokyo and Korea University, an advanced research fellow at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Program on U.S.-Japan Relation, and a Japan Foundation fellow at Saitama University. Her first book, Immigration and Citizenship in Japan, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2010 and translated into Japanese and published by Akashi Shoten in 2012. She is currently completing her second book, Immigrant Incorporation in East Asian Democracies, under contract at Cambridge University Press, which examines how national policies and immigrant advocacy groups shape collective identity formation, solidarity networks, and strategies for political empowerment among immigrants and their descendants in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.
Scholars and policymakers are grappling with a troubling trend among the current wave of immigrants. Foreign communities are growing in size; yet, many immigrants and their descendants remain politically unincorporated, which is evident in low naturalization rates, vast economic disparities, and racial and ethnic tensions. At present, we lack a clear understanding of the specific factors that facilitate or inhibit immigrant political incorporation cross-nationally and cross-regionally. U.S.-based studies focus largely on individual-level variables to explain naturalization rates while European scholarship concentrates on formal citizenship and immigration policies. The portrayal of immigrant incorporation as a two-way relationship between the state and immigrants does not reflect on-the-ground practices where intermediary organizations and civil society groups play central roles in shaping paths for immigrant political empowerment. This project explores how immigrant advocacy groups shape the process of immigrant political incorporation in industrial democracies with descent-based citizenship policies, or ethnic democracies. With immigrant agency at the center of its analysis, this project asks why foreign residents make the political choices they do as they become permanent members of their receiving societies. By comparing countries that represent a single model of immigrant incorporation in East Asia and Western Europe, this project will provide insights into the gaps between policy intent, interpretation, and outcomes. In addition to its contributions to scholarship on immigration and citizenship, this project seeks to offer policymakers, organizations, and activists with conceptual tools to design and implement efficacious policies and consultative arrangements for immigrant incorporation. I will employ a combination of focus groups, open-ended questionnaires, and in-depth interviews in Tokyo, Seoul, Berlin, and Vienna. Five focus group sessions will be held in each site, divided into advocacy group members, non-member clientele, and advocacy group leaders and local government officials involved in foreign resident affairs. The focus groups will be important for identifying patterns of political mobilization, political socialization, and attitudes about the state and local communities across immigrant generations, national origin groups, and legal status. Prior to the focus group sessions, questionnaires will be administered to focus group participants that will solicit information about participants’ organizational affiliations and details about their political activities. Both of these methods will then be supplemented with in-depth interviews of focus group participants and an additional 25 activists and local government officials. These complementary methods will provide the basis for constructing a critical account of how state policies and mediating institutions shape choices for immigrant political empowerment. This project is an important bridge between my forthcoming book, Citizenship and Immigration in Japan (Cambridge University Press), and my next book project on noncitizen political participation in ethnic democracies. I will apply my extensive experience in ethnographic research methods and specialization in Japanese and Korean politics gained through my first book project while utilizing the contacts that I have acquired as Co-Director of the Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship Program at Johns Hopkins University to collaborate with experts on European immigration politics. I plan to publish the results of my research findings in 2 journal articles and a book project.