Postgraduate students research a broad range of topics across the School disciplines.
From the Porous Spaces on the Bubble: The Life and Work of Japanese Expatriate Employees in Indonesia and their Relations to the Host Society
This is an ethnographic study of both geographical and spatial transnational ‘migrants’, namely, expatriate employees of transnational organisations/corporations, who work away from home countries for a limited period, and their relationships with host national colleagues who work alongside them in transnational office spaces. The central aims of this study are to explore the ways in which expatriate and host national employees work and interact with each other in and out of office spaces and to consider the influences and meanings of the movement of these people and their face-to-face interactions in our globalising societies.
With a focus on the Japanese and Indonesian staff of a branch office of a Japanese transnational organisation in Jakarta, as well as a field office in Makassar, this study shows that Japanese expatriate employees (and their families) and host nationals develop important forms of transnational relationships that have hitherto been underexamined. Granovetter’s theory of ‘the strength of weak ties’ highlights the way in which the functional strength of structurally weak ties effectively connects these two sets of individuals.
The dominant view in the existing social science literature is that ‘elite’, ‘cosmopolitan’ expatriate employees live in a ‘bubble’ cut off from the host societies. Challenging the superficial image of the ‘bubble’, this study expands our ways of thinking about transnational connections. Considering the dual features of ‘closure’ and ‘openness’ in interpersonal interactions, the arguments of this study contribute to both the current discourse of transnational studies and the area of business studies. Finally, this study suggests that ties forged through face-to-face interactions in porous spaces on the surface of the bubble and intermittently sustained between (ex-)expatriate and (ex-)host national employees, support the emergence of a latent transnational business/social community beyond national boundaries.
This study will fulfill gaps in both the existing social science literature and international business studies: the former overlooks actual interactions between expatriate and host national employees; and the latter tends to see their relationships as a fixed one of managers/subordinates.