Early in 2014, I was contacted by Masaki Matsuo, a professor and researcher in Japan. He and other researchers there were familiar with my work, and asked if I could come over for a visit in September. I just returned from that trip, and thought I would give a brief description of the impressive institutions and individuals I encountered there.
Thanks to Masaki and Hirotake Ishiguro‘s arrangements, I was able to deliver one presentation and participate in two workshops during my week-long visit. That visit started in Tokyo, where I was hosted with JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) and IDE (Institute for Developing Economies). I first met with a group of researchers at IDE who share my focus on the Gulf States of the Arabian Peninsula, and who have active projects in the region. My presentation, Social Research in the Contemporary GCC, provided me with an opportunity to discuss various facets of the research project designs I’ve implemented over the last decade, and with a small group of knowledgeable and experienced researchers, we found much to discuss.
The next day was a presentation in front of an extremely large audience at JETRO. That audience, consisting of scholars, people with active business concerns in the Middle East, and personnel from various government ministries, were actively interested in academic readings of the culture, societies, economy, and evolving political frameworks in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. My presentation, entitled Migration, Labor and Business in the Worlding Cities of the Arabian Peninsula, described the Gulf States’ long history of regional and global interaction, the political economy of development predominant there today, and the important role of labor migration in those societies. In that presentation, I also took the opportunity to introduce a few new ideas that I’ve been exploring, including the social role of gatekeepers and imagineers in the unique, cosmopolitan demographies of the region.
Our final scheduled event was at Kyoto University, where my hosts had arranged a workshop entitled The Arab Gulf States: Authoritarian Regimes and Expatriates. My paper, entitled Hosts, Migrants, Visitors, and the Enveloping Field of Relations, focused more specifically on the frontiers of our collective scholarly knowledge of the migrations and mobilities with one endpoint in the Gulf States.
Meeting and presenting with Dr. Marc Valeri (Exeter) was an honor, and I was equally impressed by the extraordinary number and quality of research that the Japanese academic system fosters. As we discussed after our workshops and presentations, I hope that this visit will help build future collaborations that extend our knowledge and understanding of the Arabian Gulf States.