Working Paper

Locating Privilege in Transnational Mobilities: The Case of Diplomatic Communities

Published 23 October 2020 / By Sarah Ayumi Ginoux

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Introduction

Despite being considered valuable actors of state practice based abroad, diplomats are rarely perceived to be affected by mobility. This paper seeks to (re)centre mobility in the study of diplomacy and locate privilege in transnational mobilities by approaching diplomatic communities through the lens of privileged migration. Based on interviews conducted in December 2019 with various diplomats and their family members in Tokyo, Japan, it explores the boundaries that define diplomats as a migrant community. It argues that despite the assumption that privileged migrants’ lives are unbounded, the transnational identities and lives of diplomats are in fact defined by the creation of boundaries — or boundary-making — the individual, collective and institutional process of locating oneself in the external world. These boundaries operate along the lines of education, work, race, gender, class, nationality, culture, status and politics. In addition, structures, spaces and practices are explored as boundaries and, simultaneously, as the sites where boundary-making takes place. By examining the practices of diplomatic boundary-making, this paper reinserts diplomats in the migration studies literature.

About the author: Sarah Ayumi Ginoux is a graduate of the MSc in Migration Studies.

Keywords: Privileged migration, ‘expatriates’, diplomats, transnationalism, Japan, boundaries, boundary-making

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