Encountering Asian Identity in Study Abroad: Opportunities and Risks in Transnational Spaces

Mr Levi Durbidge1

1Monash University, Clayton, Australia

The widespread movement of people and information across international borders has meant that encounters with the ‘other’ have become more frequent, and thrust issues of cultural, racial and national identity to the fore of popular discourse. A subset of this global movement involves students travelling abroad for study, placing them in transnational spaces where these questions of identity become highly salient and of urgent importance. Drawing on a mixed-methods study of Japanese adolescents who spent a year abroad across Europe, North and South America, this presentation will explore both the opportunities and the risks that cultural and racial identities posed. The findings demonstrate how being identified as Japanese created opportunities to build friendships and have romantic encounters. The presentation will also examine how broader notions of Asian identity abroad were encountered, and the ways that this could be both empowering and marginalising. I will argue that participant experiences were inherently tied wider attitudes linked to migration and the soft power of Japanese cultural output.


Levi has been involved in language education in Japan and Australia for more than 15 years, both at the secondary and tertiary levels. This experience informs his interest in exploring how changes driven by globalisation and technology affect the learning and identities of academically mobile individuals.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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