About the Project

This project was led by Dr Tanja Bueltmann and sought to provide the first sustained reading of present-day British and German expatriate social networks and associational forms in Asia within the wider context of their historical antecedents. From October 2013, the project was funded, over three years, with 234,810 by the Economic and Social Research Council of the UK through the Future Research Leaders Grant scheme.

Asia, while having seen a substantial degree of outmigration in recent years, has consistently received its share of European arrivals since the seventeenth century, and, given the region's economic growth over the last two decades, continues to witness an increase in their number. For many of these migrants, thrust into an alien cultural environment, ethnic associationalism and social networking are among the most common responses to life in the new home. By utilising such formal and informal strategies of sociability, they are building on an enduring tradition that has long since been part of the migratory chain. Yet despite its long history, the persistence of ethnic associations and networks among migrants in the Far East has received little attention, particularly when it comes to the new generation of expatriates.

St George's Day, Singapore 1956

By moving beyond the traditional focus on Anglophone cultures in the former British Empire in Asia, this project compared contemporary migrant community life of migrants from the British Isles and Germany, throwing up the prospect of better understanding both groups and exploring intercultural differences in expatriate social networking. The project concentrated on how social networks in the two communities are channelled by different ethnic and cultural organisations, including ethnic societies, such as St Andrew's societies and German clubs, but also cultural organisations like the Goethe Institute or the British Council, and diplomatic missions, recognising their quasi-ethnic associational roles. More informal sociability, for instance through hashing, were also explored to unravel what expatriate social networks tell us about present-day migrant life and identity in Asia, shedding light on the reasons behind the continued importance of ethnicity in migrant communities.

A wide group of academics and non-academics will continue tobenefit from the research, which, through a growing number of outputs, offers a knowledge-shaping new approach to the transnational study of expatriate community life, networking and ethnicity.