AAS Member Spotlight: Gabriele Vogt

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Dr. Gabriele Vogt, Professor of Japanese Politics and Society, University of Hamburg

How long have you been a member of AAS?

I joined AAS in 1999, just when I started out with my PhD.

Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues?

When I attended my first AAS Annual Conference (2003 in New York) I had just completed my PhD in Japanese Studies, and had taken up a postdoctoral position at Cornell University. I was new to the U.S. and was looking for a way to connect with American and international colleagues in Asian Studies. The AAS is definitely a terrific platform for international networking.

How did you first become involved in Asian Studies?

I have been deeply interested in Japan since participating in a youth exchange program. After one year at Munich University as a sociology major, I decided to swap majors and take up Japanese Studies—despite the warnings issued by virtually any career counselor who I had talked to.

What do you enjoy most or what have been your most rewarding experiences involving your work in Asian Studies?

Fieldwork is the best part of my work! I did my PhD on Okinawan politics. Needless to say this topic involved much presence in Okinawa, talking to activists, politicians and military representatives alike.

Add to that Okinawa’s beautiful climate, great food, and wonderful hospitality. On a more serious side, I also find teaching a very rewarding experience. In particular so when the semester winds up and I figure I was able to spark some substantial interest in Japanese politics and society among a handful of students.

Tell us about your current or past research.

For the past ten years I have been working on Japan’s demographic change and migration policy. I ask how Japanese politicians, business representatives and activists frame international labor migration to Japan as a possible countermeasure to demographic population aging and population decline. Japan’s Economic Partnership Agreements that allow for health-caregiver migration from the Philippines, from Indonesia and Vietnam to Japan. These programs are, however, hugely unattractive to potential migrants and potential employers alike. One might say they were designed to fail. I find that quite puzzling given Japan’s nursing shortage. One of my core research interests is to dig into the reasons for this puzzle and to compare Japan’s migration scheme to similarly unattractive systems in, for example, Germany.

What advice or recommendation do you have for students interested in a career in Asian Studies?

It seems to me that these days it would be highly beneficial to young scholars’ careers if they specialized in two or even more countries in the area of their interest. Solid expertise in a comparative perspective is becoming more fundamental to our research it seems.

The most important recommendation, however, might be to face career insecurities with ease (and hope your partner does, too). Also, become efficient in packing up your things, since you’ll probably be moving around quite a bit.

Outside of Asian Studies, tell us some interesting facts about yourself.

I was born in Munich. Contrary to cliché I don't know the first thing about beer, but I love to listen to my Japanese colleagues explain to me the different tastes of the many types of Bavarian beers! More in line with stereotypes, however, I love to hike in Bavaria, swim in cold mountain lakes and, needless to say, I am a supporter of Bayern Munich, my hometown’s soccer team.

"The AAS is definitely a terrific platform for international networking."

— Gabriele Vogt

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