RGS Conference Paper


Governing Lifestyle Migration in East Asia: The Promotion and Regulation of Western Migration in Thailand and Malaysia 

Kate Botterill and Karen O’Reilly

As an introduction to the session on Lifestyle Migration and the state this paper considers how lifestyle migration, as Caroline Oliver (2012) suggests ‘occupies a place at the least regulated end of the continuum’ in relation to the governance of migration’. Using analysis of empirical fieldwork with Western lifestyle migrants living in Thailand and Malaysia, the paper discusses the patchwork governance of lifestyle migration in these states. We argue that national policies and programmes to promote lifestyle migration in East Asia are delegitimized by variable regulatory practice across different scales (local, national and transnational) and in particular places. As such, there are differentiated outcomes of lifestyle migration for Westerners in these states with varied perceptions and experiences of intra-state and trans-state practices. Moreover, the impacts of global financial crises has led to further unpredictable outcomes for lifestyle migrants, with exchange rate differentials causing a material decline in income, particularly among those of pensionable age with frozen (home-) state pensions. The paper concludes by supporting Oliver’s (2012) position and re-asserting a call for further discussion on the desirability and practice of lifestyle migration governance at different scales.


Interview with an Expat


Interview with an expat

The blogger ‘tropical expat’ has done an interview with an expat and pasted the interview on his blog. You can read the interview here: tropicalexpat

He is planning on doing some more, so I shall be keeping a lookout for them. It’s an interesting phenomenon – the researched doing their own research, and publishing it. There is no reason why they shouldn’t, of course, but it has caused me to reflect on my own ongoing work, my own interview material, and what I am doing with it all. I love to hear expat (or lifestyle migrant) stories but we can’t publish our own in this way as they tend to be intimate, in-depth, and usually confidential. Also, when we interviewed people we did it for university research purposes, not for blogging. However, we will be looking at our interview material as a whole over the coming weeks and looking for common themes and those special insights that come from qualitative research. We will use quotes from the interviews, but will usually either anonymise them or make sure the interviewee has agreed to be quoted. Nevertheless, some interesting challenges arise from the very public nature of so much of what we we do these days. Should I ever have started blogging? The lifestyle migration in Asia project blog can be seen here.

Is Sociology like journalism?


People often ask me what a sociologist is and over the years I have tried out all sorts of different responses. I have said it is like psychology but instead of focusing on individuals we recognise everyone is always part of a society or group. I have also said sociology is like history, but of the present day – we learn about how people live now. I’ve tried using Tim Ingold’s phrase that goes something like ‘sociology/anthropology is philosophy with the people in’. But that doesn’t work so well for me. But, recently, when I told someone I was doing research on expats living in Penang (because, believe me, that is easier than saying ‘lifestyle migrants in Penang’, especially when you are standing up on a crowded bus having this conversation), she asked me if I was a journalist and I gave a reply that I now think makes quite a bit of sense. I said, no, I am a sociologist. We are like journalists, I guess, but we take more time and go into more depth. We are concerned with getting a broad picture that is likely to be too complex to write up in a short article but that will be more faithful to the complexity of the world we live in than a journalist’s ‘bit of news’. We are also not constrained by the demands of newspapers or publishers; we do not need to be newsworthy or sell our stories (although those things are beginning to change, aren’t they, with certain pressures). I said we are concerned with being objective and somewhat scientific in what we do (without wishing to going into that hoary old debate on a bus!). When I had finished waffling, the woman smiled and replied ‘I am a journalist’. It’s okay, we ended up laughing together as we both got off the bus to make our way up Penang Hill.