Dr. Helena Hof
Helena Hof joins the department as a new research associate for the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funded four-year project “"Skill" in the Migration Process of Foreign Workers in Asia”. Under the BMBF’s initiative to strengthen research in the so-called “small-subjects”, Helena will conduct independent research at the MPF-MMG, and cooperate in the larger project with four more early-career scholars at the University of Frankfurt, the University of Duisburg-Essen, and the Free University of Berlin. She will mainly be located at her home institution, the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and travel to the MPG-MMG and the project’s partner institutions for regular workshops and intellectual exchange. In her new project, Helena studies migrant-led innovation in Tokyo’s and Singapore’s knowledge-intensive start-up sectors and focuses on the link between migrants’ involvement in local entrepreneurial networks and their professional as well as overall embedding in the host society. As capital cities of Japan and Singapore, two aging societies in need of innovation, Tokyo and Singapore attempt to attract and retain entrepreneurs in innovative sectors yet the human side of these entrepreneurs’ presence in the host cities and their involvement in local business and communities has yet to be studied.
Helena’s doctoral and postdoctoral research in Tokyo, Japan, focused on the entanglements of physical mobility, career mobility and social mobility in European migrants’ early-career trajectories in the global cities Tokyo, Singapore and Sao Paulo. Her dissertation argues that the rising phenomenon of “middling migration”, i.e. self-initiated labour migration of the highly educated yet not elite, unsettles taken-for granted concepts of skilled migration and privilege and demonstrates that non-Western global cities such as Tokyo and Singapore become alternative homes for young Europeans, who find themselves on a fairly horizontal socio-economic level with migrants from Asia and early-career citizens. Since moving to the University of Zurich in 2020, where Helena serves as a Senior Research and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Japanese Studies, she has worked on her book manuscript based on her dissertation and has additionally taken up the position of book reviews editor at the academic journal Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration.