Helena Hof

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Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Foreign entrepreneurs in Tokyo’s and Singapore’s knowledge-intensive start-up sector

Helena conducts her individual project at the Department of Socio-Cultural Diversity at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. The project studies migrant-led innovation in Tokyo’s and Singapore’s start-up ecosystem and focuses on the link between migrants’ involvement in local entrepreneurial networks and their professional as well as overall embedding in the host society. In the light of Japan’s and Singapore’s attempts to attract and retain entrepreneurs in innovative sectors the project examines the human side of these entrepreneurs’ presence in the host cities and their involvement in local businesses and communities. The main aim is to sketch a picture of the diversification of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the two cities and to explore if and how social networks and skills (previously accumulated or acquired in the migration process) contribute to foreign entrepreneurs’ social incorporation in their host soctieties beyond mere professional incorporation.

Helena will conduct four field trips to each city. On site, she will combine ethnographic observations with qualitative interviews with migrant entrepreneurs, their co-founders and staff, as well as stakeholders from the business community, and subsequently implement a quantitative survey. In Singapore, Helena will be based at the Asia Migration Cluster, Asia Research Institute, at the National University of Singapore. In Tokyo, she will be hosted by Waseda University’s Institute of Asian Migrations (IAM), of which she has been a permanent visiting researcher since 2020.

See Helena’s profile at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity for more information on her project-related activities and move to her University of Zurich profile for an overview of Helena’s full academic CV.




Hof, Helena. 2022. The EU Migrant Generation in Asia. Middle-Class Aspirations in Asian Global Cities. Bristol: Bristol University Press.

Podcast: ‘The EU Migrant Generation in Asia. Middle-Class Aspirations in Asian Global Cities’. New Books Network, 22 February 2023.

Book talk at Temple University Japan Campus, 10 February 2023.

Journal Articles

Hof, Helena and Jaafar Alloul. 2023. Migratory class-making in global Asian cities: The European mobile middle negotiating ambivalent privilege in Tokyo, Singapore, and Dubai. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2023.2271669

Hof, Helena, Simon Pemberton and Emilia Pietka-Nykaza. 2021. ‘EU migrant retention and the temporalities of migrant staying: A new conceptual framework.’ Comparative Migration Studies. 10.1186/s40878-021-00225-5

Hof, Helena and Yen-Fen Tseng. 2021. ‘When “global talents” struggle to become local workers: The new face of skilled migration to corporate Japan.’ Asia and Pacific Migration Journal 29: 4. DOI: 10.1177/0117196820984088

Hof, Helena. 2020. ‘Intersections of Race and Skills in European Migration to Asia: Between White Cultural Capital and ‘Passive Whiteness’. Ethnic and Racial Studies. DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2020.1822535.

Hof, Helena. 2020. ‘Opting Out for Getting In: Existential Mobility in European Graduates’ Migration to Asia.’ Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies. DOI: 10.1080/15562948.2020.1755761.

Hof, Helena. 2019. ‘The Eurostars Go Global: Young Europeans’ Migration to Asia for Distinction and Alternative Life Paths.’ Mobilities. DOI: 10.1080/17450101.2019.1643164.

Hof, Helena. 2018. ‘‘Worklife Pathways’ to Singapore and Japan: Gender and Racial dynamics in Europeans` Mobility to Asia’, Social Science Japan Journal, Special Issue Winter 2018, 21 (1): 45-65.

Liu-Farrer, Gracia and Helena Hof. 2018. ‘Ōtebyō: the Problems of Japanese Firms and the Problematic Elite Aspirations.’ Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies (Waseda), 34: 65-84.


Contributions to edited volumes

Hof, Helena. 2022. ‘Die mixed embeddedness ausländischer Unternehmer*innen in Tōkyōs
Startup-Ökosystem.’ In: Chiavacci, David; Wieczorek, Iris. Japan 2022. München: VSJF – Vereinigung für sozialwissenschaftliche Japanforschung, 233-259.

Hof, Helena. 2020. ‘Locally embedded cosmopolitans: Young Europeans crafting their own space in Singapore and Tokyo.’ In Contemporary European Emigration, by Brigitte Suter and Lisa Åkesson (eds.). Routledge: pp. 39-57.

Hof, Helena and Gracia Liu-Farrer. 2019. ‘Gender, Labour and Migration in Japan.’ In The Routledge Companion to Gender and Japanese Culture by Mark Pendleton, Jennifer Coates and Lucy Fraser (eds.). Routledge: pp. 189-98.



Hof, Helena. 2023. Podcast ‘The EU Migrant Generation in Asia. Middle-Class Aspirations in Asian Global Cities’. New Books Network, 22 February (https://newbooksnetwork.com/the-eu-migrant-generation-in-asia).

Hof, Helena. 2022. Book review of “Transnational Musicians. Precariousness, Ethnicity and Gender in the Creative Industry” (Beata M. Kowalczyk, 2020, Routledge). Intersections, 47 (July 2022).

Hof, Helena. 2022. ‘How COVID-19 changed migration (research): Constrained research practices, constrained migrant subjects.’ Blog post of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, 3 June (https://www.mmg.mpg.de/940281/blog-hof-how-covid-19-changed-migration).

Hof, Helena. 2022. Book review of “Studying Japan: Handbook of Research Designs, Fieldwork and Methods” (eds. Nora Kottmann and Cornelia Reiher, 2020, Nomos). Social Science Japan Journal.

Hof, Helena. 2020. Book review of Expatriate Managers: The Paradoxes of Living and Working Abroad, Anna Spiegel, Ursula Mense-Petermann and Bastian Bredekötter (2019). Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration 4(2): 275-277.

Hof, Helena. 2017. Book review of: Title: Migration, Whiteness, and Cosmopolitanism: Europeans in Japan, by Milos Debnar. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, XI+235 pp., 89.99€ (ISBN 978-1-137-56526-6). Social Science Japan Journal 20(2): 235-38.