Asian Studies Conference Japan

Saturday, June 19 - Sunday 20, 2004
Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University

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 Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Session 2: Room 207

National Identities in Contemporary Asia

Organizer / Chair: Giorgio Shani, Ritsumeikan University

The end of the Cold War and the various changes in the international system that followed had a significant impact on national identity discourses not only in Europe but also in Asia, where the changes were less dramatic but not less significant. This panel will address the changes in the discourse and their significance from various perspectives.The first paper will address the impact of globalisation and liberalisation on Indian national identity since 1991. The second paper will address Japanese national identity construction vis-a-vis post-Soviet Russia. The third paper will focus on national identity issues in Xinang (Uigur), China in the post-1991 period. The fourth paper will analyse the impact of the end of the Cold War on the construction of national identity by ethnic Chinese and Korean residing in Japan.

1. Mustapha Kamal Pasha, Meiji Gakuin University / American University.
Violence, Modernity and Political Identity in South Asia

This paper examines the centrality of violence in the formation and consolidation of political identities in South Asia, notably the states of Pakistan and India at the time of the Partition. Scholarship on the Great Divide generally tends to highlight the irrational and primordial dimensions of a traditional society as explanatory sources of violence. Built-into these accounts is an equation of violence with a pre-social, natural universe. Challenging this perspective, I approach Partition violence as a modern pathology closely intertwined with the career of colonialism in South Asia and its particular enactment as nationalism. I rely on Ashis Nandy and Zygmunt Bauman for explicating the link between modernity and violence. The paper also addresses the recent scholarship on the Partition as a basis to explore larger conceptual issues in social theory.

2. Giorgio Shani, Ritsumeikan University
Rebranding India: Globalization, Hindutva and Sikh Identity in the Punjab

This paper will examine the transformations in India's national identity since the liberalization of the economy in 1991 and its impact on Sikh identity. It has been suggested that globalization, in the form of economic liberalization, privatization and structural adjustment, has resulted in increased dislocation and uncertainty for many people in South Asia (Kinvall 2002).This has led to a search for meaning and the politicization of ethno-religious identity. In India, globalization has contributed to the emergence of “Hindu Nationalism” as advocated by the BJP. Hindu nationalism may be seen as a middle class, high caste project of cultural homogenization (Appadurai 1996) that seeks to replace the inclusive, secular Nehruvian idea of India (Kilnani 1997) with a unified, homogenous ethnicised Hindu political identity (Bhatt 2001, Jaffrelot 1996). The emergence of the BJP as the hegemonic force in Indian politics has coincided with increased communal conflict between Hindus and Muslims throughout the region. However, this period has also seen the ‘strange death of Sikh ethno-nationalism’ (Singh 2004) in the Punjab. This paper will seek to account for this by looking at the changes in India's political economy and in centre-state relations which have accompanied the decline of the Congress Party hegemony in the past decade.

3. Joanne Smith, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Uyghur National Identity: Crystallisation and Fragmentation Since the End of the Cold War

Until recently, the Muslim Uyghur of Xinjiang, NW China lacked a common sense of national identity, subscribing rather to oasis and social group identities. However, largely in response to the break-up of the Soviet Union and the creation of independent neighbouring Islamic states in 1991, the Uyghur 'nation' has entered a new phase. In this new phase, it is alternately - and sometimes simultaneously - crystallising and fragmenting in relation to changing political, economic, and social contexts.The complex process of identity formation and transformation can be divided into two distinct periods: 1991-1997, and post-1997. The former saw a growing emphasis on Uyghur-Han ethnic boundaries - symbolic, spatial and social - in urban though not rural Xinjiang, and a sharp increase in separatist activities (assassinations of indigenous officials, bus bombings) as the Uyghur became the only sizeable Central Asian population without an independent state. Ethno-nationalist activities intensified in the run-up to 1997, widely believed at the time to be the year in which Uyghurs would secede from the People's Republic. The activities included the emergence of two 'voices of the Uyghurs,' whose nationalist songs went some way to spreading anti-Han sentiment to the less politicised countryside. However, the trend towards crystallisation of national identity has been deeply affected by the military suppression of the 1997 Ili riots, the government's political, religious and cultural crackdown, and the blanket labelling of large numbers of Uyghurs as Islamic terrorists as China appropriates the US-led War against Terror in a bid to suppress "ethnic splittism" within its borders. This paper examines the links between repression and recent identity formation in Xinjiang, focusing both on examples of resistance (e.g. the current Islamic renewal among young males) and of accommodation (e.g. apparent collaborationism of Uyghur 'escort girls' in the Han-dominated regional capital, Urumchi).

4. Apichai Shipper, University of Southern California
Divided Imagination: Legal Foreigners on Illegal Compatriots in Japan

Unlike many other industrialized countries where old-comers take the lead in supporting the newly arrived foreigners, old-comers in Japan do not support newly arrived and illegal foreigners. Why do ethnic associations established by old-comers, particularly from Korea, China, the Philippines, and Thailand, not support their illegal compatriots? The paper argues that Korean and Chinese ethnic associations hold strong ideological views and have preoccupied themselves with political activities in their "home" countries, despite the fact that members have little experience with their "home" lands. For them, "home" is more imagined than experienced. In the cases of legal Filipinos and Thais, their legal residential status creates a social distance between them and their illegal compatriots. Legal Asians prefer to maintain their privileged status by not assisting their illegal compatriots. Instead, members of these co-ethnic associations aim to improve the living conditions for legal foreigners, basically themselves. And like the Koreans and Chinese, members of the co-ethnic associations are preoccupied with their own country's politics.

Discussant: Ritu Vij, Keio University


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