AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 525

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Session 525: Cultural Movement

Click to Protest: The Creative Destruction of Dissent and the Changing Contexts of Civic Engagement and Political Participation in the Philippines
Niel Nino Lim, Independent Scholar, Philippines

Protests and its changing forms characterize the first decade of Philippine politics into the new millennium, from a replay of the EDSA People Power concept to a supposed mobilization formula fatigue to a reinvention of public action against and towards government, where technology has played quite a determining role. These changes, as well as the public’s appreciation of such, have allowed for a re-imagination of the traditional approaches of civic sense and their replacing with alternative expressions of civic virtues, a rather superficial transformation of indignation which accommodates convenience and consumption. Convenience and consumption, in turn, have engaged (and to an extent, encouraged) others to be involved in civic and political issues. While the participatory character of new technologies and the financial benefit and gratification of commercializing participation still continue to shape a new form of engagement, at the very least, they seem to have provided a political barometer and served as entry points for concerned and interested people who would otherwise not join demonstrations, campaigns or organized political or non-government organizations. However, the same shift has prompted discussions on generational differences and more often a sweeping critique, if not lament, of youth citizenship and participation. This paper explores the dynamics and changing contexts of civic engagement and political participation, with particular focus and interest on the perspectives, approaches and issues of youth activism, where the change is best observed.

United Front from Below: The Proletarian Cultural Movement in Japan Revisited
Mats A. Karlsson, University of Sydney, Australia

In June of 1931 the Proletarian cultural movement in Japan announced a radical change of direction, with an initiative originating in the international Communist discourses holding sway at the time. From now on members were to desist from sectarianism and mere pamphleteering in the streets and factories and expand the struggle into a mass-movement, mobilizing workers and farmers across the nation. Cultural circles created in factories and villages were to empower the masses to take direct control of the production of art. This paper tracks the route of these new directives to their ultimate destination at the grass-roots level. In particular, it investigates the outcomes of the new directives by an analysis of resulting discourse that appeared in the various newspapers and journals issued by the movement. In doing so the paper attempts to reevaluate the unrealized potential of the movement by focusing on its practical outcomes. It shows that there was a genuine yearning for cultural enlightenment that went hand in hand with the struggle for improved living conditions among the masses. The paper tentatively concludes that were good prospects for real sociopolitical change but that a less revolutionary stance within the movement could have proved more effective.

The Critics and Criticism of Silpa Wattanatham Column
Janice M. Wongsurawat, Independent Scholar, Thailand

Siamrath Weekly News magazine, known for its social and political commentary, hosts Thailand's oldest - more than 30 years running - column of art criticism, Silpa Wattanatham (‘art and culture’). This paper focuses mainly on the writings of 4 of the column's major contributors, i.e. Pishnu Supanimitr, Parinya Tantisuk, Manit Sriwanichpoom and Paisan Plienbangchang. Some background on the critics is given, along with brief overviews and surveys of their writings, including a few translated passages to illustrate the critics' different styles and interests. These critics tend to break into two camps, i.e. conservatives connected to the traditions of palace, religion and royal service (Pishnu and Parinya) and the more populist critics who see art in a rather proletarian context of urban and rural social change (Manit and Paisan).

Reconstructing Hegemony: The role of ideas in debates on affirmative action in Malaysia
Rochana Bajpai, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom

Affirmative action is fiercely contested, but this debate has been largely based on the experience of Western countries. We focus on the ways in which affirmative action is legitimized in non-Western contexts, deploying a new conceptualization of hegemony to this effect. Building upon previous research on India, we provide a comparison with Malaysia, examining how changing conceptions of social justice help understand policy change. We develop a stripped-down notion of ‘hegemony’ as a project of ideational consensus building, but denuded of its privileged relationship with class. Drawing upon the conceptual approach to the study of ideology, we argue that hegemony be understood as the process whereby particular ideologies are translated into consensual public standards. Methodologically, this paper suggests that textual analysis of political debate in institutional arenas offers a unique vantage point for the analysis of hegemony. Empirically, the paper traces the emergence of a hegemonic project in Malaysia through an analysis of four critical parliamentary debates since independence. While the successful deployment of a hegemonic strategy in the 1970s created a consensus around affirmative action, its reformulation after the economic crisis of 1985 committed the regime to notions of competitiveness within a globalized economy. These ideational commitments have become ‘locked in’ to the hegemonic project and are now driving the disestablishment of the policies they were developed to legitimate. We conclude that hegemony requires commitments as well as consensus and these commitments may be as limiting on the exercise of power as consensus is on its contestation.

The Communist Resurgence in Malaysia
Hui Ling Ho, University of Malaya, Malaysia

This paper proposes to study the emergence of communist movement in Malaysia in 1968. To achieve its goal to turn Malaysia into a Communist republic, the Communist Party of Malaya (hereafter CPM) decided to rearm to pursue their struggle in Malaysia after the failure of Emergency (1948-1960). Several causes affected this act. One of those are CPM managed to gain support from the communist organizations in neighbouring countries such: Thailand remained neutral to CPM activities within its territory; the Communist Party of China lent unconditional support to CPM; and the development of communist in Indonesia proved to be some sort of support for the CPM cause. Besides, the CPM cannot wait much longer for the stability in Malaysia was unprofitable to them. After their withdrawal from Federation of Malaya on July 31, 1960, CPM has succeeded in building up its military strength by recruiting new members in Southern Thailand. On June 17, 1968, CPM began violence activities by ambushing military convoys, laid mines along Malaysian-Thailand border and blowing railways. Unfortunately, CPM did not succeed in achieving its goal. The signing of an agreement (Haadyai Peace Agreement) between the Thailand Government, Malaysian Government and the CPM in Hat Yai, Thailand on December 2, 1989 brought the communist insurgency in Malaysia to an end.

Aesthetics of Kokuyo-kai: An Association of Anarchists and Avant-garde Artists
Gen Adachi, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Japan

This paper examines the aesthetics of Kokuyo-kai, a group of anarchists and artists formed during the end of 1919. It analyzes how and why the anarchist artists have been overlooked in the history of Taisho period avant-garde art. The group Kokuyo-kai was named after the black obsidian stone that is the symbolic color of anarchism. In the center of this group was Japanese anarchist Osugi Sakae. Although this group is not well known in the field, it had a significant impact on the origins and distinguishing features of the Japanese avant-garde. The leader of Kokuyo-kai, Mochizuki Katsura, who made humorous futuristic painting with skulls and bombs, organized controversial non-juried art exhibitions, named Kokuyo-ten from 1920-1921. As represented in Osugi’s work Self-portrait (1920), when compared with other avant-garde artworks of the same time, almost all of the works displayed in Kokuyo-ten may appear like amateurish scribbles. But in fact, artists of Kokuyo-kai aimed to abolish the established conventions of the existing art system and society more than other art movements of the period. Mochizuki denied art as a profession and made extremely critical works that were confiscated by police. This can be seen in the group’s collaborations with antagonistic communist groups, and also in their emphasis on connections to theatrical performance, musical concert and literature. In conclusion, this paper contends that it is necessary to challenge the narratives created by authorities and antagonistic communists by re-evaluating the role of anarchism in the history of the avant-garde in Japan during the mid-1920’s.