AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 255

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Session 255: Rethinking Citizenship in Asia: Comparative Perspectives on Recent Trends: Boundaries and Belonging

Organizer: Sophia Woodman, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Chair: Elena Barabantseva, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Discussant: Kyung-Sup Chang, , South Korea

Across Asia, relationships between state and citizen have been changing in response to phenomena such as state restructuring, economic competition, “reform” of welfare systems and increasing transnational flows of people, ideas and things. This panel will contribute theoretical and substantive insights to the interdisciplinary literature on citizenship through comparisons of contemporary manifestations of changing citizenship regimes across Asia. One of two panels on this overall theme, this section focuses on aspects of boundaries and belonging, a central concern of this literature. One of the four case study papers looks at the effects of displacement on conceptions of ethnicity and nation among Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees who fled to Vietnam to escape the Khmer Rouge. Another shows how the project of creating “virtuous citizens” who provide free services for foreign migrant workers in South Korea relies on new forms of exclusion. Using people whose lives straddle China’s borders as an example, the third paper looks at how issues of race, ethnicity and gender complicate the relationship between nation and citizenship there. The fourth asserts that despite similarities in class formations in the process of economic development and state building, varying conceptions of citizenship in Turkey and India have shaped their disparate patterns of contention over social exclusion. Each presenter will have 10 minutes to present their case study, and five minutes to draw out comparative implications from the other papers on this and the companion panel for their own case. The discussant will comment on their findings and point out theoretical implications.

The Ambiguity and Rigidity of Chinese Citizenship
Elena Barabantseva, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

The issues of citizenship and nationalism in China, and indeed elsewhere, are usually studied as distinct concepts and social practices. Citizenship is normally associated with civic sentiments and rights while nationalism is attributed to the domain of ethno-politics. In practice, however, it is often difficult to separate nationalism and citizenship, particularly in the realm of state politics. This paper seeks to examine the place of nationalism in shaping the discourse on the Chinese citizen. The paper problematizes Chinese citizenship through juxtaposing it with the issues of race, ethnicity, and gender. It shows that the way the Chinese state utilizes the tools of citizenship, nationality, and ethnic categorization—the most basic instruments in constituting the Chinese nation—has real political implications, as they affect the lives of many people inside and outside of China. Drawing on the analysis of legal, cultural and social statuses of overseas Chinese, ethnic minorities and Vietnamese female migrants in Chinese popular and official discourses on Chineseness, the paper demonstrates the ambiguity of the term “Chinese nation” and the flexibility and rigidity involved in designating who belongs to it, and to what group and nationality within it. While legally Chinese citizenship and ethnic categorization are strictly defined, in practice they are often ambiguous notions revealing the roles of race and ethnicity in Chinese politics and an inseparable link between citizenship and nationalism in China.

The Making of Ethical Citizenship: Migrant Centers, Volunteers and Foreign Workers in South Korea
EuyRyung Jun, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

In this paper, I examine ways in which “civil society” is being mobilized to address the issue of foreign workers in South Korea. Based on my field research conducted in the greater Seoul area since 2004, I discuss the ways in which “migrant centers”—local advocates and service providers for foreign laborers that have emerged in the country since the early 1990s—serve as a focal point in the emergent “citizens’ care” of foreign workers. Specifically, I look at migrant centers’ everyday practices of providing free legal, medical, educational and “recreational” services for migrants, for which they rely on volunteer labor and donations from individuals and groups who are willing to offer their expertise, labor, money and time for the issue of foreign workers. In the migrant centers’ promotion of “civil responsibility” and “citizens’ solidarity,” foreign workers mostly remain as the receiving end of the giving, not simply because they do not have enough capital to share, but because, being foreign, they are already excluded from membership of “civil society.” In this paper, I show how such a project of generating “virtuous citizens” relies on new forms of exclusion and inequality. I suggest the emergent “ethical citizenship” (Muehlebach 2007) that individualizes matters of social inequality and justice can be understood within the framework of what I call the “ethics of neoliberalism.”

Transcending Citizenship: Nation-Making Through the Experience of Vietnamese Cambodians and Cambodian Vietnamese in the 1970s
Dany Long, Independent Scholar, Cambodia

This paper contributes to understanding of how ideas such as ethnicity and citizenship are affected by the context of war. It is based on life history interviews and archival research, tracking 21 Viet/Kinh and Khmer people and their families who took refuge in Vietnam from the Khmer Rouge regime of Democratic Kampuchea, 1975-79. Narratives of life during the Indochina war, sojourning to escape terror at home and the hardship of resettlement shed light on a complex process of recognizing and claiming ethnicity and/or citizenship. I suggest that the corporeal experience of individuals as well as the suffering of social units such as families force people to overcome the ultimate constraints of life-and-death situations. In as much as citizenship has to be made or earned, and thus is not without expense, homelands are also reinvented through selective remembering. Recollections of peace, joy and luck are inevitable in the narratives of the displaced to mark the human triumph over death, loss and suffering. I also reflect on the research process, considering how I as a Vietnamese-speaking Khmer-Chinese Cambodian researcher navigated the delicate ethnographic terrain that characterizes the complex and intertwined history and politics of Cambodia and Vietnam history from the 20th to the 21st centuries.

Rethinking Citizenship in Asia:comparative Perspectives on Recent Trends: Boundaries and Belongings
Ayse Zarakol, Washington & Lee University, USA

This paper explores the different ways citizenship norms are framed in India and Turkey, and how the framing of such norms affects the relationship between the haves and have-nots in each society. Both countries exhibit sharp urban-rural, center-periphery and “Westernized”-“traditional” divisions typical of late(r) developing Asian contexts, as well as high levels of income inequality. Furthermore, both countries have extensive bureaucratic cores, which, prior to the rise of a more proper capitalist bourgeoisie class subsequent to economic liberalization (1980s in Turkey, 1990s in India) fulfilled the role of a middle class. However, whereas in Turkey the development of the hinterland has brought great polarization between the bureaucratic middle class and the new bourgeoisie, in India such polarization has not occurred. At first glance, this is surprising because the material gap is perhaps even larger in India. We argue that the difference can be attributed to the distinct way citizenship ideals have been articulated in Turkey and India. The Turkish citizenship norm, which was inspired by the standards of international society in the 1920s, is highly teleological and assimilationist, and is therefore not flexible enough to accommodate the changing social standards which accompany economic development and global integration. India’s norm, which combines elements of traditional liberal democratic and communitarian conceptions of citizenship, has served to delink political contestation from economic advancement. This innovative comparison illuminates that citizenship norms can have a defining effect on how problems of stratification are contested in a society. (coauthored with Simanti Lahiri)

Rethinking Citizenship in Asia: Comparative Perspectives on Recent Trends: Boundaries and Belongings
Simanti Lahiri, University of Alabama, USA