AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 389

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Session 389: Re-imagining Cosmopolitanism in East Asia: History, Institutions, and Social Practices

Organizer: Seio Nakajima, Waseda University, Japan

Chair: Thomas B. Gold, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Discussants: Eileen C. Chow, Duke University, USA; Thomas B. Gold, University of California, Berkeley, USA

“Cosmopolitanism,” defined generally as an openness to foreign others and cultures, is rapidly becoming one of the most vital concepts in contemporary social sciences. Globalization has renewed old anxieties concerning the consequences of transnational flows of goods, services, people, and culture, and the notion of cosmopolitanism, as normative and descriptive categories, re-emerged as a potential alternative to both ethnocentric nationalism and cultural relativism. However, the majority of existing studies remain either in the realm of abstract theoretical reflection, or examine cosmopolitanism as a free-floating individual attribute, an orientation of openness to different people, cultures, and thoughts. Their focus on individuals has hindered investigation of wider historical and institutional conditions of cosmopolitanism in concrete empirical settings, where cosmopolitanism is manifested in specific social practices. The lack of adequate analytic attention to history and institutions is exacerbated by the fact that the existing studies rely almost exclusively on European cases and therefore presume European history and institutions as conditions of cosmopolitanism. This panel aims to fill these gaps by presenting grounded empirical research on a variety of historical and institutional settings, from the period of WWII to the present, from a number of societies in East Asia including China, Japan, and Korea, and in various realms of social life, such as film, work, citizenship, collective memory, and international relations. Theoretically, the presentations aim at re-conceptualizing cosmopolitanism by critically reflecting on the genealogies of cosmopolitanism in East Asia. The wide-range of research styles by presenters, including ethnography, regional comparison, interviews, historical-archival research, and textual analysis, offers a methodologically rich foundation to “re-imagine” cosmopolitanism in East Asia.

Li Xianglan as Colonial Cosmopolitan: A Sociological Study on the Making of a Film Star
Seio Nakajima, Waseda University, Japan

Cosmopolitanism is often defined as an openness to foreign others and cultures, and being able to understand foreign languages and cultures is said to be a necessary condition for a cosmopolitan. Yamaguchi Yoshiko (1920-) aka Li Xianglan (and in post-war American films, as Shirley Yamaguchi), who is fluent in Japanese and Chinese (and later English), and was active in China, Japan, and the United States, appears to be an ideal-typical case of a cosmopolitan. However, an examination of her career and the films she starred during WWII reveals a complex collusion between imperialism/colonialism and the cultural hegemony of a certain type of cosmopolitanism entailing subtle and not-so-subtle mechanisms of exclusion, discrimination, and domination including the manipulation of ethnicity and nationality as a “symbolic capital” (Bourdieu) convertible to other forms of tangible material and political resources. In terms of theoretical approach, existing research on film actors/actresses are divided into studies which emphasize individual biography, and studies which focus on historical, politico-ideological, and industrial contexts. I attempt to move toward a critical synthesis of the two approaches by extending the theories and concepts presented in the “new sociology of ideas” (Camic and Gross), and presenting what I call a “new sociology of film actors/actresses.” I provide a preliminary sketch of such an approach by presenting detailed case studies of the production, distribution, exhibition, and reception of the three films starring Li Xianglan (Song of the White Orchid [1939], China Nights [1940], and Vow in the Dessert [1940]), produced by the Toho Film Company.

The Labor of Cosmopolitan Hospitality in Beijing
Eileen M. Otis, University of Oregon, USA

Hospitality is central to the notion of cosmopolitanism in the works of Kant, Derrida and Benhabib. Hospitality embodies an ideal set of practices that would acknowledge difference but eliminate difference as a basis for claims to access to resources and safety. This paper finds that, in contrast to this notion of hospitality, modern marketized hospitality constructs hierarchical difference between categories of people in the name of cosmopolitanism that is, in fact, a form of cultural capital with value among Western elites. To illustrate, I draw on a case study of a global hotel and investigate the class, gender and cultural inequalities that enable a simulation of cosmopolitanism evident in the modern global hotel. While the global hospitality industry provides an infrastructure that facilitates global flows of affluent people, the global hotel is in fact a kind of cultural prophylactic, preventing genuine cosmopolitan engagement with local, regional cultural forms. I investigate the labor involved in sustaining this bubble of culture. Part of this labor involves constructing a shared masculinity among predominately male guests that bridges cultural boundaries. This experience of shared masculinity is in large part manufactured through gender inequality, specifically through the service labors of a predominately female staff. I argue that it is these workers who are genuinely cosmopolitan, since they are required to adopt many of the practices of their global clientele in order to service them, altering their bodies and methods of interaction in the process. Paradoxically, workers are formally excluded from the simulation of cosmopolitanism that they enable, since they do not have the means to become guests at the hotel.

Cosmopolitan Citizenship in Japan and Zainichi Korean Activism
Hwa-Ji Shin, University of San Francisco, USA

Recent changes in Japan’s immigration and citizenship laws signal a decoupling of citizenship from nationality. Citizenship rights in Japan are being slowly yet steadily extended to permanent resident aliens. Analyzing the popular and policy debates on citizenship and immigration, this paper identifies the forces that enhance and/or limit this decoupling. My findings illuminate the effect of globalization and the legacy of colonialism in this process, and show how Zainichi Korean activism plays a critical role in mediating these effects in promoting the cosmopolitan notion of citizenship in Japan. Since the end of WWII, Zainichi Koreans’ efforts to strive as a transnational diaspora prompted the formation of a cosmopolitan notion and practice of citizenship. Their success in extending citizenship rights to permanent aliens was due to a shift in their framing, spurred by globalized human rights norms and transnational political alliances. While this marks the decoupling between citizenship and nationality, it does not imply that citizenship in Japan is now becoming post-national. The extension of citizenship rights through the cosmopolitan notion benefited mostly Zainichi Koreans who had a unique historical and political standing in relation to the Japanese state, but did not tend to benefit other immigrants, suggesting that regional politics and colonial legacies embedded in East Asia also limit the distribution of cosmopolitan citizenship within society. Critically reflecting the impact of both regional history and globalization on citizenship, this paper offers empirical materials to illuminate how cosmopolitan citizenship is imagined, constructed and practiced in the East Asian setting.

Globalization and Collective Memories of the Asia-Pacific War: The Growing Confrontation between Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism as Logics of Commemoration
Hiro Saito, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Although studies of collective memory took for granted the nation as a unit of analysis, recent studies have used the case of the Holocaust commemoration to explore how globalization allows memories to traverse national borders and become cosmopolitan. Instead of fostering cosmopolitanism, however, globalization can also intensify interaction of collective memories to foreground their disjunctions as a source of international conflicts. To advance research on collective memory in a global world, then, it is not sufficient to examine how people come to commemorate a past event as members of humanity; it is crucial to clarify how emerging cosmopolitan commemorations interact with existing collective memories and identities rooted in the logic of nationalism. To answer the question, this paper examines how Japanese commemorated the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the cultural trauma constitutive of their national identity, in relation to wartime atrocities that Japan had committed in Asia Pacific. While the Asia-Pacific War was an international tragedy, its memories were largely fragmented along national borders. In the 1990s, however, transnational interaction of war memories intensified, restructuring the ways in which Japanese commemorated their trauma vis-à-vis other peoples’, such as the Nanjing Massacre and the colonial rule of Korea. Thus, by analyzing how memories of the war began to interact through the sites of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and transform Japanese commemorations, the paper theorizes mechanisms through which globalization forces people to negotiate cosmopolitanism and nationalism in constructing collective memories and identities.

Can Japan and Korea Reconcile?: Inter-State vs. Transnational, Cosmopolitan Historical Reconciliation
Hilary Jan Izatt, Georgetown University, USA

Over the past two decades, interstate relations between Japan and Korea have constituted an increase in economic, social and cultural exchanges, reflecting a perceived “thaw” in historically tense relations. However, colonial and wartime legacies are still a prevailing theme to relations at both the social and political levels. Consequently, any headway that interstate reconciliation efforts have achieved has been rather short-lived and tainted by each country’s historical bias. In order to achieve a more lasting reconciliation between the two countries, I argue for a transnational, cosmopolitan approach to the history question in the following three areas. First, Japan and Korea must learn from and objectively apply the reconciliation experiences of other states outside of Asia, like South Africa and even Rwanda. In this realm, organizations like Truth and Reconciliation Committees and joint textbook committees would take a more formalized systematic role and be free of historical biases. Second, the international legal notion of universal jurisdiction offers a potential and important reinterpretation of international law that would set a precedent for victim compensation, a necessary and sufficient condition to lasting reconciliation. Third and finally, the international community, as led by the United States, must take a proactive role that would entail taking some historical responsibility for the problem’s formation. Only when the history question between Japan and Korea is placed within a larger, transnational and cosmopolitan purview, can viable and lasting reconciliation be realized.