AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 131

[ Interarea/Border-Crossing Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]


Session 131: Shifting Facets of Governance in Asia: A Transcultural Perspective

Organizer: Mareike Ohlberg, Shih Hsin University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Chair: Anja Kluge, University of Heidelberg, Germany

The canon of the traditional literature on governance shows it as a concept which, although in its theoretical grounding and methodology is of Western origin, has a universal outlook. Although political reality has betrayed these assumptions, some hopes of universal development still form part of important decisions by Western policymakers, as the unsuccessful examples of creating structures of governance in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown. Taking further the broad definition of governance—which refers to systems of rule at all levels of human activity—the panel adopts a perspective that focuses on the role of inter-organizational and transnational networks. The papers in this panel highlight a wide array of indicators of governance, such as bureaucracy, health care, media representation, and the role of NGOs. Applying the recently popularized theoretical tool of transculturality – an approach which assumes universal entanglement between Asia and the West – the panel examines the adaptation of various aspects of governance (using examples of concepts, practices, and institutions) in different East and South Asian contexts. Employing both a top-down and a bottom-up perspective, the participants in this panel will show how Asian state and non-state actors have hybridized various components of the ‘governance’ package in order to gain legitimacy in their own societies as well as with their Western counterparts. The panel seeks to trace the process of transfer and transformation as well as to problematize the universal applicability and understanding of various aspects of governance.

Aspects of Governance: India and the Transcultural Dimension of Global Health Governance
Anja Kluge, University of Heidelberg, Germany

It can be debated whether globalization is a new or an old phenomenon, but nevertheless this process brought changes to different systems of societies. In modern times these influences are increasingly visible. Globally affecting factors need a globally effective strategy. The states face a process of adaption with regard to (old and) new global challenges and generate institutions. Thereby actors attempt to cope with global problems like terrorism, climate change or health. Various institutions brought to non-Western countries through the paradigm of modernization intensified transcultural flow, but did not result in trickle-down effects for all parts of society. Also, stable institutions capable of coping with global challenges did not develop. In this paper global governance is understood as an instrument to protect global public goods. Taking India as case study, the main focus will be on health as one important aspect of society. The process of globalization could in some parts improve the state of health through the mobilization of civil society organizations or the provision of external financial support. But, similarly, globalization generated asymmetries, for example with regard to the allocation of financial benefits. Even today, trickle-down effects do not automatically reach all parts of society. The main question of the paper will focus on actors and structures as well as on transcultural flows of different health concepts through the process of global health governance, its actors and its limitations.

Being a Governed Muslim in a Non-Muslim State: Indian Muslims and Citizenship
Julten Abdelhalim, University of Heidelberg, Germany

With the changing social fabric of Western societies and the rise of the minority question, fervent debates have arisen on Muslims living as minorities. Indian Muslims present us with an almost unique case of Muslims living in a democracy as an integrated part of the Indian body of citizenry and not as migrants or descendants of migrants. This paper, consequently, seeks to provide an anti-essentialist perspective to the discussion of Muslim politics and the dilemma of accommodating Islam and citizenship within a context of democratic governance. The case of Indian Muslims offers interesting insight into showing how transculturality can form a basic tenet of understanding citizenship in a postcolonial, yet democratic setting. Confronting the Eurocentric bias and simultaneously trying not to fall in its trap of essentialization and Othernization is one major task. This is attained by showing how Islam, as a worldview, presents different and intriguing conceptualizations of political action and agency. This paper is driven by the urge to understand the puzzle of why Indian Muslims appear to have the highest sense of citizenship and rates of positive responses to democracy than the national average. Hence, it is argued that the case of Indian Muslims presents us with alternative hybrid and postcolonial conceptions of what a citizen is as opposed to the liberal and republican-based paradigms.

Governance in the Age of the Mass Media: Indian (National) Identity at the Crossroads?
Lion Koenig, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Undeniably, visual media affect governance on all possible levels. Mass media are employed by state actors to promote their agenda for nation-building and identity-formation and are equally used by non-state actors to negotiate these, or to oppose them by setting up counter-narratives. Applying a transcultural approach further enriches the perspective: the Indian state after 1947 in a strategic attempt to homogenize the culturally heterogeneous groups that formed the Union continued using mass media, such as All-India Radio, set up by the British colonial power for similar purposes. After the state monopoly on television fell, the vast media landscape in India underwent significant transformations. Increasingly, more groups demanded access to the media sphere, which was perceived as a forum where the concept of Indian national identity could be debated. Drawing on most recent research, it will be shown how the Indian state has dealt with these new challenges and what effects this has had on governance. The difficult role in which the Indian state finds itself, guaranteeing the right to the conservation of culture and to free speech while at the same time having to prevent violent inter-communal clashes raises larger questions about the role of censorship, and the challenges for any nation-state in times of ever-expanding mass media. Methodologically, the paper bridges the gap between political science and media theory to underline the vital importance of the media for an understanding of political processes, such as governance and to highlight it as the basis upon which social identity is constructed.

When Global Meets Local – Cultural Flows in Governance of World Heritage Site Old Town of Lijiang, China
Yujie Zhu, Australian National University, Australia

World heritage is widely discussed as dynamic and living value systems of layered significance central to the individual, community, national and global sense of cultural esteem and identities. In practice, governance in heritage sites has created space for dynamic negotiations between the local and the global, the economic and the cultural, the powerful and the weak, and the production and the consumption. In the case of the World Heritage Site of Lijiang, China, the proliferation of commercially-constructed tourism development discourse has increasingly become a challenge to the local governance of cultural heritage. During the process of commodification, influences of different agencies such as UNESCO, national and local government, and international NGOs are heavily interconnected. Under this multi-leveled power relation, the local government takes an active role in communicating with global agencies on heritage governance in an effort to enhance cultural diversity and local identity by interpreting indigenous cultural heritage for visitors. Grounded in the tourism development discourse of Lijiang in the past two decades, this paper aims at exploring the juxtaposition of globalization, nationalism and localization in the process of Lijiang’s endeavor to strengthen and develop its local identity and cultural continuity. The mutual communication between local government and global actors in Lijiang on heritage governance during the regeneration of indigenous culture will be addressed against the backdrop of the political, social and economic transformations under the agenda of modernization in China.

Good Governance in a Transcultural Context: A Case Study of E-Governance Initiatives in India
Bidisha Chaudhuri, University of Heidelberg, India

This paper plans to explore how normative and universal notions of (good) governance are negotiated and altered while applied in a hierarchical social setting in rural India. While taking a critical stand against the global language of good governance, this paper takes up a society-centric bottom-up approach to understand e-governance initiatives in Indian villages. The aim is to evaluate to what extent these enterprises are shifting the notions of governance in a particular cultural setting and how can these notions be understood in a generalized context. The broader theme of the paper is to capture the shifting concepts, institutions and practices of governance emerging out of a complex interplay between structure and agency. Hence the emerging approaches of transculturality will shed new light on the politics of governance in Asia (particularly India in this case) and bring out new concepts to understand the contextual multiplicities involved in myriad facades of governance.

Transnational Image Management:The Bureaucratic Basis of Strengthening China’s Soft Power
Mareike Ohlberg, Shih Hsin University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

In 2009, China decided to provide large subsidies to expand its global media and create a Chinese CNN, one of the many indications that influencing global opinion has become a major concern in Chinese politics. While these developments, which to a large extent were fuelled by U.S. discourse on public diplomacy (but are still officially subsumed under the term foreign propaganda in China), have caught the attention of Western media, little is known about the bureaucratic structures behind Chinese foreign propaganda policies. This policy sector has historically been located between the propaganda and the foreign affairs systems, complicating policy coordination. In recent years, the players involved in the policy process have been further extended to include institutions from other line bureaucracies. At the 2009 National People’s Congress, one of the delegates recommended that China establish an institutional structure to coordinate public diplomacy, an indication that finding a solution for this policy sector is moving up the party agenda. This paper offers an analysis of the structure of authority and the channels of coordination between different bureaucratic players, crystallizing the characteristics of the foreign propaganda sector, highlighting overlapping responsibilities and conflicting interests between different institutions, and assessing previous reforms. Moreover, the paper looks at various models of image management from other governments as well as corporations that the Chinese government draws on to reform its foreign propaganda structures. In sum, it seeks to illustrate how the globally popular notion of influencing foreign publics is translated institutionally in the Chinese bureaucracy.