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Asian Citizenship from “Above” and “Below”: Complicating Formal Modes of Belonging

Sun, April 3, 10:45am to 12:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, Floor: 2nd Floor, Room 204

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel


Over the last few decades, the reality of globalization has made the idea of a culturally homogenous state increasingly unrealistic and has led to intensified debates over notions of citizenship and belonging. Whereas much of the literature on nation-building has paid attention to post-conflict scenarios, scholarship on multicultural citizenship has focused mainly on North America, Australia, and Western Europe. Yet, state-making takes place in all countries. Heterogeneous societies in Asia where the concept of citizenship remains highly contested by governments but also non-state actors provide particularly interesting examples of how Western-centric models of nation-building fall short. In this panel, we engage from multiple disciplines with the concept of citizenship in Asia and the ways it is being constructed, operationalized, and contested, sometimes from above using the powers of the state in developing national identity through government initiatives such as military conscription or compulsory education programs, sometimes from below in religious discourse of civil society groups or informal modes of affiliation practiced by long-term residents. Presenting original research based on new empirical and archival material, we are particularly interested in the question of how notions of citizenship develop in the tension between state-centric and informal modes of social identity formation. How are understandings of citizenship interpreted, negotiated, accepted, adapted, and hybridized in diverse Asian contexts? Going beyond the immediate concerns of Asia, this panel speaks more broadly to critiques of Eurocentrism in calling for an understanding of complex social processes that takes into account more processual, dynamic and malleable realities.

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