Conference Papers and Abstracts

Paper abstracts can be found below.

Session 1: Subaltern Mobilities

Chair: Nira Wickramasinghe (Professor of Modern South Asian Studies, Leiden University)

Sugata Nandi 
Department of History
West Bengal State University, Kolkata, India 

Undesirable Outsiders: Urban Violence and the Construction of the Migrant in Colonial Calcutta, 1907-26                
This paper interrogates the construction of the migrant poor in colonial metropolis by the official and indigenous elites in early twentieth century colonial India.  From the end of the nineteenth century the number of city poor in colonial metropolises like Bombay and Calcutta increased steadily due to migration, and from around the same time the poor asserted themselves making innovative use of public space in the cities. Calcutta experienced four major riots of varying lengths and intensity during the years 1907, 1910, 1918 and 1926. Each of these violent outbreaks witnessed participation by sections of the city poor. Reactions of the colonial officialdom and the indigenous elites following each riot traced its origins to ‘outsiders’ i.e. migrants in the city. In these two sets of separate yet largely similar discourses migration was transformed from a mere journey to a complex set of phenomena that led ultimately to volatility, violence and crime.  Colonial officials and the elites constructed the migrant as the proverbial flotsam in an urban setting, who were uprooted from villages and insufficiently or incorrectly urbanized. For the officials and the elites migrants embodied a void due to the loss of rural societal ties and a vulnerability to violence and crime due to anomie in the city. This paper argues that between 1907 and 1926, the officials and the indigenous elites turned the urban poor of Calcutta into an equivalent of the dangerous class of nineteenth century Europe and sought to dislocate them from cities styling them migrants.

Rajashree Mazumder

History Department
University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Low Income Housing and Debates on Immigration in Early Twentieth Century Rangoon, Burma
This paper focuses on low income housing debates in early twentieth century Rangoon, Burma and the manner in which these debates provided a ground for the identification and creation of the figure of the Indian immigrant in official discourse and popular imagination. Instead of taking the category of the immigrant as ‘given’ my project traces how it was historically constructed in this colonial setup. Discussions on certain municipal issues in Rangoon contributed to a process whereby the urban underclass, which was initially described as racially heterogeneous group of people, over a period of time, came to be identified exclusively as immigrants from certain Indian provinces. The speakers in this debate were mostly propertied city elites – colonial officers, administrators, Burmese community leaders, Indian representatives, and members of organizations such as the Social Service League, medical men, lawyers and professionals.

Through these debates, the housing problem was acknowledged to be essentially an unregulated immigration problem and the laboring Indian migrant responsible for cluttering the city space and causing health hazard. In 1931, the Burma Round Table Conference was held to deliberate the future of political reforms for the province. The Conference, using information generated through investigations into the social conditions of immigrants in Rangoon, advanced a proposal to create legal categories of “domiciled” and “undomiciled”. European, Burmese and Indian representatives to the conference agreed to define unskilled manual laborers migrating from India as the latter class. When, in 1937, Burma separated from British India, the Burmese government legally restricted Indian immigrants from entering Burma for reasons of employment.

Non Arkaraprasertkul
Department of Anthropology
Harvard University

Locating Shanghai: Mobility, Processes, Effects of Globalization, and Historical Global Forms in the Changing Urban Landscape of Modernity
In this paper, I present my work-in-progress focusing on communities living in traditional alleyway houses called "lilong." Built by foreigners for the Chinese, these were the only housing forms in China’s first modern city until the 1980s when the opening up of China to the outside world of trade brought about other forms of housing. Thus, lilong is more than just a physical structure but a "culture" in itself. Today, lilong neighborhoods are facing many issues: the physical dilapidation of housing and infrastructure, the politics of historic preservation, and the process of state-led gentrification. In this paper, I hope to contribute to our understanding of new forms of interaction among the heritage rhetoric of a post-colonial city, migration and mobility, dominance of an emerging market created for higher-income residents, and alternative forms of urban spatial change. In this paper, although I am looking at migration in the strictest sense of the term, I am placing the emphasis on the history of the flows of capital, architectural representations, and the forms of migration in the city of Shanghai from the end of the First Opium War in 1842 onwards. I am also looking at the flows of attitudes towards the changing forms of dwelling cultures in the historical vis-à-vis traditional lilong housing.

Henri Myrttinen
Nordic Institute of Asian Studies


Networking, Patchworking and Street-fighting in the Bairo: Transcending dichotomies of tradition/modernity, urban/rural and local/global in violent East Timorese youth groups
The paper will discuss two effects of migration through an examination of the lives of young men involved in gangs, martial arts groups (MAGs) and ritual arts groups (RAGs) in Dili, Timor-Leste.

The first phenomena to be examined the ‘crisis of masculinity’ faced by the young men, many of whom are recent migrants to the city. They can not, nor necessarily want to, fulfil traditional, rural ideals of masculinity but are also not able live up to imaginings of successful modern, urban masculinity. The hybrid identities formed in these groups, the paper argues, allow the young me to mix imaginings of the traditional (including rituals, black magic and warrior ideals) with imported Asian and globalised media imagery of hegemonic masculinities.  

The second phenomena to be examined is the simultaneous extreme locality of the groups which co-exists with forms of networking which transcend neighbourhood, city and even national boundaries. The lives of the young men involved in the groups are often limited to a very small section of Dili yet at the same time, especially in the larger groups, they are linked to national networks of belonging. A fight between members of one group with another will reverberate across the country and at times amongst the East Timorese diaspora in Indonesia, with SMSes and Facebook playing an increasing role in exporting and importing violence to and from the bairo neighbourhoods.


Session 2: Commodity Networks - Circulating People, Objects, Knowledge and Power

Chair: Ratna Saptari (Lecturer, Institute for Cultural Anthropology, Leiden University)

Rotem Kowner
Department of Asian Studies
University of Haifa  

The Export of Japanese Slaves in Early Modern Times: National Power, Asian Flows and the Shaping of the Modern Concept of Race
When Portuguese traders arrived in Japan during the mid sixteenth century, they came across a vibrant local market of slavery and bondage. With no apparent prohibitions, they soon began to export thousands of Japanese to other parts of Asia and even further afield. There was nothing unique about this Lusitanian trade. In many other parts of Asia, such as in the Indian sub-continent, Southeast Asia and even in south China, the Portuguese and subsequently Dutch were involved in precisely the same activity. On the Japanese side, however, certain features of the slaves and the ways in which the local regime responded to this foreign trade made the phenomenon not only short-lived but also without the negative impact it had on the image of local communities in other parts of Asia and— needless to say—in Africa and the Americas. All in all, the high regard for the Japanese slaves, the employment of many of the males as soldiers in various European colonial forces in early- seventeenth-century Asia, and especially the success of the shogunal regime in curtailing the trade within a relatively short time were instrumental in preserving the high regard in which Japan was held as a whole. 

In this presentation I will introduce the relatively unknown phenomenon of the European use of Japanese slaves in seventeenth-century Asia, examine its effect on the preliminary conceptualization of race during this time, and reflect on its long-term legacy in issues relating to migration in modern Japan.  

Anna Grasskamp
Institute for Cultural Disciplines (Art History)
Leiden University

Asian objects as ‘agents’: Sixteenth-century knowledge migration through material culture
During the sixteenth century objects of East Asian material culture travelled farther and in greater numbers than did East Asian people. Chinaware reached Europe in shiploads at a point in history when Chinese people themselves did not; Japanese lacquerwork became a requisite component of European elite collections, while Japanese people remained rare guests to the Papal court. 

European period sources indicate that foreign artifacts were in fact collected ‘to lead to an understanding of foreign customs and workmanship’ (Quiccheberg, 1565). This interest in craft led directly to the development of new technologies in Europe in order to produce objects similar to those coming from Asia (e.g. Medici porcelain). Thus Asian objects carried new forms of knowledge with them to Europe, informing European craftsmanship in non-verbal ways by their very materiality. Material culture studies provide us with methods to analyze these objects as agents (Gell, 1998) having ‘a social life’ on their own (Kopytoff, 1986) during a period that has been coined as ‘a first globalization’ resulting from Eurasian exchange (Gunn, 2003). 

Examining some select East Asian objects found in sixteenth-century Europe, I will revisit both the notion of artifacts as agents and the comparability of modern globalization with the dynamics of sixteenth-century Eurasian encounters. In particular, I am interested in the applicability of social study methods to material culture (as for example Mary Douglas’ model of the group and the grid) and the epistemic concept of self-similarity through the lens of intercultural object exchange.  

Rudolph Ng
Asia and Europe in a Global Context (Cluster of Excellence)
University of Heidelberg


The Spanish Coolie Conglomerates in Asia in the 19th century
As abolition movement gained momentum towards the end of 19th century, agricultural production in the Pacific and South America urgently looked for substitutes for their African slaves. The result was a massive growth in the “coolie trade” – shipping off laborers from China and India to plantations overseas. Virtually all European colonies employed some coolies in various capacities. From Spanish sugar plantations in Cuba to German coconut fields in Samoa, coolies were a critical source of labor, which business owners did not easily give up. Unknown to many, a handful of Spanish conglomerates monopolized this trade. These conglomerates had branches across the globe to handle the logistics, marketing, and finances of this business. With assistance of various diplomatic outposts, coolie stations were established along the South Asian and Chinese coasts to facilitate their transit. Despite of the huge volume of paper trail left behind, only in the last decade could historians begin to examine many related archives both in China and Spain. This paper will investigate the relationship between Spanish government and a few conglomerates that controlled this global business for over three decades. How did they develop an extended business network of human trade from Asia, over South America, to Europe? A preliminary assessment suggests a systemic public‐private partnership which dictated the development and eventual decline of the Spanish coolie business. Further studies are required to better our understanding of Spanish involvement in Asia during this period which had significant impact on labor market and agricultural production worldwide.   

Rosalien van der Poel
Institute for Cultural Disciplines (Art History)
Leiden University

Commodities in a Visual Economy ‐ New outlook on Chinese ‘export paintings’
In the nineteenth century, when globalization is taking place, new emphasis on the achievements of the individual merchant‐entrepreneur to China encouraged (visual) documentation of his exploits. The Western navigators themselves became potential patrons of art and were ready customers for Chinese goods and (stereotyped) scenes of China. As a result we find paintings, which would stand as records of their travels, personal and significant in the context of their own enterprises.  

This paper will approach Chinese paintings made for export (or exported) from two different angles. Firstly, the commodity perspective represents a valuable point of entry to material culture. That is to say: not to look at these paintings as art works emerged from a specific art historical style or development per se; neither treat them as initiator of a fundamental break with former tendencies, nor as they were important to new trends, but rather address them as products intended for exchange. Looking into these paintings from this perspective, requires us to follow the paintings themselves, for their meanings are inscribed in their forms, their use values and the global trajectories of these commodities from production, through exchange or distribution, to consumption. The second viewpoint, which seems useful for thinking about these so‐called Chinese ‘export paintings’, is analysing the concept of ‘visual economy’. With figuring out this term, we will discover that these paintings are part of a comprehensive organisation of people, ideas and objects, as the trade between China and Europe was similar. This concept allows us to think clearly about the global channels through which images have flowed and circulated between Europe and China.  

Session 3: Borders, Mobilities, Networks

Chair: Willem van Schendel (Professor of Modern Asian History, University of Amsterdam)

Iftekhar Iqbal
Department of History
University of Dhaka and Humboldt University Berlin  

Indian Ocean and the Bengalis: Mind and Mobility 1800-1950
This paper examines Bengal both as a frontier of the sea and of the South Asian landmass. It is possible to explore this duality of a frontier through a number of trajectories.  How did the region’s economic and social space take the shape as it did? How to explore the contexts of trans-regional mobility around the coastline and into the adjacent landmass?  How did the crossings, working and imagining of the Indian Ocean illustrate Bengali experiences? Of course, juxtaposing these themes in the same temporal and spatial location may be problematic. For the small-holding agrarian society that flourished in the plain land of Eastern Bengal in the course of the nineteenth century, the Indian Ocean proved to be an indirect yet far-reaching economically formative force. On the other hand, the Muslims of the Sylhet region, for example, which lay far off the coast had more intimate and direct relations with the Indian Ocean, as they worked as seamen and crossed it and grew in number in Britain as well as in other places. The transregional crossings that took place along the coastline of Southeast Asia continued as part of a  longue durée process, but with varied impetus in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In examining this labyrinth of events, mobility and networking of the Bengalis, this paper aims to trace the question of identity and subjective realm that could be linked to the encountering with the Indian Ocean.

Henryk Alff (with Matthias Schmidt)

Centre for Development Studies (ZELF), Institute of Geographic Sciences
Freie Universität Berlin 

Contested spaces of trade: Modernisation and cross-border shuttle trade in the borderlands of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang
The reopening of the Sino-Soviet border after three decades of rigid closure in 1992 has facilitated new patterns of network-based, small-scale trade related flows of people, goods and ideas. Highly mobile shuttle traders and representatives of transport-service providers perform commercial activities, using new transport links and hub bazaars for retail and wholesale transactions. This form of trade has contributed to consolidation of small-scale entrepreneurship and generated (self-)employment for hundreds of thousands of people. In recent years, trade and mobility patterns are subject to modernisation efforts of the involved states. However, top-down modernising agendas have various effects. They are used, challenged and even shaped by the strategies of shuttle traders. 

The proposed paper, based on empirical data from Kazakhstan, attempts to outline the key aspects of this interdependent relationship of small-scale trade-related mobility and modernisation at Barakholka, Kazakhstan’s largest bazaar, located in Almaty, and the border points of Khorgos to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Korday to Kyrgyzstan. In our analysis we argue that not only the dividing lines between the dichotomously used notions of modern/traditional for assessing social action such as shuttle trade are blurred. Also contextually changing power constellations between actors on different scales influence both the dynamics of small-scale trade at the bazaar and the permeability of the border for flows. Thus, we aim to sketch the horizontal and vertical scope of and limitations to shuttle trade mobility in and beyond the research area and, therefore, define opportunities and risks for local societies, resulting from that. 

Danielle Tan
ANU Centre for European Studies/College of Asia and the Pacific 
Australian National University (Canberra)

llicit Flows and Criminal Things in the Borderlands of the Golden Triangle. The Other Side of the Greater Mekong Subregion
Since the end of the Cold War, the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), an economic regional integration programme under the guidance of the Asian Development Bank, has revived the caravan trade networks in mainland Southeast Asia. In the Uplands, massive Chinese investment and migration have reshaped the political economy of the famous Golden Triangle borderlands, where Burma, Thailand and Laos meet. Drawing on Willem van Schendel’s work on “illicit flows and criminal things” in the borderlands, the presentation explores the ways in which the world’s second largest drug producing area has restructured into tourism and casino hubs under the banner of the GMS’s special economic zones. Seen as Chinese enclaves and no-law zones, I argue that these borderlands do not participate in the loss of sovereignty of the states, but to their consolidation. Contrary to popular belief, Southeast Asian states are far from being helpless spectators and victims of the expansion of informal economy and illegal practices. Based on my PhD research and recent fieldwork, I emphasize the crucial role played by borderlands and transnational networks in regionbuilding process as well as in state-formation. I will demonstrate how Chinese actors have been instrumentalized by lowland states in order to domesticate their “barbarian” peripheries. Recently, the escalation of conflict between the Burmese junta and ethnic rebel groups has led to increased production of opium and methamphetamines. The research will pay particular attention to the impact of this instable political situation in the development of the Golden triangle’s special economic zone.


Session 4: Empire and State-Making - Multi-Asian Histories and Perspectives

Chair: Ethan Mark (Lecturer, Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University)

Michal Biran
Institute of Asian and African Studies
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Central Asian Diasporas in Mongol Eurasia: Formation, Interaction and Impact
As one of the first regions to be subsumed into the Mongol state, Central Asia‘s resources—both human and material—were channeled to the benefit of the ever-expanding empire, often at the expense of local interests. Throughout the United Empire period (1206-60), countless Central Asian soldiers and artisans were relocated throughout Eurasia. Even beforehand, the advance of Chinggis Khan's troops created masses of refugees, who escaped mainly to India, Iran and Anatolia, some of whom later becoming distinguished figures in their new locations. The Mongols also appreciated the multilingual, educated Central Asian elites, already accustomed to serving nomadic and post-nomadic rulers. Many members of the Central Asian 'steppe intelligentsia‘  therefore found jobs in other Mongolian khanates, especially in Yuan China. 

The political upheavals of the Chaghadaid Khanate, the Mongol state in Central Asia,  meant that migrations- both forced and voluntary- continued throughout the 13th-14th centuries, thereby enlarging  the Central Asian diasporas in the other Mongol Khanates as well as in the Delhi and Mamluk Sultanates.

Based mainly on the ample biographical literature of Yuan China, Ilkhanid Iran, and the Mamluk Egypt, this paper portrays the various mechanisms through which Central Asian  urban diasporas coalesced in the Mongol period; which career patterns their members pursued in their various locations (administrators, merchants, scholars); what connections, if any, they had with their homeland and with the other Central Asian diasporas. On the basis of these findings the paper will try to assess the overall impact of these diasporas on the Mongol empire. 

Vu Duc Liem

Southeast Asian Studies Program
Chulalongkorn University , Thailand

Changing Political Landscape in Early Nineteenth Century Vietnam: A View From Lowland and Highland Interaction
The last decade witnessed a significant academic attention paid to non-state perspective in writing history of the mainland Southeast Asia, especially over its massif of Zomia (Willem Van Chendel 2001, James C. Scott 2009). Previous scholarship on Vietnam seemed to deal with this subject from either Chinese model of tributary system or very centralized ideological approach which in both circumstances, there was an overwhelming influence of centralist historical ideology in which kings and states dominate the story and capture the main theme of these histories through their views from centralized powers. This paper will challenge pervious scholarship on Vietnam in which main focus is placed on the discourse of the southward movement vis-à-vis territorial expansion. Therefore, as a result, lowland-highland interaction between Viet and other ethnicities is either academically neglected or found far less important than the North-South “surface orientation” as a main stream of Vietnam history. This paper however argues that over the longue durée, integration between Viet and ethnics in the highland has a significant role to play in Vietnam history, especially in the early nineteenth century, a de facto watershed in shaping modern country geo-political body. By that time, the Viet state making project emerged and the Nguyen dynasty had gradually transformed idea of a kingdom based on single ethnicity (Dai Viet: Great Viet) to idea of one based on geo-politics (Dai Nam: Great South) and multi-ethnicities. The phenomenon of lowland and highland integration in early nineteenth century Vietnam thus is found as part of this state making project. Although the establishment of state direct control and assimilated policies involved various ethnic groups in large scale, in fact, diverse forms of ethnic resistances suggests an uneasy way in making modern Vietnam.

Edward Boyle
Faculty of Law and Political Science
Hokkaido University , Japan  

Sovereign Migrations - Making territory Japanese and the nationalization of Empires
In 1869, the previously barbarian region to the north of the main Japanese island of Honshū was redesignated as the Imperial Circuit of Hokkaido, and a colonial office set up to oversee the incorporation of this territory into the Japanese state.  Subsequently the region, already a borderland between the Japanese and Ainu ethnicities and the Japanese and Russian states, became the frontier between Japanese and Western technologies of state and government.  The utilization by the Japanese state of the latter allowed for the maintenance and expansion of its sovereign territory, both recognized and realized by the self-conscious adoption of Western law and techniques.  However, the migration and adaptation of these new strategies of rule created the conditions for the nationalization of Japanese Imperial territory as Japan, a nationalization made possible by the Western powers conceptual conflation of the notions of state, race and territory within an Asian context.  This territorialization of Japanese Imperial rule as the Japanese nation-state itself migrated back to the Western powers in the pronounced ‘nationalization’ of Imperial formations that became so prominent at the end of the nineteenth century, a nationalization that was made possible and plausible by the contact of the West with its Oriental other.  This paper will map the migration of these techniques of governance and trace their impact on the notions of nation and empire at both ends of Eurasia in the latter half of the nineteenth century.


Session 5: Modernities and Self-Making - Transnational Identities, Real and Imagined

Chair: Peter Pels (Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Leiden University)

Olga Kanzaki Sooudi
Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis
University of Amsterdam  

Going East, Going West: Contemporary Japanese Migrant Discourses of Self-Making Through Mobility

Since the 1980s, extended travel and life abroad have emerged as a widespread technique of jibun sagashi, or “search for self,” among middle-class Japanese.  Within these practices, living abroad--frequently for several years or decades at a time--is understood as a means of self-transformation and an opportunity to escape social constraints and expectations at home.  These individuals have produced a vast corpus of literature and media reflecting on their lives abroad and their broader significance.

Yet while western metropolises such as New York City and Paris have been longstanding destinations for Japanese on quests of self-realization from the late 19th century onwards, increasing numbers of Japanese are also going on such self-searching journeys in Asia—to cities like Delhi, Bangkok, or Kuala Lumpur.

While moving to the west is often closely tied to longstanding notions of urbanity, modernity, and Japanese longing and cultural inferiority in relation to Europe and America, moves to other parts of eastern and southern Asia are often framed by discourses of cultural similarity with Japan, and notions of the good life in “the south,” with warmer climes and lower costs of living.  For all Japanese migrants, however, living abroad is understood as a means of enacting an alternative to conventional middle-class life trajectories at home and a vehicle for self-realization.  Through an examination of Japanese migrant literature and media across Asia, Europe, and the US, this paper comparatively explores how differential Japanese visions of self-making, national identity, and cosmopolitanism are articulated through transnational mobility.

Daisy Kim
Department of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University


Immigration Policy and Developmentalist Ideas in South Korea
The "convergence thesis" in studies of immigration policy suggests that policies across countries of immigration have moved in toward a liberal direction, despite what may appear to be increasing restrictions upon immigration in Western liberal states. Traditionally known as a country of emigration, South Korea is now a country of immigration like many other advanced industrialized countries of the world. One indicator is the expansion and liberalization of Korean immigration policies in recent years. Although foreign residents compose less than 3 percent and marriage migrants less than 1 percent of the total national population, the Korean government since the mid-2000s has prioritized policies aimed at the migration and social integration of a very specific groups of migrants, especially female marriage migrants married to South Korean men. However, the governmental support for marriage migrants remains the exception rather than the rule, where immigration is officially closed-door. Thus, the prioritization of government support for marriage migrants as witnessed through the expansion of laws and the investment of public resources directed at immigrant integration demands explication.

In this paper, I turn to the ideational dimensions of Korean state policies to argue that immigration policy outcomes have been shaped by “developmentalist ideas,” a persistent, future-oriented set of ideas that shape the relations between state, business, and society about how best to optimize prospects for the present as well as future national growth and competitiveness. Developmentalist ideas orient the state to interpret myriad challenges, including impending demographic crises, in terms of how they affect prospects for national development, economic growth, and social cohesiveness. In short, this developmentalist ideational orientation has driven policymakers to recognize and interpret marriage-based immigration as beneficial to national interest and hence, to adopt immigration policies that prioritize marriage, and not labor, migration. 1

Noting the unprecedented flows and exchange of peoples and goods in the present-day, Castles and Miller (2007: xii) famously referred to our age as 'the age of migration,' where migration is "contributing to a fundamental transformation of the international political order." In today's globalizing world, virtually no nation-state has been left unaffected by international migration, whether through immigration or emigration. As such, scholars have attempted to theorize about migration; however, the theories have often been Western-centric, focusing of countries such as the U.S., Canada, and France, which are distinct in their relatively long historical experiences with migration.

By introducing the case of immigration policy in South Korea (hereafter, Korea), this paper aims to contribute to broadening the perspective on theories of immigration. On a broader level, it suggests that while extant hypotheses that have been proffered may have applicability, the specific ways in which single cases validate or invalidate these hypotheses still needs to be more fully analyzed through single as well as comparative case studies. By turning to the ideational underpinnings of the political institutions and policies that in their totality constitute immigration policy in Korea, I argue that ideas, specifically “developmentalist ideas,” a persistent, future-oriented set of ideas that shape the relations between state, business, and society about how to best optimize prospects for the present as well as future national growth and competitiveness, have been critical driving force of immigration policies and practice.

Thien-Huong Ninh
Department of Sociology
University of Southern California

God in a Foreign Land: Religious Roots and Trajectories among Vietnamese Catholics in Cambodia The paper examines processes of ethnic boundary-making among Vietnamese Catholics living in Cambodia. Scholars have argued that religious practices intensify and preserve ethnic identity: migrants become become much more devout to religious practices and beliefs because they seek solace and continuity in a foreign land. It is unclear whether or not this argument is supported by the case of Vietnamese Catholics living in Cambodia. The transmission of Catholicism to Cambodia-born Vietnamese descendents and the formation of Vietnamese Catholic villages along the Mekong River suggest that religion is a strong ground for ethnic solidarity. However, Catholic practices are also transgressing ethnic boundaries. Masses are conducted in the Khmer language and have been blending in “Buddhist” practices in order to attract the Khmer population which is more familiar with Buddhism.

My paper reveals three themes of ethnic reconstitution: (1) the localization and preservation of kin roots and continuity grounded in religious practices; (2) the asymmetries of power between Catholic practitioners and nation-states in shaping inter-ethnic relations; and (3) the forces of global capitalism and development on ideologies about ethnicity.

Florian Schneider
Leiden Institute for Area Studies (SAS China)
Leiden University

The Futurologies and Utopias of the Shanghai World Exposition - Negotiating a New Modernity at the Expo 2010 Theme Pavilions
For six months in 2010, half a million Chinese tourists per day explored a miniature model of the world, created in Shanghai under the auspice of the Chinese government. There, at the Shanghai World Exposition, the world’s nations, its international institutions, and many of its multinational corporations came together to negotiate their interpretations of the event’s slogan “Better City, Better Life” – always within the creative frameworks, legal boundaries, and physical spaces that the organizers reserved for this endeavor. The result was a microcosm of politics and a site of continuous encounters and interaction, where concepts and ideas from diverse cultures flowed together to construct a utopia of what life in the 21st century should look like.

This paper examines what visions of the future and of modernity came together at five core exhibitions: the Shanghai Expo Theme Pavilions. The paper analyzes multi-media data collected at the Expo site in July 2010 to answer the questions: what futurist and utopian discourses did the five themed pavilions present, and what role did various actors play in framing them? The analysis shows how the themed exhibits provide diverse conceptualizations of modernity, which at times challenge the worldview that the Chinese government is trying to foster. Yet despite this degree of diversity, the institutional constraints at the Expo eventually collapse the various discourses to one grand narrative of a harmonious, hyper-modern world of nation-states, creating a utopia that re-enforces the political ideals which the Chinese authorities are promoting both domestically and internationally.


Session 6: Citizenship and Materialities of Inclusion/Exclusion

Chair: Radhika Singha (Professor of Modern Indian History, Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Carole McGranahan
Department of Anthropology
University of Colorado , USA

Refugee Citizenship: Political Asylum and Tibetan Immigration from South Asia to North America
Migration across international borders presumes citizenship. It presumes passports and checkpoints, visas and the need to “go through Immigration,” such that a lack of paper or process is exceptional and a mark of something gone wrong. For stateless refugees such as Tibetans, however, to not have papers or citizenship is the norm, thereby turning what counts as a “state of exception” on its head. As a component of their political struggle, Tibetans have categorically refused citizenship in India and Nepal, the two countries in which the refugee community has primarily resided since 1959. Since the 1960s, Tibetans have argued that to accept citizenship would compromise their political claims to Tibet. As a result, although many Tibetans qualify for citizenship in India or Nepal, as a community Tibetans reject citizenship in either country. Thus, in a world where individuals are presumed to be citizens of one state or another, Tibetans in South Asia hold only refugee citizenship under the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. In the mid-1990s, however, Tibetans began to migrate to North America with the hopes of securing American or Canadian citizenship. In this paper, I explore refugee citizenship as a component of group political identity, specifically asking how the Tibetan case comments on (1) new global forms of citizenship practices that “escape the boundaries of the formal polity” as Saskia Sassen puts it, (2) “illegality” as a historically spatialized social condition, and (3) culturally, politically, and historically specific experiences of migration to North America from South Asia.

Shincha Park
Department of Sociology
State University of New York at Binghamton, USA

Sorting the Citizens from the Non-Citizens: Citizenship and Nationality Policies in Japan, South Korea and Singapore
Increasing transnational activities of people and the advancement of human rights norms enabled imagining citizenship beyond borders and facilitated in many countries rights of non-citizens equal to their full citizens. However, differentiating citizens and non-citizens through documentation, categorization, surveillance, and sanction as well as governing citizenship acquisition, remain to be crucial mechanisms of modern nation-states regardless of their variations. This research aims to illustrate the dimension of citizenship as an instrument of social control with which nation-states justify classification, differentiation, and discrimination of population within their territories and to address the question of migrants disadvantaged in the interstice of citizenship laws, focusing on selected migrant receiving countries: Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. Focus is given to differences among these countries in accessibility and conditions of granting citizenship and nationality as well as their discriminatory treatments of differentiated groups. By comparing them, I attempt to explore what citizenship and nationality mean in these countries, how their policies operate, who are included/excluded, and how state authorities are trying to adjust to, and to benefit from, the changing global environment by modifying their institutions. Such a study will enable us to effectively address the social and political natures, implications, and historicity of the concept of citizenship itself embedded in the structure of modern nation-state. 

Oliver Moore
Leiden Institute for Area Studies (SAS China)
Leiden University

Visual Cultures on the Border: Images in Early Chinese Passport History
Emigration from China has been a strong globalizing force in line with the theme of this conference. However, policies to resist migration, such as those, for example, developed on behalf of the American Exclusion Act of 1882, recently discussed by Erika Lee (At America’s Gates, 2003), resulted in an unprecedented growth of practices that implement categorical ethnic/individual identification and social control in many parts of the globe to this day. One of the technologies that has long supported these efforts is photography, which was/is persistently deployed in the visual and visible identification of the human subject via the authenticating form of an individual passport. Scholarship on photography’s early contribution to new scopic regimes of control claims that depiction in a portrait frame was a ‘mark of subjugation’ and even the burden of a class of ‘fetishized Others’ (John Tagg, The Burden of Representation, 1988). Tagg’s now classic discussion remains paradigmatic of a range of late 19th- and early 20th century historical experiences, but it overlooks some forms of agency that Others nevertheless retained, and it says much less concerning the indigenous infrastructures and social expectations to which Others resorted in order to un/consciously bypass exercises of their own subjugation.

The forms of document—which are things as well as texts—upon which I argue this are paradoxically enough objects collected in a Leiden institution (the National Museum of Ethnology) whose former mission was to condense material evidence on behalf of social and historical epistemologies of Western domination. These Chinese documents comprise bills of lading, customs forms, proofs of association membership, guarantees of authenticity (for merchandise), and passports for the dead to travel safely. This material intersects in fascinating ways with bureaucratic dimensions of Chinese migration processes, suggesting origins for Chinese regimes of identification to do not only with people but goods. It also evidences how Chinese infrastructures often minimized the importance of subjects’ visual identities, a point that can be matched with individual documented experiences in the larger history of migration flows.  The larger point is that apparently global regimes of identification contended with locally formed ideas of social control. This social history demonstrates also the inimical encounters of different visual cultures at national borders—visual cultures in migration perhaps—and reveals the tension between global visualizing ambitions and resistant preferences to affirm the status of a “portrait” locally. The passport, albeit created as an instrument to both start and stop the global movement of subjects, demands to be caught in the famous anthropological pursuit of ‘local knowledge’, and caught again in yet another recommendation for ‘local theory’.


Session 7: Refugee Subjects

Chair: Annett Bochmann (PhD Candidate, Hildesheim University and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)

Tineke D’Haeseleer
Leiden Institute for Area Studies (SAS China)
Leiden University

Deserters, refugees and prisoners of war: Koguryo subjects in Tang China
Taking the simple question “what happened to the people of Koguryo after the conquest of their kingdom in 668 A.D.”, this paper follows the lives of a small group of Koguryŏ subjects and their descendants who lived and worked in Tang China, and connects their stories to the larger issue of the integration of and tolerance towards foreigners in the Tang empire. Many of these Koguryo men were employed in the Chinese military, and one family even came to dominate the semi-autonomous military government of Pinglu from the middle of the eighth century onward. But what exactly did it mean to be a “man from Koguryo” many decades after the demise of the kingdom? A detailed study of the interactions and networks of these individuals, and epigraphic material produced at the local level, provide insights into the reality experienced by these non-Han people, and shows a marked difference with the official records in the attitude towards ethnicity. The bureaucrats at the centre of the empire imprinted their ideals and theory on these history works, but the records they compiled cannot be taken as an accurate reflection of the conditions in local Tang society. Yet it is these texts that form the basis of our modern understanding of Tang views on ethnicity. This paper aims to show that although one’s descent -ethnic or otherwise- mattered in the historiographical context of the central bureaucracy, it was of little consequence for day-to-day life in the Tang military.  

Kiri Paramore
Leiden Institute for Area Studies (SAS Japan)
Leiden University

Chinese Political Refugees, Intelligence Gathering and Memory in Early-Modern Japan (1600-1868)
This paper recasts the history of early-modern Chinese immigration to Japan, focusing on the long-term effects of Ming-dynasty political refugees on Japanese political institutions and the flow of information and knowledge across Asia 1650-1850. Through a historical study of the Shogunal office of “Chinese interpreter”, I demonstrate how Ming refugee families (who occupied these official positions within the Tokugawa military‐bureaucratic establishment) effected the creation of foreign intelligence gathering and interpretation units in the Japanese state. Through occupying this office through successive generations, these Ming refugee families, who had originally fled to Japan in the mid-1600s, were responsible for gathering and processing intelligence, not only on China, but also on South and South-East Asia and Western activity there. Their influence reached a height around 1800, when Ming immigrant families were attached to state agencies in Edo (Tokyo) enabling them to influence central government decision making. This height of influence was accompanied by a fascinating cultural movement which valorized the history of Chinese immigrants to Japan. In 1804 Japan’s most famous author, Ota Nanpo, in a celebration of an imagined multi-cultural Japanese past, published flowery (and highly popular) stories about his search through Edo graveyards for Ming immigrant graves. Meanwhile, in government offices just down the road, the descendants of these same Ming immigrants, still recognizable by their non-standard names, and having retained their Chinese language ability as a family trade, interpreted intelligence reports delivered to the shogunate by Chinese and Dutch trading vessels which had visited Nagasaki a month earlier. 150 years after the fall of the Ming dynasty, these descendants of its refugees were still using their identity as Chinese to earn a living from the Japanese state, while in Japan the state used them as a bridge to the networks of information from the outside world available through the Chinese trading diaspora.  Through exploring this history, this paper will look at issues in the relationship between political asylum, human capital, and the development of state institutions, as well as at how immigrant communities assisted Asian polities deal with the onset of the age of global empire.  



Last Modified: 27-08-2012