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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

November 28, 2011

Written by C.N.

Academic Research: Diversity & Multiculturalism in East Asia

The following is a list of recent academic journal articles and doctoral dissertations from scholars in the social sciences and humanities that focus on race/ethnicity and/or immigration, with a particular emphasis on Asian Americans. The academic journal articles are generally available in the libraries of most colleges and universities and/or through online research databases. As always, works included in this list are for informational purposes only and do not imply an endorsement of their contents.

The latest issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies focuses on issues and dynamics of racial/ethnic diversity and multiculturalism in East Asian countries. As I’m sure you know, countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan tend to be rather racially/ethnically/culturally homogeneous. At the same, as a reflection of the ongoing evolution of globalization around the world, these societies have also become more multicultural in recent decades. In recognition of this, these articles looks at the political, economic, and cultural consequences of such societal changes.

Street scene © Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis

Salazar Parreñas, Rhacel and Joon K. Kim. 2011. “Multicultural East Asia: An Introduction.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1555-1561.

  • Abstract: This introduction to the special issue of JEMS on multicultural East Asia underscores the nexus between national identity and multiculturalism in Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Demographic and structural changes are assumed to serve as levers of change toward multiculturalism. However, the articles in this issue demonstrate the cultural and social challenges engendered by multiculturalism, and the salience of race, gender, ethnicity and class in the structuring of immigration policies and the social integration of international migrants.

Kim, Hyuk-Rae and Ingyu Oh. 2011. “Migration and Multicultural Contention in East Asia.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1563-1581.

  • Abstract: Japan, Korea and Taiwan have experienced rapid and dramatic demographic changes during the last three decades. In all three countries, changes of fertility decline, aging and sex imbalances preceded massive increases in international marriages and labor migration. In this article, we analyze how these demographic and social transformations affect policies of migration and integration in this region. Demographics are changing with the integration of foreign brides and professional migrants and with declining fertility rates. Despite this, the magnitude and speed of change within the policy provisions for migration and integration are still very limited and slow—Japan, Korea and Taiwan, for instance, all maintain ‘assimilationist’ or ‘passive multicultural’ migration and integration policies.

Kim, Joon. 2011. “The Politics of Culture in Multicultural Korea.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1583-1604.

  • Abstract: The South Korean government has demonstrated a strong commitment towards the social integration of international brides and the children of mixed ethnic heritage by establishing 100 ‘multicultural family support centres’ throughout the country. Given its record of opposing the long-term settlement of foreigners in Korea, this recent government announcement signals a very significant change in its policies concerning international migrants. Consequently, the proliferation of migrant support programs bearing the title ‘multiculturalism’ unwittingly suggests that Korean society is receptive toward the internationalization of families.

    In this article I show that the establishment of these support centers represents a governmental response to the accumulated societal pressure from below that sought to improve the precarious social conditions of international migrants and to embrace multiculturalism as an inevitable, but positive, social force. Despite their impressive scope and resource allocation, the contents and approaches of the newly emerging multicultural programs reproduce, rather than minimize, the cultural hierarchy between Koreans and non-Koreans. I utilize the concepts of ‘cultural paternalism’ and ‘cultural fetishism’ in order to capture the manner in which the dominant members of Korean society define the terms of and approaches to dealing with cultural diversity, reduce the complex issues of social equality to cultural differences, and treat culture as a fetish by uniformly emphasizing the expressive dimensions of culture.

Ishiwata, Eric. 2011. “‘Probably Impossible’: Multiculturalism and Pluralisation in Present-Day Japan.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1605-1626.

  • Abstract: This article offers a critical engagement with multiculturalism and pluralisation in Japan. While recent efforts to introduce multicultural policies such as ‘domestic internationalisation’ policies and the textbook reform movement are encouraging, I suggest that they are limited as they fail to address notions of exclusivity—those founded on the ideology of nihonjinron—that shape Japanese identity. Moreover, mere recognition of minority populations works to entrench rather than undermine ethno-cultural hierarchies. That is, if official engagements with the ethno-cultural ‘Other’ simply reinscribe notions of exclusivity, exceptionality and even superiority, the hierarchalised distinctions drawn between inside/outside and ‘Japanese’/foreigner will continue to persist and minority populations will be relegated permanently to a second-class citizenry.

    Therefore, this contribution turns to the recently opened Kyushu National Museum as a means of addressing multiculturalism and pluralisation in Japan. Themed ‘Ocean Ways, Asian Paths’, the Kyushu National Museum is actually a transnational museum as it focuses not on artefacts specific to Japanese identity, but instead on the variegated ways in which Japan is inextricably connected with and indebted to its Asian neighbours. Thus, by exhibiting the miscegenated character of Japan’s national origins, the Kyushu National Museum stands as a concrete example whereby notions of exclusivity are refashioned into a more accommodating, and perhaps ethical, engagement with alterity.

Cheng, Sealing. 2011. “Sexual Protection, Citizenship and Nationhood: Prostituted Women and Migrant Wives in South Korea.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1627-1648.

  • Abstract: This article examines the making of two distinct groups of women—‘prostituted women’ and migrant wives—into citizen-subjects in South Korea at the turn of the twenty-first century. Though the lives of these women barely intersect, they become visible in the public sphere as victims of sexual violence and therefore in urgent need of state protection. Defined as such, prostitutes and migrant wives come under the gaze of the state and civil society through anti-prostitution policy and multiculturalism policy respectively.

    I suggest that, through the language of protection, the South Korean state and civil society seek to redefine moral order and national borders through the regulation of a woman’s body and sexuality. For prostituted women, leaving prostitution restores them to the embrace of the nation as good Korean daughters. For immigrant wives, reproduction is their gendered path to citizenship as good Korean mothers. Through an analysis of the gender ideals reproduced in these policies, and their repercussions on the lives of women, I tease out the gendering of citizenship and nationhood and its tensions with the universalist ideals of gender equality and human rights in the modernising project in South Korea.

Kim, Denis. 2011. “Catalysers in the Promotion of Migrants’ Rights: Church-Based NGOs in South Korea.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1649-1667.

  • Abstract: The scholarship on Korean migration indicates that pro-immigrant NGOs are significant social actors who have influenced the formation and transformation of Korean immigration policy. Nevertheless, it has neglected the conspicuous impact of both church-based NGOs and the leadership of activist-clergy upon the promotion of immigrant rights and status. This article explores the origins of advocacy, its contribution and the unintended consequences. It argues that both the transnational characteristics of the church and the historical experience of church-based activism for democratisation have stimulated activist-clergy into spearheading the immigrant advocacy effort. Korea offers an exemplary case in which transnational religion has played a profound role in enhancing the social and political inclusion of immigrants.

Lan, Pei-Chia. 2011. “White Privilege, Language Capital and Cultural Ghettoisation: Western High-Skilled Migrants in Taiwan.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1669-1693.

  • Abstract: Drawing on the case of Taiwan, this article looks at high-skilled migration from the West to Asia. I explore how Western high-skilled migrants exert agency to negotiate their positions as non-citizens, privileged others and professional workers. I have coined the term ‘flexible cultural capital conversion’ to describe how English-speaking Westerners convert their native-language skills, as a form of global linguistic capital, into economic, social and symbolic capitals.

    Their privileged positions are nevertheless mediated and constrained by their class, nationality, race/ethnicity and gender. In the global context, whiteness is marked as a visible identity and the ‘superior other’. Such cultural essentialism functions as a double-edged sword that places white foreigners in privileged yet segregated job niches. Their flexibility in capital conversion and transnational mobility is territory-bound. Many experience the predicament of ‘cultural ghettoisation’ in the global South, and they often face grim job prospects on returning home to the North.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Academic Research: Diversity & Multiculturalism in East Asia" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2011/11/academic-research-diversity-multiculturalism-east-asia/> ().

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