In Sungmoon Kim & Hsin-Wen Lee (eds.), Reimaging Nation and Nationalism in Multicultural East Asia. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 1-22 (2018)

Authors
Hsin-Wen Lee
University of Delaware
Sungmoon Kim
City University of Hong Kong
Abstract
National identity and attachment to national culture have taken root even in this era of globalization. National sentiments find expression in multiple political spheres and cause troubles of various kinds in many societies, both domestically and across state borders. Some of these problems are rooted in history; others are the result of massive global immigration. As US Secretary of State John Kerry tries to broker a new round of Israel-Palestine peace talks, the Israeli government continues expanding its settlements in disputed territories. As this proposal is being written, Japanese citizens are debating whether their politicians should visit the Yasukuni Shrine (靖國神社), where the spirits of fourteen Class A war criminals from WWII and more than one thousand others convicted of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East are honored with a distinguished resting place. As the Chinese government’s plan to bring economic prosperity to the Xinjian province unfolds, ethnic conflicts between Han Chinese and local Uyghur Muslims intensify. Tibetans still demonstrate to the Chinese government, some through the dramatic sacrifice of self-immolation, their determination to pursue a Tibet that is truly free and autonomous. The recent inflow of Muslim immigrants across Europa and North America forces those liberal democratic societies to rethink the meaning of multiculturalism. Should the state respect Muslim women’s freedom to wear burkas in public? What about other aspects of certain Muslim traditions such as arranged marriages or the honor killing of teenage girls who see boys their parents do not approve? Since these immigrants voluntarily moved from their homeland to a new society, do they have a duty to give up such practices, which conflict with their new societies’ fundamental commitment to individual autonomy? Eric Hobsbawm suggests that nationalism is a contingent phenomenon in history—it arises with important historical events such as industrialization and print journalism; eventually, it will disappear. Anthony Smith, on the other hand, argues that nationalism is deeply rooted in the human need for collective faith and dignity. How should we understand today’s nationalism? Is it a transient phenomenon that eventually will be eradicated from the world, or is it a timeless issue that confronts and will remain a challenge for every society? Is the conventional distinction between civic and cultural nationalism still relevant or helpful? The problems and ongoing challenges of nationalism are very much alive throughout East Asia where the myth of ethnically and culturally homogeneous nations is still paramount. In addition to the examples provided above, East Asian societies are increasingly multicultural, inevitably forcing their governments to come up with new immigration and border-control policies, revisit their laws regarding labor policies, sociopolitical discrimination, socioeconomic welfare, and, more fundamentally, rethink the constitutional make-up of the citizenry and the ideal of social harmony, one of their most cherished political values. Nevertheless, contemporary theoretical analyses, whether philosophical or empirical, of the phenomena surrounding nationalism, in all its forms, are almost exclusively focused on cases in western cultures and societies, preventing the East Asian people from developing a coherent idea of who they are or should be in a way that can track their deeply-held values and norms (such as Confucianism). One of the primary aims of this conference therefore is to address this ongoing neglect and explore new concepts and theories that are socially relevant in East Asia. Not only will this provide access to the particular experiences of nation, citizenship, and nationalism throughout East Asia but it will bring to bear philosophical concepts, approaches, and styles of reasoning about them that currently are not part of this critical debate. Providing an opportunity to hear these distinct and different East Asian voices and opening up these conceptual and methodological resources to scholars around the world will greatly advance the understanding and appreciation of nationalism. In addition to this primary aim, the proposed conference will achieve two other, novel, and important goals. First, by design, it will bring to bear a multi and interdisciplinary approach to the problems of nationalism. We are not privileging either conceptual or empirical studies in the organization of our conference and will bring together philosophers, political scientists, sociologists, and historians, making every effort to invite scholars who explicitly employ or are interested in exploring different and at times hybrid approaches. Second, we will draw together scholars from around the world: China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, North America, and Europe, including leading figures in the field, who will serve as keynote speakers for the conference. Combining these two additional goals will enable us to organize a uniquely diverse conference, both in terms of intellectual discipline and national origin. Along with our primary aim of introducing East Asian voices and theories, this will make our event original, distinctive, and unprecedented in value. Our age is one in which it is unavoidable for people of different cultural backgrounds to live together in many different places. For the sake of justice and stability, a comprehensive re-examination of nationalism is both urgent and necessary.
Keywords Nationalism  Multiculturalism  Confucianism
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