„Asianisms“ and regional interaction and integration in Asia (late 19th century to present)

„Asianisms“ and regional interaction and integration in Asia (late 19th century to present)

Nicola Spakowski, Professor of Chinese Studies, Universität Freiburg; Marc Frey Professor of International History, Jacobs University Bremen
Universität Freiburg
Vom - Bis
14.10.2011 - 15.10.2011
Marc Frey

Over the last two decades, “Asia” has gained an important place in Western public discourse. The impressive figures of economic growth in succeeding Asian states (Japan, the so-called “Four Little Tigers”, China and the “new tigers” of Southeast Asia) have stimulated discussions of “Asia’s rise” and substantiated claims of the twenty-first century as an “Asian century”. Terms such as “Asian values” or “Asian capitalism” were used both within and outside the region to explain the economic success of Asian economies. More recent geopolitical debates about the role of China and India as “emerging powers” and major actors in a world of aggressive competition for resources and market opportunities have only deepened Western anxieties about the “Asian” challenge to the global order.

Ideas of “Asia” as an entity, however, have a long tradition in Western discourse and were subject to significant changes over time. Within the region, concepts of a shared Asian identity and projects of integration and collaboration can be traced back to the late nineteenth century when Japan proposed to lead Asia in its struggle against Western colonialism and imperialism. Due to its own bid for power in the region, Japanese Pan-Asianism was not uncontested. Throughout the twentieth century, different actors at different levels of society developed a variety of definitions of “Asia” and alternative projects of intraregional collaboration. The concept “Asianisms” is used here to refer to discursive constructs of Asia as a region and political, economic, social and cultural practices related to them.

The time seems ripe to take a more systematic look at the various fields of “Asianisms” and to bring together scholars to assess where we stand and what remains to be done. The conference assembles historians, political scientists, art historians, and anthropologists and thus reflects the trans-disciplinary nature of the field. Case studies will be combined with conceptual debates.

More concretely, the conference looks at the various concepts and visions of “Asia” that were produced within and outside the region (or in collaboration between Asians and Westerners), projects of collaboration and integration in Asia and the changing patterns of intraregional interactions from the late nineteenth century to the present. It is the aim of the conference to explore these “Asianisms” and thus contribute to a better understanding of Asia as a region. Differing from notions of a homogeneous Asia in public discourse, the conference highlights the plurality and contested nature of definitions and visions of “Asia”, frictions within projects of collaboration and integration and the tensions between Asian nationalisms and efforts at supranational integration. Furthermore, it demonstrates how changing global orders (e.g. colonialism, imperialism, Cold War, globalization) and shifting relations between Asia and Europe influence the production of concepts of Asia and the range and nature of projects of Asian integration.

Guests are welcome but should get in touch with Prof. Dr. Nicola Spakowski (nicola.spakowski@orient.uni-freiburg.de).



9:30 – 10:00 “Asianisms” as a research agenda
Marc Frey and Nicola Spakowski

10:00 – 12:00 The Longue Durée: “Asia” and “Asianisms” in historical perspective

The anachronistic savagery of democracy
Rebecca E. Karl (New York University)

The “Asias” of “Asianisms”: Geography, ideology, politics
Sven Saaler (Sophia University Tokyo)

12:00 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 15:30 Identity between nation and region

Uniting Asia through sports: ‘Olympic’ values, ‘modernization’ and the problem of nationalism
Stefan Hübner (Jacobs University Bremen)

Concepts of Asia, the Self and the West in contemporary Indonesia
Judith Schlehe (University of Freiburg)

The ‘virtual’ region: Politics of identity in contemporary Central Asia
Tim Epkenhaus (University of Freiburg)

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:30 Contemporary cultural Asia

On display. Exhibitionary visions of Asia
Birgit Mersmann (Jacobs University Bremen)

Beneath the quarrelsome states – Pop Pan-East Asianism
Chua Beng Huat (National University of Singapore)

18:30 Dinner


09:00 – 11:00 Pan-Asianism and Asian regionalism

“There is a glow in the Eastern Skies” - The emergence and proliferation of Asianist initiatives in India, 1919-1939
Carolien Stolte (University of Leiden)

The Japanese Empire's Pan-Asianism project of the 1930s: Vision and networks
Matsuura Masataka (Hokkaido University)

Constructing regionalism domestically: Local actors and foreign policymaking in Indonesia
Jürgen Rüland (University of Freiburg)

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee

11:30 – 13:00 Western visions of Asia

Missiology and Pan-Asia
Tani Barlow (Rice University, Houston)

Asia as future – The shifting rhetoric of an „Asian century“
Nicola Spakowski (University of Freiburg)

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 15:15 Graduate student forum

Mikko Huotari (University of Freiburg): Practices of financial regionalism and the competitive construction of community in East Asia

Stefanie Jürries (University of Freiburg): Chinese historiography on Asia (1895-1949)

15:15 – 15:45 Coffee Break

15:45 – 17:15 The Asia of civil society

“Now more than ever, Asia is one!” On the functions and limits of Asianisms in the twenty-first century
Torsten Weber (University of Freiburg)

Asianisms from below: Japanese civil society and visions of Asian integration from the late 20th to 21st century
Tessa Morris-Suzuki (Australian National University, Canberra)

17:15 -18:00 Roundtable Discussion

Marc Frey (Jacobs University Bremen), Paul Kratoska (National University of Singapore)


Marc Frey

Jacobs University Bremen
Campus Ring
29759 Bremen


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