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Asia Colloquia Papers


The Asia Colloquia Papers Series is published by the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) at York University, Toronto, Canada.

The series aims to make available to wider audiences the content of selected lectures, seminars and other talks presented at YCAR. The first three Papers were launched at YCAR's Celebration of Publications in September 2011.

The Intermediary Trap: International Labour Recruitment, Transnational Governance and State-Citizen Relations in China
Xiang Biao
University Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Oxford

Delivering the 2012 York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) Asia Lecture on the occasion of YCAR’s 10th anniversary, Dr. XIANG Biao explores the high cost of legal transnational labour migration for unskilled Chinese labourers. Although legal labour migration from China has become more effective, efficient and streamlined, the costs of finding and securing work overseas have been on the rise. In his exploration of the reasons why, Xiang points to intermediaries—commercial labour recruiters—as the key. He argues that intermediaries’ dominant position in cultivating, facilitating and controlling legal migration allow them to charge high fees to potential migrants. This results in the “intermediary trap”, where both the state and the migrants depend on intermediaries to manage and facilitate labour migration overseas. In this text based on his lecture, Xiang examines China’s hierarchical chains of migration intermediaries, from Beijing to rural villages, arguing that they constitute a transnational labour disciplinary system and point to new state-citizen relations.

Denouncing Party Politics: Indignation and Domestic Confinement in Karachi
Tania Ahmad
Sessional Assistant Professor Department of Anthropology, York University

Delivering her lecture as part of the 2012 York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) Urban Asia Series, Dr. Tania Ahmad examines the events surrounding the 12 May 2007 Karachi riots, the discourse of self-described “ordinary residents” who were compelled to stay indoors during the conflict, and their sense of indignation towards party politics and the political violence. Ahmad suggests that the shared experience of non-participation during the incident was not an instance of depoliticization for these residents, but rather a mode of political engagement. The sociality formed around discourses of non-involvement through domestic confinement was shaped by the denunciation of events occurring in the streets.


"Taiwan and Changing Global Order: Perspectives from the 2012 Young Leaders Delegation”
Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing, Robyn Walter, Victoria Prouse, Joshua Weiner, Sima Atri, David J. Byun, Lydia Bihui Guo, Ashley McIntyre, Trevor Kezwer
2012 Young Leaders Delegation, Taiwan

This special issue of the Asia Colloquia Papers examines some of the diverse issues that confront Taiwan in the context of changing global and Asia-Pacific regional order. The papers, written by senior students who participated in a May 2012 study trip to Taiwan, look at such topics as the role of education in indigenous peoples’ self-determination in Taiwan and Canada; evolving China-Taiwan relations and their multiple implications; changing migration patterns in Taiwan in the context of contemporary globalization; and new developments in Taiwan’s role as an aid donor in Africa. The students presented their papers to Taiwan audiences during a study tour as part of the Young Leaders Delegation programme sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan, the Republic of China. The Young Leaders Delegation programme aims to introduce senior university students from abroad to contemporary Taiwan and its complex challenges.

"Other Diplomacies” and the Making of Canada-Asian Relations: An Interdisciplinary Conversation”
Susan J. Henders and Mary M. Young
Faculty Associate, York Centre for Asian Research; Associate Professor, Political Science //York University
Research Associate, York Centre for Asian Research // York University; Adjunct Faculty, Geography // University of Toronto

How have societal interactions constituted Canada-Asia relations historically and up to the present? What understandings of Canada-Asia relations emerge if we focus on the diverse connections between Asian and Canadian societies at multiple levels rather than solely on state-to-state interactions? These questions were the starting point for a March 15, 2012 workshop organized by the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) with support from the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. The workshop brought together scholars as well as practitioners from a range of disciplines (see Appendix 1). Discussions centered on preliminary case studies of Canada-Asia societal interactions in the realms of business, education, culture, migration and diaspora, labour markets, scholarly and technical experts, and NGOs and across local, national and transnational spaces, and the everyday realm. The goal was to begin to identify important research questions and empirical evidence that could illuminate the contemporary character of Canada-Asia societal connections and their wider implications. The workshop also explored the concept of “other diplomacies”, which workshop organizers Susan Henders and Mary Young (Forthcoming, 2012) offered as an analytical tool for framing the study of Canada-Asia societal interactions. This paper offers selected highlights from the day-long workshop conversation.

Poverty and the Imagination of a Future: The Story of Urban Slums in Delhi, India
Veena Das
Krieger‐Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology // The Johns Hopkins University

How do the poor see themselves? In their daily struggles, how do they use creative imaginings to withstand various stresses and their seemingly never- ending effort at subsistence? In this paper, Veena Das explores the many revealed ways the poor exercise creativity, boldness and enterprise in their attempts to cope and transcend, even for brief moments, daunting states of deprivation and the destitute roles that both experts and society seemed to have consigned them to.
In this lecture, delivered as part of York University’s 50th anniversary celebration, Dr. Das shares with her audience insights from her ongoing multi-year research on the residents of New Delhi slums including the not often assumed ability of the poor to think, feel and act in ways that are all-too-human – both spontaneous and rational.
Equally insightful responses are provided by Vanessa Rosa and Mark Ayyash, PhD Candidates in the Graduate Program in Sociology at York University.


What Does the Ethnic Costume Represent?
Haji Oh
Visiting Scholar // York Centre for Asian Research, 2008–2009
PhD Candidate // Graduate School Division of Fine Arts // Kyoto City University of Arts

Clothes are inseparably related to our daily life. They not only protect the body, but also enable expression of one’s identity through design, color, and so on. In particular, an ethnic costume is a strong statement of individual circumstances. It is unique and has a cultural background. It has symbolic value because it stands for ethnicity, gender, religion and emphasizes social belonging. Thus, ethnic costumes have two features - one as a private “second skin” and the other as a “symbol” of social belonging.


Floating Points: From Diasporic Spaces to Multicultural Places
Angela Pao
Department of Comparative Literature // Indiana University, Bloomington

In the study of Asian immigrant communities and culture in North America, particularly in arts and literature, two intellectual approaches have emerged: the transnational which focuses on country and culture of origin regardless of the location of the Diaspora community; and, the national which de-emphasizes Diaspora in favour of a racial character distinct to the new generations of Asians born and residing in the U.S. and Canada today. In her talk, Angela Pao engages both approaches by presenting the benefits and drawbacks of examining social and cultural institutions, artistic products, and processes through a transnational and consequently de-territorialized perspective, as opposed to a domestic one that continues to emphasize Asian histories specific to a destination country or territory. Race and the context of uneven social and power relations between immigrant and local communities, more specifically, are the primary bases on which Pao examines the development of Asian immigrant culture, in particular, Chinese literature in North America, and its usefulness in helping interpret the local and global Asian immigrant experiences.


Canada and China at 40
B. Michael Frolic
Professor Emeritus, Political Science // York University

In the 2010 Asia Lecture, Professor Frolic shared unique insights into the evolution of Canada-China relations focusing on the complex negotiations and diplomatic coup by which Canada established diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic in autumn 1970. One of Canada’s foremost China scholars, Frolic first visited China as a graduate student in 1965 and went on to become a Canadian diplomatic representative to the Communist state in the mid-1970s. Using first-hand experience, expert knowledge, and rare interview material, Frolic provided glimpses of how Canada’s diplomatic ties with China came about despite Cold War tensions. As he explained with candour and simplicity, although the decision to formalize ties with China brought a chill to Canada’s own relations with the United States for a time, it marked a coming of age for Canadian foreign policy: what became known as the Canadian Solution to the diplomatic quandary of the “One China” policy was eventually adopted by other countries. Frolic places the evolution of formal Canada-China relations in the context of milestones, from Norman Bethune to the controversial Canadian grain sales to China during its Great Famine, from the “missionary kids” who became Canada’s first crop of diplomats to China to the deft handling of the “One China” issue that brought Canada to diplomatic centre stage. Prominent Canadian China scholar, Professor Ruth Hayhoe, offered an equally insightful response.

For more information, please contact us at ycar@yorku.ca.


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