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York Centre for Asian Research Update            Issue 8, April 4, 2005

Today @YCAR: Michael Stainton, PhD Candidate (York Anthropology) presents his research on Conversion, Revitalization and Social Movements among the Tayal, 12:00-1:30 pm, 270B York Lanes

In seeking to explain and evaluate the pervasive differences in cultural integration, political activity, and economic achievement between Catholic and Presbyterian residents of a small Tayal qalang (settlement) in the interior mountains of northern Taiwan, I have been pushed back to something which was not a focus of my fieldwork - the history of the conversion process in the late 1940's and early 1950's. I believe I have found something interesting here and offer it as a tasty piece of tough tmmyan (pickled rat) for our lunch. 

Upcoming Events: Sujata Ramachandran (PhD Candidate, Queens Geography) & Sailaja Krishnamurti (PhD Candidate, York Social & Political Thought), April 11, 2005, 2:30-4:30 pm, 270B York Lanes, YorkU Keele Campus

Sujata Ramachandran: 'INFILTRATORS, QUIT INDIA': Undocumented Bangladeshis in New Delhi and 'Thin' Hegemony of Hindu  Nationalism

It is well known that during the decade of the 90s, nationalist organizations of the Hindu right sometimes known as the Sangh Parivar that had been subdued at the margins for much of the 20th century would re-surface as a significant political force in India. Their xenophobic discourses also drew attention to the presence of numerous undocumented migrants from neighboring Bangladesh - many of them Muslims - by characterizing them as 'infiltrators' representing a visible threat to the long-term existence of an enfeebled Hindu-Indian nation. While the Indian bureaucracy, media and even other political parties did not remain unmoved by its pervasive influence, 'Infiltrators, Quit India' proved to be a troublesome undertaking with limited efficacy albeit far-reaching results. The presentation will provide a critical account of this controversial mission and its consequences for migrant Bangladeshis in New Delhi's slums.

Sailaja Krishnamurti: Picturing Indian history: Comics and the construction of the nation in the Indian diaspora

Amar Chitra Katha is a very popular illustrated children's series consisting of retellings of various Indian myths, folk tales, legends and historical events.  Though the series claims to represent "the glorious heritage of India," the vast majority of stories portrayed in its several hundred volumes are culled from Hindu traditions and sources.  These comic books, which are widely read throughout the Indian diaspora and lauded for their educational value, have an impact on the way in which young readers understand history and imagine the nation.  The image of India projected by the comics is ahistorical and limited, but is often taken as a reliable and academically sound source of information by its readership. This presentation will show how, in brushing over the complexities of communalism, the comics also camouflage the Hindu nationalist ideology that underpins them.

Regional Conference: The International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) will be held from 20-24 August 2005 in Shanghai, China and is organized by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. The conference aims to transcend the boundaries between the disciplines, the nations studied, and the geographic origins of Asianists. Over 1,500 specialists are expected to attend. 

For more information, visit the ICAS website at

Asia News: Korea, Japan to meet over history row
The Korea Herald, Publication Date : 2005-04-04

Foreign ministers of Korea and Japan are likely to meet Thursday amid an intensifying history row, as Japanese minister Nobutaka Machimura decided to join the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Pakistan, sources said Sunday. Machimura decided to attend the annual meeting to be held from April 6-7, where South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon is likely to meet him on the second day to discuss what Koreans call Japan's attempt to glorify its imperialist past. The meeting will be held two days after Japan's Education Ministry is slated to disclose controversial textbooks, which critics claim distort and even extol Japan's invasion of Asia, particularly Korea.  Machimura decided to attend the annual meeting to be held from April 6-7, where South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon is likely to meet him on the second day to discuss what Koreans call Japan's attempt to glorify its imperialist past.

The meeting will be held two days after Japan's Education Ministry is slated to disclose controversial textbooks, which critics claim distort and even extol Japan's invasion of Asia, particularly Korea. Ban and Machimura's meeting is likely to become a key opportunity in breaking through the sharpening tension between the two countries concerning the interpretation of history.

Despite both governments' repeated assurances that there will be no change in the bilateral exchanges on economic and cultural fronts, relations are likely to become aggravated in the coming months as Japanese schools will have until August to select the new textbooks. Japan has added to controversy this year with its claim over Korea's Dokdo islands, alleging the rocky islets in the East Sea belonged to Japan.

Korea, since regaining all sovereignty and territory upon liberation from Japan's colonial rule in 1945, has been keeping a small policy detachment in the islands. The dispute also surrounds Japan's new textbooks, some of which the Korean government said have worsened the distortion, such as by containing a picture of Dokdo and describing it as Japan's territory.

Government sources said Ban and Machimura will spend most of their time discussing these issues. They will not talk about Japan's bid to permanently enter the U.N. Security Council or Korea's hesitation on the issue, the sources added. Ban and Machimura exchanged bitter words through the press last week over the history controversy. Ban fired at Machimura for making a false statement and breaking the diplomatic code of conduct by criticizing President Roh Moo-hyun publicly.

Machimura said Roh should have spoken out about his unease toward Japan's moves during the Korea-Japan summit with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last year instead of writing a letter on the Cheong Wa Dae Web site. Roh posted on March 23 Korea was ready for a "diplomatic war" should Japan continue to distort historical facts and claim over Dokdo. Machimura later explained he meant that although Roh spoke to Koizumi about the concern, he should have said it more strongly.

Asia Op-Ed: Taiwan's Legal Status Undecided
The China Post, Publication Date : 2005-04-04

While hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday to protest against China's adoption of an anti-secession law, legal scholars and experts are debating whether Taiwan will be able to make that Chinese legislation a catalyst for amendments to the Constitution to define more clearly its legal status. That status, according to a few academics, is now undecided again because China passed its new law to counter the Taiwan Relations Act the U.S. Congress legislated in 1979. Both are domestic laws, but they touch upon Taiwan's status as a state and make it unclear, the pro-amendment scholars point out. Hence the necessity to amend the Constitution to clarify it.  Maybe. But we tend to consider it a great academic game of much ado about nothing.

Law academics had argued for Taiwan's undecided status for years until President Chen Shui-bian finally intoned his clear decision against them last year. They seem ready to beat a dead horse now. Or probably Chen has come around and asked them to rekindle their old flame. Well, the dead horse is dead, and no matter how hard one may beat it, it's not going to stand up and run again.

These academics seem to forget one thing: Domestic laws of any country do not affect in any way the legal status of another. As a matter of fact, even international law has failed to define the legal status of a state without a shadow of a doubt. The legal status of a state is and should be the one that state defines. The Taiwan Relations Act, incidentally, does not define Taiwan as a state or a non-state, though the anti-secession law clearly states Taiwan is part of China -- but not the People's Republic of China. That implies Beijing's intention to define Taiwan as a non-state, but China does not make that claim. The new Chinese domestic law states in its first article: "There is only one China in the world. Both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China." The People's Republic of China does not claim Taiwan as part of it and describes itself as "the mainland" that, together with Taiwan, belongs to one China.

The legal status of the Republic of China is clearly defined in its Constitution. Of course, the 1947 Constitution is not up to date, one reason being its overly detailed provisions, and amendments are necessary. President Chen wants to overhaul it, wishing silently it could be called the Constitution of Taiwan. Few people would be opposed to it, if he could make it. The truth is that nobody could -- with China rattling its saber and the United States insisting on the maintenance of the status quo as it defines it. And for once President Chen acknowledged that truth not too long ago when he came under fire from his once strongest pro-independence supporters.

Like it or not, Taiwan is stuck with the Constitution of the Republic of China. Constitutional law experts may do what they like to revise, change, alter, or overhaul it to make it fit for twenty-first century Taiwan, but the legal status of the Republic of China brooks no tinkering. 

York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR). For further information, contact Ste. 270 York Lanes, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto ON  M3J 1P3. URL: