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York Centre for Asian Research Updates                    Issue 77, Friday, February 9, 2007

In this issue

York Brownbag Talks

 Impact of culture on the care of colour: Case study of Burmese-Canadian women
  SocioCultural Events  York celebrates Korea-Japan Week and International Development Month

Taiwan Roundtable

 Asian Institute and YCAR co-sponsor Taiwan roundtable revisiting 228 incident

Call for Papers

 CASA calls for papers for CCSEAS and EAC Conferences in 2007

Asia News - India

 Muslims in India: All around inequality, by Harun ur Rashid

Today@York:  Impact of culture on care of colour: Case of Burmese-Canadian Women
10-11:30am at Harry Crowe Room, 109 Atkinson Bldg

Merle Jacobs of York Atkinson will present this study about health and underdevelopment. Using a historical and cross-cultural perspective, this paper examines the historical and contemporary relationship between human health, on the one hand, and socio-cultural and political economic organization on the other. Rape and sexual assault against women in Burma is widely committed in the Karen, Karenni, and Shan states. The paper sets out to situate Burmese women in Canada’s health-care system, examining evidences of equality and/or inequality from historical records, current practices, and personal observations and experience (Photo credit: Free Burma).

Note: York Humanities PhD Candidate June Rhee's presentation on a comparative analysis of texts written in North and South Korea on Feb 15, 2007 has been rescheduled to Feb 28, 2007 from 12-1:30pm at YCAR.

UCGS holds dissertation workshop on South-North Perspectives on Social Justice
February 13-14, 9-5 pm, 390 York Lanes

The University Consortium on the Global South (UCGS) is organizing a dissertation workshop on South-North perspectives on social justice and fieldwork reflections for PhD students enrolled in Toronto area universities. Participating students include those who have proposed or completed research on Global South diasporas and Indigenous populations in the North. The workshop will be particularly useful for students who have recently completed PhD fieldwork, although students preparing research proposals may participate. For more information, contact Peter Vandergeest at or Everett Igobwa at

York celebrates Korea-Japan Week and International Development Month this February

Come and experience Korean and Japanese cultures during the Korea Japan Week 2007 at York from Feb. 19 to 22. You will get a chance to experience Korean and Japanese cultures in a variety of fun events such as martial arts, dance performance, fashion show, photo gallery, nail painting, JPOP and KPOP performance.

The York University Korean Student Association (YUKSA), Japanese International Students Association (JISA) and York's Korean language students in the Korean Program host the second Korea Japan Week at York. The goal of the four-day event is to increase general interest and awareness about Korea and Japan throughout the York community and the local community.

For details about all the events happening Monday to Thursday at various locations on the Keele campus, see the schedule for Korea Japan Week 2007. Everyone welcome. The event is sponsored by the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics. Check out their website at

To celebrate International Development Month, the International Development Studies Program and International Development Association have an exciting series of events lined up to promote learning opportunities! Everyone welcome! Hope to see you there!

Asian Institute and YCAR co-sponsor Taiwan Roundtable revisiting the 228 Incident

A Dangerous Memory Rhetorically Perceived: Revisiting the 228 Incident after 60 Years of Ambiguity
Featuring: Dr. TiN Giongun 鄭仰恩 - 危險記憶 :再論 228 六十年的模糊
THURSDAY MARCH 1, 7:30PM Room 208N, Munk Centre, University of Toronto

The 228 Massacre of some 20,000 Taiwanese by Chinese KMT troops in 1947 is the defining moment of modern Taiwanese history. It gave birth to the Taiwan Independence movement, and has cast a persistent shadow over Taiwan’s ethnic politics. Though national commemoration has replaced enforced silence, “228” remains a dangerous free memory with much transformative power. Principal of Taiwan Theological Seminary, historian TiN Giongun has written on the history and meanings of 228. He creatively combines resistance theology, subaltern history and engaged politics.

The Munk Centre is on the northeast corner of Hoskin Ave. and Devonshire Place. From Saint George subway station walk south 1 block on Devonshire. To register, contact Michael Stainton at

Also on Friday, March 2 from 2-4 pm, the Asian Institute  and Central and Inner Asia Association present the Central and Inner Asia Speaker Series & Dr. David Chu Special Seminar on The Development of China's Central Asian Foreign Policy, 1991 - 2006 with guest speaker Hassan Karrar, Visiting Scholar, Asian Institute, 108N - Seminar Room, North House, Munk Centre For International Studies, 1 Devonshire Place. Register online at:

This talk explores the development of China's relations with the Central Asian republics since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in January 1992, Sino-Central Asian trade has grown tenfold, the historically tense Sino-Central Asian border has been demarcated, and the formation of a close-knit regional alliance, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, heralds heightened security and strategic cooperation between China, Russia, and its Central Asian neighbors. In this talk, the speaker will explore salient aspects of how China's relations developed, identifying considerations that shaped China's policy with the region: China's concerns for stability in its own Central Asian domain, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region; the bolstering of cross-border trade to facilitate economic modernization in the northwest; China's post-Cold War strategic alignment with Russia; and, China's need for energy security that led to cooperation with Kazakhstan in the energy sector.

CASA calls for papers for CCSEAS and EAC Conferences in 2007

The Canadian Asian Studies Association (CASA) calls for paper presentations for two upcoming conferences by the Canadian Council for South East Asian Studies (CCSEAS) and East Asian Council (EAC).

Beyond Boundaries: Southeast Asian Studies in the 21st Century, Oct 19-21, 2007, Laval University, Québec

ConferencesConference Objectives: Containing a more methodological flavour than previous conferences, it will aim towards having various scholars from a range of disciplines around the same “table” examining existing links across disciplinary boundaries on the one hand, and between space and time scales of analysis on the other. All too often, one stays confined in space and time, and even when one does establish comparisons across different dimensions of analysis, the links between these various levels are often omitted. This said, the general objective of this conference is to profit from the broad richness of our thematic gathering to begin a collective reflection on this issue. The best way to realize this is to go beyond disciplinary limits.

PROPOSED THEMES: Broad convergent themes and sub-themes have been pre-organized and the submission of pre-constructed panels under these themes are strongly encouraged. However the conference committee will examine all panels or individual ideas not directly related to the thematic framework provided that Southeast Asia remains the central concern.

A) IDENTITIES: Building identities involves a wide range of historical and spatial links across social relations, livelihoods, and culture in general. How is it in Southeast Asia?

B) SOCIAL AND POLITICAL CHANGES: What are the causes and consequences of rapid social changes which have occurred during the past two centuries. What are the new ways of mobilizing populations and various other groups around collective projects? What are the actions and reactions in front of new security risks, in all aspects of Southeast Asian societies? Who are the actors and what are their levels of operation?

C) AGRARIAN TRANSITION: Southeast Asian societies are transforming from mainly rural and agricultural populations to urban, industrialized and market-oriented ones. Which processes are involved? What are the links between the various systems involved?

D) MEMORIES: What is left in contemporary Southeast Asian societies from past traditions, culture, and spiritual spirits? What roles can be attributed to historical remains (physical, orals or traditions) in transforming SEA?


Re-constituting East Asia, November 22-25, 2007, Le Manoir Richelieu, La Malbaie, Québec

PublicationsCONFERENCE THEME: The fragile thaw in Chinese-Japanese relations, a major work in progress that can always be threatened by apparently innocuous events like the release of a film (a revisionist interpretation of the Nanjing massacre is going to be the subject of a major docudrama); or more serious ones like the Chinese shooting down of a satellite and the Japanese movement to change the constitution; the continued stalemate over the Korean peninsula and its consequences for nuclear proliferation; the preparation for the 2008 CCP Congress, which is expected to consolidate Hu Jintao's grip on power; the political agendas in East Asia are going to be full: important transitions are going to be discussed and prepared, with far-reaching consequences. Underneath these visible changes, however, other profound transformations are also unfolding in the realm of culture, society and identity. They proceed at a slow pace but like tectonic plates their effect can be sudden and devastating: gender imbalances, ageing of the population, environmental degradation, to name a few, all pose formidable challenges to East Asian societies. However, people in that part of the world also dispose of a wealth of resources to meet these challenges, and thanks to the extraordinary dynamism of their economy, may innovate in ways that are still unprecedented. A common point of all these trends is that they are not confined to East Asia: they have far-reaching consequences in Canada and the rest of the world. To address these issues, the programme committee is seeking contributions from people in all disciplines, to reflect the legacies that help or hinder changes in East Asia, to analyze current challenges that remain, and to assess future possibilities. ABSTRACT SUBMISSION DEADLINE : APRIL 1, 2007.

For detailed information, visit the CASA website at

Muslims in India: All around inequality, by Harun ur Rashid, The Daily Star, 07-02-2007

Although India takes deep pride in having secular democracy for its many castes, creeds and faiths, the notion has come under severe scrutiny in the last few decades. Under the BJP's government, the Hindutva doctrine - one India, one religion (Hindu) and one nation - came into prominence, marginalising the non-Hindu communities in the country.

With the Congress-led government in power, it has realised that something needs to be done to improve the condition of minorities, especially its largest religious minority, the Muslims (150 million). Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (right, a non-Hindu) commissioned a study by a panel. Its head was a retired High Court judge Rajinder Sachar, and the secretary was Abu Saleh Shariff.

The report that has recently come out was a candid and damning one. It stated: "The community (Muslim) is relatively poorer, more illiterate, has lower access to education, lower representation in public and private sector jobs, and lower availability of bank credit for self-employment. In urban areas, the community mostly lives in slums characterized by poor municipal infrastructure." Among others, the most unflattering statistics show that in many states Muslims are significantly over-represented in prisons. In the western state of Maharashtra, for instance, Muslims make up about 10.6% of the population, but 32.4% of those convicted are facing trial.

In the top national bureaucracy, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Muslims made up 2% of officers in 2006. Among district judges in 15 states surveyed, 2.7% were Muslim. The gap in employment is likely to be among the most politically sensitive issues in the country. Muslims appear to be over-represented in the informal sector of day labourers and street vendors. Muslims secured about 15% of all government jobs, considerably less than the share filled by "backward" castes and dalits (untouchables). Educational disparity was the most striking. Among Muslims, the literacy rate is about 59%, compared with more than 65% among Indians as a whole. On average, less than 2% of the students go to the elite Indian Institutes of Technology, Shariff said.

The secretary of the panel reportedly said in an interview that in some states education and poverty indicators showed that Muslims had fallen behind even the low-caste Hindus. Shariff said that the panel recommended, among other things, free and compulsory education up to age 14, as well as financial support to promote industries in which Muslims constitute majority of the workers, like textiles. The report is expected to be made public soon, but leaks in the media have prompted debate in civil society as to whether affirmative action should be applied to Muslims, just like the low-caste Hindus, to uplift the condition of this group.

A number of Muslim religious and political leaders have already demanded "quotas" for Muslims. But the BJP has pointed out that Indian law prohibits faith-based "quotas." Whatever action the government takes, it will raise a complex web of forces in Indian society. There is no straight and simple solution. The question is whether the government can deliver the outcome of economic progress to many Muslims at the bottom of the ladder.

Commenting on the report, Pratap Chandra Mehta, the president of the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, reportedly said: "What is at stake is not just uplifting this or that group, but the very idea of India itself, whether it has the capacity for transcending the cant, indifference, and identity traps that have brought us to this pass."

In this connection, what Nobel laureate Amartya Sen argues in his book, that the reduction of individuals to a single identity - whether Hindu, Muslim or Christian-is misconceived and emanates from exclusivist forms of thinking of political organisations, is relevant. For example, a human being has multiple personalities and only one of them is religious. Such an individual could be an Indian citizen, a Bengali, an author, a music lover, a strong believer in secularism, and a man or woman. Finally, it is a soul-searching report. At least the Congress-led government must be given the credit for commissioning such a report to address Muslim concerns.

York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR). For more information, contact
Ste. 270 York Lanes, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3. Web: