A – Minorities, national belonging, and state-building

Minority conflicts and postcolonial nation state building in Asia: Exploring the role of diplomatic and humanitarian aid, c. 1940s to 1960s

Event Details

  • Date

    Saturday, 27 June - 8:30–10:30

    Saturday, 27 June - 11:00 – 13:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    A – Minorities, national belonging, and state-building
Convenor
  • Maria Framke (University of Rostock)
  • Joanna Simonow (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
Chair
  • Mark Frost (University of Essex)
Commentator
  • Corinna R. Unger (European University Institute, Florence)
Panelists
  • Joanna Simonow (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
  • Maria Framke (University of Rostock)
  • Clemens Six (University of Groningen)
  • Eleonor Marcussen (University of Erfurt)
  • Andreas Weiß (Helmut-Schmidt-University)
  • Mark Frost (University of Essex)
  • Johan Ehrstedt (Åbo Akademi University, Department of History)

Papers

  • Joanna Simonow
    Indian Nationalism, Famine Relief in Bengal and Patterns of In- and Exclusion at the Eve of Independence, 1942-1944

    Indian Nationalism, Famine Relief in Bengal and Patterns of In- and Exclusion at the Eve of Independence, 1942-1944

    The paper wishes to add to the proposed panel theme through an exploration of the intersection and conflation of humanitarian aid, nation building and decolonization in Asia. The paper scrutinizes the efforts of a range of institutions associated with the Indian nationalist movement to attend to the Bengal famine. In 1942-44, famine relief in Bengal was part of a wider strategy of India’s political elite to apply the mobilization of humanitarian assistance to create a sense of national belonging between people of different provinces in India, as well as to involve the Indian diaspora in the nation building process. Relief that was forthcoming from other Indian provinces, Asia, Europe and beyond, however, not necessarily exhibited a deliberate effort to include minorities and to cut across regional, communal or religious difference. By earmarking donations, and by channeling funds through committees with a communal focus, transnational solidarities were harnessed to implement patterns of exclusion and to cater to the needs of particular groups. In this context, the paper examines how the mobilization and provision of famine relief during the crisis in Bengal complicated and contributed to India’s nation building process by promoting the inclusion and the exclusion of societal groups.
  • Maria Framke
    Indian Medical Missions in Malaysia 1946: Governmental and non-governmental humanitarian aid in the context of WWII, decolonisation and (post)colonial foreign policy

    Indian Medical Missions in Malaysia 1946: Governmental and non-governmental humanitarian aid in the context of WWII, decolonisation and (post)colonial foreign policy

    The paper examines Indian state and non-state relief work during a humanitarian crisis in Malaysia in 1946. Being requested by members of the Indian National Army to help their fellow countrymen in Malaysia, who constituted a minority community in the British-ruled South East Asian colony, the Indian National Congress became quickly active. It organized a medical mission that not only provided aid for Indians, but also for Malayans and Chinese on the spot. Being aware of the severe conditions after WWII in the region, the British Indian government also sent relief workers to Malaysia at the same time. In the context of late colonial rule and early decolonisation in South and Southeast Asia, the paper focuses on the question of diplomatic/political competition between two humanitarian initiatives. It examines the reasons that influenced both initiatives to go beyond their initial focus of providing aid to only one minority community, and thus explores how patterns of inter-regional and trans-imperial mobility and migration changed in the context of WWII, decolonization and nation building. The paper also aims to answer the question, to what extent Congress’ endeavour to deploy its humanitarian aid as a tool for national self-determination and sovereignty was nationally and internationally successful and in which ways it influenced Congress’ vision of a postcolonial Indian foreign policy.
  • Clemens Six
    Minority conflicts as a global agenda: UNESCO’s Tensions Project in Asia, 1948-1955

    Minority conflicts as a global agenda: UNESCO’s Tensions Project in Asia, 1948-1955

    In 1949, the Indian Ministry of Education formally requested UNESCO in Paris to make available a group of consultants who would spend a few months in newly independent India to undertake a rather delicate research project. The overall task of this mission was to explore the “social tensions” in Indian society more generally and between Hindus and Muslims more specifically, in order to provide the postcolonial government with some concrete practical advice on how to proceed in this matter. This paper analyses this consultancy mission to India as part of the broader interdisciplinary “Tensions Project”, which UNESCO coordinated between 1948 and 1955. The Tensions Project was a first major attempt in post-1945 international diplomacy to investigate, understand, and oppose social tensions of all sorts, among them minority-related problems of marginalisation, repression, and violence. Thereby, the wider objective was to facilitate global academic exchange to reduce tensions in domestic and international relations. Within the broad range of sub-projects, consultants, and intellectuals involved, I concentrate on research related to (religious and ethnic) minorities and migrants undertaken in Asian societies, i.e. India, Israel, and Japan, which I compare as three different forms of post-imperial nation-building. Conceptually, the case study is an attempt to understand conflict resolution around minorities and migrants as part of an evolving global polity after WW2.
  • Eleonor Marcussen
    “Dream city of the homeless”: International humanitarianism and refugees in Faridabad industrial settlement (India), 1950-1952

    “Dream city of the homeless”: International humanitarianism and refugees in Faridabad industrial settlement (India), 1950-1952

    This paper examines refugee work by Service Civil International (SCI) in Faridabad industrial settlement in 1950-1952. The postcolonial era in South Asia posed new challenges for the humanitarian organisation’s work and ideas. Having established a network of collaborators among leading Indian National Congress members in the mid-1930s, the organisation reinitiated work among refugees in Faridabad in 1950 and expanded into small-scale development work in health and infrastructure projects across South Asia in the following decades. The Faridabad industrial settlement would become the model for small-scale industrialization where SCI worked with skills and health of refugees from the N.W.F.P. Based in Switzerland, SCI had since the 1920s organised international work camps in Europe after wars and natural disasters in order to form inter-personal relations and foster reconciliation. For the SCI, the 1950s represented a shift towards development work in alignment with the goals of the independent Indian nation-state. Without the explicit aims of conflict resolution, forming inter-personal relationships remained an important feature of the organisations profile. The case of SCI sheds light on continuities and breaks in aims of emerging international humanitarianism after pre- and post-independence. The presentation first seeks to understand SCI’s motives and ideas behind the first project in post-independence India; and secondly, it analyses its cooperation with other relief organisations and the policy in the first five-year plan by the Indian planning commission.
  • Andreas Weiß
    Staying in Contact: The Role of Minorities in Diplomatic Contacts between Western Europe and South-East Asia after Decolonisation

    Staying in Contact: The Role of Minorities in Diplomatic Contacts between Western Europe and South-East Asia after Decolonisation

    While the European Economic Community (EEC), and later the European Communities, developed an interest in South-East Asia since the late 1960s, two of its founding members, France and the Netherlands, maintained their interest in the region after the demise of their colonial rule. The paper examines how these two European states established international relations between the EEC and South-East Asian countries by using human rights and humanitarian aid as tools of influence. While more and more South East Asian states became independent in the wake of decolonization, the EEC endeavored to form its relations with this region in accordance with its civil-normative standpoint. As such, the organization and its associated European institutions aimed to protect minorities, and extended its protection of groups to which it did not entail former colonial connections. To secure human rights, the EEC for instance used the threat of or implemented trade restrictions, in a similar way as already inscribed in the Treaty of Rome, when negotiating with (newly emergent) postcolonial nation states. As human rights became highly politicized during the Cold War, European diplomats were forced to take complicated, hotly debated standpoints. Their use of diplomatic aid in South East Asia and the often critical debates regarding their involvement, both in European and South-East Asian public circles, will also be analysed in the paper.
  • Mark Frost
    Remembrance, Reparations and the Minoritized Majority: exploring the Japan-Singapore aid agreement of 1967

    Remembrance, Reparations and the Minoritized Majority: exploring the Japan-Singapore aid agreement of 1967

    Between the 1960s and 1990s, Japan became the leading donor of overseas aid in decolonizing and newly-independent nations of Southeast Asia. By 1987, it supplied 57% of net overseas development assistance to ASEAN (compared with 11% from the US). Initially, memories of Japan’s occupation of the region during World War 2, and especially its treatment of Southeast Asia’s (mostly) minority Chinese and Eurasian populations, played a major yet complex role in this munificence. Nowhere was this more so than in the Republic of Singapore, which in 1967 signed a bilateral accord whereby Japan supplied it with $50 million worth of ‘economic assistance’ (half in the form of a grant and half as a loan). While Singapore’s local Chinese-speaking population were encouraged to understand such aid as the overdue payment of a wartime ‘blood debt’, Singaporean and Japanese officials negotiated at length over its exact relationship to Japanese war crimes. The two governments’ eventual agreement on this matter would pave the way for Japan to become Singapore’s most important overseas trade partner, and a regularly cited reference point for its own modernization. This paper explores, in detail, the complex grassroots mobilizations, political contests and bilateral negotiations that produced the Japan-Singapore accord of 1967 and assesses the long-term impact of the aid it promised on ethnic integration in ‘multicultural’ Singapore. The paper addresses the way in which wartime wounds were pragmatically deployed by the Singapore government, and then demobilized, to serve the needs of the present. It posits that the activities of both governments resulted in the minoritization of Singapore’s majority Chinese population, its wartime experiences and grievances. The paper also argues for a greater focus on Japan’s involvement, through its diplomatic aid programmes, in the national-level politics of inclusion and exclusion in postwar Southeast Asia.
  • Johan Ehrstedt
    An ambiguous famine: The crisis of 1956-57 and the exclusive politics of food and relief in East Pakistan

    An ambiguous famine: The crisis of 1956-57 and the exclusive politics of food and relief in East Pakistan

    In early 1956 East Pakistan was struck by a serious food crisis that turned into a famine. In contrast to a number of previous food crises that had taken place after 1947, this time the provincial government did successfully deal with the crisis and no one reportedly died. However, a closer look at the ways in which trade was regulated and relief deployed reveals the postcolonial state treated its citizens differently. Networks of patronage, class relationships, geographical location and religious affiliation played a crucial role in the distribution of aid, effectively reflecting the priorities of the powers that be.

Abstract

During and after the end of the Second World War, decolonization and nation building in South and South East Asia gave rise to, and collated with, multiple minority conflicts in the region. Against the backdrop of decolonization and of the emergent Cold War, (soon-to-be) post-colonial nation states embarked on complex efforts of national integration, but also followed diverse strategies of exclusion that marginalized minorities and cut across established patterns of inter-regional and trans-imperial mobility and migration. In the process, state actors and non-state organizations in Asia looked beyond the emergent or newly drawn postcolonial borders to engage in strategies of inclusion. They tried to secure the rights of people belonging to, but living outside, ‘their’ nation and articulated policies that allowed for, and advocated, the inclusion of minorities. Lastly, patterns of in- and exclusion of minorities in Asia were complicated by the involvement of non-state and intergovernmental institutions situated outside the confines of ‘the nation’ and outside of the region. As they took up the cause to assist minority groups threatened to be marginalized in the process of making and asserting the postcolonial nation-state, they challenged policies of exclusion. Against the backdrop of these multidirectional, transnational and transregional patterns, the panel explores the role of humanitarian, development and diplomatic aid in undergirding and levelling politics of in- and exclusion. It scrutinizes policies and measures of state actors, non-state and international organizations situated in and outside of Asia to assist minorities in South and South East Asia between 1942 and the late 1960s. More specifically, this panel addresses the following questions: - Which methods did the organizations/actors use to assist minority groups? - How did they implement their work and with which success? - Which role did they play in building the postcolonial nation state? - How was their assistance perceived nationally and internationally? - Did their efforts influence bilateral or international relations? - Which influence did their efforts to the composition of pluralistic societies yield? Did their activities reduce or increase existing divisions? - If these organizations/actors belong to a minority group, how did they position themselves against the majority society?