A – Minorities, national belonging, and state-building

Minority formation and nation-making in Asia

Event Details

  • Date

    Saturday, 27 June - 14:00 – 16:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    A – Minorities, national belonging, and state-building
Convenor
  • Kwangmin Kim (University of Colorado)
Chair
  • Kwangmin Kim (University of Colorado)
Commentator
  • Khang Jeongseog (Sogang University)
Panelists
  • Ilyeong Jeong (Sogang University)
  • Kwangmin Kim (University of Colorado)
  • Myeon Jeong (Sogang University)
  • Yasuko Hassal Kobayashi (Ritsumeikan University, Faculty of Global Liberal Arts)

Papers

  • Kwangmin Kim
    Chinese Citizenship and Property Right in the Sino-Korean Borderland in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

    Chinese Citizenship and Property Right in the Sino-Korean Borderland in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

    In 1882, in an effort to raise local revenue, the Qing government conducted the first systematic land survey of the southern Manchuria located just north of Tumen and Yalu Rivers. It was the border territory between China and Korea, whose belonging had long been disputed. The Qing officials soon found out that a substantial number of ethnic Korean squatters, hailing from the adjoining Korean territory, were conducting land reclamation there. These Korean settlers received land certificate issued by the Korean government, that allowed the settlers to conduct the land reclamation there; they subsequently paid taxes to the Korean authority. Disturbed by this discovery, the Qing government issued a statement that linked citizenship and property rights directly: anyone who farms the land of China should be Chinese. Therefore, ethnic Korean settlers must register in the tax register of the Qing local administration nearby. Furthermore, they must adopt Chinese clothing and hairstyle, thus becoming Chinese. Or else, the Koreans must leave, leaving their land behind. This paper examines the long-term legacy of the decision to link national citizenship and property rights on the relations between the Chinese state and the Korean minority living in the Sino-Korean border territory in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. The paper investigates how the Chinese state, including both the imperial Qing and republican Chinese governments, deployed the notion of national citizenship, or lack thereof, as a forceful justification to deprive the Korean settlers of the rights to own land property in the disputed border area. The paper also shows that the Chinese state used the award of property rights as an effective tool to pressure the Korean settlers to join the emerging Chinese nation.
  • Ilyeong Jeong
    Expelling unhappiness, Outsourcing Happiness – the Forced Adoption of Children of Leprosy patients in South Korea in the 1970s

    Expelling unhappiness, Outsourcing Happiness – the Forced Adoption of Children of Leprosy patients in South Korea in the 1970s

    This paper examines the various state initiatives to exclude and discriminate against leprosy patients in Korea and the social context in which such exclusion was possible in the 20th century. The discriminatory state policies including geographical quarantine and forceful sterilization of the leprosy patients began by the Japanese colonial government (1910-1945). It was inherited by the South Korean government after Korean gained independence in 1945. The South Korean government even initiated an effort to enact the Eugenics Law, at the time when a widespread criticism was directed against eugenics in Western society. In particular, the paper focuses on the state policy to separate the children of leprosy patients from their parents in 1970s. The “uncontaminated children of leprosy patients” (Mi-gam-a) was one of the 17 categories of children that the Korean government decided to house in orphanages in 1970. Subsequently, the government pushed for systematic overseas adoption of Mi-gam-a, an initiation that caused the serious debate about the adoption of Korean Mi-gam-a both in Korea and the U.S., one popular destination of the Korean adoptees.
  • Myeon Jeong
    The Formation of the Bai People and Founding Tales of Nanzhao Kingdom

    The Formation of the Bai People and Founding Tales of Nanzhao Kingdom

    This study investigates how the Communist government of China used historical memories to construct an ethnic identity of a minority nationality. The Bai people (Baizu) are one of the 55 "Minority Nationalities" officially recognized by government of People’s Republic of China. Nearly 2 million Bai people live in the mainland China. Roughly 80% of them live in Yunnan Province, most of them in Dali Autonomous County. This paper examines the ways in which the Chinese government reinterpreted the history of Nanzhao Kingdom, a medieval regional state of dubious ethnic origin that existed in Dali area from the early 7th century to the early 10th century. It investigates the long standing debate the ethnic origin of the Nanzhao Kingdom between mainstream Chinese historians on the one hand and the Thai, European, and American scholars on the other. The paper also examines how the reinterpretation served the Chinese state’s purpose of making Baizu as one of the 55 official "minority nationalities" that constituted the multiethnic Chinese nation.
  • Yasuko Hassal Kobayashi
    Changing Attitudes: the formation of a minority agency, Malays in Singapore

    Changing Attitudes: the formation of a minority agency, Malays in Singapore

    Singapore mainstream history is coloured with stories of successful nation-building with cultural and racial harmony and it is by now one of the significant global economic hubs. This presentation, however, provides a different story, from a vantage point of an ethnic minority in Singapore: Malays. Singapore nationals are categorised into four ethnic groups inherited from the British colonial governance: Chinese (75%), Malay (15%), Indian (5%) and the Others. Since its independence in 1965, the Singapore government (predominantly Chinese Singaporeans) has constantly problematised and criticised Malays’ underperformance in various domains of public life (such as education and employment), and has framed them as an ethnic-specific problem, Masalah Melayu: the Malay problem. Instead of confronting this treatment, Malays echo these state discourses about their backwardness and exert themselves to meet the state-designed goals for them. What happens when two different entities, the newly independent Singaporean state aiming at achieving success by promoting its meritocratic ideology and a minority community with different cultural and ideological traits, meet each other through the nation- building process? This presentation views the “Malay Problem” as an active process of how the Malay community configured itself as part of the newly independent meritocratic society, through its campaign entitled “Changing Attitudes (Ubah Sikap) in the 1970s. Theoretically, this presentation will critically engage with Bhabha’s concept of the third space, by pointing out the limits of its presumption that the subordinate shifts the power of the superior by forming its agency in the process of encountering and responding to the superior. Instead, in the case of Malays, the subordinate not only internalises the state ideology but also confirms it innately via Malays’ desire to catch up with the national mainstream.

Abstract

This panel examines the global and translational dynamics that contributed to the minority formation in in Asia in the 19th and the 20th centuries. In particular this panel explores the critical role that the global politics of the nation-making and nationalism played in the minority formation. The panelists show how various colonial and post-colonial visions of modern nationhood in Asia contributed to the rise of new modes and patterns of social exclusion and to the formation of the specific groups of new minorities. Especially this panel focuses on four specific visions of nationhood, emerged out of Asian state builders’ constant interactions with the European or “Western” political discourses: genetically superior Korea, multiethnic China composed of Soviet-style “nationalities”, Chinese nation composed of property-owner citizens, and racially harmonious meritocratic Singapore. The panel also explores the various, often contradictory ways in which the minorities resisted against and conformed to their minoritization. Jeong Ilyeong’s paper, “Expelling Unhappiness, Outsourcing Happiness,” examines Korean state’s systematic discrimination against leprosy patients in the 20th century. The Korean government implemented discriminatory policies as a part of its initiative to create a genetically superior nation, a vision drawing upon the globally circulated discourse of Eugenics. In particular, the paper explores the South Korean government’s effort in the 1970s to separate the “uncontaminated” children of the leprosy patients (Mi-gam-a) from their parents. It pays special attention to the state initiative to send Mi-gam-a on international adoption, which engendered controversies both in Korea and the US, a major destination of the adoptees. Jeong Myeon’s paper, “The Formation of the Bai people and Founding Tales of Nanzhao Kingdom,” explores the formation of the ethnic identity of Bai people (Baizu), an ethnic minority residing in southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan. This paper pays special attention to how since the 1950s the government of People’s Republic of China has reinterpreted the history of the Nanzhao Kingdom, a medieval kingdom of dubious ethnic origin that existed in the area, as the ethnic history of the Baizu. The paper shows that the reinterpretation served the PRC state’s purpose of making Baizu as one of the 55 official "minority nationalities" that constituted the multiethnic Chinese nation. Kwangmin Kim’s paper, “Chinese Citizenship and Property Right in the Sino-Korean Borderland in the Late 19th and the Early 20th Centuries,” investigates Chinese government’s efforts to assimilate the long- term Korean settlers living in the disputed Sino-Korean border territory in southern Manchuria at the turn of the twentieth century. The paper investigates how the Chinese state, including both the imperial Qing and republican Chinese governments, deployed the notion of national citizenship, or lack thereof, as a forceful justification to deprive the Korean settlers of the rights to own land property in the border area. It also shows at the same time how the Chinese state used the award of property rights as an effective tool to pressure the Korean settlers to be assimilated into the emerging Chinese nation. Yasuko Hassall Kobayashi’s paper, “Changing Attitudes: the formation of a minority agency, Malays in Singapore,” examines Malay ethnic community’s engagement with the Singaporean state’s project of building a meritocratic, multiethnic nation. This paper explores Malay minority’s appropriation of the Singaporean state’s discourse of the “Malay Problem (Masalah Melayu)”, which was critical of Malays’ underperformance in various domains of public life (such as education and employment) in 1960s and 1970s. Rather than confronting the discourse, this paper shows, the Malay community internalized it to establish itself as part of the meritocratic society envisioned by the Singaporean state. As such, this paper critically engages with Homi Bhabha’s concept of the third space, and highlights limits of its presumption that the subordinate could shift the power of the superior by forming its agency in the process of encountering and responding to the superior. In case of Malays, the subordinate internalized the state ideology as Malays’ innate desire to catch up with the national mainstream.