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December 04 , 2009

Constructing Modern Asian Citizenship


In many non-Western contexts, modernization has tended to be equated with Westernization, and hence with an abandonment of authentic indigenous identities and values. This is evident in the recent history of many Asian societies, where efforts to modernize – spurred on by the spectre of foreign domination – have often been accompanied by determined attempts to stamp national variants of modernity with the brand of local authenticity: ‘Asian values’, ‘Chinese characteristics’, a Japanese cultural ‘essence’ and so forth. Highlighting (or exaggerating) associations between the more unsettling consequences of modernization and alien influence has thus formed part of a strategy whereby elites in many Asian societies have sought to construct new forms of legitimacy for old patterns of dominance over the masses. The apparatus of modern systems of mass education, often inherited from colonial rulers, has been just one instrument in such campaigns of state legitimation.

This book presents analyses of a range of contemporary projects of citizenship formation across Asia in order to identify those issues and concerns most central to Asian debates over the construction of modern identities. Its main focus is on schooling, but also examines other vehicles for citizenship-formation, such as museums and the internet; the role of religion (in particular Islam) in debates over citizenship and identity in certain Asian societies; and the relationship between state-centred identity discourses and the experience of increasingly ‘globalized’ elites.

With chapters from an international team of contributors, this interdisciplinary volume will appeal to students and scholars of Asian culture and society, Asian education, comparative education and citizenship.

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