Transnational Trajectories? Studying Nation and Citizenship in East Asia

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:15 AM
Room: Booth 51
Oral Presentation
Yasemin SOYSAL , Sociology, University of Essex, Colchester, United Kingdom
Despite sociology’s increasing engagement with global processes, the relationship between global/transnational studies and cross-national, comparative studies remains a question, both conceptually and methodologically.   This paper inquires into this relationship through an empirical focus on the transnationalization of nation and citizenship in East Asia.  Unlike the common practice, by transnationalization, I do not simply refer to the advance of explicit transborder regimes (e.g. the World Trade Organization and the European Convention on Human Rights), or social formations “spanning borders” (e.g., migrant networks). Rather I offer transnationalization as an analytical node to capture the diffusion of non-nation-specific, universalistic frameworks, models, and standards, and the engagement of nationally located actors’ (states, social movements, professional organizations, and individuals) with such frameworks to orient their actions and strategies.  This view locates the nation-state and a variety of national actors within their broader transnational environment—in an analytical sense these two levels are inseparable.

Densely organized at the national level and beyond, education policy is highly susceptible to transnational isomorphism.  The analysis of the post–World War II school curricular reforms and content (particular focus on Japan and China, in comparison with European developments) shows that national educational systems in East Asia increasingly assume a globalized society, and the role of active and able citizens and nations in making this society.  In so doing, they systematically insist upon the “distinct” contributions of the nation and its citizens to the good of the wider world.  Yet, as the nation (and its uniqueness) is expressed fiercely, the policy reforms themselves affirm transnationally diffused, common models of social order. Nations as “imagined communities” and individuals as citizen acquire commonalities across societies.  The assertiveness of the nation (divergence), as well as its progressively common imaginary (convergence), is linked to its transnationalization.