Alienation From Policy Processes Across Asia

Title: 1388 | Alienation From Policy Processes Across Asia
Area: Northeast Asia
Stream: Anthropology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Toru Yamada, Meiji University, Japan (organizer, presenter, chair)
Yuzhou Wang, UCLA, United States (presenter)
Naomi Yamada, University of Tsukuba, Japan (presenter)
Sayaka Akiho, Meiji University, Japan (presenter)


The papers in this panel focuses on alienation from policy processes. By alienation, we indicate groups and constituencies that feel unrepresented by policy-makers or detached from policy formations. We ask if this alienation is necessarily linked to rising nationalism and an inflated perception of risk; we seek inspiration from small-scale markets in Cambodia, Chinese musical galas on TV, Japanese heritage landscapes, and institutional policies during the coronavirus outbreak. What can case studies across the ethnological spectrum tell us about divisive rhetoric that often centers on affect and not on processual and empirical realities?

Sayaka Akiho describes how small-scale pepper farmers in Cambodia are impacted by global flows of trade, how they feel left out, and how they perceive the value and risk of products from neighboring states. Toru Yamada focuses on the incongruencies of using regional distinctives and icons of foreignness to promote nationalist meaning through World Heritage status. His interlocuters in a Catholic church-dotted landscape in rural Japan contrast local values and meanings with the representation of their lifeways along with product promotion on a national level and to UNESCO. Naomi Yamada compares the institutional considerations that factor into coronavirus policies with those of the 2009 swine flu pandemic—a politically-charged season when Chinese educational institutions enacted policies to restrict engagements with foreigners. And Yu Zhou looks at the ways that patriotic music in China is alienated from its original intent, but has become a part of daily life, re-shaped into a musical habitus in a socially-changed landscape.

Panel Abstracts:
Redesigning Heritage: Legal Reconstruction of a Cultural Landscape in Japan
In this paper, I examine the detachment of people’s practices and culture from their portrayal in newly inscribed World Heritage properties. The properties, located on Nagasaki island sites, are meant to be representative of the residents, both past and present. Since the inscription of Nagasaki’s Hidden Christian Sites into UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2018, local residents and government officials have been having lengthy discussions on how to legally meet with requirements from UNESCO and from the Japanese government. Along with Nagasaki’s Christian history, which is the main focus of the inscription, the promotion and retention of the farmland-designated landscape has continuing implications for and restrictions to the foodways of the people. This is because the Japanese national government makes it mandatory to secure wider geographic spaces – cultural landscapes – around World Heritage properties, which usually consist of farmland and fisheries. In the process of drafting a preservation plan, the local officials and residents are discussing possible and realistic ways to continue farming and fishing practices. In this process, officials and residents sometimes have a hard time finding a middle ground as a scenic heritage landscape often renders crops and fish with high commercial values, and the local residents have consumed those on primarily limited special occasions. As Pope Francis visited in November 2019, locals and government officials negotiate how to co-represent regional distinctives and nationalist meaning to a global audience.

Patriotism and Aesthetics in Chinese Hongge
Hongge, the Chinese patriotic songs conveying the concepts of national unity, the sense of belonging to socialism and the parental image of the leadership are categorized as a genre that represents history and present in this research. It has transcended the lyrical implications by building up a musical aesthetics. I examine the patriotic contents, the bel canto-like vocal style and grand stage presentations to illustrate how a politics-oriented genre has been transformed to a daily experience. It is the sound that echoed throughout the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC. It also becomes common in entertaining scenes such as the annual Spring Festival Gala, karaoke bars and night shows at the art troupe. My fieldwork reveals that people are connected to the genre in different ways. The collective nostalgia leads to a constant acceptance of the patriotism contents; the frequent encounter with the melodies creates natural repetitions that reconcile the ideological imagination and the music’s ubiquity in reality; further, the genre represents the PRC’s orthodox musical standards in terms of the pursuit of singing accuracy and performing techniques.There is a gradual alienation from its original political intentions. Its political and apolitical representations are adherent to both traditional and contemporary musical preferences. Thus, I argue that in the Chinese context, the fusion of politics and music, as an attachment to national identity, has been re-shaped into a musical habitus, one that can respond to the gap between convention and recreation, between the doctrine of ideology and social changes.

Institutional Policies During Epidemic Moments: Considerations and Conflations
The spread of the coronavirus has been accompanied by reported racist and xenophobic incidents; such “coronavirus racism” narratives generally concern insults and attacks made on individuals by other individuals. However, policies enacted to prevent the spread of coronavirus on various institutional levels are also frequently based on aspects that label others in imprecise ways. A host of additional considerations—political, financial, and relational—enter into the enactment of policy.In this paper, I contrast institutional policies of the coronavirus outbreak with those of the 2009 swine flu (H1N1) pandemic. In the summer and fall of 2009, schools and institutions across China implemented preventative measures against the spread of swine flu, which originated in Mexico. Campuses, airports and other sites took precautions. There was a frequent conflation of foreigners and individuals from affected areas, which became a barrier to my research endeavors at the time. These conflations, perhaps of necessity, related to policy, which could not be contested, especially during an epidemic season. Furthermore, they arose from a powerful paradigm of contradiction that governs approaches to minority-majority relations within China, as well as foreigner-Chinese relations.

Development Assistance: The Space between the Gift and Exchange
This study investigates representations of nationalism in contemporary Cambodia with a focus on production and marketing practices. Rural farmers express a sense of alienation from trade logistics and the branding of their produce, as well as a suspicion of the quality of incoming products from neighboring countries. This paper explores both the changing value of crops and the transformation in agricultural production and trade among Khmer farmers after a new farming technology was introduced by a local NGO. The civil war has led to the destruction of Khmer social life, including social relationships and norms. From the end of the war to today, Khmer culture and its society have been gradually reconstructed through the everyday practices of farmers and their interactions with outsiders. Since 1991, many of these outsiders are represented by foreign aid and NGOs involved in carrying out development projects in rural areas. Their projects mainly focus on agricultural improvement. It is now common to see NGOs introducing new agriculture skills to the villagers and buying crops from them to sell in the international market. The yield crops produced with new skills are authorized by NGOs and given new commodity value as ‘Khmer organic products.’ This signifies that the dissemination of new agricultural techniques brings not only change in the production itself but imposes a new system for marketing crops and images of Khmer products

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