Kenji KOSAKA is President of the Asia-Pacific Sociological Association (APSA).
This fourth issue of The International Scope Review presents several articles drawn from The Fourth Conference of the Asia-Pacific Sociological Association (APSA) held 14-16 September, 2000, at Kwansei Gakuin University, Nishinomiya, Japan. Among the 90 papers presented in Nishinomiya, the best were selected by the session convenors for submission.
The aim of APSA is to develop contacts between sociologists and social science practitioners in the Asia-Pacific area. The idea of having an association to link social scientists in the Asia Pacific area was launched in 1994 by John Western, then a Professor of Sociology at The University of Queensland, at a meeting hosted by The Australian Sociological Association in Brisbane. It was agreed to set up an Asia-Pacific Regional Conference, and to found an organization. The Manila Conference (May 1996) drew the outline for APSA, which was formally established at the Kuala Lumpur Conference in 1997. A third Conference was held in Cheju, South Korea, in 1999, and a fourth in Nishinomiya, Japan, in 2000.
This last conference bore on contemporary transitions in Asian societies. Analyzing these developments is all the more useful because these societies are undergoing drastic changes in many aspects. Actually, health and environment issues, economic internationalization and its societal effects, change in class structures, growth in cities, ethnic and cultural identity problems, evolving family and gender relations, are raising burning challenges in this part of the world. The first articles presented here bear on the development of contemporary Japan. Todd Holden focuses on the representation of Japanese cultural identity in television advertising. Disputing the often "homogenous" label pinned on Japanese society and its people, his analysis suggests that contemporary Japan is becoming far more heterogeneous than one could expect. Identity in commercial communications is not just about "we Japanese" any more. Increasingly, messages of identity are about the personal search : missives encouraging individuals to find their own way, to live for themselves, to seek, express and receive affection, to become more self-centered and personally goal-directed. Such themes reflect a departure from the past - where identity was often mediated by the group. This development probably reveals the evolution of Japanese society from its original collectivistic values to more individualistic values.
Reiko Yamato’s article addresses an ever-increasing and burdensome problem in the Japanese ageing society : who, or which institution, should care for the aged and disabled people? Examining the influence of gender and class on people’s orientations on the subject, she found that men in higher income brackets are more likely to prefer care provided by the primary family; that women in the same income category prefer care by professionals; and that men and women in lower strata prefer care by the extended kin. Her findings show that the evolution might favor men from higher economic strata, and that more and more women in higher strata employ pay care employees who are women from lower strata, recreating thus a division of the care work that had disappeared for a long time in Japan.
Carrying further the analysis of social inequalities in contemporary Japan, Hideo Aoki’s article delineates the situation and background of a particular district in Osaka, Japan, where a homeless underclass resides. In post-war Japan, urbanization and a rapid growth in the economy attracted people from rural areas and from surrounding vicinities to the larger cities. However, as boom-times changed to recession, an underclass developed, unable to find any means of support, and it is this socially ignored category upon which Aoki is focusing. This article analyzes the specificities of the Japanese underclass compared to the Western ones, and opens interesting perspectives on the ritual and mental aspects of its struggle for life. Two other articles bear on the economic internationalization process and its impact on Asian societies in the specific case of Indian people.
Zainuddin’s article explores the current resurgence of the Muslim movement in India, in its attempts to thwart the homogenizing tendencies entailed by economic internationalization. Indian Muslims are engaged in the reconstruction of their identity through cultural politics that is supposed to provide for stabilizing mechanisms in the context of a fast changing and chaotic global environment. Although he observed differences between two Muslim movements - the former being instrumental, ‘outwardly’ directed, and striving at capturing state power for establishing Islamic order, the latter being ‘inwardly oriented’ and concentrating on civil society, identity, and cultural issues -, he suggests that in last resort both movements are essentially political in nature.
The article by Caroline Pluss examines the ways in which Indian residents in Hong Kong have shaped their cultural identity over a long time period. It shows through which strategies and techniques ethnic minorities define their identities, both globally (by referring to ways, values and skills rooted in other parts of the world) and locally (by strengthening and exalting their specificities in comparison with other ethnic groups). These articles will be followed by others in a next issue. As for APSA, it will continue its Conferences cycle in order to improve our knowledge of social transformations in Asian societies.
Finally, an Italian author who was not at the APSA Conference, Umberto Melotti, brings an interesting complement to this issue and to the cross-cultural perspective taken by the Review by discussing the Italian immigration policy with reference to Italian political culture and, especially, to the Italian idea of nation. A comparison is also made with France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the three main European countries of immigration.