[2010 Scientific Reseach on Innovative Areas:]
The Fourth International Symposium
Regional Routes, Regional Roots? Cross-Border Patterns of Human Mobility
in Eurasia

Report by So Yamane

  The fourth international symposium of Comparative Research on Major Regional Powers in Eurasia in the Scientific Research on Innovative Areas project was held over two days at the Osaka Breezé Plaza on December 11 and 12. The symposium was organized by Group 5, which is pursuing a project titled “The Contours of State and Border-Crossings”.
Under the theme of “Regional Routes, Regional Roots?: Cross-Border Patterns of Human Mobility in Eurasia,” this symposium aimed to shed light on the character of major regional powers through discussion of minorities, migrants, surrounding countries and other perspectives.

In the first session, titled “Pilgrimage: Confession and Consumption,” Yoko Takayama (Asia University) made use of numerous visual resources to explain how the modern history of China as a “major power” has been legitimized, and connected to consumption, through the use of commemorative items connected with the Chinese revolution. This was followed by a presentation by Eileen Kane (Connecticut College) on modes of support for Muslim pilgrimages by Russia, a non-Islamic nation, at the start of the 20th century. Employing rare propaganda materials, Kane explained how the Muslim minority population was engaged by the Russian nation and brought under its purview as a major power. Finally, using results from a field survey on pilgrimages to Hindu sacred sites around the city of Pune in Maharashtra State, Western India, Chihiro Koiso (Osaka University) described the production of a Maharashtrian identity through a distinctive set of local beliefs surrounding the Hindu deity Ganesha.

In the second session, “Home, Sweet Home? Invitation to the Diaspora,” Gulnara Mendikulova (Center of Diaspora Studies, the World Association of the Kazakhs) discussed the global distribution of Kazakh migrants, while Surat Horachaikul (Chulalongkorn University) used his own experiences as the basis for a presentation on the socio-economic conditions of Indian migrants to Thailand. This was followed by a presentation by Liu Hong (Nanyang Technological University), who reviewed the history of Chinese diasporic populations since the 1950s, and then proceeded to outline the phenomenon whereby overseas Chinese known as the “new diaspora” return to China to work in the service of their mother country.

Session 3 was titled “The Mobile Businessman: Merchants’ Diaspora and Networks.” In this session, Artsvi Bakhchinyan (Institute of History, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia) reviewed the historical development of Armenian merchant networks and their place in the processes of formation of self-awareness among the Armenian people. Stephen Dale (Ohio State University) discussed the history of South Asian merchant networks by reference to two streams of expansion: into the Safavid dynasty and other parts of West Asia, and into Southeast Asia. Finally, Ryoichi Hisasue (The National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies) provided a data-rich report on the connections between Singaporean ethnic Chinese society and China itself, focusing particularly on the banking business.

Day two opened with a special panel on “Proliferation of Knowledge: Fostering Elites and Building the State Contours.” Wang Zhixin (St. Thomas University) outlined the old civil service examination system in China and the development of a bureaucratic class in the wake of the system’s abolition, addressing both aspects of historical development and current conditions and challenges. Jyoti R. Dandekar (Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University) addressed the topic of inbound international students in India, outlining educational conditions in the country and the growth trend in inbound international student numbers, in a presentation employing a fascinating set of photographs and other resources. The third panellist, Rafik Mukhametshin (Russian Islamic University), spoke about the current conditions and challenges in Islamic education in Russia in the context of developing a Muslim intellectual community. Issues covered in this presentation included the discords arising between Middle Eastern Islamic educational practices and the local conditions in Russia, a nation where many different religions coexist.

The first speaker in session 4, titled “Cries from the Periphery,” was Michael Reynolds (Princeton University), who described the strained relationship between Kurdish communities and the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. This was followed by Masato Toriya’s (Sophia University) historical discussion of the tribulations of Afghanistan when caught in the discord between Russia and British colonial India in the late 19th century. The session was rounded out by Uradyn E. Bulag (University of Cambridge) discussing human movement for political purposes in China in the mid 20th century, as a window on Chinese Communist Party policy in the formative years of the communist state.

The fifth session was on “Gaining through Mobility: Migration and Settlement.” Jessica Allina-Pisano and André Simonyi (University of Ottawa) joined the session over an online conferencing system from Ottawa, Canada to provide a comparative perspective on the inhabitants of borderlands by reference to national borders between Europe and Ukraine, and between Russia and China, using a collection of rare photographic images. Then Sumie Nakatani (Kagoshima University) presented a discussion of the unique merchant community of the Marwaris in India as seen through the buildings and cities they created, while Cui Yanhu (Xinjiang Normal University) reported on how the nomadic people of Xinjiang are altering their spheres of movement within the framework of the Chinese state.

The symposium was attended by 75 people on the first day, and 65 on the second. The presentations were consistently thought-provoking, and enabled consideration of alternative approaches to conceptualizing regional powers. The discussion of differing fields and regions proved valuable insights in expanding the perspectives of comparative research on the contour formation of regional powers.

Link: Symposium Program




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