Session Abstract: This panel examines how racialized processes of classification have produced and shaped systems of power across Asia. Such representations of “race” in Asia are not simply derivative of Euro-American ideas of “race” but are formed in the crossroads of local, regional and global interactions. “Race” builds on Asian ideas of identity while playing off globalized ideas of modernity; “race” is weighty and corporeal but also slippery and unstable; “race” is embedded deeply in institutions and laws, but is also plastic, adapting to buttress new structures of hierarchy and status. Together, these papers demonstrate that race-making is always closely intertwined with local and global politics. Puja Kapai introduces the invisibility and hypervisibility of race across Asia through a genealogy of the law. Kapai recognizes the inadequacies of European law to capture the diversity of race in Asia, while Catherine Ladds, looking at child welfare of foreign children in treaty-port Shanghai, argues that European concepts of race and whiteness were indeed forged in the colonies. Chao-Yo Cheng introduces the role of race and ethnicity in state-making in early PRC China, and Sonja Thomas explores connections between state-sponsored denial of the existence of racialized discrimination in India and the erasure of race from academic discussions in South Asian Studies. Together, these papers illuminate how processes of race-making at the crossroads and across Asia are central to the formation of social categories and scholarly discourse, thus demonstrating that race simultaneously forms and is formed by taxonomies of power.
Paper Presenter: Puja Kapai – University of Hong Kong
Paper Presenter: Catherine Ladds – Hong Kong Baptist University
Paper Presenter: Chao-yo Cheng – London School of Economics
Paper Presenter: Sonja Thomas – Colby College