Showing posts from March, 2018

Letters from Southeast Asia

Nationalism assumes that the world-system naturally divides into unified societies, identifiable by the essential characteristics of language, culture, religion, history, or ancestry, and that these characteristics are held in common and retained over time. Nations are seen as rooted in a specific territory, the repository of its history and memory. The interests of the nation are taken to be the supreme good, and those interests can only be promoted by self-governance, by a nation-state. In the twentieth century, ethnic nationalism entered East and Southeast Asia like a virus, which modernized Japan caught from Europe and spread to its colonial acquisitions. In the twenty-first century, this set of assumptions continues to shape the perceptions of Asian peoples and the activities of Asian governments: to turn neighboring countries into adversaries rather than partners, to reduce pluralism to tribalism and persecution, and to reject progressive change as foreign even where it