Multiculturalism and Cultural Contact Zones in Asian Societies (2011-12)

(third year, continued from 2009)old globe

Name of person in charge
James Farrer,


a. goals

The goals of this research unit is to build a community of scholars, centered around the ICC, studying issues related to multiculturalism and intercultural contact zones, and related concepts of nationalism, regionalism, ethnicity, in Asia. Our principle question is what models of multiculturalism and intercultural contact exist in Asian contexts, including diasporic contexts such as Asian communities in Europe and North America and migrant communities in Asian cities.
As individuals and cultural artifacts move across borders, spaces of cultural consumption and intercultural contact become contact zones, or spaces of friction and creativity. M.L. Pratt defines contact zones as “social spaces where disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in highly asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination” (1992, Imperial Eyes, 4). Building on Pratt, M. Tanaka argues that the study of “contact zones” has changed with the transition from relations of colonialism to relations of globalization, producing contact zones within major cities (Masakazu Tanaka, “A cultural anthropology of contact zones,” Contact Zone: 1, 2007). Studying sites of cultural contact as contact zones focuses our attention on power inequalities among different actors.

We hope to foster an intellectual context in which new ideas of multiculturalism – and related concepts of nationalism, regionalism, culture and ethnicity – can be developed that relate more specifically to the experiences of peoples in Asia. We approach the concept of multiculturalism from a critical perspective, realizing the various political uses of the term by state agents and other actors. The long-term goal of this research unit is to realize the distinct potential of Sophia as a center for the study of multiculturalism and cultural contact zones. All of the members are involved in empirical research projects that speak to the issues described above, and the project’s main purpose is to promote intellectual synergies, while providing modest financial and practical support some of the empirical research projects and collective symposia.

b. Activities of proposed research unit members

James Farrer is working the idea of multiculturalism as it relates to concepts of ‘urban citizenship’ for foreign residents in Shanghai.

David Wank is working on ideas of regional identity within China as a novel Chinese notion of multiculturalism with influences both from state policies and market mechanisms.

Yoshino Kosaku is studying contact zones in Southeast Asia. His work includes empirical research on the Englishization of higher education in Southeast Asia, and culinary contact zones in Southeast Asia and Tokyo.

Nana Oishi is studying multiple migrations among highly skilled migrants and the problems that highly skilled migrants face in Japan.

Mark Mullins is studying multicultural religious communities in Tokyo.

Activities in 2010-2011

Activities in 2009-2010