Call for Papers: Civil Society in Asia, International Conference in Melbourne 2

Call For Papers:

Transnational Civil Society in Asia: The Potential of Grassroots Regionalization

International Conference, December 6-7, 2018
Co-Convenors: Akihiro Ogawa & Simon A. Avenell

Civil society is one of the most dynamically expanding sectors in contemporary Asia. Originally a product of Western thinking and socio-economic development, civil society represents a particular set of relationships between the state and either society or the individual. By definition, it is a public sphere that broadly refers to non-state institutions and associations that are critical to sustaining modern democratic participation. The conference is the start of an interdisciplinary effort to analyze civil society in Asia through the lens of inter-Asian connectivities to obtain a more holistic understanding of this burgeoning, border-crossing, grassroots regional space. We will approach civil society in Asia not only as a conglomeration of disparate national civil societies but, more significantly, as an interconnected, networked regional sphere of activity, drawing together Asian activists at the grassroots. We call this Asian grassroots regionalization.
The conference will address the ways increasing transnational interactions among civil society actors in Asia and its sub-regions are helping to strengthen common democratic values and transform the dominant processes of policymaking and the structures of corporate capitalism. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the conference will investigate the role of transnational civil society networks, which are conceived of as constructive vehicles for informing and persuading governments and businesses to adopt or abandon certain policies or positions. The proposed conference takes forward the intellectual mandate of redefining “Asia” as a dynamic and interconnected formation, by highlighting processes of grassroots regionalization emerging from ever-intensifying information exchange among civil society actors across borders, as well as through concrete transnational initiatives that are uniting such actors throughout Asia.
The conference will consider transnational civil society in Asia from three broad perspectives: (1) the local as a platform to the transnational; (2) the transnational transforming the regional, the national, and the local; and (3) the Asian transnational informing the global. Extant scholarship on civil society has been greatly influenced by modern Western modes of liberal individualism. Even studies of so-called global civil society have tended to be anchored in the Euro-American experience, with only limited attention to the non-Western context. On the ground, however, civil society has proven far more plastic and dynamic, expanding to include other non-Western cultures and regions. Groups throughout Asia have proactively embraced the idea and potentialities of civil society. Of course, each society molds its own version of civil society, reflecting social relationships that have been historically forged by specific experiences. These may extol a range of values such as individual liberty, public solidarity, pluralism, and nonviolence, all of which sustain a vibrant civic culture. As in the West, civil society in Asia may also include social interests that are highly politically exclusionary and illiberal. If we are to develop a richly textured and comprehensive understanding of all that civil society can be in the contemporary world, it is crucial that we carefully consider Asian permutations of civil society along with the dynamics of regional, grassroots, transnational interactions.

Potential themes include:

  • The links between local movements and transnational interconnections throughout Asia.
  • The ways in which transnational initiatives, networking, and information exchange among civil society actors are serving as tools for the transformation of national civil societies and local communities.
  • The ways transnational interconnectivity and activism are contributing to the creation of regional civil societies and public spheres within and across Asia (i.e. grassroots regionalization)
  • The grassroots transnational movements/initiatives connecting different regions of Asia
  • The influence of Asian civil society(ies) and transnational movements on global initiatives/agendas

Please submit your paper title and abstract (200 words) to

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