Ethnicity in East Asia

Musashi University

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Ethnicity in East Asia

  • Host University

    Musashi University

  • Location

    Tokyo, Japan

  • Area of Study

    Asian Studies, International Studies, Sociology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


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    Hours & Credits

  • Host University Units

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    This course will examine issues of ethnic identity in Japan, China and South Korea and how discourses of ethnic identity have historically informed the construction of these nation-states and national identities. As a starting point, we will attempt to arrive at concrete definitions of the terms used in discussing these issues, namely ethnicity, nation and identity. Dismissing the notion that any of these properties are primordial in origin or innate to human beings, we will argue that all of these are best understood as socially constructed concepts. This implies that the concepts are therefore also subject to social deconstruction and reconstruction, and cannot be properly understood if we imagine them to be distinctive reified, essential properties of specific groups of human beings.

    Having established the ground rules, students will be presented with two opposing arguments concerning the origins of national identities derived from studies in nationalism. The first position is that contemporary nation-states and the concomitant identities and nationalisms associated with them are products of the modern, industrial world. This position is supported by writers such as Ernest Gellner (Nations and Nationalism), Benedict Anderson (Imagined Communities) and Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (The Invention of Tradition). The opposing position is known as ethnosymbolism. The main proponent of this position is Anthony Smith (The Ethnic Roots of Nations). Smith argues that contemporary nation-states and nationalisms have their roots in pre-modern ethnic identities.

    Having presented the two opposing models, we will turn to the specific case studies of Japan, China and South Korea and attempt to identify the salient discourses of ethnic and national identity current in each society. We will examine how these discourses have developed over time and how they have been employed to shape each society. We will assess whether the modernist, the ethno-symbolic or neither model of the origins of national identity best fits our East Asian examples of nation-states.

    Students will be required to attend class regularly and be prepared in order that they can contribute to class discussions. Students will be required to make an in-class presentation of about 15 minutes duration on a theme drawn from the class. Students will further be required to submit a term paper, properly annotated and cited, of approximately 2,000 words.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.