Civil Society in Identity-Formation and Institution-Building Processes in Asia

Panel organised by: Kamila Szczepanska (University Turku, Finland) & Anna Caspari (University Bochum), Anja Ketels (University Münster)


Panel topic

The multiple contributions of civil society actors to dynamics of identity formation and institution-building processes in Asia at domestic and international levels.

Panel description

Over the last three decades, the profile and significance of civil society across Asia have risen, including in illiberal democracies and authoritarian states. Processes of identity-formation and institution-building are deeply interwoven with the engagement of civil society actors as either advocates or service providers on behalf of their governments.

Democratization, advancement of neoliberal economic solutions, increasingly vocal demands for political and environmental justice, rise of alternative identities and lifestyles, and acute socio-economic challenges are just a few factors driving the profile and significance of civil society across Asia. Civil society organizations (CSOs) are also increasingly involved in their governments’ ambitious global development programs (e.g. Japan and South Korea’s foreign aid, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative), have expanded their engagement with global and regional governance institutions, and accelerated efforts to build transnational connections with relevant state and non-state stakeholders.

The multiple contributions of civil society actors to dynamics of identity formation and institution-building processes in Asia at domestic and international levels merit further attention. To explore the dual role of civil society actors as advocates and service providers we invite contributions addressing the following questions:

How have civil society actors contributed to the process of identity formation and identity contestation in Asia?

Recently, numerous Asian countries experienced the rise of identity-driven movements, such as indigenous, independence, or gender and sexuality related movements. It is therefore worthwhile exploring how the civil society actors behind these movements mobilize, interact, and eventually influence the formation of such identities, and what effects they have on society and policies. We encourage submissions that explore civil society actors’ contribution to the process of formation and contestation of identities in the national and transnational context.

How have civil society actors been involved in institution building in Asia?

Asian civil society actors increasingly contest existing national, regional, and global institutional orders, with their activism frequently focusing on promoting social, economic, environmental and political justice. In many instances, transnational collaborative advocacy networks are established to amplify civil society voices and lend support to common causes. Hence, wewelcome critical submissions elucidating the role of civil society actors as agents of institutional change, and highlighting opportunities and challenges inherent in these processes.

How have states engaged civil society actors in identity formation/contestation and institution-building processes in Asia?

States frequently instrumentalize civil society actors to promote particular social and cultural identities or to construct specific domestic and transnational institutional frameworks. We therefore encourage perspectives on civil society actors as agents of norm representation, as ambassadors of their governments or as service providers in national or international governance mechanisms, and welcome contributions illuminating how states/governments/governmental agencies enlist civil society actors to pursue institutional and identity-related goals in Asia.

Additional information
The proposed panel is submitted jointly by Kamila Szczepanska (University of Turku), Anna Caspari (Ruhr University Bochum) and Anja Ketels (University of Münster), who should be all considered as panel organizers.

The duties of panel chair(s) and discussant(s) will be shared among the panel organisers. Depending on the number of paper submissions for the proposed panel, it is possible that two subsequent panels addressing the chosen topic will be offered in order to accommodate the selected contributions.

Paper proposal

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