This research cluster employs an interdisciplinary approach to analyse the dynamically expanding role of civil society in contemporary Asia.
What distinguishes Asian civil society from civil society in North America, Europe or Latin America? How does this sector shape social and economic policies in the region?
Civil society is one of the most dynamically expanding sectors in contemporary Asian society, from anti-nuclear protests in post-Fukushima Japan to NGOs' responses to disasters in Southeast Asia. Originally a product of Western thinking, civil society represents a particular set of relationships between the state and society or individual. It constitutes a key part of the public sphere and includes non-state institutions and associations that are critical to sustaining modern democratic participation. Each culture, however, moulds its own version of civil society, reflecting distinctive values and traditions.
This research cluster addresses the growing interest in capturing the dynamic nature of civil society in Asia. This is done through a pluralistic and interdisciplinary research approach.
The AI Research Cluster on Asian Civil Society has been leading a series of impactful projects on civil society in Asia, closely working with the Asian Civil Society Research Network. The cluster sponsored one special issue of Asian Studies Review and three edited volumes, as presented below, and it is now preparing its fourth volume - Varieties of Civil Society across Asia, following Civil Society in Asia 4: International Conference in Melbourne in December 2022.
Image: Basile Morin. Six children standing in the Mekong river, some with lotus flower buds in their hands, bathing with buffalos at sunset in front of a boat. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
One Guest-Edited Special Issue:
Special Issue of Asian Studies Review on Human Rights and Civil Society in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities. Guest Editors: Ken M. P. Setiawan and Anthony J. Spires
This special issue, conceived in a workshop on rights consciousness and civil society in Asia at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute in 2018, investigates how civil society actors in Asia are responding to new political and social challenges, and sheds light on how they are using human rights discourses in what appear to be increasingly hostile environments.
Ken M. P. Setiawan and Anthony J. Spires wrote the opening essay. Jay Song also contributed an article.
Three Edited Volumes:
Authoritarianism and Civil Society in Asia, edited by Anthony J. Spires & Akihiro Ogawa, Routledge, 2022
This book represents a pioneering interdisciplinary effort to analyse Asian civil society under authoritarianism, a regime type that is re-appearing or deepening after several decades of increased political liberalisation. Contributing to our understanding of the tensions, dynamics, and potentialities that animate state-society relations in authoritarian regimes, this will be essential reading for students and scholars of civil society, authoritarianism, and Asian politics more generally.
Anthony J. Spires and Akihiro Ogawa wrote the Introduction; chapter contributions came from Anthony J. Spires, Jay Song, Fengshi Wu, Mayuko Itoh, and Tamas Wells (SSPS).
Transnational Civil Society in Asia: The Potential of Grassroots Regionalization, edited by Simon Avenell and Akihiro Ogawa, Routledge, 2021
This book addresses how transnational interactions among civil society actors in Asia and its sub-regions are helping to strengthen common democratic values and transform dominant processes of policymaking and corporate capitalism in the region. The contributors conceive of transnational civil society networks as constructive vehicles for both informing and persuading governments and businesses to adopt, modify, or abandon certain policies or positions. This volume investigates the role of such networks through a range of interdisciplinary approaches, bringing together case studies on Asian transnationalism from South, Southeast, and Northeast Asia across four key themes: local transformations and connections, diaspora politics, cross-regional initiatives and networks, and global actors and influences. Chapters demonstrate how transnational civil society is connecting people in local communities across Asia, in parallel to ongoing tensions between nation-states and civil society. By highlighting the grassroots regionalization emerging from ever-intensifying information exchange between civil society actors across borders – as well as concrete transnational initiatives uniting actors across Asia – the volume advances the intellectual mandate of redefining ‘Asia’ as a dynamic and interconnected formation.
Akihiro Ogawa wrote the Introduction with Simon Avenell; chapter contributions came from Akina Mikami, Akihiro Ogawa, Pradeep Taneja (SSPS), Surjeet Dogra Dhanji, and Salim Lakha (SSPS).
Routledge Handbook of Civil Society in Asia, edited by Akihiro Ogawa, Routledge, 2018
Routledge Handbook of Civil Society in Asia is an interdisciplinary resource, covering one of the most dynamically expanding sectors in contemporary Asia. Originally a product of Western thinking, civil society represents a particular set of relationships between the state and either society or the individual. Each culture, however, moulds its own version of civil society, reflecting its most important values and traditions.
This handbook provides a comprehensive survey of the directions and nuances of civil society, featuring contributions by leading specialists on Asian society from the fields of political science, sociology, anthropology and other disciplines. Comprising 35 essays on critical topics and issues, it is divided into two main sections:
Part I covers country specific reviews, including Japan, China, South Korea, India and Singapore.
Part II offers a series of thematic chapters, such as democratization, social enterprise, civic activism and the media.
As an analysis of Asian social, cultural and political phenomena from the perspective of civil society in the post-World War II era, this book will be useful to students and scholars of Asian Studies, Asian Politics and Comparative Politics.
Akihiro Ogawa wrote the Introduction; chapter contributions came from Anthony J. Spires, Vedi Hadiz, Pradeep Taneja (SSPS), Salim Lakha (SSPS), Nadeem Malik (SSPS), and Claire Maree.