Ethnonationalism and Southeast Asia
Dr. Jacob R. Hickman
Fall 2020: Tues / Thurs 12:30pm-1:45pm
B002 JFSB (in-person)
Ethnonationalism is perhaps the most pernicious human tendency. It is also emanates from one of humanity’s most fundamental virtues, the thing that makes us human, as social animals driven to identify with others around us and build communities out of these commonalities. When ethnonationalism becomes the sole end of political action, however, this force has brought about the absolutely ugliest tragedies in human history.
If there is one thing that I want you all to get out of this class, it is the ability to see the core values at stake in any action, any movement, any community, any end that people pursue, across the cases that we will discuss in this class and beyond. I want you to cultivate your capacities as moral analysts, able to check your own ideologies at the door—or at least to realize that they exist in the first instance, and to be willing to question them—and to ask yourself hard questions, questions that your ideologies don’t want you to ask, level critiques that your ideologies don’t want you to level, in pursuit of attempting to see the human goodness in the other. To be clear, what I am asking is not that you become a relativist, but rather quite the opposite. I want us to be able to collectively engage in a form of moral analysis that is able to see the moral realities that manifest themselves in various forms of life that, “on their surface enigmatical” (Geertz 1973), initially appear anything but. In the course of this journey, I expect we will also be confronted with genuine evil. This is bound to happen when one seeks for the moral content of any cultural enterprise. But this genuine evil, and its determination as such, is what distinguishes the enterprise that we will undertake in this course from a superficial form of “relativism” that many outsiders (incorrectly) think tends to characterize anthropology as a field.
I will at times provide one theory of the moral universe that attempts to account for the fact that we observe morally incompatible forms of life in different cultural contexts, while refusing to denounce the genuine concerns at the heart of competing moral visions of the world. I will try to help you understand how this approach should not lead to the conclusion that “anything that is, is okay.” But the most important exercise will be for us to collectively analyze, pick apart, even deconstruct, the values in the movements and groups that we study, ask hard questions about the values that seem to lie at the center of these visions, and ask what balance is being struck by competing, incompatible values in these systems, and quite often between systems when multiple moral visions come into conflict with one another.
These moral visions lie at the heart of politics, violence, ontologies (visions of reality itself), and all of the actions that extend from these. Southeast Asia will make up the majority (but not all) of the case studies that we take up in this journey. This is in no small part because Southeast Asia can be seen as a microcosm of fundamental human nature and the depths of tragedy that can result from the largely unchecked and absolutist pursuit of ethnonationalism. Southeast Asia also became the global focus of such issues in the latter half of the 20th century. The “Vietnam War” (including the many regional conflicts that the American gloss of this conflict ignores) will make up one case that we will study. The Khmer Rouge genocide will be another. The hope that accompanies millenarian movements that are intended to bring about utopian societies will constitute others (and these millenarian inclinations, as we will discuss, make up another inmate human tendency). We will ask ourselves, “can hate be good?” (Webster 2020). Can in-group favoritism be morally good, and what are the limits to this goodness? How is the liberal vision of the world—both classical liberalism and contemporary political liberalism—both enabling and limited in its abilities to facilitate human pursuits of the good life? What about populism? What is the role of pluralism, multiculturalism, and related ‘-isms’ in these dynamics between moral communities? What motivates people to die (or kill!) for a cause or a community, most of whom one does not know personally? What is the future of nationalism, and are we on the precipice of a post-nationalist world order? What is imperialism, and what are its historical and future roles in these dynamics? What forms of imperialism have manifested in both liberal and conservative guises, both in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world? How do we develop modes of thinking about the morality and ethics of political movements that reach beyond tribal affiliations with parties or movements? How can we learn to see the morality of those we are so strongly inclined to hate? On what grounds can one stand to genuinely, righteously hate something or someone?
These are difficult questions. If this course does nothing more than open up a Pandora’s box of issues—even if it appears that the complexities and conflicts are insurmountable—then I believe that this is the first step on the high road to calling ethnonationalism into question, as well as distinguishing when identification with a community can be genuinely healthy versus when it seems to be nothing more than the means to fundamentally destructive ends. This is where I intend for us to go in this course. The world is in an interesting state at present, and there is perhaps no better time to examine these issues than in our society, at this particular time in history.
Books to Purchase
(other readings will be provided as PDFs)
Leach, Edmund Ronald. 1970. Political systems of Highland Burma. A study of Kachin social structure. London School of Economics Monographs in Social Anthropology 44. Oxford: Berg.
Anderson, Benedict R. 1991. Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. New York: Verso. (purchase any version)
Jonsson, Hjorleifur. 2014. Slow Anthropology: Negotiating Difference with the Iu Mien. Cornell University Southeast Asia Program Publications.
Smalley, William A., Chia Koua Vang, and Gnia Yee Yang. 1990. Mother of Writing: The Origin and Development of a Hmong Messianic Script. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Mueggler, Erik. 2017. Songs for Dead Parents: Corpse, Text, and World in Southwest China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
University and Course Policies
Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct
In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment-including sexual violence-committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.
University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at https://titleix.byu.edu/report or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).
BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university's Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university's Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at http://titleix.byu.edu or by contacting the university's Title IX Coordinator.
Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere that reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Whether an impairment is substantially limiting depends on its nature and severity, its duration or expected duration, and its permanent or expected permanent or long-term impact. Examples include vision or hearing impairments, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, emotional disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety), learning disorders, and attention disorders (e.g., ADHD). If you have a disability which impairs your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the University Accessibility Center (UAC), 2170 WSC or 801-422-2767 to request a reasonable accommodation. The UAC can also assess students for learning, attention, and emotional concerns. If you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, please contact the Equal Employment Office at 801-422-5895, D-285 ASB for help.”
In keeping with the principles of the BYU Honor Code, students are expected to be honest in all of their academic work. Academic honesty means, most fundamentally, that any work you present as your own must in fact be your own work and not that of another. Violations of this principle may result in a failing grade in the course and additional disciplinary action by the university. Students are also expected to adhere to the Dress and Grooming Standards. Adherence demonstrates respect for yourself and others and ensures an effective learning and working environment. It is the university's expectation, and every instructor's expectation in class, that each student will abide by all Honor Code standards. Please call the Honor Code Office at 422-2847 if you have questions about those standards.
COVID 19 Statement
While COVID 19 conditions persist and until further notice, students and faculty are required to wear face coverings at all times during class; faculty are not at liberty to waive this expectation. Students who feel sick, including exhibiting symptoms commonly associated with COVID 19 (fever; cough; shortness of breath/difficulty breathing; chills; muscle pain; sore throat; new loss of taste or smell; etc.) should not attend class and should work with their instructor to develop a study plan for the duration of the illness.
"Sadly, from time to time, we do hear reports of those who are at best insensitive and at worst insulting in their comments to and about others... We hear derogatory and sometimes even defamatory comments about those with different political, athletic, or ethnic views or experiences. Such behavior is completely out of place at BYU, and I enlist the aid of all to monitor carefully and, if necessary, correct any such that might occur here, however inadvertent or unintentional. "I worry particularly about demeaning comments made about the career or major choices of women or men either directly or about members of the BYU community generally. We must remember that personal agency is a fundamental principle and that none of us has the right or option to criticize the lawful choices of another." President Cecil O. Samuelson, Annual University Conference, August 24, 2010 "Occasionally, we ... hear reports that our female faculty feel disrespected, especially by students, for choosing to work at BYU, even though each one has been approved by the BYU Board of Trustees. Brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be. Not here. Not at a university that shares a constitution with the School of the Prophets." Vice President John S. Tanner, Annual University Conference, August 24, 2010
Mental health concerns and stressful life events can affect students’ academic performance and quality of life. BYU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS, 1500 WSC, 801-422-3035, caps.byu.edu) provides individual, couples, and group counseling, as well as stress management services. These services are confidential and are provided by the university at no cost for full-time students. For general information please visit https://caps.byu.edu; for more immediate concerns please visit http://help.byu.edu.
The first injunction of the Honor Code is the call to "be honest." Students come to the university not only to improve their minds, gain knowledge, and develop skills that will assist them in their life's work, but also to build character. "President David O. McKay taught that character is the highest aim of education" (The Aims of a BYU Education, p.6). It is the purpose of the BYU Academic Honesty Policy to assist in fulfilling that aim. BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms, including but not limited to plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct.
Inappropriate Use of Course Materials
All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, PowerPoint presentations, lectures, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of the professor teaching this course. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.
Intentional plagiarism is a form of intellectual theft that violates widely recognized principles of academic integrity as well as the Honor Code. Such plagiarism may subject the student to appropriate disciplinary action administered through the university Honor Code Office, in addition to academic sanctions that may be applied by an instructor. Inadvertent plagiarism, which may not be a violation of the Honor Code, is nevertheless a form of intellectual carelessness that is unacceptable in the academic community. Plagiarism of any kind is completely contrary to the established practices of higher education where all members of the university are expected to acknowledge the original intellectual work of others that is included in their own work. In some cases, plagiarism may also involve violations of copyright law. Intentional Plagiarism-Intentional plagiarism is the deliberate act of representing the words, ideas, or data of another as one's own without providing proper attribution to the author through quotation, reference, or footnote. Inadvertent Plagiarism-Inadvertent plagiarism involves the inappropriate, but non-deliberate, use of another's words, ideas, or data without proper attribution. Inadvertent plagiarism usually results from an ignorant failure to follow established rules for documenting sources or from simply not being sufficiently careful in research and writing. Although not a violation of the Honor Code, inadvertent plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct for which an instructor can impose appropriate academic sanctions. Students who are in doubt as to whether they are providing proper attribution have the responsibility to consult with their instructor and obtain guidance. Examples of plagiarism include: Direct Plagiarism-The verbatim copying of an original source without acknowledging the source. Paraphrased Plagiarism-The paraphrasing, without acknowledgement, of ideas from another that the reader might mistake for the author's own. Plagiarism Mosaic-The borrowing of words, ideas, or data from an original source and blending this original material with one's own without acknowledging the source. Insufficient Acknowledgement-The partial or incomplete attribution of words, ideas, or data from an original source. Plagiarism may occur with respect to unpublished as well as published material. Copying another student's work and submitting it as one's own individual work without proper attribution is a serious form of plagiarism.