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Conferences and Workshops

International Symposium on Ethnic Minorities in Asia: Subjects or Citizens? Print
Date: 25 Jun 2009 - 26 Jun 2009
Venue: ARI Seminar Room
469A Tower Block, Level 10, Bukit Timah Road
National University of Singapore @ BTC
Organisers: Dr MILLER Michelle
Dr DALY Patrick

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The engagement by Asian states with their ethnic minority populations normatively involves notions of citizenship and the applicability of universal human rights norms and values in addressing minority issues. Since the mid-1990s, some democratizing multiethnic Asian states have sought to accommodate their ethnic minorities through the introduction of democratic reforms aimed at granting minority groups inclusive citizenship in the form of more equal or greater rights and freedoms within the nation-state. In many other Asian states, however, ideas of citizenship have been repressively standardized in the sense that uniform majoritarian nation-building projects have sought to delegitimise minority claims to cultural diversity and autonomy. Asia’s ethnic minorities have generally responded to these different forms of state behaviour in one of four ways: 1) by embracing civic citizenship based on civic nationalism as the most democratic form of non-majoritarian, non-plebiscitarian accommodation, 2) by forfeiting their collective claim to a distinctive identity and conforming to the state’s homogenizing tendencies, 3) by demanding special concessions from the state in order to maintain their own culture, or 4) by adopting a competing nationalist ideology and separatist cause.

This international symposium explores the relationship between minority rights claims and citizenship in Asia. It considers important questions about the rights and responsibilities that the status of ‘citizen’ confers to Asia’s ethnic minorities, and the extent to which minorities become ‘subjects’ when their civil and political rights may be implied but are subverted, or lack the legal certainty that citizens tend to experience. How are ethnic minorities in Asia transformed from subjects into citizens? Under what conditions are ethnic minority rights claims to citizenship justifiable? What are the duties and obligations of states to accommodate their ethnic minorities as citizens? How have the post-colonial ideologies of multiethnic Asian states, which were often constructed as political entities along arbitrary colonial borders, influenced their conferral of citizenship to ethnic minorities? And, how have the philosophies that Asian states and their ethnic minorities attach to citizenship changed over time, and in their interactions with each other?

Promoting a multidisciplinary approach, the symposium combines conceptual debates about citizenship with case studies of ethnic minorities from across the Asian region. It considers the nature of citizenship in the broader sense of identity, belonging, and the individual and collective rights and responsibilities of ethnic minorities vis-à-vis Asian states. Themes of the symposium include citizenship, constructions of national identity, separatism, conflict management, government decision-making processes, democratization, autonomy/ decentralization, public sector reform, civil and political rights, post-colonialism, regional security and political and legislative development.


Workshop Convenor

Dr Michelle Miller (
Asia Research Institute, NUS
Tel: (65) 6516 4910


Miss Alyson Rozells
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
#10-01 Tower Block,469A Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770
Tel: (65) 6516 8787
Fax: (65) 6779 1428


Admission is Free. Do register early as seats are available on a first come, first served basis. We would gratefully request that you RSVP to Miss Alyson Rozells at Tel: 6516 8787 or email her at indicating your name, email, designation, organisation/affiliation and contact number.

Contact Person: Ms ROZELLS Alyson Adrianne