Migrants, Minorities, and Populism in Asia

20 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2019

See all articles by Thomas B. Pepinsky

Thomas B. Pepinsky

Cornell University - Department of Government

Date Written: June 5, 2019


Populists in East and Southeast Asia generally refrain from invoking anti-migrant and anti-minority sentiments as part of their mobilizational strategies. This differentiates them from “exclusionary” populists in Europe and the United States, even though many Asian countries are diverse societies with long histories of migration and ethnic chauvinism. In this essay I propose that Asian populists work within rather than against existing categories of peoplehood that were set alongside the onset of mass politics. Because these categories of peoplehood remain salient today, they constrain contemporary Asian populists’ rhetorical and mobilizational strategies. Exceptional cases such as the Rohingya and Chinese Indonesians, who are vulnerable to populist mobilization, provide further support for this argument about how contested notions of peoplehood make exclusionary populism possible. The Asian experience thus reveals the flexibility of identity, nation, and membership in contemporary populism.

Keywords: populism, migration, ethnicity, identity, Asia

Suggested Citation

Pepinsky, Thomas B., Migrants, Minorities, and Populism in Asia (June 5, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3399218 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3399218

Thomas B. Pepinsky (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Government ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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