Migrants, Minorities, and Populism in Southeast Asia
Migrants, Minorities, and Populism in Southeast Asia. Pacific Affairs 93, no. 3 (September 2020), pp. 593-610. DOI: 10.5509/2020933593
20 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2019 Last revised: 21 Aug 2020
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
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