Asiacentrism, Asio-centrism, or Asiacentricity is a term denoting an ethnocentric perspective that regards Asia (as in Asian American, a racial concept in US society which includes people of East, Southeast and South Asian descent) to be either superior, central, or unique relative to other continents or countries, in either history or at present. This can take the form of ascribing to Asia unwarranted significance or supremacy at the cost of the rest of the world. The concept arose since the 1990s in the context of a projected Asian Century, the expected economic and cultural dominance of Asia (primarily China) in the 21st century.
Asian American Studies
Paul Wong, Meera Manvi, and Takeo Hirota Wong proposed “Asiacentrism” in the 1995 special issue of Amerasia Journal on “Thinking Theory in Asian American Studies.” They envisioned Asiacentrism both as a critique of hegemonic Eurocentrism in theory building in the humanities and social sciences and as a post-Orientalist epistemological paradigm in Asian American Studies. They suggested that there is a need to tap into Asian traditions of thought for analyzing Asian American behaviors and for advancing global knowledge in the human interest. In their view, Asiacentrism may be able to offer an alternative Asian perspective grounded in an awareness of the dynamics of a postcolonial world.
It is possible to argue that Asian American Studies has, since its inception, permitted itself to be conceptually incarcerated in a hegemonic Eurocentric culture and world view. Not only is the English language serving as the lingua franca of Asian American Studies, but it is easily evident that many scholars in Asian American Studies do not regard the acquisition of at least one Asian language, as a second language, an important part of their training, thereby curtailing their communicative and research competence with the majority of Asian Americans, whose primary language is not English. While much scholarship has been devoted to “… present voices from our (Asian American) past which were never silent, but often ignored, minimalized, and marginalized by traditional historical accounts of the United States,” there has been no serious attempt to contextualize this scholarship in what may be termed the “deep structure” of a shared Asiacentric perspective.
Wong, Manvi, and Wong also submitted that Asiacentrism can be a paradigmatic way of integrating Asian American Studies and Asian Studies by acknowledging the colonial histories, recognizing the common interests, and recovering the cultural roots. They stressed that Asian American Studies should play an important role in decolonizing Asian Studies by interrogating its Eurocentric legacies.
Yoshitaka Miike, who was inspired by Molefi Kete Asante’s Afrocentric idea, coined the term Asiacentricity and outlined the Asiacentric project in culture and communication studies in 2003. He was later influenced by Maulana Karenga’s Kawaida philosophy, which emphasizes the role of culture for self-understanding and self-assertion and the importance of ethics for human freedom and flourishing. Miike recently defined Asiacentricity as “the self-conscious act of centering Asian languages, religions/philosophies, histories, and aesthetics when addressing Asian people and phenomena.” According to him, Asiacentricity “insists on revivifying and revitalizing diverse Asian cultural traditions as theoretical resources in order to capture Asians as subjects and actors of their own cultural realities rather than objects and spectators in the lived experiences of others.”
Simply put, Asiacentricity is the idea of centering, not marginalizing, Asian languages, religions/philosophies, and histories in theory-making and storytelling about Asian communicative life. Asiacentricity aims to encourage careful and critical engagements of Asian communicators with their own cultural traditions for self-understanding, self-expression, communal development, and cross-cultural dialogue. Intraculturally, it helps Asians embrace the positive elements of their cultural heritage and transform negative practices according to their ethical ideals. Interculturally, it helps Asians find “a place to stand,” so to speak, and provides the basis of equality and mutuality in the global community.
Borrowing from Daisetz Suzuki’s words, Miike stated that Asiacentricity is essentially “the idea of being deep and open,” that is, the idea of being rooted in our own culture and, at the same time, open to other cultures. He differentiated Asiacentricity as a particularist position from Asiacentrism as a universalist ideology and maintained that Asiacentricity is a legitimate culture-centric approach to cultural Asia and people of Asian descent, while Asiacentrism is an ethnocentric approach to non-Asian worlds and people of non-Asian heritage. In Miike’s conceptualization, therefore, Asiacentrists are not cultural chauvinists and separatists.
Asiacentricity is neither a hegemonic Asiacentrism nor an Asian version of ethnocentric Eurocentrism. Asiacentricity does not present the Asian worldview as the only universal frame of reference and impose it on non-Asians. Hence, Asiacentrists should be alert to Park’s (2001) warning: “An idea is not good merely because it is old or because it is new. It is not necessarily good because it is an Eastern idea or a Western idea, or just because it is ours” (p. 8). Asiacentrists thus should not deny the value of other non-Asiacentric perspectives on Asians. Nevertheless, they must reject the hegemonic ideology that non-Asiacentric theoretical standpoints are superior to Asiacentric ones and therefore can grossly neglect the latter in the discussion and discourse surrounding Asian people and phenomena. They must reject the hegemonic ideology that the Asian version of humanity can be judged solely from the Eurocentric vision of humanity.
Miike identified six dimensions of Asiacentricity: (1) an assertion of Asians as subjects and agents; (2) the centrality of the collective and humanistic interests of Asia and Asians in the process of knowledge reconstruction about the Asian world; (3) the placement of Asian cultural values and ideals at the center of inquiry into Asian thought and action; (4) the groundedness in Asian historical experiences; (5) an Asian theoretical orientation to data; and (6) an Asian ethical critique and corrective of the dislocation and displacement of Asian people and phenomena.
In Miike’s comprehensive outline, Asiacentricity (1) generates theoretical knowledge that corresponds to Asian communication discourse, (2) focuses on the multiplicity and complexity of Asian communicative experience, (3) reflexively constitutes and critically transforms Asian communication discourse, (4) theorizes how common aspects of humanity are expressed and understood in Asian cultural particularities, and (5) critiques Eurocentric biases in theory and research and helps Asian researchers overcome academic dependency.
Miike’s contention is that there has been the established hierarchical relationship between “Western theories” and “non-Western texts” in Eurocentric scholarship, where non-Western cultures remain as peripheral targets of data analysis and rhetorical criticism and fail to emerge as central resources of theoretical insight and humanistic inspiration. Miike thus insisted that Asiacentric scholarship reconsider Asian cultures as “theories for knowledge reconstruction,” not as “texts for knowledge deconstruction.” Such an Asiacentric approach, according to him, would make it possible for both Asian and non-Asian researchers to theorize as Asians speak in Asian languages, as Asians are influenced by Asian religious-philosophical worldviews, as Asians struggle to live in Asian historical experiences, and as Asians feel ethically good and aesthetically beautiful.
Miike also synthesized a large body of literature in the field of Asian communication theory while paying homage to such pioneers as Anantha Babbili, Guo-Ming Chen, Godwin C. Chu, Wimal Dissanayake, D. Shelton A. Gunaratne, Satoshi Ishii, Young Yun Kim, D. Lawrence Kincaid, Hamid Mowlana, Louis Nordstrom, Robert T. Oliver, Tulsi B. Saral, Robert Shuter, K. S. Sitaram, Majid Tehranian, Muneo Yoshikawa, and June Ock Yum. He urged Asiacentric research to overcome “comparative Eurocentrism” and direct more attention to common insights gained from non-Eurocentric comparisons.
Jing Yin, who is Professor of International Communication at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, explored the possibility of constructing an Asiacentric feminist theory in the 2009 special issue of the Journal of the Multicultural Discourses on “New Frontiers in Asian Communication Theory.” She argued that Eurocentric feminism often reduces the richness and complexities of non-Western cultural traditions to gender oppression alone. She postulated that the Asiacentric feminist approach commends the complementarity of genders, embraces the harmony of the individual and the community, and endorses the dialectics of rights and responsibilities.
Western feminists often presume that non-Western cultures are primary source of repression. Attention is often paid to particular cultural practices that are deemed unusually brutal and inhumane, such as the veil in the Arab world, foot binding in feudal China, and sati (widow cremation) in India. Although there is no denying that these practices are suppressive, the equation of gender oppression in non-Western cultures with those cultures themselves is problematic…. Rather than viewing non-Western cultures completely oppressive, a more productive way of conceptualizing non-Western feminism movements may lie in a thorough re-intervention into, and refinement of, those non-Western cultural traditions in dynamic and complex relations with other cultures.
Yin observed that theorizing in Eurocentric feminism including postmodern and postcolonial feminism is a continuation of, rather than a rupture with, individualist assumptions and rights consciousness. The Eurocentric ontology based on individualism prevents a non-anthropocentric theorization of rights in which the individual embraces and strengthens interdependent relationships with other beings and nature because rights is narrowly conceived in terms of individual choices of employment, political participation, and personal recognition.
According to Yin, Asiacentric feminism does not ignore the contributions of Western feminisms, but Eurocentric feminism should not be the only viable way for women’s emancipation and empowerment regardless of cultural locations and contexts because, if she or he is displaced from one’s own cultural roots, a person loses sight of where she or her is currently situated and thus finds it difficult to achieve the desired destination.
Yin asserted that the Asiacentric feminist project should be a political project of human freedom and flourishing based on a vision of holistic humanism with deep sensitivity to women’s conditions in Asian cultures. Special attention should be given to (1) interpersonal and group communication and family and social relationships among Asian women in domestic spaces and (2) all female performing arts in Asia and domestic work as creative expressions of Asian women’s experiences.
Asante on Asiacentricity
Asante made positive comments on the Asiacentric efforts of both Wong, Manvi, and Wong in the 1990s and Miike and Yin in the 2000s. In the revised edition of The Afrocentric Idea, referring to Wong, Manvi, and Wong, Asante wrote: “I have been very gratified that educators were quick to see its [the Afrocentric idea’s] implications for developing curricula that can empower students of all cultures; one group of scholars even proposes using it to develop an ‘Asiacentric’ perspective for Asian American Studies.”
As for Miike and Yin, in An Afrocentric Manifesto, Asante remarked: “The original work of Yoshitaka Miike on Asiacentric communication is instructive. Miike, alongside Jing Yin, has articulated a view of Asian culture that seeks to liberate the discourse around Asian communication ideas and rhetorical concepts away from being forced into the straitjacket of Western ideas. This is a remarkable undertaking that will have far-reaching effect on the course of social science and humanities discussions about culture.”
- Asian pride
- Asian Century
- Pacific Century
- Chinese Century
- China's peaceful rise
- Pax Sinica
- Four Asian Tigers
- Tiger Cub Economies
- Korean Wave
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- Asiacentrism and Asian American Studies? - Retrieved 23 July 2013.[unreliable source?] Thomas Wier - Dept. of Linguistics[unreliable source?]
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