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Beyond Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism: Diasporic Chinese and Neo-Nationalism in China and Thailand


This article highlights the dynamic interaction between Chinese, Thai, and Sino-Thai identity construction, on the one hand, and the mutual production of domestic and international politics, on the other. It questions how nationalism and cosmopolitanism are formulated by arguing against the popular notion that a diaspora is a cosmopolitan community situated in a foreign nation. Diasporic public spheres are critically examined to show how Sino-Thai identity is produced in relation first to neo-nationalism in Thailand and China, and second in specific contexts within Thailand that call into question essential notions of Thai, Chinese, and overseas Chinese identity. Diasporas thus both construct and deconstruct the seemingly opposing forces of nationalism and cosmopolitanism. The article uses the ethnographic approach of anthropological constructivism to build on sociological constructivism's focus on national identity, norms, and formal institutions. Rather than looking to culture as a substance, the article highlights how culture takes shape in context-sensitive relations between identity and difference. This ethnographic approach encourages one to look in different places for world politics, shifting away from state actors to transnational nonstate actors, from geopolitics and international political economy to economic culture, and from law and institutions as the foundations of international society to the less formal organizations of the diasporic public sphere. Diaspora thus not only adds new data to arguments about global/local relations—it helps one question the structures of world politics that look to the opposition between cosmopolitanism and nationalism.

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Jiemin Bao . 1998. Same Bed, Different Dreams: Intersections of Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Among Middle- and Upper-Class Chinese Immigrants in Bangkok, positions east asia cultures critique 6 (2):475502.

Stewart R. Clegg , and S. Gordon Redding , eds. 1990. Capitalism in Contrasting Cultures. New York: Walter de Gruyter.

James Clifford . 1994. Diasporas. Cultural Anthropology 9 (3):302–38.

Kevin Hewison . 2000a. Resisting Globalization: a Study of Localism in Thailand. Pacific Review. 13 (2):279–96.

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Hong Liu . 1998. Old Linkages, New Networks: The Globalization of Overseas Chinese Voluntary Associations and Its Implications.China Quarterly 155:582609.

Duncan McCargo . 2001. Populism and Reformism in Contemporary Thailand. South East Asia Research 9 (1):89107.

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International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
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