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Literary and Social Change

A Case Study of Fiji

Clammer

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John Clammer

Abstract

The management of ethnicity in highly plural societies continues to be a major social problem worldwide. One country that has achieved an excellent record of interethnic relations is Singapore. This paper deals with the ethnic situation in Singapore, modes of official and unofficial racial classifiation, questions of the situational selection of ethnic identity, and the relevance of the Singapore model for other multi-ethnic societies. In particular the paper develops a model for the exploration of ethnic identity using the six dimensions of family structure, majority/minority statuses, political economy, modernization, alternative modes of social stratification and national ideology. This points not only to an explanation of the Singapore case, but also to the generation of a more generally applicable set of analytical categories for exploring contemporary ethnicity.

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John Clammer

Abstract

This paper explores potential new directions for a sociology linked more to Asian social theory and to new forms of knowledge emerging from ecology and the new social movements than to its older foundations in Western philosophy and conceptions of society. It suggests that there is a route beyond the trajectory of modernist and postmodernist social thinking and it calls into question the anthropocentric, Cartesian and dualistic assumptions of most conventional sociology. It does so by exploring the possible relationships between sociology and the existential issues thrown up by Asian philosophical and religious traditions, and in particular Buddhism, and the in many ways parallel arguments of Deep Ecology. In doing so it calls into question the adequacy of current sociology as a vehicle for addressing fundamental existential questions and in particular the issues of social suffering, the emerging ecological crisis and the alternative conceptions of society generated by many of the new social movements, and suggests ways in which this inadequacy might potentially be resolved.

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John Clammer

Abstract

The social sciences in Asia face a peculiar theoretical challenge. Heirs to ancient civilizations and traditions of thought and cradles to all of the great world religions, they nevertheless perceive themselves as suffering from a "theoretical deficit". High theory is almost entirely Western and in fact largely European in provenance. This essay is directed to the possibility of constructing an Asian variety of cultural studies as a response to the hegemony of European social theory, and as an attempt to redress the balance of theory-power in the world intellectual economy.

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John Clammer

Abstract

The preoccupation with power in mainstream Western social theory can be challenged from a number of perspectives. In this paper, I consider some alternative ways of conceptualizing ways-of-being in society that are implicit in a number of Asian traditions of thought and, in particular, in Buddhism and Gandhian ideas. In this paper, I challenge the necessity for a power-based approach to social relations. I suggest both that the models of society emerging from Foucault and other major Western theorists are examples of culturally bound local knowledge that have significant negative influences on the conception of alternative social possibilities, and that the resources for such alternatives lie not only in Western forms of utopian thinking but in existing Asian traditions — the full sociological implications of which have not yet been explored or worked out in detail.

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John Clammer