The recent protests in Myanmar and elsewhere are lazily interpreted as a sign that people in these places want what people in the West already have: free elections, the rule of law, protection for minority rights, and so on. This is a very comforting reading for the powers-that-be.
There is another, more accurate reading, however, which comes to mind when we consider that even in the West there have been mass popular protests recently: for instance, the gilets jaunes in France, the indignados in Spain, and the Occupy movement more generally. The rapid spread of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and beyond, the success of populist politicians of the left and right, and the widespread distrust of the authorities everywhere are all signs that Western-style institutions are disappointing for people. It seems that they would like more in the way of democracy, although it isn’t exactly clear what would satisfy them.
Has anyone actually figured out what a more democratic system would be like, and how it would work practically?
What can we learn from responses to the accommodation of asylum seekers about superdiversity, integration and the mainstream?
Superdiversity and integration are prominent yet contested terms to capture increasing population heterogeneity due to migration and participation by, and inclusion of, migrants in the arrival context. These terms have been criticised for ignoring the implication of established residents in processes of integration and their contestation of migration-based diversity. Yet, to date, limited research has shown how established residents differ in responding to superdiversity and how they conceive of integration.
My Identities article, ‘Towards a differentiated notion of the mainstream: superdiversity and residents’ conceptions of immigrant integration’, sets out to explore variations in established residents’ responses to diversity and the extent to which they consider themselves as playing a role in integrating newcomers. It draws on fieldwork that captured the reactions to the installation of a large asylum seeker reception centre on the outskirts of a large German city. Interviewing residents of the neighbourhood and participating in meetings of the 'local partnership', the article counters the common assumption in the literature that migration-related diversity is either contested or seen as a banal aspect of everyday urban life.
The rise of China is mostly perceived as an economic phenomenon. Yet, there is also the cultural dimension: What are the implications of Chinese leaders proclaiming that Chinese cultural traditions must be endorsed, as they essentially define what it means to be Chinese? The revival of popular religion in China, such as ancestral worship, which was suppressed over decades, but is now even applauded by President Xi Jinping as an expression of cherished core values of the Chinese, family and filial piety.
However, many phenomena related to religious practices in China defy conceptions of ‘religion’ developed in the light of Western historical patterns. Rituals are central in these phenomena, which can also be conceived as local customs and community traditions that express social norms and conceptions of social order without implicating ‘religion’. This ambiguity or even dissociation of ritual and religion is characteristic for East Asian societies and can be also observed in Japan, where ritual practices flourish, yet the majority of Japanese claim that they are ‘not religious’. Our Identities article, ‘Interaction ritual chains and religious economy: explorations on ritual in Shenzhen’, looks at these phenomena in the Shenzhen metropolis.