Insurgent Migrants

Mobilizing Ideas

By Sharon M. Quinsaat

Amarasingam, Amarnath. 2015. Pain, Pride, and Politics: Social Movement Activism and the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in Canada. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Zimmer, Kenyon. 2015. Immigrants Against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America. Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: University of Illinois Press.

Mobilizations around issues concerning migrants, refugees, and stateless persons have intensified since the turn of the decade. Across Europe and North America, citizens opposed to asylum seekers from Syria have deployed narratives and visual tropes that signify the erosion of cultural integrity and territorial security of nation-states. From Port-au-Prince to Boston, Haitians have protested the arbitrary deportations and violence perpetrated against their co-ethnics in the Dominican Republic, where hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent were stripped of their citizenship. Last month, the U.S. government’s use of the term “Rohingya” to describe the persecuted Muslim population that has lived…

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Movement “Branding” in the Japanese Anti-War Protests

Mobilizing Ideas

While constructing a course syllabus on “Social Movements in East and Southeast Asia,” I have been re-reading some news articles, popular analyses, and academic theorizing on the recent waves of protest in the region, including Mobilizing Ideas’ dialogue in December 2014 and January 2015. Since the turn of the decade, East and Southeast Asia has been the site of massive mobilizations, generating huge turnouts from millennials. Youth activism was crucial in the campaign for electoral reform in Malaysia, especially in the Bersih 2.0 rally of 2011. In the 2014 Hong Kong protests, the pro-democracy movement consisted predominantly of high school and college students, who were participating in street demonstrations for the first time and had no recollection of the 1989 Tiananmen protests or other contentious episodes in China’s (or Hong Kong’s) history.

In the summer and fall of 2015, Japan witnessed one of the largest protests in Tokyo in…

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Diaspora Mobilization in Democracy Struggles

Mobilizing Ideas

From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, Filipinos in the U.S. and the Netherlands became key players in international efforts to overthrow an oppressive regime, institute democracy, and shape the direction of the Philippine political system. When Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, Filipino student and political organizations in the U.S. immediately convened in San Francisco and launched a national campaign to oppose authoritarian rule. In less than a year, the movement spread as new organizations of diverse political orientations emerged and took root in long-established Filipino communities in the U.S. Activists focused on lobbying Congress for the withdrawal of military and economic support to Marcos and on politicizing Filipino national and cultural events. In the Netherlands, the movement was launched later. In response to Marcos’s intensified repression, Filipino exile and solidarity organizations in Europe organized the Permanent People’s Tribunal on the Philippines in…

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The Marcos Dictatorship, Historical Remembrances, and Collective Memory

Mobilizing Ideas

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos and his authoritarian regime in the Philippines. From February 22-25, 1986, over two million Filipinos held demonstrations in the capital of Manila. The struggle against the two-decade authoritarian rule transpired for years and Filipinos expected a protracted and bloody revolution to bring down an entrenched dictatorship. Yet, unlike other sultanistic or neopatrimonial regimes that were defeated by a revolutionary movement or ousted by a coup d’état, Marcos was dethroned by nonviolent protesters, largely from the middle class, who were held together not by a common political ideology but by moral indignation founded on basic distrust of the government (see David 1985, Thompson 1995).

thumbnailNamed after the urban space in Manila where this historical watershed occurred, the EDSA “People Power” Revolution was the first democratic transition in Asia during the so-called “third wave of democratization” (Huntington 1991

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Territorial Disputes and “State-Encouraged” Protests

Mobilizing Ideas

Anti-China Protest in Vietnam PhotoLast month, a series of protests erupted across Vietnam against the Chinese deployment of an oil rig in the Paracel Islands, a disputed territory of the South China Sea. Three nations—China, Taiwan, and Vietnam—have claimed sovereignty over the archipelago since the 20th century. In a surprise turn, the Vietnamese government, which generally forbids demonstrations, allowed protests at the beginning, enabling them to spread from the capital Hanoi to Ho Chi Minch City and increase in size and intensity. The protests led to violence as protestors targeted Chinese and Taiwanese nationals and their businesses. Looting, arson, vandalism, injuries, and death forced China and Taiwan to order the evacuation of their citizens.[1]

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The Nexus of Migrants’ Rights and Diaspora Activism

Mobilizing Ideas

By Sharon M. Quinsaat

Since the late twentieth century, the debate on transnationalism and assimilation has animated the field of migration studies. Empirical studies of first-generation Cubans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Vietnamese in the United States, among others, show that the politics of migrants are homeward looking and that the shift in modes of incorporation does not necessarily accompany a shift in concerns (Itzigsohn and Villacrés 2008; Ong and Meyer 2008; Smith 2006). On the other hand, the children of migrants may consider transnational political membership through the acquisition of dual nationality, but this may eventually fade away over subsequent generations (Bauböck 2003). Although participation in homeland politics is the exception rather than the rule, even among the migrant cohort, competing evidence has encouraged social scientists to develop theories that elaborate on the interactive relationship between transnationalism and assimilation and thus move the discourse…

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The Radical Sixties and the Militant Asian Americans

Mobilizing Ideas

Fifty years ago, on March 8, 1965, the U.S. Marines landed in Da Nang, marking the beginning of the American ground war in Vietnam. Protests erupted all over the U.S., with the largest anti-war demonstration in the U.S.—the March Against the War organized by the Students for Democratic Society—taking place in April 17. Radicalism in the 60s has been the subject of social movement theories that set the direction of contemporary scholarship. But scholars in the field were remiss in examining a contentious group in American society: Asian Americans.

While Sid Tarrow was visiting Pittsburgh early this month, we had a conversation about the dearth of studies on Asian American mobilization, especially in the 1960s. In recent years, we have noticed a rise in scholarship on the Asian American movement (AAM). But based on a cursory look of undergraduate and graduate courses in social movements, Asian Americans remain invisible in mainstream…

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