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Symposium: Inequality, Social Policy, and Social Movements in East Asia

Oct 21, 2016 - Oct 22, 2016

The expansion of market principles in various sectors of society across the globe has been accompanied by a simultaneously growing concern over extreme social disparities in the twenty-first century. It is commonly recognized that the increasing concentration of wealth at the very top of society is exacerbating the living conditions of more at the bottom. In East Asia, such a prospect has become a source of anxiety especially among younger generations, as expressed in phrases such as “the low-stream society” (karyū shakai, Japan), “the 880,000 won generation” (pal ship pal man won sedae, Korea), or “the ant tribe” (yizu, China). Meanwhile, governments have (re)discovered “poverty” as a social problem requiring tailored welfare programs promoting the self-reliance of new target groups, such as the homeless, single-mothers, retirees, and the disabled. While at times offering new resources to the impoverished, these social policies also tend to reinforce certain assumptions about desirable citizens according to long-standing norms of gender and labor and the new imperative of individual responsibility and self-management.


Inviting social scientists who have examined various social responses to inequality and poverty in contemporary East Asia, this symposium seeks to deepen cross-disciplinary and cross-national understanding of the entanglements between political economic changes, social policies, and political subjectivity. How do impoverished individuals seek for new opportunities in response to the changing labor market and welfare institutions? What kinds of alternative alliances are formed to address mechanisms of social exclusion? How does the governmental management of poverty relate to ideas of social progress and social membership? How do perceptions of inequality and poverty intersect with norms and practices concerning health, well-being, and care? The symposium will cover these questions through talks and discussions by external guest speakers and FU-affiliated scholars, who have conducted fieldwork in East Asia from various theoretical perspectives.


Guest Speakers:

Mun Young Cho (Cultural Anthropology, Yonsei University)

Bettina Gransow (East Asian Studies/Sinology, Freie Universität Berlin)

Mélanie Hours (Japanese Studies, Université Toulouse)

Jieun Kim (Graduate School of East Asian Studies, Freie Universität Berlin)

Bo Kyeong Seo (The Institute for East Asian Studies, Sogang University)

David Slater (Faculty of Liberal Arts, Sophia University)

Jesook Song (Anthropology, University of Toronto)

Roberta Zavoretti (Max Plank Institute for Social Anthropology)

Li Zhang (Anthropology, University of California Davis)

GEAS doctoral students


Friday 21 October


9:00-9:30        Reception

9:30-9:40        Opening


Session 1: Working through Precarity


9:40-10:20      David Slater (Sophia University) and Robin O’Day (University of North Georgia), Organizing Labor Fragmentation


10:20-11:00    Mun Young Cho (Yonsei University), The Ardent Poor: China’s migrant youth at the intersection of factory labor and volunteer labor


11:00-11:10    Coffee break


Session 2: The Many Faces of the Welfare State


11:10-11:50    Jesook Song (University of Toronto), The Social as Progress: Discourses on social development and welfare in South Korea     


11:50-12:30    Mélanie Hours (Toulouse Jean Jaures University), The Making of Invisible Margins: When poverty is confronted with the administration in Japan


12:30-14:00    Lunch break


Session 3: Transforming Urban Zones of Exclusion


14:00-14:40    Jieun Kim (Freie Universität Berlin), Soup Kitchen Activism: Mediating the flow of time in postindustrial Japan


14:40-15:20    Bettina Gransow (Freie Universität Berlin), The Risk of Occupational Injuries: Chinese migrant worker NGOs negotiating urban spaces in the Pearl River Delta


15:20-15:30    Coffee break


Session 4: Entanglements between Poverty and Health


15:30-16:10    Bo Kyeong Seo (Sogang University), Expelled from Life: HIV/AIDS stigma and the hidden politics of welfare in South Korea


16:10-16:50    Roberta Zavoretti (Max Planck Institute), “Why I'm not Poor”: Reflections on poverty and social relations in contemporary China


16:50-17:00    Coffee break


17:00-17:40    Li Zhang (University of California Davis), Convergence and Divergence among the Rich and the Poor in China


Saturday 22 October


Session 5: GEAS Doctoral Projects in East Asia


9:00-9:45     Julia Gerster (GEAS), Social ties and inequality in post-disaster Tōhoku, Japan


9:45-10:30    Jihye Han (GEAS), How has the University Lifelong Education been developed in South Korea since 1995?


10:30-11:15   Valeria Lotti (GEAS), Chinese women's “beauty identities”: Cosmetic surgery consumption in urban areas


11:15-11:30    Coffee break


11:30-12:30    Roundtable discussion


The workshop is organized by Jieun Kim, postdoctoral fellow at GEAS.

Time & Location

Oct 21, 2016 - Oct 22, 2016

Holzlaube (2F, Room 2.2059)
Fabeckstr. 23-25
14195 Berlin