Rurality Check: Tracing the Nascent Global Countryside in Asia

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Rurality Check: Tracing the Nascent Global Countryside in Asia
Stream: Anthropology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Wolfram Manzenreiter, University of Vienna, Austria (organizer, chair)
Sonja Ganseforth, German Institute of Japanese Studies (DIJ) Tokyo, Germany (presenter)
Heesun Hwang, Seoul National University, South Korea (presenter)
Michael Leung, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (presenter)
Haotzu Ho, National Taitung University, Taiwan (presenter)
Isaac Gagné, German Institute of Japanese Studies, Japan (presenter)
Barbara Holthus, German Institute of Japanese Studies, Germany (discussant)


The built infrastructure of mega cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong or Shanghai epitomize Asia’s rise to the world’s largest and fastest growing economy. With most scholarly attention focussing on urban growth and agglomerations as hotbed of societal transformation and cultural innovation, the countryside so far has come to be regarded as riddled with grave structural problems, including backwardness, economic decline and demographic aging. This panel questions the heuristic value of the rigid boundaries of urban/rural, progressive/backwardly, modern/traditional, here/there and even human/non-human at a time when rural areas are standing at the crossroads of globalization. Case studies from coastal fishery, mountainous villages, remote islands, metropolitan farming communities, and seed cultivation demonstrate that the countryside in Asia is exhibiting new characteristics that are driven by structural changes and a complex net of translocal relations on a global scale. The nascent idea of a “global countryside” as a hybrid space considers the impact of global capitalism and molecular sciences as well as the rich diversity of agrarian technologies and local customs to be of utmost significance to understand the spatial and scalar quality of forces giving shape to rural areas and their inhabitants in relation to their entanglement with politics, business and culture crafted in urban areas. The discussion fleshes out the ways in which old and new actors on the ground engage with global networks and processes to produce hybrid outcomes, blurring the binary distinctions of local/global and giving proof to Asia’s new ruralities.