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  1. #1
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Default Why (sic) and What is an 'Asian'?

    That's my question. I'll inveigh once people respond...

    Some 'potential' guidelines....

    1) What is an Asian 'intensionally', in other words, what is the definition or 'essence' of being Asian? In other words, this is the question asking "WHY" do we call someone an Asian.

    2) What is an Asian 'extensionally', in other words, if there were a set of all Asian objects-which-are-also-people, where would they be from? So this is more along the lines of, if I asked you to point out some Asians to me, you'd ostend in a certain direction and show me them, without necessarily explaining the 'why'.

    3) Once we've 'understood', according to each poster, or each group of like-minded posters, what Asians are... can we justify using "Asian" as more than a geographical marker, provided the geographical issues are sorted out? Meaning, can we possibly assert an "Asian" culture? Or are there regions in Asia which are so different from each other that the "Asian" culture breaks down upon analysis?

    3a) Which groups are excluded from Asia? WHY? Is it a consistent system of dividing the world up into continents and, moreover, major cultural groups?

    __________________________________________________ _________

    I promise (not that anyone's begging me to) that I'll post my own thoughts on this in a little while... I just want to see what everyone else is about before opening my own big mouth. Plus, some may already have ideas about what I think.
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

  2. #2
    `~~Philosoflying~~` SillySapienne's Avatar
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    When I hear the word Asian, my mind tends to automatically visualize/assume the Orient, i.e, China, Japan and Korea.

    Lol, is Russia in Asia?

    I think it is.

    Asia is a ginormous land mass composed of a conglomerate of ethnically diverse miniature and massive countries that consist in and of themselves a motley crew of cultures and ethnicities, so one can infer incredibly little when one only knows that someone happens to be an Asian.

    Australia, Asia's demographicontinental antithesis
    `
    'Cause you can't handle me...

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  3. #3
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    Indians are Asians too. It's really far too large a continent to make any generalizations about.

    /boring
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
    -anonymous graffiti in the basilica at Pompeii

  4. #4
    señor member colmena's Avatar
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    Heritage effects how you are perceived, and in turn, how you behave.

    Asia is a large place with many varying cultures.
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    Ti Ne Fi Ni

    -How beautiful, this pale Endymion hour.
    -What are you talking about?
    -Endymion, my dear. A beautiful youth possessed by the moon.
    -Well, forget about him and get to bed.
    -Yes, my dear.

  5. #5
    desert pelican Owl's Avatar
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    1) Minimally, any person who's ever been to Asia is Asian.

    2) The set of all Asians is rather large and very diverse.

    3) We could try to find some extra-temporal-geographical distinction that captures the same set of persons, or some (more) reasonable subset, but I'd be surprised if this distinction didn't include persons who aren't Asian.

    3a) Mapping cultures onto the globe would be messy. Cultural boundaries are too dynamic. Cultures can blend, topple, or experience a renaissance. But, in order to answer why some persons would not be Asian, cultures can only blend so much: the institutions created by a culture are based on the ideals held by that culture. Ideological differences result in institutional differences; if the ideas supporting opposing institutions are not reconciled, then these differences result in divisions within the larger culture--even violent divisions.

    Are there any ideas and institutions inherent to Asian culture that are not inherent to non-Asian cultures?

  6. #6
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Okay... I think my initial intuition was right... I need to guide this a bit more... only CC and Owl really went where I wanted the conversation to go... but let me address some statements and then bring up some problems.

    Terms and provisional definitions:

    geographical Asia - the landmass qua continent which includes, landwise, modern nations from the Arab/Gulf belt (Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan), the former-Soviet Block (Russia, Ukraine, the -stans), the Indian 'subcontinent' or 'South Asia' (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka), and the "Far East" (China, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan)... I'll ignore places like Indonesia for the moment.

    cultural Asia - "South Asia" and the "Far East"

    geographical Europe - All the countries of Europe, classically defined, upto but not including Turkey.

    cultural Europe - All the countries of Europe and, according to the European soccer league, Russia too.

    Eurasia - Asia + Europe = Eurasia : The Big Continent

    __________________________________________________ _______________

    Now here is where it's not so boring and actually quite fraught with difficulties of a serious and intriguing nature (*ahem* Ivy *ahem*):


    some problems with the provisional definitions as provided above:

    Note that I will call the geographic entity of Eurasia 'The Big Continent', so as to avoid the prejudice inherent in naming a single continent by means of a compound word.

    ------------------

    The Indian 'subcontinent' was formerly a small continent of its own which collided into the The Big Continent ("Eurasian") landmass.... the Indian 'subcontinent' is, in fact, the only part of The Big Continent which rests on its on tectonic plate. Europe, on the other hand, is not separated or even originally separated from Asia by any physical criterion whatsoever, as so is just as much a part of Asia as is the Arabian peninsula or China, for that matter. Indeed, by a purely geographical-tectonic reading, the Indian subcontinent should be called 'the Indian (sub)continent' or the Indian plate, not "South Asia" whilst Europe shouldn't be called Europe at all, but rather "West Asia".

    __________________________________________________ _______________

    So, Europe and the Indian subcontinent are BOTH "peninsular subcontinents" of The Big Continent, with the Indian subcontinent on its own tectonic plate to boot... but Europe is referred to as one of the seven continents and the Indian subcontinent has become a part of Asia, "South Asia" to be precise.

    Why?

    __________________________________________________ ____________________
    [speaking conventionally here]

    Some will say that Europe's history is clearly separate from that of Asia, that Europe forms its own (and HERE the cultural argument seeps in) separate cultural bloc, and therefore deserves at least a geopolitical distinction from Asia.

    But the same, and in fact just as good, argument can be made for the Indian subcontinent, which I will just call India for the sake of brevity, and also because that's what it's been called throughout history (substitute Hindustaan or Bhaarat if you want to be historically accurate...)...

    India is socio-politically distinct, with the Himalayas separating it from the rest of Asia (a similar topographical feature is lacking in the Europe/Asia 'divide') and an extremely diverse set of peoples covering its landmass, just like Europe.

    Some will argue that Europe covers about 3.9 million-square miles of the earth, whereas India only covers 1.7 million-square miles... but these are similar magnitudes, and India has always had a much larger population than Europe, going back centuries.

    __________________________________________________ _____________

    So.... why is Europe a continent and India not? Doesn't this prompt non-boring questions about the Eurocentricity of cartography and socio-political nomenclature?

    __________________________________________________ ____________

    Besides all this... I personally consider myself an American more than an Indian, though I'd prefer to be called an Everyman, as it were.... so I guess I'm just going to have to suffer a few ad hominem attacks (I anticipate them) about how I'm an Indian chauvinist, which I'm not. I'm providing evidence which needs to be addressed before people call my arguments bogus. Just anticipating because of what generally happens to Bluewing.

    __________________________________________________ __

    On other notes... why do many U.S. government censuses, when asking about race/ethnicity often offer only "Asian"? Is this helpful? Other posts tell me that most people would agree it's rubbish, which is why I always check off "Other".

    Anyway, I've typed enough for the moment... there's a lot more going on here...

    For instance...

    _______________________________________

    Even if we accept the status quo of geopolitical distinctions that have arbitrarily decided that Europe is a continent and India is not... the rest is Asia...

    Why is Russia a part of Europe, and Turkey not?

    Why is the "Middle East" (most of these are terrible terms, which I won't get into) just the Middle East, and not Asia? I mean, when we talk about the "Asian Games", everyone nowadays thinks China-Korea-Japan-Vietnam-Cambodia etc. and India-Pakistan-Bangladesh-Nepal-Sri Lanka.... where'd the Arab countries (plus Israel) disappear? I thought they were South-West Asian?

    __________________________________________________ _______________

    Essentially what I'm saying is this....

    There are a lot of double-standards in today's political language and ethnic markers... people will define one continent geologically and the other one geopolitically... but then these very same people will exclude certain countries from the pre-established geological and/or geopolitical continental markers and create whole new categories to suit perceived cultural groups which transcend those earlier continental boundaries...

    Just as Edward Said cried foul about Orientalism, I wish to cry foul about Orientalism's latest incarnation: Asianism.

    And yes, I believe this may be one of the first times "Asianism" has been used, and if not, one of the first times it's been asserted as a Novo Orientalism.

    __________________________________________________ ___________

    What say you?
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

  7. #7
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    I should also answer my own questions:

    1) What is an Asian 'intensionally', in other words, what is the definition or 'essence' of being Asian? In other words, this is the question asking "WHY" do we call someone an Asian.

    An attempt at a real definition, stripped of sugarcoating: Non-white, non-Semitics from the Asian landmass (Asian landmass as defined conventionally above). Which means that Russians and Israelis (since Jews are all of a sudden white nowadays, at least in New York) are no longer Asians! Even Arabs, in fact, have their own grouping now, and are only 'technically' from Asia, so to speak.

    2) What is an Asian 'extensionally', in other words, if there were a set of all Asian objects-which-are-also-people, where would they be from?

    The politically-correct (though very flawed) definition: Anyone who ethnically originates from the Asian landmass... the Asian landmass being The Big Continent, specifically excluding Europe (and obviously Africa, which is certainly a continent of its own). Thus, even a family that's spent generations in the U.S. is called Asian, because their bloodline can be traced back to China or some such "Asian" area.


    3) Once we've 'understood', according to each poster, or each group of like-minded posters, what Asians are... can we justify using "Asian" as more than a geographical marker, provided the geographical issues are sorted out? Meaning, can we possibly assert an "Asian" culture? Or are there regions in Asia which are so different from each other that the "Asian" culture breaks down upon analysis?

    Calling someone Asian is so utterly uninformative that we should stop doing this, IMO. Indeed, we haven't even got, by my estimation, a decent standard for what an "Asian" really is. Regardless, by the current definition, "Asian" is certainly NOT an ethnicity or a race and shouldn't be used as referring to ethnicity/race.


    3a) Which groups are excluded from Asia? WHY? Is it a consistent system of dividing the world up into continents and, moreover, major cultural groups?

    Arabs, Jews, whites, Christians. They're not Asians according to the general cultural convention, particularly in the United States and Europe. You'd probably get strange looks if you called a Russian, Israeli or even an Iraqi an "Asian" in a casual conversation. Why? Because Euro-American minority politicians and scholars dictate the way we name the world... the Euro-American academic-political cadre is like the Adam of Genesis, naming things and deeming other phenomena entities as it sees fit. It's not a consistent system at all, if one looks at the various geopolitical and socio-political divisions and their raisons-d'etre as proffered by 'experts'... it's consistent in that it exposes a consistent bias.


    _______________________________________________

    A major problem in even talking about any of this is that in speaking of these categories one is forced to use language that is inherently biased... if I ever go into political science, I'll probably spend a year just trying to come up with new, value-neutral terminology with which one can begin to discuss more contemporary geo-socio-political issues.
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

  8. #8
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    The response is overwhelming.
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

  9. #9
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    Maybe you could stop acting superior about how you think about the issue, give people a chance to ruminate on it, and you'd get better responses.
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
    -anonymous graffiti in the basilica at Pompeii

  10. #10
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    Maybe you could stop acting superior about how you think about the issue, give people a chance to ruminate on it, and you'd get better responses.
    Maybe you could try not to project your own insecurities onto other people. I don't feel superior at all, particularly in regard to my own views. I'm raising some questions and am interested in what other people think, because their views could alter my own. Just because I put some effort into my post doesn't mean I think I'm better than anyone else. I just wrote "the response is overwhelming" because there weren't any responses to my latest post.

    Also, I think I'd get better responses if you didn't post. What's the point of decrying someone's thread as 'boring'. Just don't post if the topic doesn't interest you.

    Lastly, I was having some fun talking about the lack of responses. Most of the time, people are very quick to post on practically any subject matter on this forum, regardless of its complexity or depth. I wasn't 'really' complaining. There's an element of sarcasm involved. Maybe it's my fault for not putting <sarcasm> up there, or are light-hearted quips no longer kosher according to some Madmins?


    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

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