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Research Directions

Research DirectionsThe Institute of Asian Research's research priorities reflect the interests of its resident and affiliated scholars and tend toward policy-relevant issues informed by local knowledge. Current research activities include the impact of globalization in Asia; trade and human rights performance; natural resources and sustainability; socio-economic and political transformation; Canada-Asia relations; migration and mobility in the Asia Pacific region, urbanization in the Pacific Rim; political and legal reform; poverty management; and environment policy. The IAR has been successful in obtaining support from granting agencies such as Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the United Nations, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum. As new areas of research emerge, new sources of support will be explored, including U.S. agencies such as the Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and the Carnegie Endowment. The Institute has an extensive program of publication of research and policy papers and monographs, derived from its research and program activities.

Main Areas of Research

  • The impact of globalization in Asia: There is currently a major focus both theoretically and empirically on the effects of globalization in terms of increasing economic and social interaction across national boundaries. The way that nations, groups, and individuals react to this globalization process is an important research theme and many researchers at UBC are looking at aspects of this process. The effects of globalization and local social cohesion is a key research focus.
  • Trade and human rights performance: Using paradigms of Selective Adaptation and Institutional Capacity, researchers are exploring the ways in which local norms and institutional practices affect compliance with international trade and human rights standards. Key research locations include China, Japan, and Canada. Publications and conference reporting is available through IAR’s Asia Pacific Dispute Resolution (APDR) program.
  • Natural resources and sustainability: IAR has developed natural resource and sustainability research programs on China and Mongolia. As well, with support from the UN Environmental Program, IAR has begun a major research initiative on water resource management and cooperative governance over river resources.
  • Socio-economic and political change in Asia: IAR supports research on the "development transition" in Asia from a range of theoretical and applied policy perspectives. The research addresses three main areas: a) Declining natural resources such as water, soil, etc. which pose major challenges of management; b) Issues relating to the "civil order" of Asia Pacific and social dislocation; and c) Issues arising from the inequity between gender and cultural groups and the persistence of poverty. An important component of this research surrounds issues of human rights and the role of NGO's.
  • Canada-Asia relations: Current projects already located within the Institute are looking at economic and security relations between Asia and Canada. Additional collaborative project involving IAR and the Liu Institute will further develop and enlarge these studies.
  • Urbanization in the Pacific Rim: This research area focuses on interaction among socio-cultural, economic and political dimensions of urbanization to transitional Asia. Links with other IAR programs is a key element of this research area.
  • Migration and mobility in the Asia Pacific region: Research in conjunction with other UBC units has yielded important insights on regional and intercontinental migration patterns.
  • Cultural studies: The growth of post-modern thought in the social sciences offers creative opportunities for scholars in the humanities and social sciences to interact on the development of research. An excellent workshop on travel in the Pacific Rim held in UBC brought scholars from Asian Studies and other disciplines who discussed issues of authenticity and representation. There are many other research themes including gender representation in literature and art or the cultural persistence of the manipulation of historically embedded cultural symbols in contemporary Asian societies that can be developed.

Local-Global Relations

What role then does the Institute of Asian Research play in the midst of these developments?

  • UBC possesses the largest cluster of human and library resources on the learning and research about Asia compared to any university in Canada. This has been built up over a period of 30 years and represents a significant investment in building understanding about Asia. These resources are an essential component for cooperation between IAR researchers and the broader community of scholars at UBC.
  • UBC has made a strong commitment to internationalizing the University and initiating exchanges and educational linkages with other institutions of higher learning in Asia. Part of this commitment involves working closely with local communities of Asian origin that are strongly motivated in improving the knowledge of their countries of origin both for their communities and for other Canadians. The University and the Institute have been the recipient of many generous gifts to promote these goals.
  • As Asian countries become increasingly important as economic partners to Canada and British Columbia, the University has to react to the needs of business communities in Asia and Canada to provide the training and research which can facilitate this relationship. The University has responded to these needs by creating programs devoted to Asia in Asian Law and Commerce as well as increasing the number of courses on the Asia Pacific region in humanities and the social sciences. Furthermore, IAR has also responded by offering a Master of Arts [Asia Pacific Policy Studies] Program (MAPPS), a joint MAPPS-LLB Program and a joint MAPPS-MBA Program as well as several graduate seminar courses.

All these developments enhance IAR’s role in building understanding about Asia. IAR is committed to combining international analysis with understanding of local conditions. The Institute sponsors programs that focus on global forces that are shaping relations in the Asia Pacific Rim, such as the growth of knowledge-intensive industries, urbanization, new regional associations such as APEC, and the role of Canada in these emerging sub-global regions. The Institute also includes geographic research centres covering five great geographic and cultural regions of Asia: China, Japan, Korea, India and South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Each Centre which is concerned with interpreting and researching policy, politics and law, economy, and culture and history in these regions. Through this combination of attention to the global and the local, IAR carries out a mandate of teaching and research where policy relevance is informed by local knowledge.

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