Asia & the Pacific in Motion ASIA1030 Essay Instructions and Topics

A research essay is the chance to dive deeply into a question that interests you and to develop your own voice on an important question. As you choose your focus, think about what big questions matter to you and how you can expand your understanding of Asia and the Pacific.

How do I get started? We offer nine different areas on themes of the course (we’ll get to them soon) to spark your thoughts. You need to:

1) Choose one of the essay topics that interests you:

Identify something you care about.

2) Define the particular research question that your essay will address:

Research question: Within each topic, there are many possible research questions you could write on. You need to define ONE question that your essay will focus on. Articulating a good research question is a key step towards a strong essay. You may work with one of the questions given in the description for your chosen topic, or you may develop your own research question within the scope of your chosen topic and its description. Your research question will change as you research and write your essay: it should become more nuanced as you evaluate more evidence.

3) Develop an argument that responds to this question:

Argument: Your essay needs to present an argument. A description or overview of a topic, case study or body of literature does not constitute a proper essay. Once you have your research question, you will need to decide the position that you will assert in response to the question. Your argument needs to be “arguable” – ie, you must be able to imagine that a well-informed person might disagree with you.

4) Bring together evidence that supports your argument:

Evidence: Your argument needs to be supported by evidence, and you’ll need to conduct independent research on your chosen topic. Evidence should be in the form of examples of empirical data and analysis relating to a particular country, region or group of people, and critical discussion and assessment of literature relevant to your topic. You are not expected to present original evidence, but to support your argument with evidence from a range of published sources. We also highly recommend, if there is a course reading that speaks to your chosen
question that you engage with this course reading in your essay.

Evidence Requirements: 6 peer-reviewed scholarly sources, meaning peer-reviewed journal articles, books, or book chapters. 8-10 relevant and quality sources (including the six scholarly sources)

You are expected to show your ability to work with English-language scholarship. If you are studying a foreign language, you are welcome to conduct research in that language to extend your skills. In that case, you will need to cite the original source (so readers can trace the original source) and translate into English anything that you cite from another language.

5) Present your argument and your supporting evidence as a well-written and well-structured essay.

Writing: Your essay should develop in clear and logical ways. Your research question and your answer to this question (your “argument”) need to be clearly stated in the first paragraph. The essay will then go on to offer analysis of your evidence to work towards a persuasive, earned conclusion.

You need to cite ALL evidence and secondary sources according to the Foundation Course Style Sheet. Failure to cite properly can lead to violations of academic integrity.

Word Limit: 2,000 words total, including excluding your bibliography

A 10% variance above or below this limit is considered acceptable. If your essay is much shorter than this, you probably haven’t gone deeply enough into your research question. If your essay is much longer, you probably haven’t prioritized the most important information.

On Wattle, you will find detailed resources to help you. You can also get good guidance on how to start your research process at:

Assessment Criteria • Demonstrated ability to establish a clear and specific research question with a focused and manageable empirical scope (ie, an essay inspired by the topic on Security and Order might focus its research question to investigate “how representations of the Nanjing Massacre in contemporary China affect current Sino-Japanese cooperation”)

• Demonstrated ability to locate your research question within relevant issues relating to the course themes and the regions of Asia and the

• Demonstrated ability to construct a cohesive, well-supported, and logical argument on the chosen topic;

• Evidence of careful research, demonstrated through appropriate choice of relevant and quality sources and proper use of consistent referencing; conventions (see the Foundation Courses Citation Style Sheet on Wattle)

• Presentation of a well-written, structured and researched essay.

Essay Topics

1. Rising Capitalism

Especially in the wake of the Cold War, practices we might describe as “capitalist” have become more and more pronounced in Asia and the Pacific. How are these practices changing the ways people behave and shape lives for themselves? What are the consequences of capitalist economic development on governments and societies, or on people and the texture of their lives? Have the benefits brought by increasing capitalist practices outweighed the costs? How have capitalist practices changed the way particular people might define being “poor” or being “rich”? What new policies are needed to cope with the effects of capitalism? How do capitalist practices coexist with different kinds of economic systems?

2. Religiosity and its Discontents

Many religious traditions have shaped the dynamic social worlds of Asia and the Pacific. How do shared systems of belief, practice, or ritual help communities define themselves? How do different religious communities treat each other? How are new social changes, such as globalization, digital media, or economic development, affecting religious ideas, practices, and communities? How is religiosity connected to violence? What new forms of belief, or unbelief, are emerging in Asia and the Pacific?

3. Powers and Paradoxes of Storytelling

Stories – whether told around a circle, written on a piece of paper, or shared through a screen – offer places where people can play imaginatively with their histories and their futures. How do contemporary people in Asia and the Pacific transform particular storytelling traditions of their past? What stories are important to political identity, religious expression, or national self-definition? What are the ethical and political consequences when stories are appropriated by new tellers and shared with new listeners? What new kinds of storytelling are emerging in today’s Asia and the Pacific?

4. Security and Order

Consider key international and domestic challenges to peace and security in Asia and the Pacific. How well equipped are governments in these regions to cope with such challenges? What kinds of international alliances and enmities shape their responses? How do concepts like “human rights” or “terrorism” matter in Asia and the Pacific? Will the rise of powers like China be stabilizing or destabilizing? What is, or should be, the role of civil society in helping to confront issues of historical and contemporary violence?

5. Changing Visions of Gender and Sexuality

Ideas about gender and sexuality – what is proper, what is normal, what is forbidden – have shaped everything from political hierarchies to divisions of labour to individual senses of self. Consider how specific norms of gender or sexuality have affected people’s lives and opportunities in Asia and the Pacific. What historical ideas about gender and sexuality shape contemporary practices? What new concepts are emerging? How are individuals seeking to define themselves through gender and sexuality in our contemporary moment?

6. Projects of Development

Parts of Asia and the Pacific have traditionally been defined as being part of a “Third World” that requires development. Contemplate what “development” means, and how development projects have affected the lives of specific groups in Asia and the Pacific. What kinds of relationships has development fostered between parts of Asia and the Pacific, on the one hand, and Western/”First World” societies, on the other? What might be effective ways of seeking development and what might be ineffective ones? Should development be considered an extension of colonialism?

7. Ethnic Conflict

Consider the ways in which diverse social groups in Asia and the Pacific have experienced what we now call “ethnic conflict.” How are histories, memories, languages and social practices used to create ideas of “ethnicity,” and how do these “ethnicities” sometimes conflict with others? What factors help to fuel ethnic conflict, and what practices mitigate it? To what extent are ethnic conflicts fundamentally about access to resources or political power? How do governments cope with ethnic conflict, and what kind of success do they have? How does civil society help to inflame or to ward off ethnic conflict?

8. Multiple Modernities

In contrast to a logic in which there is only one vision of modernity, scholars now sometimes speak of “alternative modernities” and “multiple modernities.” How might you identify such multiple modernities at work in a specific part of Asia and the Pacific? What different approaches have people developed to face new
challenges of the modern world? What are the roles for traditional practices within multiple modernities? What key paradoxes about the meaning of “modernity” shape Asia and the Pacific today?

9. Australia in the Region of Asia and the Pacific

On a globe or map, Australia is clearly part of the broad region known as Asia and the Pacific. But in daily life and across different contexts–social and cultural, political, economic–what are the most consequential relationships between Australia and the region? Put simply, how does Australia really “fit in”? Is there a better or worse way (or ways) for Australia to engage with the region? How does Australia transform the region around it, and in turn, how is Australia transformed by its location?

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