Critical Asian Studies (Formerly the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars)

Statement of Purpose

The world – and Asia – are far different today from what they were five decades ago when the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars was established. Many of our original concerns remain, but many new challenges confront us as well. We affirm the continuity of our efforts and voice our recognition of the new conditions we face. When in 1992 we changed the name of our flagship journal from the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (BCAS) to Critical Asian Studies we did so because the latter captures four different aspects of our endeavor:

  • it acknowledges that the issues we wish to confront in the twenty-first century are critical;

  • it highlights our continued commitment as activists and scholars to the search for critical perspectives on local, regional, and global change;

  • it articulates our criticism of the status quo; and

  • it signals our self-critical assessments of the ways in which our efforts affect the world in which we live.

The Bulletin was born out of the crisis of the Indochina Wars as an attempt to analyze U.S. policy in cold war Asia. Our initial focus was on the impact of U.S. power on the peoples of Southeast and East Asia – and the efforts of Asian people to define their own past, present, and future along different lines, including anti-imperialist and revolutionary ones. We later expanded our geographic focus to include South Asia, Inner Asia, and nations in the Pacific, as well as the experience of Asians in America. Our goals explicitly included examining the intellectual approaches by which Asia was understood in the West and the ways in which reigning theoretical frameworks in universities and professional institutions excluded Asian aspirations and experiences. Those goals, spelled out in our original statement of purpose, remain central to our scholarship.

Since the 1970s, the regional and global contexts have changed profoundly. New realities include growing multi-polarity, the greater economic power of East Asia, the end of the cold war, the decline of revolutionary Marxism, and the rise of new social movements. The Bulletin responded to these ongoing developments by combining analyses of the international forces that have transformed the Asia-Pacific region with attention to social change within Asian societies and to the many ways in which the global and the local intersect.

Our continued interest in domestic social changes within Asian societies means learning from the work of scholars and activists in Asia, a goal we have held for many years. The "Notes from the Field" section in the journal (and on our website) contains information about contemporary political activism and social movements in Asia. This effort is part of our ongoing commitment to write and publish in the increasingly international, interdisciplinary field of Asian Studies. We continue to encourage creative work at the intersection of scholarship and activism.

We draw inspiration from a variety of intellectual approaches. These include environmentalism, feminism, cultural analyses, human rights concepts, participatory development, political economy, studies of race and ethnicity, and movements for the rights of indigenous peoples. Fifty years ago, socialism provided powerful critiques of both capitalism and "traditional" Asian social organization. Those critiques raised valuable questions about power, exploitation, and oppression without providing sufficient answers, but the historical tradition of socialist thought remains a source of inspiration for some of us, together with newer analytical tools. We continue to debate various alternatives to global capitalism as it currently exists.

We agree that attractive alternatives to contemporary systems should be based on social foundations of cooperation rather than competition and of use values as well as exchange values. These alternatives would also result in development that is human in a broad sense rather than narrowly defined in highly unequal economic terms. We remain committed to human rights, democracy, social justice, self-determination, and equality.