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Not an Immigrant Country? Non-Western Racism and the Duties of Global Citizenship

Adam K. Webb

Keywords: ASIA; DISCRIMINATION; IMMIGRATION; NATIONAL IDENTITY; OPEN BORDERS; RACISM

Abstract

The rise of non-Western societies, especially in Asia, to greater global influence demands greater scrutiny of how they engage the rest of the world. To date, every society with high levels of immigration is in Europe or a product of the European empires. The erosion of ethnically and racially inflected understandings of citizenship has also gone much further in the modern West than in East Asia or the Gulf States. Notably, however, liberal political theorists who make the case for a cosmopolitan opening of borders remain silent on such non-Western patterns of racial exclusion. Non-Western societies often claim that, because they are 'not an immigrant country', they should not be held to the same standards of openness and non-discrimination. International law, a product of the postcolonial moment, also has a blind spot on these issues. This article challenges such double standards. It suggests that the implicit normative argument for greater Western openness – collective guilt over the colonial experience and resulting racial stratification – leads in unexpected directions, implicating Asian societies in ways that they do not yet recognise.

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