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CEAS ICEA Series: "Democratic Ceilings in East Asia: The Long Shadow of Nationalist Polarization"

Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 4:30pm

Dr. Aram Hur, Assistant Professor, Political Science at University of Missouri

(Rescheduled from April 8th)

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Talk synopsis:

East Asian democracies, long seen as the success stories of the Third Wave, have recently begun to show intensifying patterns of illiberal partisan competition. We argue that such signs are symptoms of long-standing democratic stagnation, rather than democratic regress. We trace the gradual entrenchment of illiberal competition to nationalist polarization in the early phase of democratization—a phenomenon that was common in a region where critical junctures in nation-state formation and democratization coincided. Party polarization can take many forms, but when it centers on mutually exclusive nationalist visions from the outset, the democratic state becomes an object of “all or nothing” capture. When the end of democratic competition becomes nationalist survival, it justifies whatever means necessary—including those that violate democratic principles—to achieve it. Through a comparative analysis of Taiwan and South Korea, we show that democratization in East Asia tended to institutionalize, rather than alleviate, pre-existing nationalist conflicts, seeding endemic barriers to the development of strong democratic norms.

Aram Hur is the Korea Foundation Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri, where she is also Co-Director of the MU Institute for Korean Studies. Her research on national politics and democracy in East Asia has been published in academic journals such as the British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Politics, and Journal of East Asian Studies. She was previously a CSIS U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholar, Provost Postdoctoral Fellow at NYU, and holds her Ph.D. from Princeton University.