About The Institute of Asian Research


The Institute of Asian Research is an interdisciplinary unit that supports and promotes world-class research in a range of subjects related to and about Asia. The IAR also supports a graduate studies program, offering a Masters degree in Asia Pacific Policy Studies (MAPPS).

The IAR's research priorities reflect the interests of its resident and affiliated scholars and tend toward policy-relevant issues informed by local knowledge in area and language studies. Current research activities include the impact of globalization in Asia; 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 the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the United Nations for research and development assistance programs in Asia. This will continue and new sources of support are always explored, including US agencies such as the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment. In addition, the Institute is further developing and intensifying its publication of research and policy papers and monographs, derived from its research and development 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 individual react to this globalization process is an important research theme and many individual researchers at UBC are looking at aspects of this process. The effects of globalization and local social cohesion are key research areas.

Socio-economic and political change in Asia: There are large numbers of faculty and graduate students who are in various ways studying the "development transition" in Asia. While this research is very diverse ranging from theoretical to applied studies, the research does appear to have certain common themes centering on a concern with the challenges that the "development transition" is posing in three main areas: First, issues relating to the decline in availability of natural resources such as water, soil, etc. which pose major challenges of management. Secondly, issues relating to the "civil order" of Asia Pacific societies which is in some severe cases (Sri Lanka) is devastating to the society. An important component of this research surrounds issues of "human rights" and the role of NGO's in particular in politicizing these issues. Thirdly, there are significant issues arising from the transition which relate to inequity between gender and cultural groups and the persistence of poverty.

Canada-Asia relations: Current projects already located within the Institute are looking at economic relations between Asia and Canada and there is a need to further develop and enlarge these studies.

Urbanization in the Pacific rim: This has been an ongoing research thrust of the IAR and should continue focusing upon more specific issues to be developed in conjunction with other research initiatives on Asia such as the relationship of urbanization to transition.

Migration and Mobility in the Asia Pacific region.

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.





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

First, it must be recognized that UBC possesses the major cluster of human and library resources on the learning and research about Asia of any university in Canada. This has been built up over a period of 30 years and represents an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars. Clearly such resources cannot be wasted especially in the current phase of national purse cutting.

Secondly, 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.

Thirdly, because Asian countries are becoming important to Canada and the province as economic partners, 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.

All these developments enhance UBC's role in the task of increasing understanding of Asia. But here is where the dilemma of local-global relations becomes most intense. For at the same time as UBC is becoming international, it remains the most intensely local of places in which local issues of courses, research and programs are vigorously debated. The trick is to blend the local and global in a mixture that achieves the goal of increasing knowledge and understanding. In order to do this, we have created an Institute that focuses on the five great geographic and cultural regions of Asia: China, Japan, Korea, India and South Asia and Southeast Asia. Each area is represented by a Centre which is concerned with interpreting and researching the culture, economy, history and languages of these regions. But at the same time, the Institute is sponsoring programs which are centrally concerned with the 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.


Back to Top