Flexible Citizenship

The Cultural Logics of Transnationality

Flexible Citizenship

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: Published: February 1999

Author: Aihwa Ong

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies, Cultural Studies

Few recent phenomena have proved as emblematic of our era, and as little understood, as globalization. Are nation-states being transformed by globalization into a single globalized economy? Do global cultural forces herald a postnational millennium? Tying ethnography to structural analysis, Flexible Citizenship explores such questions with a focus on the links between the cultural logics of human action and on economic and political processes within the Asia-Pacific, including the impact of these forces on women and family life.
Explaining how intensified travel, communications, and mass media have created a transnational Chinese public, Aihwa Ong argues that previous studies have mistakenly viewed transnationality as necessarily detrimental to the nation-state and have ignored individual agency in the large-scale flow of people, images, and cultural forces across borders. She describes how political upheavals and global markets have induced Asian investors, in particular, to blend strategies of migration and of capital accumulation and how these transnational subjects have come to symbolize both the fluidity of capital and the tension between national and personal identities. Refuting claims about the end of the nation-state and about “the clash of civilizations,” Ong presents a clear account of the cultural logics of globalization and an incisive contribution to the anthropology of Asia-Pacific modernity and its links to global social change.
This pioneering investigation of transnational cultural forms will appeal to those in anthropology, globalization studies, postcolonial studies, history, Asian studies, Marxist theory, and cultural studies.


Flexible Citizenship is a work of impressive intellectual maturity, as the author moves persuasively among theorists, across disciplines, between national contexts, and among anthropological sites in the U.S. and Southeast Asia.” — David Ley , Journal of International Migration and Integration

Flexible Citizenship is an excellent example of a book that speaks to many fields of social science. Ong writes an anthropological text with the fluidity of a storyteller, cleverly combining academic analysis with contemporary media examples and personal anecdotes. . . . [T]he book has much to recommend it. It is interesting, well written and has many insights to offer both sinologists and students of citizenship theory.” — Patti Lenard , Canadian Journal of Political Science

“[A] creative and important book. . . . It sets a benchmark for the integration of globalization theory with specific ethnographic analysis. As with any well-written analytical work based in solid empirical examples, its greatest strength—whether one agrees or disagrees with any particular argument—lies in its ability to continually stimulate and challenge the reader.” — Adam McKeown , Journal of Asian Studies

“[A] multifaceted discussion of the forces that shape Chinese transnationality, and the implications of Chinese transnational practices for our understanding of global culture and politics. It is an important addition to the growing literature on the subject; especially as Ong’s analyses offer much-needed critical perspectives on issues that easily lend themselves to ideological distortion and manipulation.” — Arif Dirlik , Environment and Planning

“[T]he concept of flexible citizenship is an important contribution to the theory of citizenship. . . .” — Gerard Delanty , Contemporary Sociology

“For those interested in changing discourses of identity, the strategies which transnational migrants deploy in creating meaningful social and cultural spaces, the contexts and trajectories of the Asian values debate, the book is well worth reading.” — Social Anthropology

“Ong should be commended for taking on such an ambitious topic and accomplishing her task with outstanding insights and critical perspectives. Flexible Citizenship is a valuable contribution to the literature on globalization and the cultural-economic dynamics of Asia.” — Josephine Smart, American Ethnologist

“Ong’s important book provides an invaluable interpretive structure for its readers to watch what will follow.” — Christopher Douglas , Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature

“Ong’s observations [are] very interesting and thought-provoking . . . .” — Charles Stafford , Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Aihwa Ong's work is a timely and far-reaching contribution that will be of great interest to cultural critics of various cuts and colors, spanning anthropology, Asian-American-Pacific studies, and especially the field of diaspora and transnational studies itself." — John Tofik Karam , Anthropology Quarterly

Flexible Citizenship exemplifies the anthropological imagination at its best. In it Ong offers an analysis of states and citizenship regimes in Asia that is remarkable in its theoretical and empirical breadth. Social scientists and Asia specialists alike will find the work indispensable, both for its redefinition of analytic terrain and for the new directions of research it suggests.” — Ashraf Ghani, Johns Hopkins University

“Finally, a unique and insightful examination of transnationalism as practice. There’s no better analysis of Chinese trading and commercial communities athwart the world market and multiple sovereignties.” — James C. Scott, Yale University


Availability: Not in Stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Aihwa Ong is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. She is author and coeditor of several books, including Spirits of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline: Factory Women in Malaysia and Ungrounded Empires: The Cultural Politics of Modern Chinese Transnationalism.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2269-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2250-4
Publicity material