Skip navigation

Šumit Ganguly

Sumit Ganguly is Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin.

Titles by This Editor

Language Policy and Ethnic Relations in Asia

Language policy is a sensitive issue in most countries. In countries where more than one language is spoken—the vast majority of countries—language policies affect the ability of individuals and groups to participate in government, to be treated fairly by governmental agencies, to have access to government services, to take advantage of educational opportunities, and to pursue economic success.

Language policies also affect the prospects for survival of ethnic groups that define themselves on the basis of language. Assimilationist policies can threaten the existence of minority groups as distinct entities. Accommodationist policies might allow many ethnic groups to flourish but weaken national unity. In many countries, disputes over language policies have led to ethnic tensions and, in some cases, to violent ethnic conflicts.

This book analyzes the impact of different kinds of language policies on ethnic relations in fifteen multiethnic countries in Asia and the Pacific. The analyses include discussion of the origins of different language policies and of how the policies have evolved over time. The book develops policy recommendations, both for individual countries and in more general terms.

Ethnic conflict, one of the most serious and widespread problems in the world today, can undermine efforts to promote political and economic development, as well as political, economic, and social justice. It can also lead to violence and open warfare, producing horrifying levels of death and destruction. Although government policies on ethnic issues often have profound effects on a country, the subject has been neglected by most scholars and analysts.

This volume analyzes different policies governments have pursued in their efforts to contend with the tensions inherent in multiethnic societies. The book focuses on Asia and the Pacific, the most populous and economically vibrant part of the world. The heart of the book is a set of case studies of government policies in sixteen countries: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The studies consider a wide range of political, economic, educational, linguistic, and cultural policies, and how these policies have evolved over time. Using a broad comparative perspective to assess the effectiveness of different governmental approaches, the authors offer policy recommendations that cut across individual countries and regions.