Acculturation in East and Southeast Asia

Adam Komisarof, Chan Hoong Leong

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Citations (Scopus)


Some of the largest and most dynamic economies in the world are located in East and Southeast Asia. Buoyant economic performance in the region has attracted large numbers of migrants. Similar to the experience in traditional immigrant-receiving societies in Western nations, the influx of nonnative ethnocultural groups has markedly impacted intercultural relationships (see Leong & Berry, 2010). This chapter will review prominent trends in the acculturation literature on East and Southeast Asia with the aim to identify overarching themes in acculturation and intergroup processes in these two geopolitical regions. East and Southeast Asia consist of multiple states with ethnoculturally diverse populations. It is therefore beyond the scope of this chapter to assign equal coverage to all countries, but we will examine in greater detail two selected societies in East and Southeast Asia where there is a significant presence of nonnative residents: Japan and Singapore. The acculturation dynamics in Japan and Singapore will be utilized as primary examples within the two regions, although further empirical evidence, that is, from China and South Korea, will be introduced to give a sense of broader acculturation trends in East Asia. These two advanced Asian economies have been chosen because they represent opposing ends of the demographic spectrum known in Asia. Japan is a largely monocultural society with highly restrictive criteria for in-migration. Singapore, in contrast, is culturally pluralistic, and until lately has had one of the most liberal immigration regimes in Asia. Both societies are known to be “tight cultures” and share similar population imperatives characterized by ultra-low fertility and a rapidly aging society. The two countries, however, embrace highly disparate host acculturation ideologies: Japan is skewed in favor of assimilation to the dominant group (with some exceptions detailed below) whereas Singapore's approach tends to promote integration and multicultural coexistence. In this chapter, acculturation dynamics in Singapore and Japan will be explored in more detail through a review of literature on intergroup relations, particularly for voluntary, migrant groups – that is, immigrants, long-term/permanent foreign residents and sojourners – as well as an examination of general governmental migrant policies. The chapter will also identify emerging areas of research – specifically, findings in Asian contexts that either challenge traditional or conventionally held theoretical perspectives in acculturation psychology or which point to new conceptual directions that can advance understanding of the broader phenomena of acculturation and intercultural relations.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Acculturation Psychology, Second Edition
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781316219218
ISBN (Print)9781107103993
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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