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Expert Networking and International Governance: Questions of Democracy  

Andreas Eriksen

Networks of experts coordinated or orchestrated by international bodies have become so widespread and influential that they are said to shape a new world order. Standards for consumer safety, investor protection, and environmental sustainability are governed by appeals to the epistemic authority of experts. Typically, formal international organizations orchestrate cross-border constellations of public–private collaborations between groups that are deemed to have relevant knowledge. This trend is part of a depoliticization of decision-making; policy issues are framed as technical problems that should be kept at a distance from party politics. The question here is how to conceptualize and assess this development in democratic terms. In political theory, three kinds of approach have evolved in response to this trend. At one extreme, the argument is that governance beyond the state cannot be legitimate until it has implemented modes of representation and contestation familiar from the domestic context. At the other extreme, the argument is that legitimacy beyond the state should be decoupled from democratic concerns and be legitimated on technocratic grounds. Between these two poles is the argument that democracy does not have to resemble the domestic model in organizational terms and can fruitfully be reconceived or reinterpreted in the international context. Versions of the reinterpretive approach are currently popular under different theoretical labels. It is fruitful to use it as a model for considering questions of democratic legitimacy for the expert networks that constitute or interact with international organizations. In following the reinterpretive route, a natural starting point is to consider what the key evaluative dimensions of democracy are. At an abstract level, democracy is about three main considerations: 1. Authorization: The people are the rightful principals of public action. It is necessary to consider how people can be empowered to challenge and potentially veto opinions that flow from expert networks. 2. Attitude: Democratically justified institutions express the right kind of concern for people as equals. There are important questions about how the technical rationalities of expert networks can show consideration for a reasonable pluralism of perspectives and how “soft law” can address subjects with appropriate respect for citizens’ claim to justification and rule of law. 3. Area: The authority of democratically legitimate institutions must be matched by a defined sphere of answerability. For the area of expert networks, this issue concerns both the scope of expert mandates and whether there is a fit between mandate and actual practice. The task for an assessment of the democratic legitimacy of expert networks is to consider more fully what each of these evaluative dimensions imply in the relevant context.


Asian Americans and Education  

Benjamin Chang

The communities that constitute the racialized category of Asian Americans consist of approximately 20 million people in the United States, or about 5% of the total population. About 20% or 4 million are of primary or secondary school age, and over 1.1 million are in higher education. Both in popular and academic discourse, “Asian American” generally refers to people who have ethnic backgrounds in South Asia (e.g., Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), Southeast Asia (e.g., Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam), and East Asia (e.g., China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan). As “Asian American” is an umbrella term used to categorize a very diverse, heterogeneous, and transnational set of populations, Asian Americans as a group present various challenges to education and research in and about the United States. These challenges can concern paradigms of achievement, citizenship, family involvement, access (e.g., higher education, bilingual education), language and culture, race and ethnicity, and school community. In order to address these paradigmatic challenges, a great deal of scholarship has called for a disaggregation of the data on populations that fall under the pan-ethnic “Asian America” umbrella term, to gain a more nuanced and dynamic understanding of the many diverse populations and their historical, cultural, economic, and political experiences. To further address the problematic framing of Asian Americans in education and related fields, scholars have applied critical lenses to key tensions within conceptualization, policy, curriculum, and pedagogy. More recently, the notions of intersectionality and transnationalism have been generative in the study of Asian Americans, within not only educational research but also Asian American studies, which generally falls under the field of ethnic studies in the U.S. context, but has also been categorized under American studies, cultural studies, or Asian studies. While characterizations of Asian Americans as “the Model Minority” or “the Oppressed Minority” persist, the relevance of such static binaries has increasingly been challenged as the Asian American populations and migrations continue to diversify and increase.