A brief history of the Asian Association of Social Psychology (AASP):

The early years

While the first meeting of the Asian Association of Social Psychology (AASP) took place at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1995, the seeds for the birth of this association were planted at international conferences around the world in the decade prior to this. As leading Asian scholars, Yoshihisa Kashima, Uichol Kim, Kwok Leung, and Susumu Yamaguchi found themselves sharing their ideas with one another at various locations all over the world. But they found that their concerns for Asian social psychology were not high priority items at these conferences, even when culture was of central concern. Given their diversity of their backgrounds (being located in Australia, S. Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan), they had the idea to bring Asian scholars together in one place to bring increased understanding of their similarities against a backdrop where their differences could be resolved in a supportive environment. San-Chin Choi and Uichol Kim organized a workshop in Seoul, which acted as an unofficial organizing meeting for the inaugural conference, and Professor Choi subsequently took on the position at AASP’s first President.

In the early years, engagement in East Asia between Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans was central to development of the Association. Despite the historically shared roots between these peoples, the recent history of political conflict had made intercultural contact complicated. AASP successfully negotiated these difficulties with conferences in Hong Kong, Kyoto, and Taiwan. Visioning the cooperative interplay between cross-cultural, indigenous, and cultural psychology and the mainstream was AASP’s crowning achievement in its first three conferences, culminating in a classic special issue of Asian Journal of Social Psychology (AJSP) in 2000 edited by KK Hwang and CF Yang.

Growing into the new millennium

While focused on East Asia from the beginning, AASP has also had strong ties to Australia and New Zealand, as evidenced by its 4th and 6th conferences. The international component of AASP has always balanced its regional interests, so for years it has served as an international launching pad for young scholars from Asia.

One of the interesting paradoxes of indigenous psychology is that it speaks as much to people from other national groups as the indigenous group itself. The continued presence of native speakers of English from such areas as Australasia has lifted the game of Asian scholars within an expansive arena where their concerns are central, not periphery. It has also enabled Western scholars to move into circles outside their comfort zones, and probe the limits of their theories and conceptualizing.

The founding of AJSP in 1998 and its outstanding growth under Uichol Kim, Kwok Leung, and now Yoshihisa Kashima (its impact rating in 2004 was 0.97, comparable to long-standing journals in social psychology of high standing) has been central to the development of the association. With a successful journal, and an international conference usually attended by between 200-350 scholars biennially (and conference proceedings published from these), the association has established infrastructure for the long term. The Malaysian conference in sunny Kota Kinabalu set a new record with over 600 delegates attending.

Challenges for the future

With big conferences in Delhi, India in 2009 and Kunming China in 2011 (attended by six to eight hundred participants), AASP has matured into a thriving association. In sixteen years, the association has transformed itself from a small East Asian Association of Developed Countries to a more truly pan-Asian Association of Social Psychology.

With this growth has come new challenges. A substantial proportion of AASP members now hail from developing countries, and social psychology in these countries may have different needs than in developed countries. What was cutting edge in the late 1990s may require updating in the 2010s, where Asian countries as a whole have become a force in global society. As the association adapts to these changes, the vision statement provided by Uichol Kim in 1998, of Asian social psychology as a “third force” in social psychology may slowly but surely come into being.

James H. Liu
Centre for Applied Cross Cultural Research
Wellington, New Zealand – 2014