ECC Chair: ISPP needs to reach (and learn from) Southeast and East Asia.

ECC Chair: ISPP needs to reach (and learn from) Southeast and East Asia.

By Patricio Saavedra Morales (University of Sussex)

Dear colleagues,

In my last column for this newsletter, I argued that one of the main challenges our scientific society needed to address was its internationalization. However, last time I did not mention that internalization is rather a long journey than a goal we can reach overnight. Thus, during last years, our leadership have unfolded valuable efforts aimed to improve our international presence such as alternating the venues of the Annual Meeting, supporting small meetings organized by scholars from underrepresented regions (e.g., Pacific Meeting on the Psychology of Social Change in Santiago, Chile), and providing travel grants for early career scholars (i.e., ECC Travel Grant Award). Along with these activities, it worth noticing that over the last two years, our Governing Council has supported an international campaign to help our colleagues who have been unfairly prosecuted by the Turkish government. Undoubtedly, all these initiatives have helped to create a more visible and heterogeneous organization where voices from diverse backgrounds can have their say. However, I think that to consolidate and extend these advances, the next step of this internationalization journey should focus on two regions barely explored by our society, Southeast and East Asia.

Unfortunately, in the last months, the attention of the international press regarding these regions has been put in the fictitious ‘clash of civilizations’ claimed by United States officials (see Gehrke, 2019), as well as in a series of unfounded sanctions imposed on Chinese companies. Nevertheless, recognizing that the mentioned ‘clash’ is not more than a distorted narrative (see Chen & Hu, 2019), that most of the accusations are based on pure racism, and that ISPP has mostly neglected the importance of both Southeast and East Asia, are essential starting points for two tasks. First, to think on creating bridges of permanent professional collaboration with our colleagues based in these regions, and second, to demonstrate there is no such thing as a ‘clash of civilizations’. Outstanding works in the field of collective action as those led by Selvanathan and collaborators in Malaysia (2019); Li and collaborators (2019) in Mainland China; Lee and Chan in Hong Kong (2018); Ochoa and collaborators in Japan and the Philippines (2019); and Kim (2017) in South Korea allow us to see interesting phenomena based on local politics and shared cultural values from these regions. In addition, situations as the prosecution of those who took part in Umbrella Movement, the protests against China extradition laws in Hong Kong, the gradual changes in Singaporean policies regarding demonstrations, and the pass of the same-sex marriage bill in Taiwan are some of the current issues worthy of analysis by our colleagues.

In terms of the necessary conditions under which we should take a step forward to Southeast and East Asia, I suggest that both our scientific society and colleagues need to bear in mind the following:

  • Avoid Western bias: We must avoid the imposition of Western point of views in the analysis of political processes carried out in these regions. In other words, trying to impose interpretations, criticism, and even constructs that draw upon American or European political contexts would be counterproductive. Instead of that, we should promote those research collaborations aimed at understanding political processes embedded in the specific local contexts and historical trajectories.
  • Coordination of activities with similar organizations. We should take advantage that political psychology is still a subfield of social psychology to join efforts with similar organizations from these regions. An example of a natural ally is the Asian Association of Social Psychology whose bi-annual meeting in Taiwan will, this year, unfortunately, overlap with our Annual Meeting in Lisbon.
  • Creation of regional offices. Similar to other scientific societies, we might consider establishing local offices. However, special offices for Southeast and East Asia (as for any other region) must include two basic rules to become useful tools for the internationalization of ISPP. First, local researchers must lead the regional offices. Second, the chairs of these new offices should be recognized as full members of the ISPP formal leadership (i.e., Governing Council). Otherwise, there is a high risk the potential regional offices become a good idea with no practical impact.
  • ECC Travel Award quotas: In the short-term, our Early Career Committee (ECC) may study the implementation of a quota system aimed at prioritizing the allocation of this award to early career scholars from both Southeast and East Asia (and other underrepresented regions). This would allow more colleagues from these regions can attend our Annual Meeting, present their research to other colleagues, and establish new professional networks within our society.

In this brief article, I have explained that the journey to the internationalization of the ISPP, like any other journey, needs some specific guidelines. In particular, I have argued that in the short-term we need to work on extending the scope of our scientific society promoting the collaboration with our colleagues based in Southeast and East Asia, avoiding Western bias in the analyses of local political processes, and establishing some positive affirmation actions. I genuinely believe that through these measures we will be a step closer to become an actual ‘international’ scientific society, while we will be able to fight back perverse political narratives as the ‘clash of civilizations’ mentioned above.

Finally, I want to stress that suggesting our focus should be on both Southeast and East Asia does not mean that we need to leave behind other regions or stop the current efforts some of our members have done on behalf of colleagues under threat. Conversely, what I have suggested is to establish a clear direction in our internationalization policies in which we prioritize the bonds with our colleagues in these regions, and advance in the establishment of a political psychology based on the understanding of local political processes, their history, and the shared cultural values of their protagonists. Although I am aware this is a challenging task, I trust that, in the short-term, our leadership and colleagues will be able to advance in our internationalization journey to this region. After all, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ 

Patricio Saavedra Morales

ISPP – ECC Chair 2018-2019

University of Sussex, United Kingdom.


Chen, D., & Hu, J. (2019, May 8). No, there is no US-China ‘clash of civilizations’. The Diplomat. Retrieved from  

Gehrke, J. (2019, April 30). State Department preparing for clash of civilizations with China. Washington Examiner. Retrieved from

Kim, C. R. (2017). Youth for nation: Culture and protest in Cold War South Korea. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press.

Lee, F. L. F., Chan, J. M. (2018). Media and protest logics in the Digital Era: The Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Li, K., Xu, Y., Yang, S.-L., & Guo, Y.-Y. (2019). Social class, group-based anger, and collective action intentions in China. Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology, 13, e13. doi:

Ochoa, D.P., Manalastas, E.J., Deguchi, M., & Louis, W.R. (2019). Mobilizing men: Ally identities and collective action in Japan and the Philippines. Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology, 13, e14. doi:

Selvanathan, H. P., Khoo, Y. H., & Lickel, B. (2019). The role of movement leaders in building intergroup solidarity for social change: A case of the electoral reform movement in Malaysia. European Journal of Social Psychology. doi:

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