In this article, I seek to demonstrate the analytical utility and value-added of ‘relational ontology’ for studying region-making and regional institutional developments. Relational ontology stands in sharp contrast to the dominant individualistic ontology found in mainstream theories of regionalism. I make the case theoretically and empirically that relational ontology offers a better analytical fit with the investigation of regionalism. Analytically, the crux of relational ontology is the notion that the structure of identity and interests emerges and develops relationally in the process of one’s making contact with and subsequently marking boundary with others in relevant contexts. More concretely, I develop a three-stage analytics of boundary-making. The analytical framework proposes three sequential stages of ‘proto-boundary’, ‘yoking’, and ‘rationalization’ towards the making of a boundary that creates ‘inside’ by defining ‘outside’. This boundary-making practice is empirically observable in the politics of membership when regional institutional buildings occur. I illustrate the validity of the relational analytical framework with a case of the exclusive East Asian financial regionalism. My empirical focus is on the institutional development of the Chiang Mai Initiative (the CMI/CMIM (Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization)) over the past 15 years, a regional financial safety net in East Asia. In terms of membership, the ASEAN plus Three (China, Japan, and Korea) developed it while excluding the United States from membership.
Politics – SAGE
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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