Stephanie Lawson, Professor of International Relations at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, considers the role that the concept of “culture” has come to assume in the study of international politics, especially in relation to the Asia-Pacific region. Much of the cultural nationalist rhetoric associated with the “Nihonjinron” as well as discourses surrounding the “new Asianism” has had two main consequences. One has been to reinforce static perceptions of culture as a marker of essential difference. On the other hand, some obvious instrumental uses to which it has been put by some political elites in the region has generated a great deal of cynicism about the concept. Taking culture seriously requires a different approach—one which stresses the dynamic properties of culture and its potential role in transcending the “East-West” divide. The original version of this paper was presented at the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, St. Antony's College, Oxford, on 29 November 1998.