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Decentring and Diversifying Southeast Asian Studies

Perspectives from the Region

Goh Beng Lan

Publication Year: 2011

This admirable book contains fascinating autobiographical accounts, by some of Southeast Asia's most eminent scholars, concerning their struggle to find their own voices in interpreting the region to which they belong. The book should be indispensable to anyone interested in thinking about knowledge production and its politics in a postcolonial world. In the views of these scholarly Southeast Asians, we are made to see, in very personal terms, the link between the global crisis in the social sciences and the need to find remedies for it that are neither Eurocentric nor parochially anti-Western.-Professor Alexander WoodsideProfessor of Chinese and Southeast Asian HistoryUniversity of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. This book marks the shift of the centre of Southeast Asian Studies from the West to Southeast Asia. The insights provided by the authors are not simply explanations of colonial and postcolonial experiences of major Southeast Asian scholars. Rather, the book provides a unique set of intellectual genealogies that show that distinctions between humanities and social sciences are less important than the development of distinctive local and regional traditions and practices of scholarship. Goh Beng-Lan’s introduction frames the collection through her subtle deconstruction of international discourses on Southeast Asia. This introduction then allows the reader to view the different generations of Southeast Asian scholars in their social, political, and academic contexts. The end result is a combined view of the state of the art of Southeast Asian Studies, a view that is greater than the sum of its national parts. - Professor Adrian VickersChair of Southeast Asian StudiesUniversity of SydneyandDirector, Australian Centre for Asian Art and Archaeology The collection represents a coming of age of scholars from Southeast Asia. What we hear is not bluster that comes from a wounded pride or doctrinal certainties, but a quiet confidence that acknowledges the multiple currents in which their scholarship has been formed, and a willingness to engage the perspective of the “other”, both within and without. The reflexivity in this volume sets the stage for scholars from the region to develop perspectives and concepts to address the challenges of the new configuration of the Asia being ushered in by ASEAN. - Professor Prasenjit DuaraRaffles Professor of Humanities and Director of Research, Humanities and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore

Published by: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute


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pp. v-vi

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Preface and Acknowledgements

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pp. vii-ix

Current critical thinking on regions outside the West appears to have shifted from a preoccupation with the limitations of Western discourse to endeavours in fostering inter-referencing in Asian contexts as a means to decentre and diversify knowledge production (Chen 2010; Hillenbrand 2010). This book...

List of Contributors

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pp. xi-xiii

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1 Disciplines and Area Studies in the Global Age: Southeast Asian Reflections

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pp. 1-59

In recent years the conceptual underpinnings and continued validity of area studies in a globalizing world have been severely questioned. Emanating from a critique of Orientalism, but also reflecting changing institutional politics in the American academe following the end of the Cold War, the attack...

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2 Post-Imperial Knowledge and Pre-Social Science in Southeast Asia

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pp. 60-80

All literate knowledge stemmed from the transmissions of sacred texts before the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century in Europe. By the twentieth century, following the expansion of the West, most scholars in Asia accepted that science education had an equal place with their own...

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3 From the Education of a Historian to the Study of Minangkabau Local History

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pp. 81-104

Unlike most present day history students, I enrolled in the Department of History by conscious personal choice. While most of my high school classmates preferred to enter the faculties of economics, law, or social and political sciences, I opted for the commonly assumed economically less...

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4 Scholarship, Society, and Politics in Three Worlds: Reflections of a Filipino Sojourner, 1965-95

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pp. 105-128

Interacting in this forum with colleagues from around the region, I am struck by how our scholarship, though addressing similar concerns and sharing common discourses, is shaped by our location in nation states with very different pasts. Filipino scholars have a domestic intellectual tradition shaped...

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5 From Contemplating Wordsworth's Daffodils to Listening to the Voices of the "Nation"

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pp. 129-148

To look back on one’s intellectual journey and development is one of the hardest tasks. Perhaps one should not even attempt it. Now in my sixtieth year, I hope I may be able to do so with some equanimity and honesty. I shall also try to link this trajectory with some of the key concerns of this...

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6 Crafting Anthroppology in Many Sites of Fieldwork

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pp. 149-167

My anthropological training is the source and site of my knowledge making. I would like to describe two major “field sites” so to speak in the development of my career. One is the formative phase of my intellectual journey and the other is the concluding one. To write about these two phases poses two...

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7 A Non-linear Intellectual Trajectory: My Diverse Engagements of the "Self" and "Others" in Knowledge Production

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pp. 168-186

I was bent on becoming an anthropologist when I decided to pursue my university education. My keenness to study anthropology was in part due to my interests in the subject of Ilmu Bangsa-bangsa (Science of Nations) at high school, during the Sukarno era. Enrolled in the cultural stream, I remember...

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8 Negotiating Boundaries and Alterity: The Making of a Humanities Scholar in Indonesia, a Personal Reflection

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pp. 187-206

As an academician who teaches American literature and researches Indonesian literature and cultural studies, I have been accustomed to switching fields and exploring new territories. Yet, to write a chapter in a book on Southeast Asian Studies scholarship is like trespassing into somebody else’s terrain...

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9 Between State and Revolution: Autobiographical Notes on Radical Scholarship during the Marcos Dictatorship

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pp. 207-238

At middle age, Filipino intellectuals who matured politically as part of the student protests of the 1960s and the remarkable revival of communism, have elided from a posture of unswerving militancy to more deliberative, less passionate, and self-critical encounters with power in society. Growing old,...

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10 (Un)Learning Human Sciences: The Journey of a Malaysian from the "Look East" Generation

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pp. 239-259

Reflecting on one’s intellectual journey can only be an enterprise coloured by one’s current lens and disposition. Inevitably, such a project risks the conflation of manifold experiences of the self into a journey more coherent than what it had been in practice. After all, thinking is a transformative process not easily...

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11 Architecture, Indonesia and Making Sense of the New Order: Notes and Reflections from My Student Years

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pp. 260-276

More than twenty years ago, discussing the culture of Indonesian research in North America, Benedict Anderson pointed out that scholars are not only experts in their fields, but they are also members of their particular societies.1 Anderson indicates the importance of the institutional contexts and sociohistorical...

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12 Riding Postmodern Chaos: A Reflection on Academic Subjectivity in Indonesia

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pp. 277-291

Social science scholarship in Indonesia reflects three different generations: the pre-1970s and 1970s, the 1980s and 1990s, and the post-1998 generations. The pre-1970s and 1970s generation experienced limited opportunity and their intellectual work relied largely on the academic training they received...


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pp. 293-304

E-ISBN-13: 9789814311984
Print-ISBN-13: 9789814311571

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Southeast Asia -- Study and teaching.
  • Southeast Asia -- Research.
  • Area studies -- Southeast Asia.
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