IAS Working Papers

IAS @ UBD

IAS Working Paper Series

The Institute launched a Working Paper Series in 2012. It is a key component of the IAS profile both locally and internationally. The Working Paper Series acts as a publication resource to facilitate the rapid and open-access dissemination of work by IAS scholars, UBD faculty and other scholars working in and on the region. This Series of topical peer-reviewed research papers, many of which go on to finalized publication in international journals, is available in printed and online versions. Papers from the IAS WPS can be downloaded from the list located on this web page. Printed versions are also available from the Institute’s publication collection.

editorial committee

Copyright remains with the authors.

• Professor Lian Kwen Fee (kwenfee.lian@ubd.edu.bn)
• Assistant Professor Merlin F. Franco (merlin.francis@ubd.edu.bn)

Working Paper No. 49

Author: Victor T. King

Abstract: This paper explores critically and historically some of the popular academic views or ‘myths’ concerning the development of the study of Southeast Asia through the lens of the contributions of particular scholars and institutions. Within the broad field of Southeast Asian Studies the focus will be on the disciplines of geography, history and ethnology, and major scholars who contributed to the early study of the region. There are certain views concerning the development of scholarship on Southeast Asia which continue to surface and have acquired, or are in the process of acquiring ‘mythical’ status. Among the most enduring is the claim that the region is a post-Second World War construction primarily arising from Western politico-strategic and economic preoccupations. More specifically, it is said that Southeast Asian Studies has been subject to the American domination of this field of scholarship, located in particular programmes of study in such institutions as Cornell, Yale and California, Berkeley, and, within those institutions, focused on particular scholars who have exerted considerable influence on the directions which research has taken. Another is that, based on the model or template of Southeast Asian Studies (and other area studies projects) developed primarily in the USA, it has distinctive characteristics as a scholarly enterprise in that it is multidisciplinary, it requires command of the vernacular, and assigns special importance to what has been termed ‘groundedness’ and historical, geographical and cultural contextualization; in other words, a Southeast Asian Studies approach as distinct from disciplinary-based studies addresses local concerns, interests, perspectives and priorities, and it does so through in-depth, on-the-ground, engaged scholarship. Finally, and, more recently, views have emerged that express the conviction that a truly Southeast Asian Studies project can only be achieved if it is based on a set of locally-generated concepts, methods and approaches. In other words, Western ethnocentrism and intellectual hegemony encourages ‘a captive mind’ in local scholarship which must be replaced by a genuinely local research endeavour presenting alternative views of the region, its past, present and future.

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