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pISSN : 2092-738X / eISSN : 2799-7839
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2016, Vol.8, No.1

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    Southeast Asian Studies: Insiders and Outsiders, or is Culture and Identity a Way Forward?

    Victor T. King | 2016, 8(1) | pp.17~53 | number of Cited : 3
    Abstract PDF
    Debates continue to multiply on the definition and rationale of Southeast Asia as a region and on the utility of the multidisciplinary field of area studies. However, we have now entered a post-colonialist, post-Orientalist, post-structuralist stage of reflection and re-orientation in the era of globalization, and a strong tendency on the part of insiders to pose these issues in terms of an insider-outsider dichotomy. On the one hand, the study of Southeast Asia for researchers from outside the region has become fragmented. This is for very obvious reasons: the strengthening and re-energizing of academic disciplines, the increasing popularity of other non-regional multidisciplinary studies, and the entry of globalization studies into our field of vision. On the other hand, how has the local Southeast Asian academy addressed these major issues of change in conceptualizing the region from an insider perspective? In filling in and giving substance to an outsider, primarily Euro-American-Australian-centric definition and vision of Southeast Asia, some local academics have recently been inclined to construct Southeast Asia in terms of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): a nation-state-based, institutional definition of what a region comprises. Others continue to operate at a localized level exploring small-scale communities and territories, while a modest number focus on sub-regional issues (the Malay-Indonesian world or the Mekong sub-region are examples). However, further reflections suggest that the Euro-American-Australian hegemony is a thing of the past and the ground has shifted to a much greater emphasis on academic activity within the region. Southeast Asia-based academics are also finding it much more important to network within the region and to capture, understand, and analyze what Chinese, Japanese, and Korean scholars are saying about Southeast Asia, its present circumstances and trajectories, and their increasingly close involvement with the region within a greater Asia-Pacific rim. The paper argues that the insider-outsider dichotomy requires considerable qualification. It is a neat way of dramatizing the aftermath of colonialism and Orientalism and of reasserting local priorities, agendas, and interests. But there might be a way forward in resolving at least some of these apparently opposed positions with recourse to the concepts of culture and identity in order to address Southeast Asian diversities, movements, encounters, hybridization, and hierarchies.
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    On the Viability of Indigenous Methodologies: Implications for Southeast Asian Studies

    Rommel A. Curaming | 2016, 8(1) | pp.55~76 | number of Cited : 0
    Abstract PDF
    In this paper, I offer a reflection on two cases to assess in preliminary manner the viability of an indigenous methodology for Southeast Asian Studies. The first is Kaupapa Maori Research (hereafter KM) as spelt out in the much talked about book by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People (Smith 1999). The second case is Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino Psychology, SP), which began to take shape in the late 1960’s and 1970’s in the Philippines. Arguably these are among the most developed efforts at decolonization or indigenization of methodology. I intend to use these cases to explore the factors that made possible the flourishing and stagnating of indigenous methodologies. I shall argue that the broader context of knowledge consumption, not epistemological and methodological concerns, poses the most formidable challenge to the viability of indigenization efforts.
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    A Holistic View of the Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia

    Frank Dhont | 2016, 8(1) | pp.77~94 | number of Cited : 0
    Abstract PDF
    The paper examined Southeast Asia as a whole and focused on similarities among countries composing what is now known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In order to determine these similarities, the analysis focused on the fact that during World War II the whole of Southeast Asia was occupied by one political power: Japan. The policies the Japanese implemented in the region were to a degree very similar in terms of pressures and tensions that occurred in the different countries. The paper argues that these pressures and the responses of the various peoples of Southeast Asia instilled a nucleus of common identity in Southeast Asia as a whole. Basically, the policies that the Japanese implemented all over Southeast Asia were the following: the setting up regional administrations; the extraction of resources and emphasis on local self-sufficiency; the implementation of cultural Japanization; and local indigenization policies. The Southeast Asian responses that crystalized this joint Southeast Asian identity may be described as: accommodating and resisting the Japanese; commemorating portraying; and collectively remembering the era. The process of action and reaction between Japan and Southeast Asia was formative of this joint Southeast Asian identity.
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    Southeast Asia in Japan’s Spiritual Market: The Sacralization of Exoticism

    Ioannis Gaitanidis | 2016, 8(1) | pp.95~119 | number of Cited : 0
    Abstract PDF
    From the migrant care-workers arriving in Japan from the Philippines and Indonesia to support the depleted social support system for the large population of the elderly (Ogawa 2012) to the increasing number of retiring Japanese embarking on long-stay tourism in Malaysia (Ono 2015), the Japanese image of Southeast Asia as an exotic destination offering cheap labor in return for official development assistance seems to be fading away. Yet these changes are not necessarily reflected in the way contemporary Japanese, especially those who belong to the global, “spiritual-but not-religious” (Fuller 2001) population, think of and “consume” Southeast Asia in their daily lives. Using three case-studies, spiritual tours, Thai massage, and an NGO founded by a Japanese spiritual therapist, this paper argues that in Japan’s large spiritual market, which targets people seeking alternative ways to express their religiosity, the old-fashioned colonial exoticism of Southeast Asian narratives were integrated in a totalizing discourse, in which Japan remains the exceptional outlier (Tanaka 1993), a country still claimed to be “advanced” both spiritually and economically.
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    Taking Expedience Seriously: Reinterpreting Furnivall’s Southeast Asia

    Stephen KECK | 2016, 8(1) | pp.121~146 | number of Cited : 0
    Abstract PDF
    Defining key characteristics of Southeast Asia requires historical interpretation. Southeast Asia is a diverse and complicated region, but some of modern history’s “grand narratives” serve to unify its historical experience. At a minimum, the modern history of the region involves decisive encounters with universal religions, the rise of Western colonialism, the experience of world wars, decolonization, and the end of the “cycle of violence”. The ability of the region’s peoples to adapt to these many challenges and successfully build new nations is a defining feature of Southeast Asia’s place in the global stage. This paper will begin with a question: is it possible to develop a hermeneutic of “expedience” as a way to interpret the region’s history? That is, rather than regard the region from a purely Western, nationalist, “internalist” point of view, it would be useful to identify a new series of interpretative contexts from which to begin scholarly analysis. In order to contextualize this discussion, the paper will draw upon the writings of figures who explored the region before knowledge about it was shaped by purely colonist or nationalist enterprises. To this end, particular attention will be devoted to exploring some of John Furnivall’s ways of conceptualizing Southeast Asia. Investigating Furnivall, a critic of colonialism, will be done in relation to his historical situation. Because Furnivall’s ideas have played a pivotal role in the interpretation of Southeast Asia, the paper will highlight the intellectual history of the region in order to ascertain the value of these concepts for subsequent historical interpretation. Ultimately, the task of interpreting the region’s history requires a framework which will move beyond the essentializing orientalist categories produced by colonial scholarship and the reactionary nation-building narratives which followed. Instead, by beginning with a mode of historical interpretation that focuses on the many realities of expedience which have been necessary for the region’s peoples, it may be possible to write a history which highlights the extraordinarily adaptive quality of Southeast Asia’s populations, cultures, and nations. To tell this story, which would at once highlight key characteristics of the region while showing how they developed through historical encounters, would go a long way to capturing Southeast Asia’s contribution’s to global development.