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 SEA as a region is considered a misnomer.

◦ Kratoska et all- cant be defined except a

“loose geographic definition”.
◦ - reference to multiple identities.
◦ Ruth McVey:
 We may need to think in terms of not one but many SEA’s.
On some planes of investigating the region may have one set
of dimensions, for others a very different shape.
- Multitude connections to other worlds: India/China,
- Uncertain boundaries
- Commonalities: “cultural matrix”- reference to similarity
rather than differences.
 SEA described as a “cold concept”
[Heather Sutherland].
i.e. lacking warmth in a motley of land and
 Studies on SEA- shaped by continuing debate
over the nature of the region.
 E.g. What is the Malay World? Where, who..
etc. works by Tim Barnard: on Malayness,
NUS Press: Andaya: the Sea of Malayu: Milner:
on the Malays].
 (i) Realists- led by Anthony Reid.
 SEA- as a coherent empirical reality-
existence of SEA as a historical and social
fact. So that the field of SEAs makes sense.
 - common regional historical experience
 - a sense of SEAn identity among its people
(vis. Indian, Chinese identity…..)
 (2) Constructivists
 - SEA as an artefact.
 - in the US.
 - origin of SEAS in a strategic sense of US
interest, post WW 2 (North American model to
SEA’n studies).
 - US interests to understand the region was
foreign policy oriented.
 Name SEA coined based on “external strategic
importance” not internal characteristics [e.g
OW Wolters, Wertheim etc]
 Realists- Southeast Asianists have a major
say in writing about the region.
(see also Goh Beng Lan, Ariel Heryanto)
 Viewpoints of the people being studied i.e.
SEA has an important place in a study on SEA.
 Scholars born/by birth Southeast Asians
 Scholars resident in SEA -- gives credentials
to being a Southeast Asianist.
 A.Reid:
◦ SEA should be studied first and best in the region.
 Constructivists:
 - deny objective existence of SEA (by
historical/col. process/commonalities).,
instead highlight the internal diversity of the
 - postmodern approach
 - view SEA as a residual category, neither
India, nor China, nor Oceania.
 - small motley of multiple societies.
 Willem van Schendel:
- fields of study created by
- “areas” in national politics
 [While large chunks of beyond national/between
2 nations are misleadingly defined/categorized-
thus “zomia” (massive highlands, borderlands-
not included).
 James Scott’s- The Art of Not Being Governed:
◦ Talks about communities in uplands/peripheral regions
who managed to escape the rule/control of the state for
a long time until now; nation-state forced claim upon
 Circles of ideas- generate new/creative ideas from
within the region
- the field of study must be relatively large.
 [young scholars, radical voices, esteemed scholars,
- SEAn Studies- has the right size of scholarly
community (publications, conferences, associations :
ICAS, AAS etc).
 Traditional approach to SEAn Studies:
Language/Culture as essential tool to understanding
(however , this is somewhat passe).
 - more empiricism is needed (lacking comparative
studies etc…..).
 Comparativists:
 Paradigms/New Sources/Subalterns.
- van Leur, John Smail- “give voices to the
- new units of study_ The Seas (e.g. Java Sea
SEAn’s Mediterranean, zomia- borderlands etc.
 Review
 Revisit
 Afterlife
 Funding crisis
 Legitimacy crisis
 Resurgence of ASEAN Studies
 Beyond the Comfort Zone

 Etc etc etc

- 2 main issues in SEAS:
- (i) contribution of scholarship to nation/region; to
knowledge e.g. conceptual contribution
- Lacking theoretical contribution from SEAnists .

- (ii) Idea of a consortium of SEAS mooted and first

discussed in KL 2009, jointly hosted by UM-OHIO
University . SEA as nerve centre for SEAS- resource,
research, network
- 2 enabling reasons:
- (i) universities have greater autonomy in
management and academic offerings
- (ii) Funding- state and private organizations
◦ Premised on:
◦ (i) regionally located scholarships as new models for
interdisciplinary perspectives
(simultaneously enabling Euro-American centric visions
of the world to be “denaturalized” [Miyoshi &
Harootunian 2004] .
[Rahman Embong: “Role of Social Sciences in Malaysian
national development”, Akademika 70 Jan.2007-
- warns against material development without
development of human resources and knowledge.
◦ (ii) Southeast Asian studies to get its collective act
together in SEA and establish indigenous centers of
 Hmms … lets think.

 How do we contribute to a new school of

thoughts/ideas on teaching and researching

Related Interests