4. Vincent Houben: The New Area Studies and Southeast Asian History

Introduction  There has been an ongoing debate on the nature and function of area studies from its inception in the 1950s but especially since the end of the Cold War. Quite a number of articles and collective volumes have appeared reflecting on the question whether, and if so, how area studies, particularly Southeast Asian studies, should be practiced (Reynolds & McVey 1998; Reid 2003; Szanton 2004; Kratoska 2005; Houben & Chou 2006; Sears 2007; Goh Beng-Lan 2011). Especially since the 9/11 event those who heralded the end of history and the uniform adoption of largely similar capitalist lifestyles in a homogenous global village have been silenced and since then what I call new area studies have been on the rise. Luckily for us specialists, Southeast Asia has been far from peripheral in global politics, which explains why Southeast Asian studies have not been neglected within the broader academic project of area studies. Starting in the 1950s, when Southeast Asia became a key theatre of confrontation between capitalism and communism and the status of Indonesia being unclear for some time, Southeast Asian studies could establish itself as one of the liveliest fields of area studies. Since the 1990s, Southeast Asian studies have benefited from the increasing awareness that the future lies in the Asia Pacific region and that more Muslims live in this area than in the Middle East. Besides being driven by considerations of global political economics, Southeast Asian studies have by comparison been highly productive since its unusual cultural richness drew in many anthropologists, linguists as well as many representatives of the humanities and social sciences...

ISSN 2196-6893

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