(P21) Corruption in colonial and postcolonial histories of empire and nations in Southeast Asia in the 20 th and 21 st centuries


Single Panel


Session 6
Thu 11:00-12:30 K10 | 3.39



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Contemporary corruption in Southeast Asia is regularly linked to the history of colonial state formation. How these two relate has not systematically been researched. This session takes as a starting point a Dutch-Indonesian project on the role of corruption in Dutch and Indonesian histories of state-formation and economic development, and has invited discussants who are experts of other Southeast Asian regions to reflect on the first findings, and this theme in a broader sense. Doing so, the aim of this session is twofold: to discuss some early results from the Dutch-Indonesian research project and to evaluate the role of corruption discourses in critically understanding Southeast-Asian colonial and postcolonial state-building and economic processes from a comparative perspective. The session explores the contexts of corruption as a normative framework to create, maintain and challenge exclusive power structures in colonial and post independent processes of state formation. It does so at intersecting moments of entanglement: around 1900 (late colonial state, norm-setting debates among the colonizers); around WWII (independence, debates on good governance of the anti-colonial nationalists against colonialism); during the Cold War (the authoritarian state, and the conditional norms of development aid); post-1990 (transnational corruption; global corruption indices). Questions that will be addressed include:

  • What role did corruption and anticorruption play in the development of a colonial normativity both in the colonies and in Europe in the late 19th and 20th centuries?
  • How were discursive stereotypes and anticorruption policies used to (de)legitimize institutions?
  • What role did (anti-)corruption discourses play in Southeast Asia during the Cold War?
  • What is the connection between colonial political structures and contemporary notions of corruption?
  • What do today’s indices show in terms of governance; what is the weight of the past, and which past?