(P55AB) Revisiting Central European “Classics” of Southeast Asian Studies
Part 1Session 6
Thu 11:00-12:30 K10 | 2.39
Part 2Session 7
Thu 13:30-15:00 K10 | 2.39
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Blumentritt and Rizal: Epistolography, Geography, and Bibliography
Vernon Totanes Ateneo de Manila University
“Muy estímado Señor Profesor Ferdínand Blumentritt” was the formal salutation that José Rizal, a Filipino intellectual who was then living in Germany, used to address a Bohemian-Austrian scholar, to whom he wrote for the very first time in 1886. They would meet only once during the next ten years, but by the time Rizal wrote his last letter to Blumentritt—on the day before the former´s execution in Manila in 1896—Rizal would begin with the much warmer salutation “Mi Querido Hermano.” Blumentritt and Rizal became friends primarily through the letters they exchanged, but their friendship, which grew out of their common professional interests, undoubtedly influenced their scholarship as well. This preliminary study of Blumentritt’s writings about the Philippines attempts to establish the influence of friendship on Blumentritt’s scholarship from the late 19th century to the present through the number of editions and translations of his writings that have been published, the number of copies available in libraries around the world, and the number of times they have been cited. Blumentritt’s name is familiar to Filipinos primarily because of his friendship with Rizal, but his legacy in the field of Philippine studies must not be forgotten.
Moravian and Malayan Homelands of “Our Czech Ethnologist Pavel Šebesta” / Paul Schebesta (1887-1967)
Jan Mrazek Southeast Asian Studies
Paul Schebesta, as he is known internationally, a prominent member of the Viennese school of ethnology associated with Wilhelm Schmidt and the journal Anthropos, dedicated his life to the study of nomadic “dwarfs” in Africa and Southeast Asia (Malaya, Sumatra and the Philippines). His work is still considered important in the scholarship on the Malaysian Orang Asli (“Original People”), and the official ethnic classification used in Malaysia closely follows Schebesta’s. At the same time, scholars today refer mostly to his one book on Malaya that has been translated into English, and almost never to his many other works in German and Czech. He is variously said to be Austrian, German, or – in Czech writings – Czech. The paper sketches how Šebesta’s origins in a small, multilingual borderland community (on the frontier of the Olomouc/Olmütz diocese), and his troubled experience/imagination of homeland(s) – Moravian, Silesian, Czech(oslovak), Slavic, Austrian – mirror a key narrative in his ethnographic and travel writing, the destruction of the primeval forest, the original homeland of the “forest people” in Malaya, and, more broadly, how the strangely homely Malayan primeval forest, the original homeland, mirrors the jungles of Moravia. A theoretical Self and the Other are both unsettled and confused in this entanglement. “I am a kind of nomad,” wrote Schebesta/Šebesta/Szebesta, the expert on nomads. The mirrors of Šebesta’s origins can help us reflect on the history and present situation of the “Original People,” their representation, and the representation of scholarship and travel writing in the colonial period.
Revisiting Heine-Geldern’s “Conceptions of State and Kingship in Southeast Asia”
Martin Slama Austrian Academy of Sciences
Robert Heine-Geldern was one of the leading anthropologists and certainly the most influential Southeast Asia scholar of 20th century Austria. The paper is concerned with one of his best-known contributions to Southeast Asian Studies, i.e. his article “Conceptions of State and Kingship in Southeast Asia” published in English in 1942 during his exile in the USA. “Conceptions of State and Kingship” is perhaps his work with the most enduring appeal for subsequent generations of anthropologists and Southeast Asianists, including some very prominent figures like Clifford Geertz and Stanley Tambiah. The paper revisits Heine-Geldern’s path-breaking article with the aim to trace its influence in the field of Southeast Asian Studies and beyond, considering not only works that, in the meantime, have themselves attained the status of “classics” but also looking for Heine-Geldern’s intellectual legacy in lesser-known publications and research traditions. It asks why this article was so appealing and what its relevance might be for contemporary research. At the same time, it enquires into the limits of Heine-Geldern’s approach seen from a present-day perspective by trying to delineate those aspects of his thought that still can be regarded as inspiring from others that appear analytically less fruitful, but can still be valued by taking into account the state of the art of research at the time when “Conceptions of State and Kingship” was published.
Harry J. Benda’s Continuing Impact on Philippine Historiography
Paul Rodell Georgia Southern University
Harry J. Benda’s seminal The Crescent and the Rising Sun that profoundly impacted Indonesian historiography was a result of Benda’s WW II experience in an internment camp in the Dutch East Indies. While a Japanese prisoner, Benda witnessed the power of the native population’s nationalistic coming of age which was ultimately stronger than Dutch colonialism or the Imperial Japanese military. This insight elevated Benda’s historiography and would inspire many others. He developed those insights as a PhD student at Cornell University and then with the publication of his book he influenced a generation of scholars while on faculty at Yale University. One of those scholars was John A. Larkin who carried Benda’s scholarly perspective to the Philippines and sparked a sea change in that country’s dominant historiography. Larkin’s The Pampangans: Colonial Society in a Philippine Province was a dramatic shift of the country’s historiography as it turned the interpretative focus to Pampanga province and away from Manila. His book had an immediate impact on Filipino scholars at the country’s major universities, in the writings of local provincial historians and among American graduate students. Though new developments have increased the country’s historiographical complex, these subsequent developments all benefited from Benda’s original insights and Larkin’s local adaptation.
Re-discovering Harry Benda’s “Structures of Southeast Asian History”
Tomáš Petru Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences
Czechoslovakia-born Harry Jind?ich Benda (1919-1971) was one of the most prominent historians and political scientists of Southeast Asia of the high Cold War era. At the peak of his career, he became widely acclaimed for a host of reasons – as a popular teacher, a charismatic orator, an outspoken public critic of American military misadventure in Vietnam, and an influential figure who helped develop Southeast Asian Studies at Yale and Singapore. Harry Benda’s greatest contribution as an academic writer arguably was his attempt to shift the focus from the Western-centric approach to Southeast Asian history to one that was more ‘autochthonous’ or ‘indigenous’. He also emphasized the need to move away from the nationalist narratives that served an over-heated patriotism in countries like Indonesia to a more regional and comparative approach. While dwelling on the elites and intelligentsia in his writing, he also saw the significance of peasant movements and rebellions as an important part of social history. His seven-year sojourn in colonial, wartime and post-surrender Indonesia gave him a unique perspective and possibly a sharper edge compared to other experts of the region. He might also have been a more objective scholar because he did not allow himself to fall in love with Indonesia, unlike others who did and grew bitter when Indonesia disappointed them. This paper will therefore delve into Benda’s most important intellectual legacy beyond his seminal work The Crescent and the Rising Sun (1958), including his much-cited article on “The Structure of Structure of Southeast Asian History: Some Preliminary Observations” (1962) and his famous critique of Herbert Feith’s The Decline of Indonesia´s Democracy (1962), while allowing space for thought on the limitations of his academic approaches.
Re-reading Harry J. Benda’s Work
Chiara Formichi Cornell University
As a scholar of Islam in late-colonial Indonesia, Benda’s work has been foundational since I first embarked on my academic journey; I still often return to the xeroxed copy of The Crescent and the Rising Sun which I had made in Yogyakarta as a graduate student… In this presentation, I will focus on three threads: first, I will illustrate a few arguments advanced by Benda in the late 1950s and which remain still unsurpassed after over 60 years of scholarship. Second, I’ll move on to reflect on why Benda’s work is still exceptional – or rather, why we have not been able to expand in a significant way on his insights on the Japanese period. Lastly, I shall conclude by lamenting what I wish he had also given space and attention to, considering his unique positionality (and acute intellect) in late-colonial and transitional Indonesia.
The humanities-oriented research on Southeast Asia is stereotypically associated with academic institutions in former colonial metropolises such as Britain, France and the Netherlands, Anglophone countries like the United States and Australia, and today also with the new educational hubs in Southeast Asia itself like Singapore or Malaysia. This panel, however, intends to remind the academic community of several influential scholars hailing from Central Europe, mostly from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, aiming to cast more light on their contribution to the scholarship on Southeast Asia. Our focus is above all on researchers in the field of history and anthropology of the region, whose works were widely read at their time, and today may arguably be considered “classic”. We seek to focus on their legacy, aiming to find out of what actually remains of their work, how it is interpreted and reinterpreted and to what extent it is still relevant to analyze current phenomena. The figures of our focus include, among others, the Czechoslovakia-born historian of Indonesia Harry J.
Benda, after whom the annual AAS prize for the best (first) book on Southeast Asia has been named, the Austrian anthropologist Robert von Heine-Geldern, whose studies of Southeast Asian concepts of power left a lasting imprint on the perception of Southeast Asian kingdoms, the Prague-born Austrian Philippinist Ferdinand Blumentritt, whose name is a familiar term among modern Manileños, and Father Paul Schebesta of Moravian-Austrian descent, who conducted pioneering research on hunter-gatherer societies on the Malay Peninsula.