(P60AB) State and Society in Pre-Modern Southeast Asia: Current Research Into Traditional Forms of Governance
Part 1Session 3
Wed 14:30-16:00 K10 | 2.25
Part 2Session 4
Wed 16:30-18:00 K10 | 2.25
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Governance as reflected in Bugis historical manuscripts
Kathryn Wellen KITLV
Bugis historiography provides a rare window on the history of Austronesian statecraft. This is because adapted and adopted an Indic writing system without being Indianized and wrote their own history, reflecting indigenous concerns, for two centuries prior to Islamicization. This paper examines ideas of governance on the basis of these sources. It looks at the qualities of leaders; the role of diplomacy; communication networks; mechanisms for making and enforcing decisions; as well as family ties and compares these features, as described in the sources, to other Austronesian societies
Governing the Past: The Contested Politics of Inscription-Recasting in the Eighteenth Century Burma
Alexey Kirichenko Institute of Asian and African Studies
The paper will examine the connected processes of copying, recasting, and fabrication of lithic inscriptions in the eighteenth-century Burma (roughly, from the 1730s to the 1790s) via the lenses of manuscript and epigraphic footprint of the period as well as of ripple effects of the eighteenth-century initiatives during the next century. The presentation seeks to complicate our understanding of the dynamics and context of the Konbaung court’s keener interest in collecting and codifying information on the donations of land and labor made to Buddhist institutions in the past. So far, these efforts have been analyzed in relation to Konbaung fiscal policies and religious reform. At the same time, the data available on the actors involved in production and circulation of recopied and recast inscriptions as well as on the impact of epigraphic manuscripts on Konbaung historiographical and erudite literature opens up avenues for a discussion of bureaucratic functions and procedures of pre-colonial Burmese polity, its capacity to carry out data-gathering and inventorial projects, digest new information flows and capitalize on them. The agency of local administrative and monastic elites and their ability to trigger the court’s initiatives or manipulate the court’s agendas constitute another promising line of inquiry. Summing these explorations up, the presentation will reassess the relationship between the practices of royal governance, management of Buddhist estates, and the polity’s ongoing venture of identity-making, highlighting political and conceptual, rather than economic underpinnings of the Konbaung effort to build and rematerialize a new locally-sourced and royally-dominated archive of stone slabs.
Lao royal ordinances and territories in the margins: the case of the “bai-chum” of the Hua Phan
Michel Lorrillard EFEO
The archives of the École française d’Extrême-Orient contain copies of some 80 Lao royal ordinances, the originals of which have been kept for more than a century by the National Library of Thailand (some of them have recently been published in Thai language and script under the name “bai-chum”), after they were brought from Laos by Siamese troops in 1887. These documents, written on three different types of support - long strips of cloth, palm leaves and traditional paper manuscript - are practically all dated and bear a seal, either painted or waxed. They relate to the management and administrative boundaries of the various muang of the ancient Hua Phan region (now Sam Nua province). Surprisingly enough, these royal ordinances, drawn up either in Vientiane or in Luang Prabang, provide detailed information on a region that was, however, singularly marginal, on the borders of Vietnam and China, over a period that stretches from the second quarter of the 16th century to the third quarter of the 19th century. The authenticity of the documents seems to be real, but the circumstances surrounding their discovery, in a context of intense rivalry between the two territorial expansions of Siam and France, nevertheless prompts us to consider them with the utmost caution and to be careful with both external and internal criticism. In any case, before the colonial empires were established in continental South-East Asia, they reflect an essential testimony to the issues that were privileged in the exchanges between the central power and territories that were in fact often only nominally possessed.
Research on the Vietnamese Regional Hierarchical System in the Early Phase of Nguy?n Dynasty (1802-1858)
Hao Guan Tsinghua University
During the pre-colonial period, Vietnam tried to establish a regional hierarchical system centered on itself. In this system, Vietnam was theoretically at the top of the hierarchy, and the neighboring states and tribes were at lower status of the hierarchy. The Vietnamese regional hierarchy replicated the Chinese tributary system in terms of vocabulary, rituals, and institutions. However, in many cases the Vietnamese rulers did not follow the Confucian rules of tributary relations, such as “taking care of small states????” and “reviving the extinguished states??????” when dealing with subordinate states. Rather, it seems that Vietnamese rulers believed that they lived in an anarchy world and try to take “realpolitik” way to deal with foreign affairs. This research will focus on the interaction between the Nguy?n dynasty and the neighboring states like Cambodia, Vientiane, and Siam in the early nineteenth century (1802-1858), and analyze how the Nguy?n rulers weighed between the Confucian ideal norm of foreign relations and the anarchy situation in mainland Southeast Asia when making decisions. I argue that the Nguy?n court established relational authorities, derived from social contract between states, with subordinate states or tribes such as Vientiane, Cambodia, Suishe and Huoshe. The subordinate states ceded some political freedom in exchange for the political order provided by the Nguy?n court. In this system, political culture and regional power structure are two main factors that influence the Nguy?n rulers in the early nineteenth century when dealing with the self-centered regional hierarchical. The political culture determined how the relational authorities and political order look like, and the regional power structure influenced the Nguyen rulers’ decisions on specific matters.
Write or Wither – The Contentious Legacy of Angkor and Its Entrance into Nineteenth Century Siamo-Cambodian Historiography
Jan R. Dressler University of Hamburg
To this day the magnificent ruins of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom bear witness to the ancient civilization of Cambodia, which flourished at the banks of the Mekong river and the Tonlé Sap between the 9th and 13th century. These remains of a glorious but distant past have become a crucial element of Cambodian identity, a jealously guarded treasure of national pride.
Less conspicuous but equally rich is Cambodia’s heritage in terms of historiographical literature, with its numerous versions of royal chronicles dating from the late 18th to the early 20th century.
Ever since broader public interest in these sources of history arose during the 19th century, scholars and politicians from the region and abroad have been astounded by the fact that the oldest specimen of the royal chronicles of Cambodia did not cover the history of the Angkorean kingdom, but set out to relate events from the 14th century onward only.
Only after King Norodom I had mandated the reconstitution of the chronicles of the Cambodian kingdom in 1869, Khmer language versions of the royal chronicles were compiled which, seemingly without any prior model, attempted to incorporate into the history of the Cambodian state the forgotten past of the Angkorean polity, whose major heritage sights however lay in Siamese territory until 1907.
Based on a survey of Siamese archival, literary and historigraphic sources, I will endeavor to shed light on the political considerations and strategies of various Siamese and Cambodian elite actors, which shaped the advance into a previously uncharted period of Southeast Asian history.
Pre-modern Southeast Asia, with its long-documented history of statecraft and a particularly diverse landscape of political institutions and processes, offers ample opportunity to explore the human capability of building and maintaining lasting communities. Since the advent of colonial modernity in the region this rich heritage has been the object of scholarly attention, popular imagination and political instrumentalization. The profoundly transformative processes of decolonization and globalization have accentuated questions of indigenous identity and raised interest in pre-colonial traditions and knowledge.
This panel is devoted to the study of pre-modern political systems of Southeast Asia, and in particular the structures and procedures that allowed for efficient decision making in matters of public interest and their execution. The pre-modern era of Southeast Asian history we broadly define as the time period between the Mongol invasions of Southeast Asia of the 13th century and the establishment of colonial regimes in the 19th century. The panel shall provide a venue for the presentation of ongoing or recently completed research on traditional forms of governance and is open to various methodological and theoretical approaches. Fellow researchers are cordially invited to contribute papers which might address, but are not
limited to, the following issues:
• What mechanisms allowed for popular influence on decision-making processes under nondemocratic systems of government?
• What procedures were instituted to gather and interpret information relevant in the decisionmaking process?
• How can the examination of works of art and literature as well as performances of public functions contribute to the understanding of power relations in pre-modern political systems?
• What were modalities of pre-modern inter-state relations?
• How did received tradition and individual agency influence institutional change?