(P65) Teaching Southeast Asian Studies: reassessing the field from the classroom
Fri 09:00-10:30 K12 | 1.12
- Elsa Clave Hamburg University
- Maciej Duszynski Nicolaus Copernicus Univerisity
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Asian-European, the reality of a non-existing category
Elsa Clave Hamburg University
In 2018, about 23 million people identified themselves as Asian Americans in the USA, a category supposed to reflect social and cultural characteristics as well as ancestry. This situation contrasts sharply with France and Germany – two countries where the integra-tion model prevails historically - where newcomers are considered as migrants and their descendants as Europeans with a migrant background. The only identity criteria which is recognized, for the second generation and the following, is their nationality. Indeed, the affirmation of one’s ethnicity and/or religion is considered as threatening the integration model. As a result, there is not only a lack of data in Europe regarding people from Asian heritage, but also a negation that such a heritage is of importance.
While Asian Europeans do not exist as a category, people from Asian heritage do live in Europe, either because their families come from former colonies or because they have fled wars or violence. In Germany, people born or having the nationality of Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia or Thailand form the majority of Southeast Asians living in the country. Their descendants – which number is unknown – carry a cultural heritage, the memory of the family, and face several challenges particular to groups with a migrant background such as racism, a denial of their identity or its imposition.
Based on a 5-year experience in two German universities, a survey of social media and a review of cultural production by people identifying themselves as belonging to a Europe-an and a Southeast Asian culture, this paper argues that Asian Europeans are a reality that should be taken into consideration not only by sociologists or geographers but also by Southeast Asianists. Doing so would help to rebalance the asymmetrical relation which is inherent to area studies, it would also make Southeast Asian studies programs more relevant in a time of mobility, back migration and intense communication. Our argument is that Asian studies should adapt to the actual conditions of Asia and of the place where it is taught. Therefore, in Europe, Southeast Asian studies should include an Asian Euro-pean perspective as well as components reflecting Asian European experiences.
Mutual Strangers: The Experience ofTeaching Indonesia in the Philippines
Ramon Guillermo University of the Philippines
The experience of teaching subjects on Indonesia (and perhaps, also of Malaysia) in the Philippines is quite challenging mainly because of the general lack of interest of students who are apparently more enamoured of Korea and Japan, when it comes to Asia, than their more immediate neighbours. Moreover, Indonesian and Malay studies continue to receive little institutional support within Philippine universities. The process of ASEAN integration seems to have little effect on the current state of affairs. This paper will discuss the various obstacles encountered by Malaysian / Indonesian Studies in the Philippines as well as Southeast Asian Studies in general and attempt to propose certain measures towards improving the situation.
Teaching Southeast Asian Studies Through Literature
George Dutton UCLA
After twenty years of teaching in the field of Southeast Asian Studies, I have become convinced that teaching the region through its literature is one of the most effective ways to engage students. My courses on the region’s modern literature, in particular, use novels and short stories from across the region, and spanning the period from the late nineteenth century to the present to illustrate a range of important themes. Literature allows us not merely to look at the region’s arts, but also its cultures, societies, and politics. Novelists and short story writers have long been astute observers and commentators on the changing dynamics of their respective societies, offering insights in ways that are both engaging and illuminating. My course uses books that range from an early twentieth-century Burmese adaptation of the Count of Monte Cristo to a recent Singaporean graphic novel to illustrate the diversity of Southeast Asian societies and cultures, while also suggesting how these societies, and the literature that represents them has changed. Novels and short stories touch on a myriad of themes, but especially key ones such as changing intergenerational dynamics, the push and pull between rural and urban areas, colonial power dynamics and racism, slowly shifting class dynamics, evolving (or static) gender relations. In short, a wide range of centrally important topics. Moreover, students engage with the character and the plots of these literary works in ways that I’ve never encountered when asking them to read secondary historical or social science scholarship, or even more conventional primary sources. Finally, but very important, courses on Southeast Asian literature can straddle the line between Area and Ethnic Studies, particularly for Asian heritage students. So many of my students find themselves, their families, their cultures, and their languages represented on the pages of these literary works, which allows them to connect to the issues in important ways. These literatures are, thus, often a revelation for them, building bridges between themselves and the region. In short, my paper argues that using literature of Southeast Asia is a powerful and engaging teaching tool that can usefully be integrated into a range of different courses on the region.
The Stubborn Nation: Space and Community in the Teaching of Southeast Asian History
Maitrii Aung-Thwin National University of Singapore
The Stubborn Nation: Space and Community in the Teaching of Southeast Asian History
Maitrii Aung-Thwin, National University of Singapore
Ongoing conversations about the utility of Southeast Asia as a unit of analysis continue to surface as intellectual concerns shift in tandem with new geo-political priorities, global flows, and the re-tasking of research funding. The advent of Comparative Area Studies (in Europe) and Inter-Asian Studies (in East Asia/North America) are indicators that the “border-crossing” initiatives of the 1990s and the “spatial turn” more generally are both expanding and challenging earlier area- studies models of organizing and teaching the region.
The impulse to both reify and problematize the conceptual integrity of Southeast Asia poses a unique challenge for the researcher-teacher, who seeks to balance intellectual rigor and current knowledge with the pedagogical needs of those being taught. Teaching Southeast Asian history within the region has its own added dimensions as well, given that many countries continue to priorities national histories over broader-scaled histories due to ongoing political contests over the nation and belonging. Deploying transnational—-let alone regional—- perspectives in educational settings that are still coming to terms with what constitutes a shared national past tends to ignore local context and dynamics on the ground.
This presentation explores these pedagogical and intellectual tensions through two case studies. The first examines how Southeast Asian history is taught at the introductory level in Singapore, whose cosmopolitan setting and links to intellectual currents in Europe, North America, and Australia creates a demand for a particular rendering of the region’s past that emphasizes global connectivity, mobility, and a connected historical experience. The second case study introduces a seven-year UNESCO project to create a “shared Southeast Asian history” course for upper secondary-school students in the region. In both cases, the immediate pedagogical and institutional settings reflected the lingering presence of the nation-state as an operating component of the two courses, a recognition of the nation’s continuing relevance as both a unit of analysis and an experiential reality to students/audiences in the region. Adopting the category of “community” as both a conceptual paradigm and a heuristic device in both case studies enabled instructors and curriculum developers to accommodate local pedagogical needs with new spatial approaches emerging from the academe.
The legitimacy of area studies has been at the center of scholarly discussion for decades, with criticism pertaining to its origin, epistemological basis and tendency to regionalize the world (Svanton 2004, Kratoska & al. 2005). The postcolonial turn and numerous calls to rethink, to reinvent and to decenter Southeast Asian studies (Craig & McVey 1998, Heryanto 2002), rather to abandon it altogether, have yielded strong theoretical scholarship which have opened fruitful new paths of enquiry (Goh Beng-Lan 2010, Houben 2010, Hau & Tenjapira 2011). While the current dynamics of Southeast Asian studies
show that it has epistemologically changed – knowledge is not anymore produced exclusively in former imperial centers, research interests have moved toward the margins, and transregional studies continue to show the inefficiency of spatial containers – the reasons of its existence remain questioned. The panel aims to continue the discussion on the present state of our studies focusing on its teaching, a point largely left aside in previous debates where the aim of knowledge transmission within or outside the region – for what are we teaching ? – has been discussed very little. While teaching is directly linked to research on the region, and influenced by the epistemological changes aforementioned, its impact
exceed the boundaries of the academic world. In each promotion, besides the few future academicians who will carry one research, a large part of students who will work with or within the region will be school teachers, researchers in think tanks, diplomats but also worker in international organizations or companies. The question of their training is essential as it will partly condition the ‘relation’ they will build with Southeast Asia. As teaching does not only depends on shifts in research paradigms, but is influenced by many other factors, the panel will cross experiences from different contexts, with different
communities, and invite contributions which will deal, among others, with the way students from Southeast Asian origin, or descent, influence the development of those studies; how the declining status of humanities, and the structural changes within universities, have or could influence curriculum in Southeast Asian studies; and the consequence it would have on the studies in general.