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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: January 2018

Chapter 1 - M.B. Hooker and Southeast Asian Law: Path-breaking Passions

Summary

Few scholars become the intellectual architects of their field. Professor M.B. (Barry) Hooker is one of them: a truly original scholar who has forged a singular, path-breaking body of work on law and society in Southeast Asia. His scholarship has been foundational in the fields of legal pluralism, customary law (adat) in Southeast Asia — particularly Malaysia — and Islamic law (sharia) in Southeast Asia. Hooker has shaped the intellectual frameworks that govern the way that we think of legal pluralism and hybridity in Southeast Asia, but that also invite contestation, expansion and elaboration.

This essay invites Professor Hooker to reflect on his intellectual journey and the choices that propelled him from his early life in New Zealand to a career of research and teaching in Singapore, the United Kingdom and Australia. It proceeds as an edited interview with him, and with Professor Virginia Hooker, who is both his wife and research collaborator as well as a distinguished scholar in her own right.1 The essay concludes with a full bibliography of M.B. Hooker's works to date, compiled by Virginia Hooker.

If you visit the library at the National University of Malaysia (UKM) you can ask to see the M.B. Hooker Collection. There, behind a screen, catalogued and air-conditioned, is the research and teaching library of more than 2,500 titles that Barry Hooker built over his scholarly lifetime. These are the books “on the history and philosophy and application of the legal systems in Southeast Asia” that “range by region from the Middle East through India, Burma and Indochina, to Malaysia and island Southeast Asia.… [works of] Islamic studies, philosophy, anthropology history, economics and law”.2 It includes substantial materials in the vernacular and the publications hunted by rare booksellers who supported Hooker's consuming passion. Virginia Hooker remembers, “Your library in your room in Kent was spectacular because you didn't have to go to any other library.… So when we moved [to Australia] you made that incredible decision to sell your entire library.… [Bookseller] John Randall insisted on selling it as the entire collection. Your papers, letters everything, the musical tapes, and so on.