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Continuing, Re-Emerging, and Emerging Trends in the Field of Southeast Asian History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 March 2013

Abstract

‘Trends’ in the field of Southeast Asian history have a way of being unresolved satisfactorily before ‘new’ ones emerge to take their place. Part of the reason is that older scholarship is not only considered passé, but each new generation of Southeast Asianists wants to ‘make its mark’ on the field in original ways. Yet, when one scrutinizes some of these ‘new’ issues carefully, they often turn out not to be entirely so; rather, they appear to be different ways of approaching and/or expressing older ones, using different (and more current) operating vocabulary. ‘Angle of vision’ and ‘perspective’, popular in the 1960s, have become ‘privileging of’ or ‘giving agency to’ in current usage, while their methodological intent is exactly the same, bearing the same (or nearly the same) desirable consequences. Older, seminal scholarship is often only given lip-service without much in-depth consideration, so that some of the ‘new’ scholarship begins ‘in the middle of the game’, scarcely acknowledging (or knowing) what had transpired earlier. This unawareness regarding the ‘lineage’ of Southeast Asia scholarship fosters some reinvention and repetition of issues and problems without realizing it, in turn protracting their resolution. So as not to lose sight of this ‘scholarly lineage’ that not only allows a better assessment of what are genuinely new trends and what are not, but also to resolve unresolved issues and move on to really new things, this essay will analyse and discuss where the field of Southeast Asian history has been, where it is currently, and where it might be headed. Although focused on the discipline of history, it remains ensconced within the context of the larger field of Southeast Asian studies.

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Copyright © Institute of East Asian Studies, Sogang University 2013 

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