Led by: Dr Tim Harper
Institution: Centre for History and Economics, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge
Issues. This set of projects sets out to analyse how transnational exchange of information contributes to social, economic and environmental sustainability in Southeast Asia. It explores how ideas travel across Southeast Asia and how they change in the process. It aims to transcend the national or institutional frameworks that have hitherto constrained the study of ideas in Southeast Asia, focusing, instead, on networks of people, texts, objects and symbols that circulate. It focuses on a series of specific questions and aims to map long-term patterns. What are the ways in which emerging legal frameworks have shaped interactions across Asia and between Asia and the world? How has unequal access to economic opportunities shaped intellectual and educational exchange? How have models of environmental and developmental thinking from other parts of the world been reused and transformed through their circulation in Southeast Asia? What are the implications of regional economic integration for sovereignty? How has the ASEAN model of the ‘strong state’ been tested by the liberalization of goods and services (and increasingly also of finance) and restrict the ability of nation states to promote industrial policies? How, and to what extent, has social justice been enhanced through the provision of social, legal and environmental security?
Projects. Our research projects are focused on three main themes.
- Networks and models of developmental and environmental thinking, with case studies on competing developmental ‘models’ and ‘conservation in Southeast Asia, and ideas and experience of technocracy in Southeast Asia. The approach is transnational, with country studies on Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.
- Models of regional integration and emerging legal frameworks. This focuses on the emergence and circulation of legal practices through their impact, over the long duration, It examines the enduring consequences of legal integration/fragmentation in the colonial period, not only at a regional or state level, but also at a non-elite level, for example in issues of migration and family formation (mainly in Burma, Malaysia and Vietnam).
- Patterns of intellectual and educational exchange. Case studies focus on the relationship between the formal and non-formal sector (including Islamic education) over the long duration. Again, a transnational approach is adopted, but the focus is on the Malay World: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Thailand and the southern Philippines.
At the heart of our approach is the study of knowledge networks in Southeast Asia: past and present patterns and future directions. Our work focuses on five themes shared across these different areas: (a) the sheer diversity of models of development that have marked the region’s thought; (b) the importance of considering them in a transnational context; (c) recurrent patterns in the ways new ideas from outside have been contested within a Southeast Asian ecumene; (d) the long-term role of the non-formal sector; (e) the past, current and future role of Europe in the regional experience. Research focuses on the ‘sites’ of interaction, and on social justice and security, in fields such as education and health.
WP4 Researchers and Staff