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Religion and Nationalism in Contemporary Southeast Asia: Historical Legacies, Political Mobilization and Identity Formation

Sat, April 2, 8:30 to 10:30am, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 308

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel


A recent surge of violence against religious minority communities across Southeast Asia raises a number of important questions about the role of religion in nationalism, identity formation and democratic transitions. Despite significant scholarly contributions made by Southeast Asianists to the studies of nationalism (e.g., Anderson 1983; Kahin 1953), the role of religion in nationalism and nation-building in deeply divided Southeast Asian societies has still been largely neglected. This cross-national comparative panel invites four area/country experts to draw upon their first-hand empirical research, innovative data, and archival sources in respective countries and regions to explore the theoretical questions of religion, nationalism, and identity formation in order to fill this gap.
The panel is organized along geographic localities to address three broad themes: (1) elite efforts and constitutional frameworks in managing deep religious divisions (Shah on Indonesia and Malaysia); (2) the political mobilization of religious identity to sustain or oppose an incumbent regime and its effect on nationalism (Selway on Thailand; Walton on Burma); and (3) the political origin and effects of secular and religious nationalism in emerging democracies (Hamayotsu on cross-religion case studies). Collectively and comparatively, we seek to look into historical legacies, institutional frameworks, and political mobilization of religious identity and symbols in emerging Southeast Asian democracies to gain a better understanding of the role of religion in nation-building and inter-communal relations.

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