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Bridging Region and Discipline: Social Movement Studies and Southeast Asia I

Sun, June 26, 3:00 to 4:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: BF, 007

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel Proposal Application


Southeast Asia has been a rich reservoir of bottom-up contention, including movements both for and against democracy, as well as struggles over issues of identity and the environment. Regrettably, this region has not been fruitfully tapped by social movement studies (SMS) writ large. Tellingly, from 2010 onwards, the top two SMS journals have featured only four research entries that drew on Southeast Asian examples. When Southeast Asian movements are examined, it tends to be by area studies scholars, uninformed by the SMS literature, or by political scientists, who overwhelmingly focus on overtly political contention. This first session of a two-part panel will therefore engage insights from SMS, facilitate comparative perspectives, and in turn, encourage intra-region and border-crossing theoretical debates. New light is shed on both recent and well-studied movements, and current orthodoxies, which tend to be elite-centred, are questioned. This panel illuminates novel ways of integrating local studies of grassroots contention with SMS. Presenters with backgrounds in anthropology, history, and political science will address not only the overtly political contention, but also the less obviously political. The papers examine understudied aspects of student movements in Indonesia and Singapore, as well as the character of political and environmental campaigns in Burma and Malaysia respectively. They demonstrate remarkable variation and parallels in contentious behaviours under different types of authoritarianism. The interdisciplinary approach, as utilised by the presenters, demonstrates the hope and potential of reinforcing the “synergy between region and discipline” (Kuhonta, Slater and Vu 2008), while spurring theoretical innovation in both.

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