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Knowledge travels: A study in South East Asia

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B


South East Asia known for its heterogeneity and diversity. (King/Wilder2003) and scholars have remarked how no hegemony or homogeneity has been constructed for this region. (Rodgers,2004) It is a region that has stood between China and India for over two millennia, and been a site for travelling ideas. With its ecological and geographical diversity, it will continue to mediate space and discourse between East Asia, and South Asia in the twentieth century, especially in terms of climate change, environmental concerns and categories of knowledge as they pertain to development. The geographical region spreads from the Indian ocean to the Pacific, spanning both land masses, and large archipelagoes, and has been a site for maritime trade for millennia, as well as colonialization by the Dutch, the French and the British. In the last seventy years, all the nation states created after independence from colonial powers are approaching development and education through their own history and categories of knowledge. While the anthropology of development has taken a lead, the anthropology of religion has been fairly neglected in the region, with the exception of study of Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia in recent years.

The paper will trace the history of the region through three periods, the maritime period (500 BC to 1500 AD) The Colonial period (from 1500 AD to 1950s) and the development period (1950s to present) and examine literature with categories of global/universal knowledge and cultural specificity that apply to this particular region. The knowledge and histories in this region provide a pre and post-colonial context of study and offer an opportunity to study how categories of knowledge changed over time. The region evolved and influenced trade, politics, education and/or learning, religion, development and environment. Using a Vertical case study method, I plan to examine as well as interrogate the categories of knowledge used to learn in, and learn about the region. Using a multidisciplinary approach, I will examine the categories applied to the region, through “disciplines,” as well as “area studies.”

Sumita Ambasta