Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity

Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity

JOSHUA BARKER
ERIK HARMS
JOHAN LINDQUIST
Copyright Date: 2014
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqdn3
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity
    Book Description:

    We live in a world populated not just by individuals but by figures, those larger-than-life people who in some way express and challenge our conventional understandings of social types. This innovative and collaborative work takes up the wide range of figures that populate the social and cultural imaginaries of contemporary Southeast Asia-some familiar only in specific places, others recognizable across the region and even globally. It puts forward a series of ethnographic portraits of figures that represent and give voice to something larger than themselves, offering a view into social life that is at once highly particular and general. They include the Muslim Television Preacher in Indonesia, Miss Beer Lao, the Rural DJ in Thailand, the Korean Soap Opera Junkie in Burma, the Filipino Seaman, and the Photo Retoucher in Vietnam.Figures of Southeast Asian Modernitybrings together the fieldwork of over eighty scholars and covers the nine major countries of the region: Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. An introduction outlines important social transformations in Southeast Asia and key theoretical and methodological innovations that result from ethnographic attention to the study of key figures. Each section begins with an introduction by a country editor followed by short essays offering vivid and intimate portraits set against the background of contemporary Southeast Asia. The result is a volume that combines scholarly rigor with a meaningful, up-to-date portrayal of a region of the world undergoing rapid change. A reference bibliography offers suggestions for further reading.Figures of Southeast Asia Modernityis an ideal teaching tool for introductory classes to Southeast Asia studies, anthropology, and geography.3 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3779-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PROLOGUE
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    ULF HANNERZ

    My visits to Southeast Asia have been rather few and far between, but as the manuscript ofFigures of Southeast Asian Modernitycomes into my hands, I am reminded of some particular moments and experiences. My first encounter with the region was in early May 1975, when I arrived in Bangkok—and it was only a few days after Saigon had (as the common term had it) “fallen,” and the long war in Vietnam was finally over. According to the widely accepted “domino theory,” it would be Bangkok next. That prospect was anxiously debated in at least some quarters of...

  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)
    JOSHUA BARKER, ERIK HARMS and JOHAN LINDQUIST

    We live in a world populated not just by individuals but by figures—people who loom larger than life because they alternately express and challenge conventional understandings of social types. Such figures are important because they serve as anchors for local, national, and transnational discourses about contemporary social life and its futures. Like Raymond Williams’ analysis of keywords in modern social thinking, an analysis of the “key figures” of a given social formation can provide unique insights into ideological formations and their contestations.¹

    This book considers a wide range of figures that populate the social and cultural imaginaries of contemporary...

  6. 1 THE PHILIPPINES
    (pp. 19-45)
    JOSÉ B. CAPINO, RICHARD T. CHU, KALE BANTIGUE FAJARDO, ANNA ROMINA GUEVARRA, ORLANDO DE GUZMAN, ADAM LUKASIEWICZ, MARTIN F. MANALANSAN, JAN M. PADIOS, MAI M. TAQUEBAN and T. RUANNI F. TUPAS

    In a world full of exhaust-choked megacities, Metro Manila’s traffic snarls are widely recognized as among the very worst around. Boredom, frustration, and anxiety overwhelm and unite Manileños as they sit cheek by jowl, for hours on end, in becalmed taxis, private cars, trucks, SUVs, jeeps, buses, vans, and tricycles. And yet it could be argued that this state offers a distorted reflection of what anthropologist Victor Turner calledcommunitas—a synchronized, collective experience that brings home the commonality of shared human or social existence to its subjects.¹ Other than traffic, one would certainly be hard pressed to find an...

  7. 2 VIETNAM
    (pp. 46-74)
    ANN MARIE LESHKOWICH, CHRISTOPHE ROBERT, ALLISON TRUITT, KEN MACLEAN, CHRISTINA SCHWENKEL, ERIK HARMS, TRUONG HUYEN CHI, CHRISTIAN C. LENTZ, NINA HIEN, LAUREN MEEKER and IVAN SMALL

    We have seen these figures before. Yet they are all brand new, novel, or as Vietnamese would say it, very modern:rất hiện đại.The figures described in this chapter produce a sense of déjà vu: the petty trader, scientist, aspiring foreign student, prostitute, touch-up artist, investor, public/private entrepreneur, the mountain villagers encountering new forms of governance and market practices, and the transnational Vietnamese who goes away and then returns. These figures are new but have appeared before.

    This sense of new things we have seen before nicely illustrates the way many Vietnamese experience modernity. These figures embody a temporal...

  8. 3 CAMBODIA
    (pp. 75-90)
    ALBERTO PÉREZ-PEREIRO, STEPHEN MAMULA, EVE ZUCKER, ANNUSKA DERKS, ERIK DAVIS and JENNA GRANT

    For much of the past century, Cambodian political life has alternated between authoritarian regimes and periods of instability when competing factions struggled to obtain control of state power. The most recent such period of political struggle emerged in the years following the national election of 1993. Organized by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, the 1993 election was intended to put the country on a course for greater autonomy after more than a decade of rule by the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK).¹ As it turned out, the decade that began with Cambodia’s first relatively free election since...

  9. 4 LAOS
    (pp. 91-106)
    HOLLY HIGH, PATRICE LADWIG, MICHAEL DWYER, N. J. ENFIELD and JEROME WHITINGTON

    Golden City Boten, established on a unique land concession in northern Laos, is a luxury residential city for Chinese elite built on some 1,600 hectares with a thirty-year lease renewable for three periods.¹ Established ex nihilo as a special economic zone by Chinese investors, the city demonstrates the extent of extraterritorial sovereignty involved in the contemporary globalization of Laos. This kind of sovereign configuration is an effect not only of the size or duration of the concession but, as Pal Nyíri explains, it is also an effect of the use of the yuan as the sole currency, the authorization of...

  10. 5 THAILAND
    (pp. 107-129)
    LEERAY COSTA, PILAPA ESARA, SUDARAT MUSIKAWONG, JANE M. FERGUSON, PATTANA KITIARSA, EMILY ZEAMER, JULIA CASSANITI, ANDREW JOHNSON and TRACY PILAR JOHNSON

    Few nations in modern history can compete with Thailand in terms of regime change and political transition. Since the nineteenth century, Siam/Thailand has experienced a score of military coups and has drafted seventeen new charters and constitutions. Political unrest and overt violence boiled over in the streets of Bangkok in 2010, when the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as the “Red Shirts,” demanding the dissolution of parliament and new elections, clashed with military troops. Nearly a hundred people were killed and thousands were injured. As news and discontent spread throughout the countryside, crucial existential questions of...

  11. 6 INDONESIA
    (pp. 130-169)
    KAREN STRASSLER, JAMES HOESTEREY, DAROMIR RUDNYCKYJ, TOM BOELLSTORFF, DOREEN LEE, JESSE GRAYMAN, ARYO DANUSIRI, RACHEL SILVEY, JOHAN LINDQUIST, SHERI GIBBINGS, CHRIS BROWN, DADI DARMADI, JOSHUA BARKER and CARLA JONES

    Indonesia is not what it used to be. In early 2010, Julia Perez (aka Yulia Rahmawati), widely known as Jupe and one of the country’s most well-known sex symbols and celebrities, announced that she was planning to run for district head in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s home district of Pacitan in central Java. Jupe, who lived in France and the Netherlands for over a decade—and likes to speak in a mix of English, French, and Indonesian—made a name for herself when she returned to Indonesia in 2008 and released a hitdangdutalbum entitledKamasutra, with sexually suggestive...

  12. 7 MALAYSIA
    (pp. 170-194)
    SVEN ALEXANDER SCHOTTMANN, GERHARD HOFFSTAEDTER, SYED MUHD KHAIRUDIN ALJUNIED, RUSASLINA IDRUS, JULIAN C. H. LEE, KHOO GAIK CHENG, YEOH SENG GUAN, MATTHEW AMSTER and MICHAEL EILENBERG

    Malaysia’s entanglement with Western modernity has a long, agonistic, and ambivalent history. During the age of empires, the region now known as Malaysia became more closely linked to Europe through sea trade. From the standpoint of postcolonial nationalist history, however, the “golden era” of entrepot commerce is traced back to the fifteenth-century Malacca Sultanate before it fell to a succession of European powers beginning in the early sixteenth century. The Portuguese and Dutch rulers concentrated their colonial possessions on the ports of the Malay Peninsula. But from the late eighteenth century onward, the British progressively expanded their hold into the...

  13. 8 SINGAPORE
    (pp. 195-213)
    KAMALUDEEN MOHAMED NASIR, MD MIZANUR RAHMAN, YU-MEI BALASINGAMCHOW, LOH KAH SENG, LIEW KAI KHIUN, ADELINE KOH and ERIK HOLMBERG

    The Malay Gangster, Bangladeshi Worker, Woman Activist, Peri-Urban Tenant, The People’s Filmmaker, Schoolteacher, and Social Entrepreneur—these figures are familiar to anyone who has lived in modern Singapore. We encounter them in the common thoroughfares and pathways of daily life. We hear about them in the chatter of gossip and rumors. We read about their lives and destinies in the headlines of newspapers and the leads of television newscasts. Yet, while these figures appear strange and remote to the uninitiated “foreigner,” what most often impresses if not overwhelms the visitor to Singapore most—and, in fact, captivates most local elites...

  14. 9 BURMA
    (pp. 214-239)
    MANDY SADAN, THOMAS KEAN, DAVID SCOTT MATHIESON, DAVID GILBERT, VIOLET CHO, IKUKO OKAMOTO, JACQUELINE MENAGER, AUNG SI, NICHOLAS FARRELLY and AUNG NAING THU

    The military government of the Union of Myanmar long trumpeted its vision of modern Burma with an incessant disregard for alternative perspectives.¹ In newspapers and on television and at countless formal events and occasions, Burma’s rulers were in the habit of ostentatiously invoking developmental and nationalistic themes. Their official version of modernity refashioned threads of precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial experience to justify the preeminence of a small cohort of senior military officers and their civilian allies. They pointed out that ever since the social and political crises that accompanied British efforts to rule Burma (1824–1948), the country was wracked...

  15. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 240-246)
    BENEDICT ANDERSON

    If one wanders across disciplines, one can get the impression that they are in their own way “figures of modernity,” with their own silhouettes, gestures, languages, grandeurs, fetishes, soft spots, and curiosities. If one were interested in soft spots, one might lazily say: nostalgia for history, cynicism for political science, optimism for economics, pessimism for philosophy, sentimentality for anthropology, and so on. Luckily, the soft spots are quite different, so that the disciplines actually can help one another. Besides, soft spots often overlap with grandeurs.

    The cynicism of my own discipline, political “science,” descends from Machiavelli, but it is shaped...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 247-278)
  17. FURTHER READING
    (pp. 279-284)
  18. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 285-294)
  19. THEMATIC INDEX
    (pp. 295-303)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 304-305)