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Reports Year : 2015

Globalizing comparative political science research on Southeast Asia The Focus


From my point of view, the scholar of Asia today is a 'global scholar', embedded not only in his/her area studies specialization, but also in constant intellectual dialogue with others in the same discipline, but focused on other Area studies fields. In practice, by dint of the complexity of the 'object', we are studying to becoming interdisciplinary. In short, the scholar of Asia today not only has greater savoir, s/he has an enhanced savoir faire: in a virtuous circle of scientific dialogue, greater interdisciplinarity leads to today's Asia scholar making a more substantial contribution to his/her 'home' discipline. Below, I shall argue the case for political science. David Camroux study of Southeast Asia in which he underlines the importance of state institutions and political parties in determining equitable outcomes, an argument applicable outside of the region. 11 All three place emphasis on the role of external forces and particularly on the immediate post-World War II period of decolonization as being a watershed in the path dependencies they describe. This insight is also crucial in Ja Ian Chong's, a Singaporean based academic's, nuanced comparative study of state formation in Indonesia and Thailand, as well as China. 12 Three of the above volumes have been published by Cambridge University Press, which has emerged as the most exciting publisher in the area of Southeast Asian politics. CUP has also just published an edited volume by one of the three editors of the 2008 Stanford publication, Erik Martinez Kuhonta, who with Allen Hickens brings together a representative group of younger political scientists to discuss political parties in Asia in a conceptually rich way. 13 CUP has also published two textbooks by more senior scholars, Jacques Bertrand and Bruce Gilley, both of which attest to the mainstreaming of the new scholarship in Southeast Asian politics. 14 This is also the case in two comparative overviews of the state of democracy throughout Asia, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2010 and 2014. 15 Routledge, alongside Palgrave Macmillan, the main British non-university press publishers, have contributed to this flowering of political science research on Southeast Asia by bringing to a much wider audience the work of a number of dynamic European political scientists: Marco Bunte, Aurel Croissant, Dirk Tomsa and Andreas Ufen. 16 Their work, like that of a previously German-based academic Mark Thompson, 17 is significant both in its comparative dimension and also in its delving into European political science traditions. Routledge has also has been very active in publishing the work of Asian 18 and Australian scholars. 19 In crossing disciplinary boundaries, anthropology has become even more central to the research agenda of political scientists as evidenced in an edited volume published in 2012 on Southeast Asian Perspectives on Power. 20 Terence Lee at the National University of Singapore draws on anthropology in his study of military responses to popular protests in Asia, and in doing so provides theoretical insights that are salient beyond the Asian cases he examines. 21 A mere seven years following the Stanford volume, to simply provide a measure of how far we have come, allow me to mention the fourth, very recently published volume in the Routledge Handbook collection devoted to Southeast Asia. 22 Edited by William Case, a prolific writer from the intermediate generation, 23 and entitled the Routledge Handbook of Democratization in Southeast Asia, it is a representative display of 'the state of the art', theoretically rigorous and resolutely comparative. To conclude, in order to provide for the busy reader a very recent, readily available, example that supports the central argument of this brief overview: an extended article by Marcus Mietzner on the presidency of Joko Widido (Jokowi) in Indonesia published online by the East West Center. 24 Mietzner, a Canberra-based European scholar who along with Edward Aspinall and Greg Fealy has made the ANU a mecca for the study of Indonesian politics. In this article Mietzner, by postulating a concept of 'technocratic populism' to describe Jokowi's praxis, and juxtaposing this with other theoretical arguments drawn essentially from Latin America, demonstrates how the vibrant Southeast Asian political experience requires us to rethink a number of assumptions and interpretations based on observations in other regions of the world.
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hal-03652365 , version 1 (26-04-2022)


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David Frederic Camroux. Globalizing comparative political science research on Southeast Asia The Focus. [Research Report] 35, International Institute for Asian Studies. 2015. ⟨hal-03652365⟩
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