Organizer and Chair: Leonard Y. Andaya, University of Hawai'i, Manoa
Discussant: Heather Sutherland, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Direction and Prorities of Reseach in the Philippines
Doreen G. Fernandez, Ateneo de Manila University
The Philippines was twice colonized, and the directions of research were initially set by non-Filipinos. In theater history, the Spaniards Barrantes and Retana concluded that there was no pre-Hispanic theater. What were they looking for? Had they found indigenous theater, would they have had access?
In the social sciences, the first research efforts were by Americans-in English, the language of the educational system established by the American Insular Government. The first history books were by graduates of the system, who had access only to the materials provided. The next generation of (mostly) American scholars included Peace Corps volunteers who had learned Philippine languages, and brought a new angle, access, and direction. Alongside them worked Filipino scholars trained in American and Philippine universities, who had access as "insiders" to information and materials, and asserted their purposes, methods and findings. A recent development is the scholar who rejects Western standards, values and even contributions, insisting that only Filipinos must study the Philippines, and only in the native language.
This paper examines the development of research on the Philippines. Although based on my own experience, it will include that of Filipino and Southeast Asian colleagues, and the directions being charted for research in the region.
Writing Indigenous History in Malaysia: Approaches and Problems
Cheah Boon Kheng, Universiti Sains, Malaysia
In Malaysia the earlier debate over the Europe-centric and Malaysian-centric types of historical writing in the 1950s and 1960s has given way towards a more serious focus on "autonomous" or national history, its methodologies and related problems. Some Malay historians believed (and constructed their national histories on this belief) that the Malay view is the "real" view. Malaysian nationalism, for instance, must be reconstructed on Malay terms; or, the Islamic view should predominate. There are non-Malay Malaysian historians-and some foreign scholars-who claim that writing indigenous or Malaysian history means merely describing or narrating the facts about the past, using more local sources or projecting local actors and their voices. Others believe the work of historians is also to interpret local past, using particular theories. Quite relevant to this debate is the new post-modernist view that there are an infinite number of views possible, all subject to deconstruction, as every piece of historical writing or source is equally a textual construct. The problem then is: can anyone claim priority/privileged status for any particular construction? The paper discusses this debate in Malaysian historiography.
Beyond Authenticism and Academism: Priorities for Future Indonesian Studies
Ariel Heryanto, Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana, Indonesia
The desire for a more authentic or autonomous scholarship in Southeast Asian studies is neither new, nor authentic. Although it may at first appear to be a purely academic concern for a higher level of truth and knowledge, it has increasingly become obvious that this desire expresses a deep anxiety over profound political and ethical questions about the entire scholarship as a whole. These questions refer to the disturbing and perennial discrepancies of power in the relationships between the scholars and those they study.
What is relatively new in the debate is a strong and widespread awareness that the desire is futile. Thanks to post-structuralist thoughts we can see better than before that Southeast Asian studies, or any area studies for that matter, cannot possibly represent or incorporate authentic voices of those they study. Neither can Southeast Asian scholars possibly establish an authentic or autonomous scholarship of their own societies or others. Instead of embracing a sort of nihilism, this awareness leads us to question whether the futility of the desire is to be regretted. Future research needs to engage in a more serious dialogue with contemporary discourses both from cultural studies beyond the confines of area studies, as well as from social movements in specific Southeast Asian contexts.