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Below is a list of the past winners of the AAS Southeast Asia Council (SEAC) Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies:

2014 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Erik Harms: Saigon's Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City (University of Minnesota Press, 2012)

Erik Harm's Saigon's Edge offers a fascinating picture of daily life in the margins of the modern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City by exploring the notion of 'social edginess' in present day Vietnam: how do people live their lives at the interface of the urban and the rural, and how do they make sense of what could be called a mutual marginality? The book is a provocative exercise in combining descriptions of an ethnographic character with reflections on theoretical issues. Vignettes that illustrate how individuals and collectivities rely on conventional binary oppositions to make sense of the fast-changing world around them are embedded in philosophical musings about the ever shaky notions of spatiality and temporality in present day social life.

The book offers a series of original ideas about continuity and change in the daily life of Vietnamese people in the beginning of the 21st century, and it does so in an open-ended style addressing socio-economic developments and cultural life in Vietnam and Southeast Asia as a whole. The interactions between countryside and city should remain a central point of study and reflection, and Harms' book should serve as an inspiring guide to all of us.

Selection Committee: Henk Maier, Chair (UC-Riverside); Shawn McHale; Anne Hansen; Andrew Willford

2013 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Ronit Ricci: Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia (University of Chicago Press, 2011)

In Islam Translated, Ronit Ricci invites scholars to re-imagine the deep cultural shift that gave Insular Southeast Asia its Muslim character. Where others credit travel, trade and politics, Ricci listens closely to the past to hear how language and literature Islamicized the Islands. Recovering that creative moment, she astutely discerns how translation and conversion fed on each other. Looking outward yet inward, artists and audiences embraced the wider Muslim world while engaging local customs to create a new sensibility for a new religion. In recreating this day, Ricci builds on Sheldon Pollock's concept of a Sanskrit cosmopolis to argue for a later Arabic cosmopolis linking Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. In this translocal Islamic community, arising after Indianization but before colonization, inspired artists and self-effacing translators created an Islamic literary and religious heritage that Ricci's scholarship opens to a global audience.

Her well-chosen window on this sea change, the Book of One Thousand Questions, recalls how the Prophet Muhammad answered the queries of a Jewish scholar who then converts. In tracing this tale over centuries and across continents, the author's mastery of Arabic, Tamil, Javanese, and Malay sources, not to mention her discerning use of Dutch secondary sources, marks this as a work of clear erudition that speaks to scholars everywhere. For imaginative breadth and scholarly depth, for capturing the artistry of the past to enrich the present, and for widening our horizons as Harry Benda did, Islam Translated receives the 2013 Benda Prize.

Selection Committee: Richard O'Connor (Chair), Nancy Eberhardt, Henk Maier, Shawn McHale.

2012 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Karen Strassler: Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java (Duke University Press, 2010)

Karen Strassler's Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java provides an illuminating new lens for viewing the modern history of Indonesia: photography. The book begins in the early 20th century with amateur photographers of immigrant Chinese ancestry, whose work provided a medium for the making of new forms of modern subjectivity and imagined community on Java. After independence, these photographers were increasingly drawn into the orbit of the Indonesian state and its efforts to promote national integration, 'development', and tourism, especially under Suharto's New Order. With democratization and globalization at the turn of the 21st century, amateur photography expanded and evolved with new efforts to capture the ongoing transformations of Indonesian society. Thus, Strassler shows, cosmopolitan 'Chinese-Indonesian' photographers have played a key role in the making of Indonesian national consciousness and the (re)production of images of asli (authentic, indigenous) Indonesia.

At the same time, Refracted Visions notes other important ways in which photography has figured in modern Indonesia. Photography has served as dokumentasi: in the state's surveillance of its citizens (e.g. through identity cards), in the reproduction of hegemonic ideologies of family and gender relations (e.g. through wedding photographs), and in the contested terrain of historiography. Covering the broad landscape of modern Indonesian history, and capturing snapshots of lived experience through wide-ranging ethnographic and documentary research, Karen Strassler's Refracted Visions provides a highly evocative, beautifully illustrated, elegantly framed, and brilliantly developed new picture of modern Indonesian history and society, amply deserving of this year's Harry J. Benda Prize.

Selection Committee: John T. Sidel (Chair), Nancy Eberhardt, Henk Maier, Richard O'Connor.

2011 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Jeffrey Hadler: Muslims and Matriarchs: Cultural Resilience in Indonesia through Jihad and Colonialism (Cornell University Press, 2009)

In Muslims and Matriarchs, Jeffrey Hadler provides a rich social history of the Minangkabau of West Sumatra. Elegantly written, it is an illuminating study of change in the realms of gender relations, public and private space, intellectual life, religion, politics and society. Steeped in the scholarship of the region, Hadler worked closely and creatively with both historical records and contemporary realities, and his book offers a rich mix of sources and analytical approaches to the Minangkabau of West Sumatra, and to the broader Muslim community of the Indonesian archipelago.

Muslims and Matriarchs traces the patterns of continuity and change that have characterized modern Minangkabau history, stretching from the end of the Padri rebellion into the twilight years of Dutch colonial rule in West Sumatra. His primary interest, however, lies largely in broader social changes, in education, gender relations and home life for the Minangkabau. With great nuance and depth, Hadler shows how the Minangkabau "matriarchate" responded creatively to change and to the forces of capitalism and modernity by questioning elemental cultural definitions and, as a result, producing some of the country's leading nationalist intellectuals and activists. Thanks to its originality, meticulous research, elegant writing, compelling analysis, and deep reflection on local realities and responses to some of the most significant transformations in modern Indonesian and Southeast Asian history, Hadler's book is this year's distinguished winner of the Benda Prize.

Selection Committee: Nora Taylor (Chair), Nancy Eberhardt, Richard O'Connor, John Sidel.

2010 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Justin Thomas McDaniel, Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words: Histories of Buddhist Monastic Education in Laos and Thailand (University of Washington Press, 2008)

Justin McDaniel’s Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words provides highly original and deeply engaging perspectives on the complex histories of Theravada Buddhism in Laos and Thailand from the 16th century to the present, with particular emphasis on the vicissitudes of monastic education in the two nations, especially in terms of their institutional and curricular development. In pursuit of his myriad objectives, one of which is to present the reader with a compelling history “of textual modes, pedagogical methods, and rhetorical styles,” McDaniel draws upon meticulous archival research (conducted in Laos, Thailand, Singapore, France, Great Britain, and the United States), amazing linguistic virtuosity (involving advanced competence in Lao, Thai, Pali, Sanskrit, Portuguese, and French, for example) and extensive familiarity with theoretical and other debates ranging across a number of scholarly disciplines (e.g., history, literature, anthropology, Buddhist studies, post-colonial studies). He also builds in significant ways on his extensive personal experience as an ordained monk in Laos, thus giving his descriptions and analyses a certain kind of “experience-near” perspective that would be otherwise largely impossible.

The result is, on the one hand, a sophisticated, paradigm-challenging argument about continuities and transformations in monastic education and interpretive communities which reveals something profoundly simple at its core (and which should be of great interest to scholars of Islamic education in Southeast Asia and beyond); and, on the other, elegant scholarly writing that moves nimbly between the esoteric and the down-to-earth. More generally, the book has the interdisciplinary reach, comparative breadth, theoretical sophistication, and overall originality that distinguish the winner of the Benda Prize.

Selection Committee: Michael Peletz (Chair); James Rush; John Sidel; Nora Taylor

2009 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Penny Edwards, Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation, 1860–1945 (University of Hawaii Press, 2007)

In Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation, Penny Edwards examines brilliantly the metamorphosis of the kingdom of Cambodia into the French-Khmer colonial entity of Cambodge—the chrysalis from which today’s Cambodia has emerged. Demonstrating a masterful command of scholarship and of archival, literary, and popular sources, Edwards reveals not a simple dance of colonial domination and resistance but an array of complex collaborations through which Khmer subjects adapted, and embraced as their own, processes set in train by the French: to iconize and secularize Angkor Vat; to promote a Khmer Buddhism separate from Thai influence and free of hoary superstitions; and to root “Khmerness” both in a romanticized antiquity and France-led modernity.

In a narrative that is elegantly crafted and ultimately gripping, Edwards links the colonial world of schools, research institutes, and print culture and of museums, monuments, and tourism to the post-colonial nation-building projects of Sihanouk, Lon Nol, and Pol Pot. In doing so, she brings legibility to highly theorized subjects such as hybridity, authenticity, and nationalism and both complicates and enriches our understanding of the colonial era and its legacies in modern Southeast Asia—demonstrating, as Harry J. Benda did, how rigorous historical scholarship can expose surprising ways in which the past is complicit in the present.

Selection Committee: James Rush (Chair); Henk Schulte Nordholt; Michael Peletz; Nora Taylor.


2008 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Matthew Cohen: The Komedie Stamboel: Popular Theatre in Colonial Indonesia, 1891-1903 (Center for International Studies, Ohio University, 2006)

Matthew Cohen’s book traces the life of the pioneering Eurasian theatre actor and director Auguste Mahieu and the history of his Komedie Stamboel theatre between 1891 and 1903. Based on extensive research of old newspapers and other archival sources Cohen brings the adventures of the theatre and its performances back to life. Through its evocative prose, the book draws the reader into the theatres where we watch Komedie Stamboel, as it were, through the eyes of the audience and share its excitement. We witness a variety of performances – including Arabian Nights, Sleeping Beauty, Aida and political allegories – while we are also informed about financial fraud, sex scandals, imprisonments, and the other trials and tribulations experienced by members of this popular theatre.

However, the book is about more than theatre. It highlights the emergence of a hybrid modernity within the dynamic context of popular urban culture. Borrowing elements from European opera and Indian theatre, performed in Malay, staged by Eurasians and Chinese, Komedie Stamboel attracted a large multi-ethnic audience. Taking Javanese high culture as their aesthetic standard, colonial authorities looked down upon Komedie Stamboel, just as subsequent generations of scholars largely ignored it. Cohen convincingly demonstrates how this popular theatre helped to create early nationalist attitudes and how it laid the foundation of modern Indonesian culture. At the same time, Cohen situates his topic within a set of wider, global developments, which he elaborates theoretically with great sophistication. Komedie Stamboel is, in short, a highly original, innovative, and utterly fascinating book.

Selection Committee: Henk Schulte Nordholt, Chair; Patricia Pelley; Michael Peletz; James Rush.

C. Patterson Giersch, Asian Borderlands: The Transformation of Qing China’s Yunnan Frontier (Harvard University Press, 2006) was accorded runner-up status.

2007 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Eric Tagliacozzo: Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States along a Southeast Asian Frontier; 1865–1915 (Yale University Press, 2005)

Eric Tagliacozzo’s Secret Trades, Porous Borders is a meticulous history of colonial state-making and transgression at the frontier between the Dutch and British spheres in Southeast Asia. It unveils the reciprocal relationship between the anxieties of the colonial state and the actions of peoples located in or passing through border regions: as the state’s fears regarding threats to its security and revenue led it to construct an increasingly solid border, so a variety of challenges immediately arose. Smugglers, traders, pirates, traffickers, local rulers and the state’s own officers pursued their interests along and across the frontier, simultaneously penetrating and manipulating the border. As the border-making project developed, challenges to state authority were eventually worn down through the deployment of new material and administrative technologies, but state authority remained fragile and contested well into the twentieth century.

Secret Trades, Porous Borders constructs a rich and original inter-imperial history, drawing on intricate research in a variety of archives. Tagliacozzo wonderfully sketches a dynamic world, weaving the details into a clear and coherent story. His work confirms the importance of borders for the state-making project, but vividly demonstrates that what actually happens in the process is far more complex than narratives of the ‘territorial’ colonial state would have us believe. The conceptual sophistication and innovation of this book, along with the penetrating reading of archival sources alongside a broad range of other source materials, make an outstanding contribution that promises to change the way we think about state-making in Southeast Asia.

Selection Committee: Natasha Hamilton-Hart, Chair; Panivong Norindr; Patricia Pelley; Henk Schulte Nordholt

Katharine Weigele’s Investing in Miracles: El Shaddai and the Transformation of Popular Catholicism in the Philippines (University of Hawaii Press, 2005) was accorded runner-up status.


2006 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Mary Callahan: Making Enemies: War and State Building in Burma (Cornell University Press, 2003; Singapore University Press, 2004)

Making Enemies is a compelling account of the origins and persistence of military rule in Burma. The book traces a genealogy of state building, highlighting the conditions of civil and military conflict, ideological contention, foreign military incursion and the politicization of ethnic difference that surrounded the development of the Burmese military as an institution and its takeover of government. Mary Callahan further shows how the military reconstituted itself as a governing power, one that was fundamentally distrustful of the civilian population, hostile to democracy, and contemptuous of human rights and constitutional government. She makes an argument about the conditions that set the stage for enduring military rule in Burma that is original, convincing and richly substantiated. This account is further enriched by the author’s unusual access to, and insightful use of, both archival and interview sources.

Mary Callahan’s thoughtful and forceful analysis illuminates a case of great intrinsic importance. More than forty million people are disenfranchised by military rule in Burma, hence understanding the regime’s determination to cling to power at all costs is of more than abstract scholarly interest. Making Enemies not only makes a great contribution to Burma studies but also makes a more generalizable argument that has broader resonances for other situations of military rule and the application of military force in civil conflicts.

Selection Committee: Ward Keeler, Chair; Natasha Hamilton-Hart; Panivong Norindr; Ben Kerkvliet.


2005 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Andrew Hardy: Red Hills: Migrants and the State in the Highlands of Vietnam (Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press/University of Hawaii Press, 2003)

Andrew Hardy, a young scholar educated in England, France, and Australia, has written a marvelous book, Red Hills: Migrants and the State in the Highlands of Vietnam, published by the NIAS Press and University of Hawaii Press. Dr. Hardy adroitly uses heretofore untapped archival material as well as official reports, published materials, and conversations with numerous people in several parts of Vietnam to provide a layered and nuanced account of internal migration from the perspectives of officials and especially migrants themselves.

Covering much of the twentieth century, Dr. Hardy shows how government migration policies and programs during two regimes—French colonial rule and the Communist Party government—actually played out over time and why some succeeded but many failed. Above all, by treating migration as a lived experience, Dr. Hardy vividly conveys in engaging prose how institutions, structures, and historical forces affect but rarely completely determine people’s decisions about whether to stay put or to move to remote, unfamiliar places and how those who do migrate can cope—or fail to cope—with the countless challenges posed by their new circumstances.

Dr. Hardy’s extraordinarily ambitious research and illuminating analysis make this splendid book an outstanding contribution to Southeast Asian studies.

Selection Committee: Ward Keeler, Chair; Natasha Hamilton-Hart; Ben Kerkvliet; Panivong Norindr.


2004 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

William Cummings: Making Blood White: Historical Transformations in Early Modern Makassar (University of Hawaii Press, 2002)

Making Blood White shows how much history matters not only to contemporary scholars but to any group of people, even people as apparently remote from us as Makassarese of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Because so much is at stake in the present in how people conceive of their past, William Cummings urges us to attend carefully to the process of history-making itself. In early modern Makassar, the advent of literacy and so of local historical writings changed the stories Makassarese told themselves about who they were, what bound them together, and what distinguished them from others. Written texts became forces in how the past was understood and so became agents in what happened next; an evolution in historical consciousness affected the direction history then took.

History is never uninterested, and the direction Makassarese history took—as a social elite proclaimed its own blood white, Gowa the model polity, and stratification the essence of its culture—will not surprise scholars familiar with Southeast Asia. What is refreshing and artful in Cummings’ account is rather the judicious way in which he draws on the Makassarese example to contribute to ongoing debates about topics of great and general import: the sources of change in Southeast Asian history, the consequences of literacy, and the possibility of writing an accurate history of any region. With elegance and grace, Cummings makes an apparently abstruse topic deeply compelling and demonstrates that we must attend to how other people have gone about writing their own history if we are to make reasoned suggestions about how we might understand that history for ourselves.


2003 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Peter Zinoman: The Colonial Bastille: A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862–1940 (University of California Press, 2001)

Peter Zinoman has written an absorbing, masterful book. The colonial Bastille was a hybrid creature, born of the need to lock up people who opposed the French and to provide detention facilities for other criminals. This meant that the archipelago of prisons, scattered across the separately administered components of what is now Vietnam, was also a hybrid of French penological ideas that developed over time and time-honored local notions of punishment and redemption.

The prisons nurtured tens of thousands of anti-colonial patriots. These men (and more rarely, women) saw imprisonment as a badge of honor. Most of the leaders of the Indo-China Communist Party (Ho Chi Minh a notable exception) served time in the colonial gulag, where they read widely, shared ideas, gained confidence and honed their revolutionary skills. They also made thousands of converts. All of this went on under the very noses of the French. The "colonial gaze" was, in this case at least, wandering and astigmatic.

Zinoman shows us that the colonial prison system was also a recognizably colonial facility, run for colonial reasons and filled with all sorts of people. In vivid and persuasive prose he draws a Dickensian picture of a teeming institution. He also shows us how much colonial archives, Vietnamese memoirs, local newspapers, and secondary sources can reveal, when so artfully deployed by someone who can only be described (since this is his first book) as a born writer.

The Colonial Bastille makes an outstanding contribution to Vietnamese historiography and to comparative studies of colonialism. It is a work of mature, accessible scholarship. It’s even fun to read.


2002 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies

Mark Bradley: Imagining Vietnam and America (University of North Carolina Press, 2000)

Imagining Vietnam and America is a limpid, closely argued study of American and Vietnamese images, perceptions and misperceptions of each other in the decades before the two nations went to war. Mark Bradley shows us how an anti-colonial strand in American thinking in the 1930s and 1940s was accompanied by the disdainful notion that the Vietnamese, like the Filipinos, needed more foreign help before they could become independent. Drawing on an impressive range of American, British, French and Vietnamese archival sources, he explains how these conflicting ideas, tinged with racialist superiority, helped to form U.S. policies toward Vietnam at the time and influenced American thinking later on.

Bradley also reveals how Vietnamese intellectuals imagined the United States and its history before and during World War II. Using unexploited Vietnamese language materials and interviews with Vietnamese, he shows us how occasionally na´ve ideas (about American anti-colonialism, for example) were overtaken by revolutionary fervor and a growing competence in realpolitik. He closes his absorbing narrative in 1950, when American and Vietnamese images and perceptions of each other were drowned out by the cacophony of the Cold War.

Imagining Vietnam and America makes a deft and substantial contribution to a crowded field of study. It is hard to believe that it is Bradley’s first book. It reads like the work of a major historian, writing at the top of his form, and for this reason, as well as for its gracefulness, reach and depth, it fully merits the prize it has been given.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 2001

Fanella Cannell: Power and Intimacy in the Christian Philippines (Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Fanella Cannell’s recent book is a many faceted gem. First, Cannell explores family dynamics revolving around a preoccupation with siblingship, and shows that, while no one lives unfettered from kinship’s webs of obedience and obligation, subservience can often be parlayed into power. Second, the book reveals that traditional healers and their spirit helpers do not simply exist along side the Catholic faith, but rather borrow and shape the imagery of Christ’s death and resurrection for their own uses. The third facet of the book, a kind of peep show , takes the reader to transvestite beauty pageants and uncovers there the conflation of female beauty with status.

For dispelling the myth that the Philippines has no culture, for revealing a cultural logic by which submission and sacrifice seem paradoxically powerful, for showing the concordance between Catholic piety and the placation of spirits of old, and for demonstrating with understated eloquence that the Philippines’ culture and history are, after all, thoroughly Southeast Asian, Power and Intimacy in the Christian Philippines wins the Benda Prize for 2001.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 2000

Suzanne April Brenner: The Domestication of Desire: Women, Wealth, and Modernity in Java (Princeton University Press, 1998)

The Domestication of Desire, an historically grounded ethnography of an urban neighborhood, takes us inside the once splendid homes of merchant families who produced and sold batik. Lucid prose pulls us happily along—two weddings, crowded markets, and pilgrimages to ancestors’ graves. By the time the last chapter closes, readers can feel the fabric of life in this local setting, but have come to question, also, some general presuppositions, such as the idea that the domestic and the public are separate spheres. Gendered power differences are far more ambiguous here than they appear at first glance. Men and women discipline themselves, and persons’ internalized concepts and values reproduce social patterns within families, within the local economy and community, and in the community’s relation to the nation-state. This book asks us to think about what modernity means, and how it is that, over time, the modern slips inexorably into the unmodern. In short, what begins modestly as a fine-grained examination of the local becomes a thoughtful commentary on issues of global and theoretical import.

Like a refined batik wrought meticulously with a steady hand, The Domestication of Desire withstands the closest scrutiny of its exquisite detail, then pleases again when the viewer steps back—dots and lines converge into bigger patterns. For this pleasurable reminder of what ethnography at its best can be, Suzanne April Brenner wins the Harry J. Benda Prize for the year 2000.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1999

Laurie Sears: Shadows of Empire: Colonial Discourse and Javanese Tales (Duke University Press, 1997)

Shadows of Empire: Colonial Discourse and Javanese Tales casts Javanese shadow theatre in a new light. Laurie Sears creatively combines historical and ethnographic strategies to illuminate the interplay of political, scholarly, and artistic practices that have shaped wayang conventions and performance over the past two centuries. Villages and palaces, colonial bureaus and scholarly archives, pulpits and bully pulpits, novels, comic books, and tourist literature—all have been critical sites in the development of wayang storytelling. By attending to the dynamics of power across colonial, revolutionary, and post-colonial contexts, Sears highlights influences on wayang performance that have hitherto remained obscure. These include the colonial suppression of Islam, the impact of the European philological tradition, the convergence of Theosophical tenets and Javanese nationalism, as well as shifting forms of patronage and the ongoing inventiveness of wayang performers themselves.

In both the substance of her argument and the implications of her approach, Laurie Sears has given scholars across many fields much to ponder. We are pleased to present to her the 1999 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1998

Kenneth George: Showing Sign of Violence (University of California Press, 1996)

Just when one thought that nothing more could be said about headhunting in Southeast Asia, Ken George has written an intellectually far-ranging book about a headhunting ritual in highland Sulawesi. Showing Sign of Violence provides a thought-provoking reexamination of scholarly attempts to explain headhunting narratives and rituals so familiar from this part of the world. Eschewing the casual logics set forth by earlier generations of scholars, George convincingly shows how the uplanders of Bambang use ritual to redress, if only through performance, their unfavorable position in relation to their economically and politically advantaged coastal neighbors. In developing his fine-grained analysis of a local tradition of ritual violence, George weaves together a range of ongoing scholarly conversations concerning ritual language and performance, history and narrative, culture and emotion, gender relations, and the uneasy status of minority communities in Indonesia.

In recognition of the high quality of his ethnographic research, his theoretical engagement of diverse themes in Southeast Asian Studies, and his successful efforts to develop the broad implications of a local ritual form, we are pleased to award the 1998 Harry J. Benda Prize to Kenneth George.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1997

Nancy Florida: Writing the Past, Inscribing the Future: History as Prophecy in Colonial Java (Duke University Press, 1995)

Equally comfortable discussing Javanese poetics, royal genealogy, and Dutch colonial politics, Nancy Florida takes as her point of departure the Babad Jaka Tingir, a work of historical prophecy written in the 19th century by a colonial exile. Florida’s careful translation of this hitherto overlooked text and her authoritative study of the literary tradition and historical context in which it was produced represent a magisterial combination of interpretive insights and theoretical approached from the discipline of literature, anthropology, and history. Heeding its author’s urging that readers approach old texts with "quiet passion," Florida employs a dialogic strategy for reading his work and reveals how it not only disrupts conventional royal genealogy, but also undermines the historiographical claims of the colonized center. This strategy, she suggests, opens up a space for modern scholars to write history from the margin and from the bottom up, and to reconfigure postcolonial history.

Writing the Past, Inscribing the Future: History as Prophecy in Colonial Java will be read with profit by Indonesianists as well as others outside the field of Southeast Asian studies. We are delighted to present the 1997 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies to Nancy Florida for a work that successfully marries erudition to passion and builds bridges to both the past and the future.

Selection Committee: Hue-Tam Ho Tai (Chair), Jane M. Atrkinson, Jean-Paul Dumont, Vicente Rafael, Frank E. Reynolds.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1996

Janet Hoskins: The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on Calendars, History, and Exchange (University of California Press, 1993)

In her book The Play of Time, anthropologist Janet Hoskins focuses her attention on the multiple and changing temporalities that have informed the culture, society, and individual lives of the Kodi people who inhabit a portion of Sumba, a small island in eastern Indonesia. She attends especially to the revolution in time and consciousness that has occurred as this small-scale society has been drawn into the broader world of the Indonesian state and into global interaction. Hoskins’ work combines superb ethnography, an extremely high level of theoretical sophistication, and a remarkable component of humanistic sensitivity. The result is a book of serious reflection that creatively challenges and extends many aspects of the best previous scholarship in a variety of areas, including ritual studies, exchange theory, and the dynamics of modernization and local resistance. On such bases, the Selection Committee is happy to confer on Dr. Janet Hoskins the 1996 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies.

Selection Committee: Jean-Paul Dumont (Chair), Frank E. Reynolds, Hue-Tam Ho Tai, Kohar Rony.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1995

Thongchai Winichakul: Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-body of a Nation (Hawaii, 1994)

In the book Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-body of a Nation (Hawaii, 1994), Thongchai Winichakul—an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin at Madison—explores the genesis, constitution, and presence of Thai nationhood. With astonishing intellectual penetration, Thongchai traces the cultural, political and military aspects of the confrontation and conflict between two "geographical discourses": a pre-modern, indigenous one, and a modern one, of Western origins, intimately associated with nationhood, national boundaries, and national identity. In telling his story of the encounters and struggles through which the latter discourse displaced the former, Thongchai generates a number of remarkably original insights into the dynamics of Siamese/Thai history in the 19th and 20th centuries. With Siam Mapped, Thongchai presents an exciting and fertile new approach to the emergence of modern nationhood and nationalism. On such basis, the Selection Committee is happy to confer on Dr. Thongchai Winichakul for his Siam Mapped the 1995 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1994

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing: In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in an Out-of-the-Way Place (Princeton, 1993)

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University in 1984. She has taught at the University of Colorado, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she is currently Assistant Professor. The impact of her remarkable book, In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in an Out-of-the-Way Place (Princeton, 1993) will be felt much beyond the field of Southeast Asian Studies.

Drawing on recent theoretical developments in feminism, cultural studies, and anthropology, Dr. Tsing focuses in that book on the Meratus Dayaks of southeastern Kalimantan, Indonesia to show that marginality is not merely an "ethnographic feature," but a creative space of cultural production and negotiation, alive with contradictions and possibilities for parody and resistance. Her study constitutes a radical reframing of the anthropology of dynamic centers and stagnant peripheries, of hegemonic states and "out-of-the way" peoples, and perhaps most strikingly, of "the fantasized gulf between the West and its other" (p. 13 in her book). This gulf is persuasively collapsed by Dr. Tsing’s skillful treatment of her won role in this story of the construction and expression of marginality in relationship to others, from Indonesian officials and Japanese lovers to American ethnographers.

As Dr. Tsing attests, gender is a prominent dimension of marginality. In the Realm of the Diamond Queen also breaks new narrative ground as Dr. Tsing experiments – and playfully engages the readers with conventions of social science writing.

The Committee commends Dr. Tsing for a book which not only challenges so much established scholarship and writing but which also provides new ways of thinking about the global, the local, and their interconnections; and about the persistence of dreams and curiosity amid ever-shifting landscapes and ever-present violence. On such basis, the Selection Committee is happy to confer on Dr. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing for her In the Realm of the Diamond Queen the 1994 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1992

Ann Laura Stoler: Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra’s Plantation Belt, 1870–1979 (New Haven, 1985)

The Association for Asian Studies and its Southeast Asia Council are pleased to award you the 1992 Harry J. Benda Prize. The Benda Prize was inaugurated in 1977 to honor outstanding achievement in every field and country specialization in Southeast Asian studies. It is intended to encourage the work of younger scholars of all nationalities with whom we are proud to associate ourselves as Southeast Asianists.

The Selection Committee took special note of your first major book Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra’s Plantation Belt, 1870–1979 (New Haven, 1985) which it considered a groundbreaking social history of Javanese peasants, both in Java and Sumatra. They commend you for the way in which your work so directly confronts the processes of modern historical change as they have affected a traditional culture.

The Committee wishes to commend you for the quality of your scholarship which is distinguished by its creative combination of approaches taken from anthropology, history, and literary theory. More generally, you are recognized for your creative contributions in our understanding of the struggle between the forces of imperialism and the ordinary people of Southeast Asia. You have thrown new light on the history of the development of national cultures throughout the region. On the basis of this contribution, the Selection Committee is happy to confer on you the Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1991

Ward Keeler: Javenese Shadow Play, Javanese Selves (Princeton, 1987)

The Association for Asian Studies and its Southeast Asia Council are pleased to award you the 1991 Harry J. Benda Prize. The Benda prize was inaugurated in 1977 to honor outstanding achievement in every field and country specialization in Southeast Asian studies. It is intended to encourage the work of younger scholars of all nationalities with whom we are proud to associate ourselves as Southeast Asianists.

In making its decision, the Selection Committee paid special attention to your work, Javenese Shadow Play, Javanese Selves (Princeton, 1987), on Javanese cultural performance. In that study you show equal sensitivity to aesthetic and social dimensions, presenting Japanese drama and art forms as a tradition in their own right. This book on wayang places you in the school of interpretive anthropology, but it also draws upon the historical and linguistic skills you so well demonstrated in your earlier volume Javanese: A Cultural Approach (Athens, Ohio: 1984). Your research interests in Java, and now Burma, convey a more encompassing regional perspective and contribute substantially to the study of Southeast Asia.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1989

Chandra Muzzafar

The winner of the Benda Prize competition for 1989 is Dr. Chandra Muzzafar of Malaysia, an outstanding scholar who has written three books and several articles which concentrate on two of the most significant issues in Malaysian politics and society—race and democracy. On both topics, he provided his readers with new information and critical analysis and gave them new understanding of these important subjects. He has made a major contribution to scholarship while addressing his work both to the scholarly community and the society at large. His work was deemed to be original, clearly written and a lasting contribution to the scholarship on Malaysia. His concern with important topics in his society and his strong moral stand on the issues he explored places him in the scholarly and critical tradition of Professor Harry J. Benda, in whose memory this prize is awarded.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1987

Victor B. Lieberman

The Association for Asian Studies and its Southeast Asia Council are pleased to award you the 1987 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asia Studies. The Benda Prize was inaugurated in 1977 to honor outstanding achievement in every field and country specialization in Southeast Asia studies. It is intended especially to encourage the work of younger scholars of all nationalities with whom we are proud to associate ourselves as Southeast Asianists.

I making its decision, the Selection Committee paid special attention to your re-interpretation of events in early Burmese history, included in your Burmese Administrative Cycles: Anarchy and Conquest, c. 1580–1760 (Princeton, N.J. 1984). In that work and in your articles you demonstrated a careful, creative and comprehensive use of Burmese sources, many of them neglected or underutilized by earlier historians. Your introduction of the idea of administrative cycles, as opposed to dynastic cycles, transforms our thinking about Burmese history in a hitherto poorly understood period of time. You have broken new ground and have contributed substantially to the study of Southeast Asia.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1985

Dr. Reynaldo C. Ileto

At the March, 1985 Membership Meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, the Harry J. Benda Prize was awarded to Dr. Reynaldo C. Ileto, Associate Professor of History at the University of the Philippines. The presentation read as follows:

The Harry J. Benda Prize of the Association for Asian Studies is awarded biennially to an outstanding younger scholar in any field of Southeast Asian Studies. The award, which honors one of the pioneering scholars in Southeast Asian Studies, is being made this year for the fifth time. Recipients of the award are selected by a Benda Prize Committee which has been appointed by the Southeast Asia Council. The Committee making the 1985 award consists of Judith Becker, Hildred Geertz, John A. Larkin, William Liddle, James Scott, and Charles Keyes (chair).

The Committee considered fourteen nominees for the award, all of whom were outstanding in one way or another. The members of the committee all regret that we could choose but one recipient. On behalf of the committee I am pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Reynaldo C. Ileto, Associate Professor of History at the University of the Philippines to receive the Benda Prize for 1985. The actual award of the prize will be made at the 1986 annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies which, it is hoped, Dr. Ileto will be able to attend.

Dr. Ileto took his Bachelor’s degree at the Ateneo de Manila University and then his Master’s and Doctorate at Cornell University. In addition to teaching at the University of the Philippines, he has also taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz, the Australian National University, and De La Salle University. He has held recent fellowships from the University of the Philippines, the Social Science Research Council, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Australian National University.

Dr. Ileto began his scholarly career with an interest in the Muslims of the southern Philippines, but subsequently turned primarily to the study of the history of peasant movements in Luzon in the heartland of the Christian Philippines. The results of his researchers have appeared in a number of articles such as "Tagalog Poetry and Perception of the Past in the War against Spain" (1979) and "Orators in the Crowd: Philippine Independence Politics, 1910-1914" (1984) and, most notably, in his book, Pasyon and Revolution: Popular Movements in the Philippines, 1840-1910 (first published in 1979; reprinted in 1982).

In this latter work Dr. Ileto seeks to interpret a number of peasant uprisings in central and southern Luzon with reference to the world as it was understood by these peasants themselves. He sought entry to this world through the Catholic version of the passion of Christ as told in Tagalog epics and enacted in ritual during Holy Week. From the pasyon these Tagalog peasants found a source of power which could be embodied in amulets, called anting-anting, and used most efficaciously by those whose loob or inner selves had been transformed by a process of "renewal and purification." The Catholic religion, introduced into the Philippines in association with the establishment of Spanish colonial rule, became in its idigenized form the basis on which many peasants came to challenge that rule.

In Pasyon and Revolution as well as in much of his other work, Dr. Ileto has drawn on the work of scholars who have worked in other parts of Southeast Asia and has, in turn, contributed significantly to the scholarly discourse of those working throughout the region on similar questions. Even more importantly, Dr. Ileto’s studies, including those dealing with myths rather than the actual life of Jose Rizal, the great early Filipino nationalist leader, have led the way in introducing a new historiographical tradition in the Philippines. Dr. Ileto’s approach to history differs markedly from the dominent "national" his historiographical approach. Dr. Ileto himself has written: "I regard my writings as part of the total conflict or combat over the knowledges that undergird our politics." It is Dr. Ileto’s effort to grasp in their own terms the significance of the actions of those whose history he is writing as well as to attend to how such history might be used for present-day purposes that makes his work so significant. We are certain that Professor Benda himself would have been very pleased that such a scholar as Dr. Ileto has been chosen to receive the award which carries his name.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1983

Dr. Renato Rosaldo: Ilongot Headhunting 1883–1974

The Harry J. Benda Prize of the Association for Asian Studies is awarded biennially to an outstanding younger scholar in any field of Southeast Asian studies. The 1983 Prize winner is Dr Renato Rosaldo, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. Dr Rosaldo received his PhD from Harvard in 1971. He has conducted field research in the Philippines from 1967 to 1969, in 1974, and in 1981, and is the author of Ilongot Headhunting 1883–1974 and many scholarly articles.

In the judgment of the Selection Committee, Renato Rosaldo has produced among the best modern studies of hill peoples in Luzon and has contributed significantly to Philippines studies through his tracing of Ilongot social and cultural patterns with reference to the history of colonial and post-colonial Philippines. Moreover, he has created a new model of anthropological writing, one that is at once ethnographic and historiographic. In his paper "The Rhetoric of Control: Ilongots Viewed as Natural Bandits and Wild Indians," he shows how Philippine-Ilongot relations have been predicated upon differing metaphors concerning the relationships between the "civilized" and the "savage." His approach reaches its culmination in Ilongot Headhunting 1883–1974 . A work that is certain to be a classic, it combines ethnographic and documentary sources to offer new and arresting interpretations of nearly a century of changes in feuding and headhunting practices and settlement and marriage patterns. Rosaldo's own extended search for a deeper comprehension of Ilongot society is incorporated in the text as almost a history within a history, enriching our understanding of his purpose and achievement. Finally, Ilongot Headhunting is a work of literature as well as anthropology and history, beautifully written and produced and accessible to all readers with a serious interest in Southeast Asian peoples and cultures.

Prize Selection Committee: Mary Hollnsteiner, Charles Keyes, Truong Buu Lam, Alexander Woodside, William Liddle (Chair).


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1981

Hyunh Sanh Thong

The Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asia Studies for 1981 is awarded to Huynh Sanh Thong for his signal achievement in bringing to an English-speaking public the classical tradition of Vietnamese poetry in translations that are both graceful and do great credit to the original texts. Huynh Sanh Thong is best known for his translation of the early nineteenth-century epic poem The Tale of Kieu and for his comprehensive anthology of Vietnamese poetic traditions from the tenth to the twentieth century, The Heritage of Vietnamese Poetry. His introduction to the latter is a lucid exposition of Vietnamese poetic conventions and forms which acquaints the reader with the rich diversity of a great literary tradition.

Members of the Selection Committee for the 1981 prize were John Echols, Mary Hollnsteiner, Truong Buu Lam, James Scott (Chair), Alexander Woodside, and David Wyatt. R. William Liddle (Chair of the Southeast Asia Council) and President Eleanor M. Jorden were ex-officio members of the committee.


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1979

Lim Teck Ghee

The Benda Prize for 1979 is awarded to Dr. Lim Teck Ghee, Senior Research Fellow with the Centre for Policy Research of Universiti Sains Malaysia. Dr. Lim is a Malaysian who received the MA degree from the University of Malaya in 1968 and the PhD from the Australian National University in 1971. His work as a historian has centered especially on the changing peasant economy of Malaysia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His most important publications include two books, Origins of a Colonial Economy: Land and Agriculture in Perak 1874–1897 (Penang, 1976), and Peasants and Their Agricultural Economy in Colonial Malaya 1894–1941 (Kuala Lumpur, 1977). His scholarship is informed by a deep sensitivity to the problems of rural society in a rapidly changing world, and tempered by the rigors of social science. His work demonstrates an admirable ability to balance fact and interpretation, and an objectivity that resists transforming human beings into statistics and data. He has broken important new ground, and has contributed substantially to the study of Southeast Asia.

Members of the Selection Committee for the 1979 prize were Daniel S. Lev, James C. Scott, G. William Skinner, Oliver W. Wolters, and David K. Wyatt (Chairperson).


Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies, 1977

Dr. Sartono Kartodirdjo


Dr. Sartono Kartodirdjo, of the Department of History at Gadjah Mada University, Jogjakarta, Indonesia, has been selected as the first recipient of the Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asia Studies for his work on popular protest movements in colonial Java. Professor Sartono, who has degrees from the Universities of Indonesia, Yale, and Amsterdam, is also concerned with Indonesian historiography, and was leader of a UNESCO project on that subject. His several published works include Protest Movements in Rural Java (Oxford University Press, 1972); he is currently working on a multi-volume set of Indonesian textbooks.

The Harry J. Benda Prize was established in memory of that remarkable scholar and teacher to recognize outstanding contributions to the field of knowledge about Southeast Asia. The $500 honorarium Dr. Sartono will receive comes from a fund consisting of contributions from 270 individuals all over the world—many of whom were personal friends colleagues, or students of Harry Benda—as well as generous contributions from Yale and Cornell Universities and the Lee Foundation in Singapore.