Social and Cultural Geographies of South East Asia

Bunnell, Tim, Kong, Lily, and Law, Lisa (2007) Social and Cultural Geographies of South East Asia. In: Kitchin, Rob, (ed.) Mapping Worlds: international perspectives on social and cultural geographies. Routledge, New York, NY, USA, pp. 131-145.

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It makes little sense to talk of a South-East Asian region of social and cultural geography. At least two factors inhibit this kind of generalization. First, critical analyses of area studies emphasize how colonial histories and cold war geopolitics have constructed South-East Asia as an object of knowledge for Western academics and policy makers (see e.g. Anderson 1998; Emerson 1984). Any investigation that uses South-East Asia as a heuristic device must therefore take seriously the production of area knowledge as part of the analysis, as well as the partiality and situatedness of that knowledge. Second, geographies of ‘regional’ difference obscure ‘internal’ diversity and complexity, including differences between—but also within—nations. If South-East Asia emerged more in relation to Anglo-American power and interests than to some indigenously defined and experienced regionalism (Anderson 1998: 3), then how can we generalize across these diverse national contexts? We might also query the extent to which a national agenda is able to envision different spatial configurations such as ‘cross-cutting areas, the worldwide honeycomb of borderlands, or the process geographies of transnational flows’ (van Schendel 2002: 647) that constitute social and cultural life in South-East Asia. These too may be productive sites of knowledge production in the fields of social and cultural geography. We proceed to write despite these caveats, and despite the original invitation by editors of this journal to write about social and cultural geographies of individual countries. We do so in the hope that our insights might serve as catalysts for debate both within South-East Asia and beyond and, more pointedly, in the hope that using this heuristic device allows us to foreground the situatedness and partiality, the complexity and embeddedness of knowledge.

Item ID: 11520
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-0-415-49490-8
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Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2010 05:21
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1604 Human Geography > 160403 Social and Cultural Geography @ 50%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200202 Asian Cultural Studies @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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