The 4th Session of “Area Studies Across the Boundaries: Southeast Asian Studies”: Area Studies in Asia Epistemologies and Trajectories

On the afternoon of October 30th, 2020, Prof. Maitrii Aung-Thwin, Associate Professor at the Department of History, National University of Singapore (NUS) and initiatior of the Comparative Asia Studies Program (CAS) at NUS, delivered an online lecture entitled “Area Studies in Asia Epistemologies and Trajectories” to more than 70 participants from inside and outside Institute of International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU). It is also the fourth session of “Area Studies Across the Boundaries: Southeast Asian Studies” hosted by IIAS.

Centered at the theme of “Across the Boundaries”, this event was comprised of four sections, namely “Origin of Area Studies”, “Case Study of Southeast Asian Studies”, “Post-Area Studies” and “Area Studies in Asia”. In the first session, Prof. Maitrii Aung-Thwin briefly reviewed the origin and development of area studies and reflected on the effectiveness of area studies as a means of knowledge production. In the second section, he elaborated the changes of area study practices in the context of post-colonialism, i.e., the Second World War and the Cold War, and pointed out the key contributions and limitations of area studies in this period. In the last two sections, Prof. Maitrii Aung-Thwin summarized three trajectories challenging the model of area studies in US as well as the efforts and potentials of the academic community to transcend the boundaries of nation-states through these three trajectories. Finally, he discussed the contributions of different categories of area studies in Asia to knowledge construction and new research targets that will be brought about by the integration of Asia.

Prof. Tim Niblock, Professor Emeritus of Exeter University and Member of the Academic Committee at IIAS, was invited as a panelist. In addition to reviewing and commenting on the key points of the lecture, Prof. Niblock also stressed the importance of comparative studies across areas and promoting global cooperation in Southern research.

During the Q&A session, Professor. Maitrii Aung-Thwin discussed with the audience on how to face the challenges of the requirements on interdisciplinary knowledge and how to comment the over-policy tendency in the area studies in China, which greatly inspired the audience.

Prof. Maitrii Aung-Thwin is Associate Professor at the Department of History, National University of Singapore, initiator of the Comparative Asia Studies Program (CAS), Director of the Myanmar Research Foundation in United States, Member of SEASREP Program Committee, Deputy Director of Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore and Editor of Journal of Southern Asian Studies. His research interest includes national construction, public history, infrastructure and Buddhist networks in South and Southeast Asia. He is the author of A History of Myanmar since Ancient Times: Traditions and Transformations (2013), The Return of the Galon King: History, Law, and Rebellion in Colonial Burma (2011) and A New History of Southern Asia (2010).

By: Qin Yi