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Comparing Modernities: Is Southeast Asia Unique?

Comparing Modernities: Is Southeast Asia Unique?


  • Joel Kahn

This series of talks will explore a number of issues which have arisen from a study of ethnogenesis, identity formation, state building, religious reform, and socio-economic "modernization" in selected regions of insular and peninsular Southeast Asia in the (late) modern period (late 19th century to the present).  Clearly, none of these broad thematic areas can be adequately studied on its own.

This talk is the first in a series of 3 lectures and explores the theme of modernity, specifically by asking whether we can or should speak of a distinctively Southeast Asian form, pattern, structure or trajectory of modernity - a question which arises out of the ‘revisionist' literature on so-called alternative modernities.

Among Joel S. Kahn's many books are Other Malays (2006), Modernity and Exclusion (2001), Southeast Asian Identities (ed., 1998), Culture, Multiculture, Postculture (1995), and Constituting the Minangkabau (1993). His other writings include "State, Region, and the Politics of Recognition" (forthcoming in National Integration and Regionalism in Indonesia and Malaysia). He is an elected Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and has held appointments at Monash University and University College London, among other institutions. He serves or has served as an editorial board member of Critique of Anthropology, Current Anthropology, and Ethnicities. His doctorate is from the London School of Economics and Political Science.