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For Whom are Southeast Asian Studies?

  • Physical Sciences Building, Cornell University, Room 120 245 East Avenue Ithaca, NY 14850 (map)

Which audiences, publics, and peoples do Southeast Asianists address and serve? The question of “audience(s)”—real and imagined, intended and unintended—is arguably central to (re)conceptualizing the rationale, scope, efficacy, and limits of Southeast Asian Studies. It has an important bearing on what kind of topics are chosen for study, what and how personal and institutional networks and intellectual exchanges are mobilized, which dialogues and collaborations are initiated, what language(s) one writes in, where one publishes or works, which arenas one intervenes in, and how the region is imagined and realized. I focus on Jose Rizal’s two novels--Noli me tangere (1887) and El filibusterismo (1891)--and Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983, 1991, 2006) and examine the ways in which the issue of audience(s) crucially informed the intellectual projects of the two authors, and how the vicissitudes of production, circulation, translation, and reception shaped the intellectual, political, and artistic trajectories and legacies of these three notable Southeast Asian studies texts. I will also discuss the power of these texts to conjure and call forth unexpected and unintended audiences that have the potential to galvanize Southeast Asian studies while stressing the connected histories that link Southeast Asia to other regions and the world.

Caroline S. Hau is Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, Japan. Born in Manila, she was educated at the University of the Philippines and Cornell University. She is the author and (co-)editor of more than thirteen books, including Necessary Fictions: Philippine Literature and the Nation, 1946-1980The Chinese Question: Ethnicity, Nation, and Region in and beyond the Philippines; (with Kasian Tejapira) Traveling Nation-Makers: Transnational Flows and Movements in the Making of Modern Southeast Asia; and Elites and Ilustrados in Philippine Culture.  She has published a novel, Tiempo Muerto, and two volumes of short fiction, Recuerdos de Patay and Other Stories and Demigods and Monsters: Stories.  

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Earlier Event: October 24
ISG 2019 Lemkin Award and Lecture