ABBY COHN: I'm Abby Cohn, and I'm the current director of the Southeast Asia program. And it's my great honor to welcome you to the 11th Frank H Golay memorial lecture. As director, I have the privilege of serving as official host for many of the wonderful programs and events that the program puts on. And this is one of the most special events that we host.
Frank Hindman Golay came to Cornell in 1953 as an assistant professor of economics and Asian studies. Promoted to full professor in 1962, he remained at Cornell until his retirement in 1981. He served as chair of Cornell's department of economics from 1963 to 1967, and director of the Southeast Asia program from 1970 to 1976.
In the latter capacity, and as director of the program's Philippine project and Cornell London Cornell project, he contributed much to strengthening Southeast Asian studies at Cornell. He held visiting professorships at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies from 1965 to '66, and at the University of the Philippines from 1973 to 1974.
For his scholarship on the Philippines, Frank Golay was awarded an honorary LLD degree by the Ateneo de Manila in 1966. He was awarded research fellowships by the Guggenheim and the Luce Foundations, the Social Science Research Council, the National Endowment for Humanities, and the United States Educational Foundation.
He served as chairman of the Philippines Council of the Asia Foundation from 1967-- 1964 to 1967, and also served as the president of the Association for Asian Studies in 1984.
After his death, numerous donors came together to endow this lectureship in Frank Golay's memory, and starting in 1994 with Erik Thorbecke giving the first lecture, through the two most recent given by Ben Anderson in 2012 and Barbara and Leonard Andaya in 2015. The Golay lecture has represented an opportunity to step back and examine the big questions in Southeast Asian studies.
Today, I am doubly honored, because I also have the opportunity to welcome today's speaker, who will be introduced in just a moment, back to Cornell. Caroline Hau was a graduate student at Cornell from 1993 to '98. She was recipient of SEAP's Sharp Prize for her outstanding dissertation "Compromised Nation, Literature, and the Problems of Consciousness in post-colonial Philippines," as well as for her contributions to the program.
And as a graduate student, she also wrote award winning fiction. And throughout her career, she's continued on this dual path of writing and analyzing fiction. I now have the further honor of welcoming my dear colleague and recent SEAP director Tamara Loos, professor and chair of history, herself an alumna of our program, to introduce today's speaker. Thank you.
TAMARA LOOS: Hi there. I think you can all hear me pretty well? Great. Well, as Abby mentioned, my name is Tamara Loos, and I'm a historian here at Cornell. I'm honored to be able to introduce Carol Hau, a professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University, where she's been since 1999.
And 1999 is just a year or two after she graduated from Cornell. For those of you don't know her, she was one of those rare Southeast Asia Program graduate students who obtained their degree, not in anthropology, not in the history department, not in the government department, but in English language and literature, a fact that will not surprise you if you take a look at her writing.
I've had the pleasure of immersing myself in Carol's writing and her scholarship these past weeks. And I mean, immersing, as in what you do when you dive into an ocean. Such is the breadth and the depth of her work. Carol is breathtakingly prolific. She has written five single authored non-fiction books, three works of fiction, eight co-authored or co-edited volumes, 21 book chapters, and 15 journal articles.
In this day and age of quantification, I do not mean to suggest that she's amazing simply because of her seemingly inexhaustible productivity. No, her fiction and her nonfiction are award-winning. She has received the Philippines National Book Award for Literary Criticism four times, most recently in 2019 for Interpreting Resolve, and in 2018 for Elites and Ilustrados.
She has received the Philippine National Book Award for best anthology twice, most recently in 2017 for Remembering/Rethinking Edsa, and for short fiction once, for her 2016 short story anthology Recuerdos de Patay and Other Stories.
In terms of her nonfiction, Carol has published on a broad range of issues. While Southeast Asianists know her best for her sharp analyses of Philippine nationalism and Chinese Filipino identity, you may not know that she has also published about Amy Choua of tiger mom fame, and on feminist science fiction. Octavia Butler's Kindred, which is my personal favorite, as a closet science fiction aficionado.
Carol is an atypical academic in that she writes fiction, good fiction. Her stories are set in small islands, rural Chinese shop houses, constrained rooms, and generous small town cafes in the Philippines, Japan, China, Singapore, and the United States.
She sprinkles her narratives with local patois, and imbues her characters with emotionally layered texture. Moreover, her fiction is unique to Carol and her experiences. Who else would create a kindly ghost who befriends a young boy, who grows up to escape with fellow communists into the jungles of Kezan, where he reads not Camus, not Sartre, but this strange old Irish guy who wrote about Rizal in a book called Imagined Communities.
And although there's much more to say about Carol's intellectual and creative contributions to Southeast Asia, I wanted to also mention that she cares about and has a vision for Southeast Asian studies more broadly. To this end, she sits on 15 editorial boards in addition to serving as editor of Kyoto University's Journal of Southeast Asian Studies.
She is the engine behind many MoUs, linking up universities and institutions in Japan, Southeast Asia, and abroad, including one with Cornell. And Carol intentionally publishes much of her work in the Philippines for an audience there, as well as in Japan, the US, and elsewhere.
Now, the question of audience is very much on her mind today. Next in her lecture on "for whom are Southeast Asian studies?" she asks us to consider the audiences that we as Southeast Asianists have in mind when we write. Please join me in welcoming Professor Carol Hau.
CAROLINE S. HAU: Thank you very much, Tamara, and Abby. And thank you very much to the Southeast Asia program and Cornell community for their warm hospitality, for their friendship and encouragement and support over decades, and above all, for giving me this wonderful opportunity to speak before you today.
The best career advice I ever received came out of my B exam, the oral defense of my dissertation in Goldwyn Smith Hall just across this building 21 years ago.
Among the toughest questions I ever received from my special committee concerned my position in relation to what I was discussing in my dissertation on the role of Philippine literature in the making, unmaking, and remaking of the nation. The question was this, quote, "for whom are you writing?" unquote.
Now, if you're a graduate student defending your dissertation, the answer is a no brainer. Obvious, enough. You're writing for the members of your special committee, your first readers. My committee, however, was already looking beyond the B exam to the time when the dissertation would be turned into a book, and asking me to think seriously about where the book would be published, and who its readers, imagined and actual, would be.
The question of audience, or, as I was soon to realize, audiences in the plural, has stayed with me all these years. The question has shaped the academic career, life, and life decisions I would go on to make. The issue of audiences is, of course, fundamental to the study of language and literature.
As Mikhail Baktin reminds us, quote, "An essential constitutive marker of the utterance is its quality of being directed to someone, its addressivity," unquote. The work, like the rejoinder in dialogue, is oriented toward the response of the other, of others, toward his or her active responsive understanding, which can assume various forms, educational influence on readers, persuasion of them, critical responses, influence on followers and successors, and so on.
The question of audiences is particularly germane to Southeast Asian studies and to area studies more generally, in light of the vicissitudes, trajectories, uncertainties, and challenges of the field.
Who are the, quote, unquote, target audiences of Southeast Asian studies? Are they students, teachers, researchers, policy professionals, bureaucrats, state agencies, politicians, governments, companies, cultural workers, nongovernmental organizations and their workers, activists, the intelligentsia, the educated public, so-called, the general public, various communities, ordinary people, the masses, the people?
More often than not, the target audience is understandably defined by Southeast Asianists, based in educational institutions in the developed world, as largely academic, consisting mainly of students and scholars.
These communities are quite diverse in terms of their disciplines, their areas of expertise, their methodologies, and their concerns. Given the pressures exerted on academia by the new quantification cult, which, sad to say, is embraced by some of the top Southeast Asian universities, the audience is preferably one that is able to read and hopefully also publish in English.
Publishing in English, however, does not guarantee global visibility, let alone impact, as Japanese scholars tell me. There exists a hierarchy in status and prestige when it comes to journal, book, and newspaper publication venues. This idea of a largely anglophone audience for prestige publications generated out of Anglo-American academia has proven to be deeply problematical for scholars born or based in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, who are concerned to address multiple sets of audiences in and across multiple languages.
We now know that the term "Southeast Asia" was a geographic designation before it evolved into a regional concept. We know that it was a theater of World War II, the product of a division of military labor and imperial territory with zones of influence among the Western allies, which explains why Douglas MacArthur put the Philippine Islands under his own command, while Louis Mountbatten included Sri Lanka under his Southeast Asia command.
We know that in the postwar period, it served as a policy arena for American military and political intervention abroad, and a cultural arena of the Cold War battle for hearts and minds. It has since become the basis of a series of region originating interstate mechanisms for security and economic co-operation, for mediating political and territorial issues and DISPUTES and for nurturing a prospective supranational identity.
It is conceived also as a hotspot, fraught with risk, danger, and uncertainty, a hot spot for emerging infectious diseases, a bio cultural hotspot that is home to 20% of the world's plant, animal, and marine species, a blue water hotspot spot, in terms of the consumption and wastage of surface and groundwater resources, a hot spot of land conflicts and boundary, border, and territorial disputes at the local, national, regional, and international levels, a hot spot in the new cold war between mainland China and the United States.
We know that area studies programs in the United States and the so-called West, a concept that often includes Japan, evolved out of the imperative to produce knowledge about areas that are by definition outside, quote, unquote, and spatially, even temporally, epistemically and existentially distinct from the researcher.
We also know that the relationship between area studies specialist and area, between knower and known, is fraught, yet productive in the sense that, as Gavin Walker and Nao [INAUDIBLE] have argued, quote, "Bio power grounds itself in the mechanism of area, as a means to order, combine, separate, and classify life at the distance," unquote.
Claiming that one is doing area studies is in one own's area, that one is studying one's own country or people does not resolve the issue. It raises the vexing question, not only of one's implication in the will to knowledge and governmentality, but to me the even more vexing questions of how one goes about making, doing, belonging to any community or place, what claims are made on one by places and people in that process, whether one can belong to any place or community.
Well aware of the contingency, even accidental nature of the biographical, intellectual, and political encounters that fuel interest and careers in area studies, scholars are careful to treat Southeast Asian studies as, quote, an heuristic device, quote, unquote, quote, contingent device, an intellectual site, a Euro-Japanese construct, a theoretical problematic offering new sets of questions and methodologies, and quote, a reserve of intellectual diversity, unquote.
Name the Southeast Asianists who coined all these terms. Such imperative nonetheless produces its own circles of esteem, to use Bob Cribb's term. Its hierarchies of countries to study, with Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand as the main domains, and Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, and the Philippines as subsidiary. It sexy topics, the Vietnam War, ethnic minorities and relations, democratization, terrorism, border lands, anthropocene.
Its intellectual tariff barriers, or to be more accurate, non tariff barriers, set by language competence and fieldwork experience, and its disciplinary limits, with the exclusion, for example, of the natural sciences, which have long been a pillar of Southeast Asian studies in Japan.
Southeast Asianists' links with the American government or American policy circles have sparked controversy, as seen in 1970, when anti-Vietnam war activists and students accused Southeast Asianists of colluding with the American government in their advisory roles in American agencies that were running projects in Thailand, as [INAUDIBLE] has pointed out.
A similar controversy broke out in Japan, when student activists demonstrated against the establishment of the Center for Southeast Asian studies at Kyoto University in 1963, because of seed money provided by the Ford Foundation.
This does not mean that area studies are not capable of being progressive, as our Arif Dirlik has pointed out. Even as scholars based in America and other countries, especially in Southeast Asia, have had to grapple with the challenges not only of debating with fellow academics, but also engaging with larger audiences and publics on the issues, for example, of how to explain the abortive coup attempt by the 30th September Movement, or Gerakan September Tiga Puluh, in Indonesia in 1965, or the precise nature of the People's Power Revolution in the Philippines in 1986.
A more serious complaint against the largely, quote, unquote, American dominated area studies had been its lack of significant intellectual engagement with the people and societies of what is now called Southeast Asia, and the marginal role of Southeast Asian students and academics in the formation of the field, even though Southeast Asians and Southeast Asian-Americans have formed an important constituency of scholars and students.
Although Southeast Asian scholars trained abroad have written dissertations on their respective areas of interests, the majority of English language books or articles on Southeast Asia were published by scholars working outside the region, and relatively few works by region based scholars writing in their local and national languages were tackled at length in discussions of Southeast Asian studies.
Southeast Asian scholars were urged to do comparative work, even though there were few institutional, career, and intellectual incentives to do so. The indonesianist scholar Ariel Heryanto famously posed the question, can there be Southeast Asians in Southeast Asian studies? Heryanto stated that, quote, "there is a need to expand further the space and respect for Southeast Asians as speaking subjects and fellow analysts, rather than silent objects of analysis," unquote.
Not surprisingly, Southeast Asia-based scholars have been at the forefront of calling for the development of region based perspectives and practices that address multiple publics in Southeast Asia and critically engage with, yet also pursue research policy and activist agenda that may be distinct from those of area studies institutions outside Southeast Asia.
Goh Beng Lan envisions forms of, quote, "thinking from and about Southeast Asia," unquote, as quote, "subject position but without excluding others not from or located in the region," unquote.
It is heartening to know that more and more young Southeast Asian scholars are studying each other's languages, doing research on each other's countries, and forming their own academic and activist networks. It remains the case, however, that owing to history, cultural connectivity and affinity, geographical proximity, and geostrategic interests, scholars from Thailand, for example, are more likely to study Vietnam or Myanmar, while Filipino scholars find it easier-- John-- to learn Bahasa Indonesia and are interested in the shared history of activism involving those two countries.
By and large, as Thongchai Winichakul rightly emphasizes, Asian scholars, and by extension, Southeast Asian scholars, often work on their own countries. Because studying their country means studying their, quote, unquote, home, their relationship to Asia or Southeast Asia in this case, cannot be reduced to the self-other dichotomy that informed older notions of area studies.
Furthermore, Thongchai points out that Thai intellectuals do not confine themselves to working in academia, but rather write in Thai, not English, to reach the Thai general public, often engage in social and political activism, are more active in public affairs, even serving in government, put more value on policy oriented in applied knowledge, and routinely concern themselves with the needs and interests of their local and national audiences.
For Filipino scholars based in the Philippines, there are few incentives, still, career, institutional, and intellectual, to do comparative work on Southeast Asia. Moreover, Maria Serena Diokno has pointedly observed that there had been a time when Filipinos tended, for the most part, not to think of themselves as part of the region and considered Southeast Asia as a, quote, unquote, other.
Adds Diokno, the Philippines was, quote, "often described as atypical of the region, or less kindly, as an aberration," unquote. In the first edition of his monumental history of Southeast Asia published in 1955, British historian DGE Hall excluded the Philippines on the grounds that the country, owing to its Spanish and American colonial experience, quote, "stood outside the mainstream of historical developments in the region," unquote.
As Hall explained it later on, quote, "so little was known of their history before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. That conquest linked to them with Spanish America. Then at the end of the 19th century, their cession to the United States linked them even more closely to North America," unquote.
It is telling that Hall's deliberate omission provoked protest from his own Filipino students in London, who, quote, "made it quite clear that they regarded themselves as Southeast Asian, and that they could point to important historical connections between their country and Southeast Asia," unquote.
Hall, convinced by his Filipino students to include the Philippines in subsequent editions of his book, nonetheless argued that the Spanish policy of isolationism kept Filipino society, quote, incommunicado from the outside world, except Spain herself, unquote, and therefore proved, quote, remarkably effective in cutting them off from contacts with Southeast Asia, unquote.
The interest in ASEAN regionalism and regionalization explains the growth of ASEAN studies as distinct from Southeast Asian studies in the region, even as Southeast Asian scholars trained in America and other developed countries have played crucial roles in establishing Southeast Asian studies programs and centers in the region.
Funding opportunities, resource constraints, the scope and limits of academic networking, and institutional politics largely explain why the promotion of Southeast Asian studies may be initiated by institutions with either a broader geographical scope than Southeast Asia, such as Asia, or a more disciplinary focus than area studies, such as economics, believe it or not.
Southeast Asian studies scholars and Southeast Asian-based scholars continually confront the challenge of speaking out on taboo subjects in their respective countries. It is difficult to have frank discussions about the monarchy in Thailand and Brunei, or criticize the communist parties of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the People's Action Party in Singapore, the military of Myanmar, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, and the Malay agenda and political Islam in Malaysia.
Southeast Asian studies required the presence of multiple institutional hubs, spread around the world, to provide safe havens for research on and frank discussion of sensitive issues that may not be readily or easily undertaken within the region itself.
Diverging audiences, interests, and agenda not only differentiate region-based Southeast Asian studies from their counterparts elsewhere in the world. Such divergences may also create schisms within and among national communities of scholars.
Take the case of the Philippines. In recent years, the Philippines newly minted status as an emerging economy, along with the notoriety of its president, Rodrigo Duterte, has increased its visibility on the world stage. Filipino American writers like Mia Alvar, Gina Apostol, Elaine Castillo, and Grace Talusan have deservedly garnered mainstream critical acclaim in the United States.
But with a few intermittent exceptions, creative writing by Filipinos based in the Philippines, even those written in English, remains largely invisible. In the Philippines, there are intellectual movements that eschew the use of English as an academic lingua franca, while others strongly criticize what they see as the hegemony of Tagalog and of imperial Manila.
The fact that a scholar carries a Philippine passport is no guarantee that she is exempt from criticism. The geographical location of the Filipino scholar who studies her home country can be problematical as well, as Filipino scholars based in foreign universities can be and have been dismissed by home scholars as outsiders, because as Diokno points out, their, quote, "geographical distance is perceived to circumscribe their ability to discover, apprehend, or engage in indigenous discourse," unquote.
The politics of location fuels this contest over epistemic power and authority, and implicates not only Filipino scholars working abroad, but also Filipino foreigners, especially Filipino American scholars.
For a while, overseas Filipino workers are generally hailed as bagong bayani, or new heroes. Filipino migrant intellectuals based in first world countries, especially Filipino American scholars, by virtue of their so-called privileged locations, are subjected to the nationalist departure as betrayal discourse, which views their spatial exteriority to the Philippines as an existential, intellectual, and political problem.
While scholars need to be attentive to issues of asymmetry and prestige and unequal access to resources and power that inform relations between scholars based in the metropole and in the so-called periphery, there are other issues that undercut such attempts at easy, lazy us vs. them generalizations.
Philippine-based middle class intellectuals, who draw a clear separation between inside and outside, risk downplaying their own privileged location and status vis-a-vis other Filipinos and their sense of entitlement to speak on behalf of the Filipino people.
On the other hand, Filipino Americans have had to contend with their invisibility in America. Among them draw inspiration from ethnic pan-ethnic and transnational solidarity building and civil rights movements to lend their voices and energies to the global fight for social justice.
Ironically, Southeast Asian studies came home, so to speak, to put down roots in Southeast Asia, and begin flourishing in Northeast Asia, at precisely the time when it went into crisis and found itself embattled in America and Europe.
A recent article by Chua Beng Huat, Ken Dean, Ho Engseng, Kong Chong Ho, Jonathan Rigg, and Brenda Yeoh in the Journal Southeast Asia Research argues that in an era of funding cuts, declining student interest, and loss of intellectual legitimacy, area studies, and Southeast Asian studies in particular, has lost its validity and significance as it grapples with the three pronged problems of, quote, weak rules, hard borders, and ancestral sin, unquote.
That is, the absence of a canon of defined theories and methods, the constraining effects of defined geographical borders, and the politically and intellectually corrosive legacy of area studies origins in the global north.
Faced with this gloomy prognosis, Southeast Asianists have responded in creative and productive ways. One trend has been to reorient area studies, not only toward theme or issue-based research, with Southeast Asia providing grounds of comparison, but also toward more rigorous engagement with and foundation in the various disciplines.
This trend is especially pronounced in the United States. While area studies, as David Szanton pointed out, quote, "laid the institutional basis for the subsequent establishment of women's studies, gender studies, African-American studies, ethnic studies, Asian-American studies, cultural studies, agrarian studies, and numerous other interdisciplinary centers and programs since the 1970s," unquote. Area studies, much like local scholarship produced within the region itself, had been dismissed by social scientists for their alleged lack of theory and disciplinary rigor.
The disciplinal and theoretical turns represent efforts to broaden the appeal of area studies in crisis, by attracting broader academic audiences within and hopefully across disciplines. Books like Southeast Asia And Political Science, published in 2008 and edited by Erik Kuhonta, Dan Slater, and Tuong Vu, argue that while Southeast Asian studies is capable of generating theoretical and empirical knowledge, Southeast Asianists, quote, "need to think more comparatively, engage theory more explicitly, and delineate causal findings more precisely," unquote.
Addressing the anglophone community of social scientists, based mainly in America, they declared that, quote, "Southeast Asia's geographical marginalization may be insuperable, but its relative theoretical marginalization in the social sciences should not be," unquote.
In economics, there has been an empirical turn, as young economists conduct empirically grounded research that not only yields theoretical insights, but can also contribute to policy making.
Calls for globally relevant and publicly engaged Southeast Asian political studies, system as Thomas Pepinsky puts it, "are most welcome, even as tensions between the scholarly desire for rigor on the one hand and policy and social relevance on the other hand persist and need to be managed."
Michael Desch has faulted the professionalization of the social sciences with promoting an overly narrow conception with preoccupation with method at the expense of interdisciplinary, in-depth, and broader knowledge. Policy makers, according to Desch, continue to find area study scholarship useful. In fact, the failure of the Kennedy and Johnson administration policies in Vietnam has been partly attributed to the lack of area expertise and the marginalization of area studies in the wake of the behavioral revolution in political science.
Moreover, as Avey and Desch point out, policymakers tend to prefer, quote, historical analysis, case studies, and theoretical writings that illustrate theory with case studies and concrete examples, unquote, over more sophisticated social science methods, such as formal models, operations research, theoretical analysis, and quantitative analysis.
At the same time, scholars involved in policymaking have to grapple with the fraught issue of the social responsibility of intellectuals, and the politically contentious nature of the mental maps of the world and reality that they helped draw and defend.
Duncan McCargo has rightly pointed out that top scholars, like Benedict Anderson, Alfred McCoy, and James Scott, are not in fact considered mainstream political scientists. What is remarkable about these Southeast Asianists' work is that it is, quote, typically characterized by interdisciplinarity, eclecticism, and even sheer eccentricity, unquote.
There are other strategies for rescuing area studies from the margins. [INAUDIBLE]'s idea of universal areas underlines the capacity of area studies to generate insights that can be shared with the world. Interregional, transregional, and global approaches make Southeast Asia a ground, or rather grounds, not only for comparisons, but for rethinking foundational concepts, and even better, creating new ones.
This type of approach has been fruitfully employed, for example, in the study of Islam, and the Arabic cosmopolis, the Sanskrit cosmopolis, Zomia, the communist network, the oligarchy, and empire.
There exists a substantial body of scholarship under the rubric of what Liu Hong calls Sino-Southeast Asian studies, which explore the multi-dimensional relationship between China and Southeast Asia.
Since the 1990s, the inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society has promoted regional intellectual exchange by showcasing the work of scholars in and on Asia in conferences and through its journal.
Another approach is to seek synergies between area studies and other fields, as Peter Jackson and Rommel Curaming have done in their respective calls for a post-structuralist area studies. There have also been attempts to use southeast Asia as a jumping board for interventions in post-colonial literary and cultural studies, which have traditionally received less attention compared to the social sciences in Southeast Asian studies.
Asian-American scholars have sought to create a bridge between Southeast Asian area studies and American ethnic studies through the concept of Southeast Asian-American studies, based on the regional diaspora connecting Southeast Asian nations to each other and to each other's diaspora.
At the same time, diaspora studies and their specialists are well aware of their tendency to exhibit their own sets of hierarchies and internal limits and exclusions. Let me use the Filipino diaspora as an example. Filomena Aguilar has pointed out that the Filipinos in America often serve as the type case and paradigm of the Filipino diasporic experience, even though they represent only a third of the Filipinos living abroad.
The Filipino-American anthropologist Deirdre de La Cruz poses this cogent question, quote, what does it mean that, with several million Filipinos living and, importantly, working in all corners of the world, diaspora continues to be defined along a US-Philippine axis, unquote.
De La Cruz and Aguilar caution against the methodological bilateralism at work in scholarship that views the Filipino diaspora exclusively in terms of US-Philippines relations while glossing over the experiences of Filipinos living in other parts of the world.
Yet another approach is to integrate areas into greater area studies, as we see in Daniel Immerwahr's How To Hide an Empire, published in 2019, which draws on Benedict Anderson's idea via Thongchai Winichakul's [INAUDIBLE] of the logo map to examine the ways in which Americans have created racialized boundary setting and exclusionary mental maps and policies that serve to distinguish states from territories, citizens from nationals, and subjects.
To treat American colonies as an integral part of the US is to understand that the Philippine colonial build was the basis of the design for the American dollar bill, that Manila was the sixth largest city in the US, larger than Boston and Washington, and that its devastation during World War II was the most destructive event ever to take place on American soil.
Before the book's publication, Immerwahr had delivered a lecture in which he argued that writing the history of the greater United States necessarily includes the experiences of colonized countries, such as the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Cuba, over which the US had once claimed sovereignty.
This provoked a response from Paul Kramer, author of the critically acclaimed The Blood of Government, Race Empire, the United States, and the Philippines, who criticized the concept of greater United States for its conflation of US colonialism with empire, and its uncritical stance on the politics of naming and the fraught history of the usage of such a concept.
Kramer also took Immerwahr to task for ignoring the substantial body of scholarship, including contributions from area studies and ethnic studies, produced in and outside the United States on the issue of past and present US colonies. Kramer questions Immerwahr's claim that such scholarship remains outside the so-called mainstream and provides a lengthy biblical graphic appendix, listing published books and dissertations relating to US colonialism in the Philippines and Puerto Rico.
In his response, Immerwahr provides a broader definition of, quote, "a mainstream audience that is served by middle school textbook publishers, flagship journals, and," quote, "prominent historians," unquote, and cites African-American history as an example of a subfield that goes well beyond, quote, "the subfield of African-American history, beyond history departments, beyond academia," unquote.
As the Immerwahr-Kramer debate shows, questions of audiences continue to haunt academia. I would like to push the concept of audience further by examining the audiences conjured by three acknowledged classic texts in Southeast Asian studies.
Filipino national hero Jose Rizal's two novels, Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo and Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities. I use the word "conjured" deliberately to emphasize three things, the fact that these texts were written with specific audiences in mind, the fact that upon publication, these texts interacted with audiences in ways that exceeded the imagined hypothetical audience that these authors claimed to address, and the fact that the interaction between the texts and their actual readers, whether intended or unexpected, had lasting effects that arguably account for the influential afterlives of these texts.
Let me first turn to Rizal's novels, Noli me Tangere, which Filipinos fondly call the Noli, and El Filibusterismo, the Fili, were written in Spanish and published in Berlin, Germany in 1887, and Ghent, Belgium in 1891, respectively. They are arguably the two most important literary works produced by a Filipino, foundational fictions, to use Doris Summer's term, that have cast a long shadow on Philippine nationalism and shaped Filipino political and social thinking and the development of Philippine literature in Filipino, English, and other Philippine languages.
Rizal was clear about the intended audience of his novels. The Noli he wrote in a letter to a fellow reformist, was, quote written for Filipinos, and it is necessary that it should be read by Filipinos, unquote.
Writing to his Austrian friend Ferdinand Blumentritt, Rizal calls the Noli the first impartial and bold book about the life of the Tagalogs. The Filipinos will find in it the history of the last 10 years, unquote.
He went on to say, quote, here I answer all the false conceptions that they, meaning the government and the friars, have written against us, and all the insults with which they have humiliated us. His goal, quote, it is better to write for my countrymen. I must wake from its slumber the spirit of my fatherland.
I must first propose to my countrymen an example with which to struggle against their bad qualities, and afterwards, when they have reformed, when many writers will rise up who can present my fatherland to proud Europe as a young damsel, enter society after she has completed her education, unquote.
To this effect, I have told our compatriots of our faults, our voices, our vices, our culpable and shameful complacence with these miseries, unquote.
If you're puzzled by Rizal's explanations of who he imagines the readers of his novels to be, welcome to the club. Rizal says that The Noli was written for Filipinos and it is necessary that it should be read by Filipinos. Yet his first novel dealt mainly with a bunch of Tagalogs in the region, and his main goal was to present his fatherland to, quote, proud Europe, unquote, as worthy of joining or inclusion in its civilization.
We should also remember that by the end of the Spanish colonial period, less than 3% of the Filipino population had a good command of Spanish. That Rizal was well aware of the dilemma of writing in Spanish is evident in the fact that at different times in his life, he had considered writing a novel in French, and begun writing one in Tagalog.
He wrote about 10 pages in Tagalog, gave up, attempted to rewrite the novel anew in Spanish, gave up. He never completed the third novel. Which language to write in was a dilemma for Rizal. French, the transcontinental lingua franca of the world's elites at the time, might have brought him more cultural prestige, but doing so would bar most Filipinos and even some Spanish friends, and just as important, enemies, from reading his novels.
Tagalog might have brought him an audience in the Philippines, but his novels would not have been read by the majority of Filipinos, who were non-Tagalogs, speaking different Philippine languages. Even though the language in which these novels were written set limits on who were able to read them, the novels take as their theme the presence, communicative power, and incalculable effects of crowds of people.
The novels attempt to provide clues on how they should be read, even as the play of reticence and revelation opens these novels to interpretation and appropriation. Gossip, rumors, fake news, private conversations, public speeches, town hall debates, petty quarrels, newspaper accounts, letters, the Noli reports them all to the reader, who occupies a privileged position as the one who is in the best position to make sense of the occurrences in the novel, to sort out the truth from the lies, to sift the wheat of fact from the chaff of speculation.
Who were Rizal's imputed readers? Rizal's novels set up an ideal reader as adjudicator. The imputed reader of these novels is a highly select, literate, and cosmopolitan sort, who is able to recognize and appreciate the allusions and epigraphs inlaid throughout the novel.
Rizal's presumed readership is made up of an elite cohort of friends and foes, literate in Spanish, residing in the Philippines or abroad, and well versed in the milieu of these places. This ideal reader must be privileged enough to have had sufficient Western style education to recognize classical, Christian, European, and enlightenment references. At the same time, the ideal reader understands and delights in the novel's strategic use and explanation of local, particularly Tagalog, vocabulary and local references.
The ideal reader, in other words, would be someone from Rizal's own small circle of fellow male, if not Tagalog, ilustrados, and the Spanish-speaking educated reading public in and beyond the Philippines.
The actual impact of the two novels far exceeded Rizal's expectations. But this is not owing to the fact that they became bestsellers and were widely read. On the contrary, only 2,000 copies of the Noli were printed. And owing to strict censorship, only a small number of copies found their way into Filipino hands.
We can surmise that, at best, the novel was read by a small number of people, mostly Spaniards and Spanish literate Filipinos. And yet, the controversy aroused by these novels, which were impounded by the government and condemned by religious authorities, enabled the circulation and transmission, to some extent, of the Noli's content.
This relaying of the novel's message took the principal form of gossip and rumors, and was therefore crucially mediated by the perspectives of the various readers who interpreted the novels and their author according to their own languages, interests, and agenda.
In fact, the close attention accorded by Rizal to depicting crowds, people from all walks of society, moving, and acting, and, just as important, talking and commenting on unfolding events, had the conjuring effect of calling forth a revolution.
By questioning the foundations of colonial authority, Rizal and his novels gave rise to images, thoughts, and fantasies among their readers and audiences that exceeded Rizal's own stated political intentions, engendering political effects that Rizal could neither have foreseen nor forestalled.
While the Fili, or Filibusterismo, imagined a failed revolution led by the Creole Juan Chrisostomo Ibarra, a reference to the early 19th century abortive Creole revolutions in the Philippines that were inspired by the revolutions in Latin America, Rizal's novels were actually being read, rumormongered, interpreted, and acted upon by other social groups.
The urban middle sector and municipal elites, that is, the people who came from the same social background as Ibarra's foil and fellow protagonist, Elias. The urban middle sector would, in fact, seize the initiative to establish the Revolutionary Secret Society, the Katipunan, and municipal elites would join the Philippine Revolution that broke out a few years later.
The Katipunan used Rizal's name as a rallying cry, although Rizal claimed he had been misinterpreted and adamantly denied authorship of the 1896 Philippine Revolution, he would nonetheless pay the ultimate penalty for being el verbo, the word incarnate, of Filibusterismo, of revolution.
Here, then, is a case in which writing two novels inspired their audiences to act in two ways. One, wage an anti-colonial revolution, the first of its kind in Asia, and two, get the author executed, despite Rizal's insistence that he had not supported the Katipunan-led revolution.
60 years after Rizal's execution, the Philippine state would pass a bill to include the national hero's life and works, including unexpurgated editions of the two novels, in the official curricula of public and private schools, colleges, and Universities
The Catholic Church would undermine this bill by forcing a compromise that exempted students from reading the novels, quote, for reasons of religious belief, unquote.
Translations of Rizal into various Philippine languages, including English, would shape readers' experiences of these novels. One hard hitting analysis by a Southeast Asianist, of Leon Maria Guerrero's influential 1961 English translation of the Noli lays bare the linguistic and textual strategies by which the Guerrero translation produced in the era of official nationalism works to stifle the subversiveness of Rizal's laughter, entomb the novels in the antique past, sanitize their earthy and radical content, and cut the reader off from the local references, most of them in Tagalog and European allusions.
The Guerrero translation, in effect, turns Rizal into, quote, a silent, waxwork martyr, unquote, effaces the hybrid histories and cultures of the Filipino elite, renders unimaginable Rizal's world, and renders the Noli boring and irrelevant to contemporary readers.
That hard-hitting analysis was written by Benedict Anderson, professor of government in Cornell, who taught himself Spanish in order to read Rizal in the original, and who would play a crucial role in bringing Rizal before a larger international audience.
A polyglot, he spoke 11 languages, who carried an Irish passport all his life, and was deeply aware of his own country's fraught history of anti-colonial struggle against the British, Anderson had an affinity with Rizal, and would fondly refer to him as Lolo Jose, or granddaddy Jose.
This brings me to my second study, Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Imagined Communities is arguably the most cited English language book produced by a self-professed Southeast Asianist. As of June 5th 2019, it is the fourth most cited social science book after Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolution, Everett Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation, and Michael E Porter's Competitive Strategy.
In the humanities, not even Edward Said's Orientalism, Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology, or Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punishment come close.
Anderson had originally written the book with a specific intended audience in mind, the intelligentsia of the United Kingdom. Here is Andersen's account of the making of his book. Quote, this is why the book contains so many quotations from and allusions to English poetry, essays, histories, legends, et cetera, that do not have to be explained to English readers, but which are likely to be unfamiliar to others. There are also jokes and sarcasms only the English would find amusing or annoying.
For fun, I always titled British rulers as if they were ordinary people. For EXAMPLE Charles Stuart for Charles I, but used the standard format for foreign kings, such as Louis XIV.
Anderson also left the German and French quotations untranslated, intending this as a, quote, rebuke to American academic culture, also UK to a lesser degree. But the book was aimed at the British public, not an American one on the whole. And I knew very well that at least older UK intellectuals would feel patronized if I translated the French and German, unquote.
Anderson's targets, as it were, included, quote, eurocentrism, traditional Marxism, and liberalism, unquote. Anderson's style of comparison differed from the standard comparisons undertaken in comparative politics. Comparisons, which Anderson thought of not as a method or academic technique, but rather a discursive strategy, were meant to, quote, surprise readers and also to globalize the history of nationalism.
They required the reader to leap back and forth between Naples, Tokyo, Manila, Barcelona, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Brussels, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and London. They also required the reader to, quote, think about one's own circumstances, class position, gender, level and type of education, mother language, et cetera, when doing comparisons, unquote.
Anderson also gave freedom to his Japanese translators to substitute appropriate Japanese quotations, allusions, and jokes. The Japanese translation of Imagined Communities by Takashi and Saya Shiraishi, would go on to be the biggest selling translation addition of Imagined Communities and required reading for Japanese college students.
In this process of collaboration, reinterpretation, appropriation, and multiple authorship, by author, translator, and reader, Imagined Communities had circulated in more than 30 languages.
Rebecca Walkowitz' argument that Imagined Communities is a, quote, unquote, "born translated work, analogous to the novel," works only because Imagined Communities ended up being widely translated, not because Anderson had originally conceived, let alone intended, Imagined Communities to be translated into so many languages, much as he was keenly aware of the power of English as a global lingua franca.
In the UK, the book was warmly received by reviewers such as Edmund Leech, Conan Cruz O'Brien, and Winston James, who wrote for the so-called, quote, unquote, quality press.
The academic reputation of Imagined Communities in America was less straightforward. Although Anthony Reid had written a favorable and balanced review of the book, here is how Anderson recounts the general reception of the book in his memoir, A Life Beyond Boundaries.
Quote, in the US, the book was almost completely ignored. In a way, this was fair enough, since I hadn't written the book for Americans in the first place. Besides, in the US, nationwide quality presses are not common. However, one old European emigre political scientist writing for the American Political Science Review did review it, and deemed it worthless, apart from its catchy title.
Actually, the actual review was written by Alexander Motyl, and was published in the Journal of Comparative Politics. We checked.
Anderson goes on to say that, quote, this situation changed rapidly at the end of the 1980s, with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Like all empires, the American empire needs enemies. Dangerous nationalism, which of course, did not include American nationalism, emerged to fill the vacuum left by the evaporation of the communist threat.
A second factor was that, mainly by word of mouth, Imagined Communities had caught on in the departments of history, sociology, anthropology, and strangely enough, English and comparative literature, and was being widely used as a graduate level textbook.
Political science was the one obvious exception, but eventually, it had to yield to student demand for courses on nationalism, which amazingly enough, did not exist almost anywhere in the US. As a result, in my 50s, I found my position completely changed. Suddenly, I became a theorist, not just an area studies figure.
I was even urged to teach a graduate course on the theory of nationalism, which I'd never previously considered doing. To my amusement, the students who took the course came not only from political science, but from history, anthropology, comparative literature, and sociology, unquote.
Here, then, we have a book that is initially ignored, or so he says, by the disciplinary field of the author, but gains traction largely by word of mouth among the students before the book is taken up by professors across a range of disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities.
Early in Anderson's career, when his dissertation came out as a book entitled Java in the Time of Revolution, published in 1972 by Cornell University Press, he recalls one senior colleague saying to him, quote, I didn't finish your book, though it looked well done. Isn't that just history? Where's the theory? Unquote.
Anderson had considered himself an outsider in the Department of Government. He said, quote, later I heard from students that a gifted senior said to them, quote, Anderson has a good mind, but he's basically an area studies person, unquote. Which meant, someone second class. I didn't mind this judgment, because I too saw myself as basically an area studies person, unquote.
The problem of audience was never far from Anderson's mind, and he talks at length about this in his memoir. Students, he said, discern key features of their future readership. Quote, "they are typically told to write for other members of their disciplines, colleagues, editors of disciplinary journals, potential employers, and eventually their own students. Their prose should reveal immediately the guild to which they belong.
Writing for a large generally educated public, so they are often told, inevitably entails simplification, popularization, and lack of technical sophistication. That is, it is too easily comprehensible," unquote.
Books should be published by university presses, rather than commercial presses. Anderson compared the process of disciplining students to think and write in the academic style to a form of Chinese footbinding.
Who would have thought that Imagined Communities would inspire Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party, to undergo an intellectual conversion that made him open to negotiations with the Turkish state in 2013?
I don't know whether Ben ever heard of this news, but if he had, I'm sure he would have been pleased. While much has been made of Anderson's theoretical contributions to the study of nationalism, it is interesting to note, the Latin Americanist reception of Imagined Communities thesis about the role of newspapers in providing a national space on the eve of Latin American independence, while the Imagined Communities has had an emergency impact on Latin American scholars and scholars of Latin America, this impact had little to do with the historical and empirical accuracy of Anderson's arguments concerning Latin America.
In fact, Latin Americanist historians and literary scholars argue that the nation remained, quote, more aspiration than fact for many decades after gaining independence between 1810 and 1825.
I'm quoting Justine on this. Latin Americanists disagree with Anderson's thesis on the role played by newspapers in fostering national consciousness before the wars of independence and on the role played by the circulation of Creole bureaucrats in setting that territorial definition of what would later become independent states. Anderson's specific arguments about Latin America, quote, have had little impact on Latin American Studies reference to the chapter on Creole pioneers rarely appears in Latin American citations of Anderson.
Instead, Latin Americanists cite Imagined Communities, and especially among his critics, draw on his theorization of the central role of the print media in imagining national communities, unquote. Latin Americanists argue that Anderson's remarks on Latin America are more pertinent to post-colonial Latin America, rather than pre-independence and revolutionary Latin America.
Anderson sought to rescue the goodness of the nation from the evils and abuses inflicted upon people in its name. For many Southeast Asians, the nation is something they can neither embrace nor repudiate. More than a century ago, Rizal used his novels to explore the possibility of the failure of communication, of belonging, the failure of community, even.
Far from being unique to a country with a fragile democracy, a weak state, a strong predatory elite, and a diasporic population, the possibility of failure that Rizal tried to map speaks to the more fundamental aporia at the heart of efforts to imagine and make community. And this very issue has returned with a populist/nativist vengeance to the developed world.
I end not with any definitive statement, but with a series of questions. For whom are Southeast Asian studies? Who gets to decide what kinds of audiences, hypothetical and actual, do Southeast Asianists address?
How may area studies contribute to progressive politics and address the pressing claims of communities in which making, doing, belonging is fraught, and not just for the area studies practitioner? What claims do our audiences make on us, and what are our scholarly commitments and ethical obligations toward them?
The way to go was already suggested in the late 1990s by Ruth McVey, when she delivered the third Franklin Golay memorial lecture. We need, she said, to emphasize cooperation rather than competition, unquote.
She spoke as well of the need to, quote, think more in terms of networks than of institutions. And these networks should, in principle, be global and not just regional or national, unquote. Above all, McVey issued this important reminder. Quote, it is not that Southeast Asia is the object of our study, but that Southeast Asians are its subject, unquote.
McVey's choice of the word "subject" is telling, not because of the lines it seems to draw between subject and object and between us, scholars, and them, Southeast Asians, but also because of the ambiguity inherent in the idea of the subject, at once imbued with agency yet also conditional, dependent, as likely to do or act as to be acted or imposed upon, both the topic of discussion and the branch of knowledge that is taught in an academic setting.
Is this an issue of eschewing Southeast Asian studies as a field and addressing Southeast Asians as people, or is it rather an issue of the ethical, political, and intellectual obligations and responsibilities that arise from all such attempts and undertakings? Saying that Southeast Asian studies should include more Southeast Asian perspectives and practitioners does not resolve the issue.
For Southeast Asians themselves are not free of these obligations and responsibilities toward people they call their own, or countries that they consider themselves part of. What kinds of communities, intellectual, political, cultural, or religious are Southeast Asian studies capable of conjuring? Can we conceive of audiences not simply as intended targets, but also as accidental, unexpected interlocutors, friends but also foes, from near and afar?
How much freedom can we carve out for ourselves within the constraints of the institutions and countries we work in, to imagine and realize the kind of Southeast Asian studies we would like to have and share with our respective communities, here and there, in Southeast Asia and the world? Thank you.
ABBY COHN: Wonderful talk.
CAROLINE S. HAU: Thank you, Abby.
ABBY COHN: Willing to take questions?
CAROLINE S. HAU: Sure, sure.
ABBY COHN: Will you just recognize people yourself? Is that OK?
CAROLINE S. HAU: Yeah, yeah.
ABBY COHN: Great. So we'll now open the floor for some questions. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I want to say something about the generation of publics and the manner in which publics are generated, because it seems to me to take kind of old Noam Chomsky view of things. When contrarian positions, when dissident perspectives emerge from very elite institutions, that by definition generates more public attention than it would otherwise be the case, at least within a kind of Western social setting.
So take it where we are now, the Cornell paper by McVey and Anderson, and also George Kane's dissidence against the Vietnam War. Isn't there this-- I don't know what to say-- this irony that when elite institutions generate dissident voices, contrary maybe to their ideological position of performing indoctrination or conformity, if you like, isn't that a irony, that you need dissidents to emerge from the establishment for publics to be generated for these views.
CAROLINE S. HAU: That's completely true, and I agree with it. And actually, that's been one of the biggest challenges for Southeast Asian studies, because the best work in Southeast Asian studies are often produced within the structures of elite institutions, and by practitioners who, if not upwardly mobile, are at least on their way to having a secure job, and likely to continue doing work within the protective confines of the institutions that encourage and fund them.
However, I would like to think that perhaps the boundaries between elites and so-called non-elites may be more porous. And what I wanted to emphasize was that in the process in which elites' ideas circulate, are we sure that they're even circulating in the forms in which the elites intended them?
And in the case of the Philippines, the actual form of it, at least as Rizal stated-- but then we should be careful about this, because he was on trial for his life. So he was likely going to argue in his favor, that he did not favor revolution. But there is enough ambiguity in the novels that allowed people to make do with it what they wanted. And most of them read it as, oh, yeah, he's in favor of revolution.
So I'm looking at one of those patterns of circulation, in which what may start off as elite ideas might in fact undergo quite radical transformation, given the uncertainties of the reception.
But that said, there is also something to be argued about the fact that Southeast Asian studies should contribute to actually amplifying the voices of people who do not consider themselves part of the elites.
And I think most of progressive Southeast Asian studies want to do this, and have tried to do this. And I think the kind of caricature that area studies is just an imperial project is, to put it mildly, a caricature that serves certain interests, preferably to cut the funding.
And I think most of us who do Southeast Asian studies are pretty aware and have grappled with this dilemma. And we have had to fulfill our obligations, or what we think our obligations, not only to speak for elites, but also to listen to the voices of less privileged.
Now, this can sound very condescending. And I'm afraid that a lot of Filipinos, who claim to speak on behalf of the elite, have led us all to the road of perdition. So we just need to be aware of what your position is, when you undertake even such a laudable process or project.
And I believe Ben Anderson was always aware of that. And he says, well, what's the task of comparison? First, you have to think about your own position. What are you doing comparisons for? What is comparison for? Is it for its own sake, or is it for some other purpose? So I don't think it answers your question, but--
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
CAROLINE S. HAU: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I ask this question as a non-Southeast Asian student, as a layman. In 1898, after the Spanish-American War, the United States acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines. And the Philippines was the only one to get their independence in 1946. Why did the United States let them go so easily? How come they didn't try to keep them on? What do you think the reason for that was?
CAROLINE S. HAU: Well, according to the historical accounts, there were many reasons, one of which was the fact that they said, they already promised independence to the Filipinos, and this was the opportunity to give it.
And the opportunity came precisely through the destruction of Manila and much of the Philippines, and the idea of reconstructing the country, which if we take Daniel Immerwahr's argument to the heart, means that this was the single US territory that was the most devastated in World War II. How do you reconstruct such a devastated territory?
And we have to agree, the American empire was always cheap. The British empire, too. Maybe Dutch, too? All empires are cheap. So it's probably-- I mean, if you want to be cynical about it, that might be a contributing factor.
But there are also Filipino historians who see a conspiracy, in which they say that in fact independence came with strings attached, which effectively allowed the Americans to renegotiate, for example, the treaty to retain American bases, to control the exchange rate of the Philippine peso, and to continue, to a certain extent, a quota system for the import of sugar, which effectively tied the Philippines to the American metropole and retained what some scholars think was a classic neo-colonial relationship.
So many historians deal in conspiracy theory, but maybe there's some germ of truth in that kind of strategic calculation.
AUDIENCE: Had the United States held on to the Philippines, would they eventually have gotten rights to open immigration, like Puerto Rico and Guam?
CAROLINE S. HAU: I think the immigration story-- and I think we have friends here who know better than I do. The immigration policy was a very long process of contestation. And so if you want to understand that policy, you have to go back right to the time when the Americans acquired the Philippines from Spain, and debated, for example, whether they would allow Chinese coolies to come into the country, whether they would grant citizenship to Filipinos.
And for them, it was not an option. And how soon they could philippinize the bureaucracy, because that was always part of the political negotiation they had with the Filipino elites, who certainly built their careers on both demanding independence and negotiating to prolong the American rule.
So it's a very tough question to ask, and I would leave it up to our scholars who work on this. But I think it's necessary to historicize long term negotiations. Rather than see any single narrative, we should emphasize the fact that at different points and junctures, possibilities opened up or were closed.
So it's quite contingent. It wasn't some kind of long term plan the Americans had at the beginning. I think there was some idea that independence would have to be granted, but the question was always when.
AUDIENCE: So I'm from a generation who has never known area studies not in a crisis and has never thought that Southeast Asian studies was anything other than an object of contestation or a project beginning to understand its history rather than an echo thing.
And so I'm very sympathetic to the idea, and I believe the idea, that we have to be very critical of the way that we write Southeast Asian studies for whom the audiences are. We have to reflect our position and our positionality in these.
And then I also look at the world, and I see the great lack of understanding in, to put it baldly as a political scientist, in the American government. We just lack in knowledge and we lack understanding. And we lack it at like a first order level. It's not that we don't understand the intricacies. We don't understand the basic terms.
So how would you imagine we could constructively engage with some of the audiences that we're critical of, the US government, American corporations, in ways that are respectful of what we all know to be true about the contestedness and the constructiveness of Southeast Asia as a region and the responsibilities that I feel we have to try to do better than we currently have?
CAROLINE S. HAU: Yeah, that's a very important and tough question. I mean, so off the cuff, I would say that perhaps certain people, who do area studies, might want to work in government, instead of area studies. So in other words, maybe area studies could benefit more from having people not only confine themselves to academia, but also, for example, become public intellectuals, write more for the general public, and if needed, serve in government.
I think I have learned enough. I think I used to be a hardcore leftist. Like, anyone who had anything to do with a state, by definition, is an agent of death. And in fact, Ben used to say, don't work for the government. It's evil. There's no use doing it.
So perhaps Southeast Asian studies, at least part of a generation of Southeast Asianists felt that you could do Southeast Asian studies independently of the needs or the demands or claims of the state. But there are also some area studies specialists, particularly in Japan, in South Korea, in China, and of course in Southeast Asia, for whom service in government, ugly though it may be, compromising though it may be, is something that they would rather do, rather than leave it to people who may not even know anything, and then do something worse.
So it's a kind of rock and a hard place, where if you don't serve and you leave it up to these guys to serve, it might, well, come too bad, right? On the other hand, you know that if you serve in government, you have to compromise. And hopefully you won't be corrupted, but that's sometimes a temptation that people succumb to, unfortunately.
But it's again, a question of personal decisions and integrity. And that's why I think integrity matters, because all you have is that integrity at the end of it. So I do, from the vantage point of the age of 50, realize that short of joining the revolutionary movement, which I'm also very sympathetic for, personally I won't survive two weeks in the jungle, but also I still want to believe that we can contribute.
So in other words, you have to pick your moral positions, and you have to pick which trench warfare you want to engage in. And once you are in, you have to fight it out. But on condition that you retain some integrity. I hope we do, because the temptation is paramount.
So I think for example, in Japan, most various specialists are called upon by government to advise them. And they do provide quite a number of insights, and many of them in fact do end up being adopted by the government.
Now we don't say in advance that these ideas are good or bad, because it depends on the kind of people who advocated them, and the people who want to adopt them. But I do think that it's necessary to engage with a variety of publics and audiences.
And I think from the beginning, Southeast Asia-based scholars were pretty aware of this. And they do think that, in fact, area studies came with a kind of intellectual cloud and a kind of cultural capital that allowed them to serve the role of public intellectuals.
So I think perhaps ignorance is a luxury only certain countries can afford. And I think the US has been privileged enough not to have to care about what the rest of the world thinks. But if you talk to American policymakers, which our Japanese colleagues have done, they're continually being told that one of the reasons American policies fail, foreign policy fail, is precisely because they ought to know, and they didn't.
So we have to find ways to speak and reach out to them, much as we don't like them. But thank you. It's tough. I don't think I would be able to do it myself, but I am hoping that we can train students who are willing to take that extra mile. And of course, being an academic helps, too. Training students, of course, is always one of our most important missions. So it's just a question of expanding the capacities and roles for Southeast Asianists, hopefully.
Peter, oh my god, Peter.
AUDIENCE: Thank you for that wonderful talk. I mean, so learned, so erudite. Let me try out an idea. I always thought of Southeast Asia as being sort of the runt of the litter. But I want to turn this around. Ben's book is so successful, and [INAUDIBLE] book is so unsuccessful. Those are the two books which revived the interest in nationalism.
If you go from [INAUDIBLE] back to Deutsch to [INAUDIBLE] and then to the book which started the [INAUDIBLE], it was Otto Bauer in 1912, never translated into English. From this I deduce that if you're a colony or part of the nationality problem of the decayed and dying empire, Habsburg, the notion of the imagined communities does not fly to Buenos Aires.
So in that sense, imagined communities has the benefit of the American and British empire in spreading the message.
CAROLINE S. HAU: Yes.
AUDIENCE: What do you think?
CAROLINE S. HAU: I think--
AUDIENCE: Otto Bauer-- I mean, I talked with Ben a lot.
CAROLINE S. HAU: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: Ben didn't know Otto Bauer's work. And he talked about getting it translated, but it never happened. But he got the central idea from Otto Bauer. I mean, he may have gotten it before, but he knew that Otto Bauer-- it's a massive book, the highlight of the [INAUDIBLE] debate of the nationality question of the Habsburg empire.
But in some ways, Ben is a beneficiary of being an Irishman. Britain and the United States and Otto Bauer brought them [INAUDIBLE] the Habsburg empire. [INAUDIBLE].
CAROLINE S. HAU: Yeah, I'm living proof of that. Because having no German, I only read a small excerpt of Bauer in, I think Gopal Balakrishnan's anthology of key works in nationalism.
Yes, I think Ben was pretty aware of it. Much as he liked to create an inside outside himself, an opposition between Britain and America, I think he was well aware of the fact that English was a language of prestige and power, and the fact that he was an Anglo-Irish.
True, whenever he had to go through immigration, he was subject to body searches, cavity searches, he said, repeatedly. But at the same time, he loved Cornell, partly because of the presence of people like you and our colleagues.
I think-- should I say this? He got better offers from other universities, but he loved the library here so much, because he says every time I want to know something, I just run to crock and there it is. And he loved his colleagues. He thought that it was worth it. So he actually turned down double, triple the salary to live in Ithaca, New York.
So I think maybe that's the kind of integrity, but an integrity knowing fully well the context that served its purpose. So I think he was quite-- I think he used to joke about it. And his memoir does mention something to that effect. So you're totally right, Peter, but then you know him longer than I do.
AUDIENCE: I was wondering, to take you off subject a little bit, if you can talk a little bit about the relationship between your academic and your non-academic writing, and whether or not audiences come to play in that.
CAROLINE S. HAU: Yeah. Well, actually, I didn't start off wanting to be an academic. Actually, I wanted to be a writer. But I also knew that in the Philippines, if you write in English, which was the only language I was capable of writing in, because my other mother tongue is Hokkien, and you couldn't really write in Hokkien. You'd have to tell the story.
I knew that the readership in the Philippines for literary works is very small. And I also knew that, therefore, you cannot earn a living from the royalties for whatever books that you publish. So academia was for me a day job.
And then I found out that as you do more and more of it, there's less and less time to do creative writing. I think it requires two different registers. When you're writing creative work, you're doing it in a different way than when you're doing it in academic writing.
And I'm not like those academics who write beautifully. I write serviceably. Tamara, you'd know that. So for me, I actually dreamed of becoming a full time writer, but the force of circumstances in the Philippines just didn't allow me to do that.
Having said that, late in my life, I decided that, OK, if I'm not going to write a novel, I never will. So I did. I took some time off from academic work to work on it. It was published. It's OK. It's selling well, but again, not enough for me to survive on. So I'm stuck with this day job and begging my husband, honey, let me quit. You just take care of me. I'll be a housewife.
Which is a most unfeminist thing to do. So I would really advise you all against it. But it's also a kind of thing I've been thinking about, maybe to quit academia and to concentrate on writing. But I'd need to save enough money myself, to be able to take care of myself, in case my husband divorces me. Because he does not read literature.
AUDIENCE: Thanks for the talk. I was wondering also about how-- because there's so much talk about perhaps also conventionalizing-- Europe and North America these days, for example, reframing in this a kind of [INAUDIBLE] area studies for example, and trying to maybe draw out some of the historical events from the context of these places, for example.
I mean, do you see that as being-- because I think like what I got from some of your talk was that maybe you like thinking of area studies as something that's more open, is less like placing this place within a certain set boundaries, for example. Do you see that kind of work at odds with your vision of area studies, for example?
CAROLINE S. HAU: Yeah, actually, I had a chance to meet some of our graduate students in the Southeast Asia Program. And while I was talking to them, I was saying to them and to myself, oh, wow, I mean, they're doing the kind of exciting work that I wouldn't have dreamed of doing 20, 25 years ago, when I was here in Cornell.
I think I came of a generation in which nationalism was very important, the kind of serve your country. I mean, I went to the State University, the University of the Philippines, and we were continually being reminded that, hey, you're being subsidized by the people's tuition. And therefore, you have to serve your country.
But I think that might be an important part of why we do area studies, but it can also be limiting, if you sort of subscribe to some of the shibboleths and some of the orthodoxies, which might in fact prove intellectually constraining.
But talking to this generation of young Southeast Asianists, I feel that at least, being from a different generation, coming of age in a different context, and perhaps being well aware of the crisis of area studies and the need to respond to it in creative and productive ways, then I sense that in fact they are no longer bound by the kind of rules or self-imposed limits that we, people of my generation, and particularly Filipinos of my generation, we felt constrained our research.
Having said this, since I come from Philippine studies, we come from a country that, by definition, did not fit in Southeast Asian studies. There have been actually a lot of important work now, linguistically and archaeologically, which shows that no doubt, we were part of this region.
But I like to quote one of my mentors, [INAUDIBLE], who says that, well, there's something obscene about being told to globalize, when a country that is colonized by definition is globalized.
So then the challenge for us is how to negotiate that globalization in ways that can empower us, rather than reduce us. So for me, I take that to heart, that whatever perspectives we use, and we need not be in area studies to do so.
For example, the Southeast Asian Studies in Asia Consortium, we had a conference in Thailand last year, or two years ago. And one of the sponsoring departments was the Department of Economics. It is obscene. We've never heard of-- the economists don't want area, right? As far as we know. But in fact, that is a caricature.
So in fact, there are people and institutions that have a stake in promoting Southeast Asian studies that may not themselves be an area studies institution. So I always think that institutions are important, but they're only as good as the people who run them.
And if you are lucky enough to come into contact with someone who does have a commitment to promoting area studies, it doesn't matter if these guys are in a disciplinary department or in an area studies department, whether they're in Southeast Asian studies department or in Asian studies department, or in global history.
What it takes is basically commitment, and job security, and money. So the first two probably we can manage, but hopefully we can persuade some of the funding institutions to give us the money, so we can run with the ideas.
So I think at this time, it's no longer important to defend the idea of area studies or the idea of Southeast Asia. Because Southeast Asians themselves have reclaimed it. So I would like to think that we are ready post-imperial, despite the fact that we are reading all these essays that say, wow, area is by your power, it's still an imperial project.
Well, we need to be critical of it, but I think we would like to move beyond it, because I think in an era, where people like Peter Katzenstein advocate the importance of protean power, which is the ability of actors to take advantage of situations of uncertainty to formulate innovative responses and to help change the situation, I think we're already post-Foucault.
We're beyond the carceral effects, even though, of COURSE disciplines or disciplinary institutions still continue to exert power. But I'm more a believer in protean power, as opposed to just carceral power. A question.
AUDIENCE: Thank you for your talk and for being here with us today. I wanted to also thank you for-- I mean, for personal political reasons-- calling out defenders of Philippine nationalism, nationalist thinking in terms of departure as betrayal, and riffing on that, thinking about certain students, or various age levels in this room who are either Filipino-American or Filipinos residing in the US.
And I wondered if you had words of advice or encouragement for us, in terms of still working towards critical Philippine studies or area studies, despite this old card that's facing us, departure as betrayal.
CAROLINE S. HAU: Well, I don't think I'm in a position to offer advice. More like, tell me what you want to do, and how can I help you might be a better approach. I think it's something that scholars based in different institutions, in America and I know in Japan, or elsewhere, and even in the Philippines, will have to face up to and try to figure out a way to work together, rather than keep drawing hard borders and boundaries that serve to distinguish them, or to prioritize them, or make themselves feel better at the expense of others.
I mean, one thing I don't like is this idea that some Filipino home scholars in the Philippines have, that well, you're not in the Philippines, what do you know? And my question is, well, you're not in Japan, you're not in America. What do you know? So I mean, the question is, are you intent on promoting a will to ignorance? Or would you rather that we all sit down and try to learn from each other, and not try to say that any work done outside the Philippines, by definition, is less important than what is done in the Philippines.
But consequently, the same thing for us abroad, we do not think that what is done in the Philippines is not worth anything, because sometimes there is a tendency as well to denigrate home studies as lacking in disciplinary rigor, lacking in theory, maybe not even empirically grounded, or just empirically grounded and nothing else.
So there are mutual suspicions. And having been caught in between these epistemic wars, I've just learned to say, oh, I'll just do whatever I want. And I'm lucky enough that Kyoto university gives you the space, and the time, and the support to do so.
And Kyoto university has been bucking the trend towards the quantification cult, because it is part of their Japanese policy to insist that no single standard measure of excellence can be applied unproblematically across all disciplines, and that certain disciplines have their own rules of validation, and we need to find out what they are and to use them.
So it's very unpopular. Maybe it will make Kyoto University sink lower in the university rankings, but I think most of the people there don't care. Because one of the good things about Kyoto is that it basically gives you the space to do whatever you want. And so basically it spreads the money around and says, OK, those who are good will do OK. Those who are free riders, it's OK. We'll tolerate them.
And that's why Kyoto University has produced the most number of Nobel laureates in Japan. I think a kind of laissez-faire might be called for, even though we don't agree with that economically. But intellectual laissez-faire is important.
ABBY COHN: So I'd like to just thank you so much for a really wonderful talk.
CAROLINE S. HAU: Thank you very much.
ABBY COHN: And I would like to invite everyone to join us just right out here, that way, for a reception and opportunity for some more informal talking.
CAROLINE S. HAU: Thank you so much. I've been really honored.
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Caroline Hau, professor of Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University, delivered the 11th Frank H. Golay Memorial Lecture on Oct. 25, 2019.