An Asian Turn? Researching and Theorising from Asia
Date : 05 Oct 2017 - 06 Oct 2017
Venue : Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room
AS8, Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ Kent Ridge Campus
Organisers : Jonathan RIGG
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A recurring theme is the need to ‘escape’ from and possibly supplant theoretical and conceptual framings, and methodological approaches to research, that have their origins in the historical experiences, geographical conditions and cultural contexts of Europe and North America. In his 1961 paper ‘On the possibility of an autonomous history of modern Southeast Asia’ John Smail espoused “the ideal of an ‘Asia-centric’ history of South east Asia” a process that he thought would be “a painful and confusing business”. Since then the debate has moved onwards and outwards and there have been some notable Asian contributions to this intellectual ‘counter-movement’, including Dipesh Chakrabarty’s (2001) Provincialising Europe, Partha Chatterjee’s (2014) The politics of the governed (2004), Syed Farid Alatas’s (2006) Alternative discourses in Asian social science, and Kuan-Hsing Chen’s (2010) Asia as method: towards deimperalization.

ARI was established in 2001 and has recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. Scores of scholars from early career postdoctoral fellows through to senior professors have either been staff members at ARI or have visited for varying lengths of time. They come, often, with the aim of testing, re-shaping or challenging the Western-originated approaches and assumptions that may have informed their fields of scholarship, often by drawing on their specific empirical or theoretical work in and on Asia. Many of our early post-doctoral fellows are now established, senior scholars and have made signal contributions to scholarship.

In this two-day conference, we have invited former scholars and researchers who are working on Asia for a focused conversation around the following themes:

  • Researching (in) Asia. The focus here is on how we research Asia; the methods and approaches we employ, the means by which we gather evidence, and the constraints under which that occurs. Is researching in/on Asia essentially the same as researching in/on other places? How and why might it be different and with what consequences?
  • Theorising (from) Asia. This theme focuses on our conceptual framings and theoretical approaches. This may be about the challenges of applying established modes of thought to the Asian context (what ‘works’, what does not, and why), or about the development of framings from Asia that provide alternative or complementary structurings of knowledge (so theorising from Asia).
  • Applying (to) Asia. Here the concern is to consider the application of knowledge, both empirically and in terms of policy. How does academic research gain policy and practical traction in Asia? How might established modes of research sit uncomfortably in an Asian context? With growing interest in the social impact of academic research, where does the Asian experience sit?

 

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Valerie YEO