ARI Working Paper Series
WPS 263 Southeast Asian Area Studies beyond Anglo-America: Geopolitical Transitions, the Neoliberal Academy and Spatialised Regimes of Knowledge
Publisher : Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
Publication Date : Jan / 2018
Author/Speaker: Peter A. JACKSON
Keywords : Area studies, critical theory, globalisation, Eurocentrism, neoliberalism, global rankings

Critical theorists and scholars in Asian cultural studies have challenged the political legitimacy and analytical validity of the cross-disciplinary enterprise of area studies. Area studies has been critiqued as emerging from and reflecting imperialist and Cold War era political agendas; as being overly empirical and disinterested in or even resistant to critical theoretical methods; and as being an outdated form of knowledge that reflects a pre-globalisation era defined by the geopolitics of the nation state. I challenge these three criticisms of area studies in light of the fact that, contrary to predictions, spatiality has not been erased but rather has been reformulated in the context of globalisation. Critiques of area studies fail to address dramatic changes in global knowledge production underway as a result of the geopolitical rise of East, Southeast and South Asia, and overlook the ways the neoliberal re-disciplining of the academy is entrenching Eurocentric forms of knowledge. Following Houben’s (2013) call for a “new area studies”, I argue for the validity and importance of a theoretically engaged project of critical area studies in an era when neoliberal managerialism and metrification of research and teaching are casting a conservative pall over the international academy by intensifying the spatialisation of knowledge under early 21st century globalisation.