Southeast Asia as a Theoretical Laboratory for the World
Professor of Anthropology Oscar Salemink has recently contributed to Suvannabhumi, the multi-disciplinary journal of Southeast Asian Studies, with the article 'Southeast Asia as a Theoretical Laboratory for the World.'
In this paper, Oscar Salemink argues that concepts with arguably European pedigree – like religion, culture, identity, heritage and art – travel around the world and are adopted through vernacular discourses that are specific to locally inflected histories and cultural contexts by annexing existing vocabularies as linguistic vehicles. In the process, these vernacularized “universal” concepts acquire different meanings or connotations, and can be used as powerful devices in local discursive fields. The study of these processes offer at once a powerful antidote against simplistic notions of “global” / ”universal” and “local,” and a potential corrective to localizing parochialism and blindly Eurocentric universalism. He develops this substantive argument with reference to his own professional, disciplinary, and theoretical trajectory as an anthropologist and historian focusing on Vietnam, who used that experience – and the empirical puzzles and wonder encountered – in order to develop theoretical interests and questions that became the basis for larger-scale, comparative research projects in Japan, China, India, South Africa, Brazil, and Europe.
Oscar Salemink, Southeast Asia as a Theoretical Laboratory for the World, Suvannabhumi, Volume 10, Issue 2, December 2018.