A History of Presence: Decolonizing Discourse around Early Modern Southeast Asia
Part 1Session 6
Thu 14:00-15:30 Room 3.09
Part 2Session 7
Thu 16:00-17:30 Room 3.09
- Leonor Veiga University of Lisbon
- Kathryn Wellen Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Images
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Fortifications of the Portuguese Eastern Empire and raison d’état (late 16th century/early 17th century)
Gustavo Portocarrero Faculty of Fine-Arts of the University of Lisbon
The study of the fortifications of the Portuguese Eastern Empire between the late 16th century and the early 17th century has been done so far within a strictly military approach. In this paper new approaches to the study of these fortifications, beyond the military ones, will be followed in order to gather new information regarding other aspects of the Portuguese Eastern Empire in this period. Therefore, it will be analysed the different ways through which the Portuguese Eastern Empire used fortifications at the service of raison d’état in Southeast Asia and other parts of Asia with a view to control the activities of clergymen and merchants that were outside the authority of the empire.
Language and Food as Monuments of Agency
Tom Hoogervorst Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Images
Beyond historical documents, the Portuguese presence in Southeast Asia and the wider Indian Ocean littoral has made itself felt through architecture, technology, trade products, attire, Catholicism, forms of entertainment, and the rise of Portuguese-descended communities from Goa to Ambon and from Macau to East Timor (Jayasuriya 2008). Across these areas, we see substantial linguistic and culinary influence. Yet one should not imagine a one-way process of cultural transmission. In the same way that Asian communities in contact with Portugal became springboards for things European, the Portuguese turned into vessels of things Asian. The most crucial agents, however, were arguably a neglected group of people who identified with both continents and typically had mixed ancestry.
Reviving the Macanese Cuisine in Macau
Margarida Cheung Vieira Institute of European Studies of Macau
Before the term ‘fusion food’ became a popular trend in the culinary world in the 1970s that applied to a unique style of cooking by combining westernized techniques and ingredients into eastern cuisine, there was Macanese food. This type of culinary practice can be traced back to as far as the sixteenth centuries, resulting from the conquest of Malacca by Afonso de Albuqueque. The pioneers of Macanese cuisine were the result of Macanese mothers originated from Malacca and Nagasaki and later in the province of Canton in Mainland China (Rodrigues, 2002:19). To experience Macanese food is equate to discovering Portugal and its colonial and trading history by evoking Goa, Brazil, Malaysia, Africa, Thailand, China and the Philippines in the form of food (Doling, 1996:54). And for or centuries, Macanese food was and still continue to serve as a conduit to connect the past with the present (Holtsman, 2006:363).
History told in the Exhibition Space: Portugal and Southeast Asia in Display
Leonor Veiga University of Lisbon
This talk analyzes some important exhibitions that focused on Portuguese and Southeast Asian relationships during the 16th century including Portugal na Abertura do Mundo (CNCDP, 1989); A Cartografia Portuguesa e a Construção da Imagem do Mundo (CNCDP, 1991); Construtores do Império Português (CNCDP, 1998); Presença Portuguesa na Ásia (Museu do Oriente, since 2008); and Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th centuries (Smithsonian Institution). The aim is to analyze how new historiography has impacted exhibition discourses.
The Dutch envy and the Chinese distrust’: rethinking the heritage and history of the ‘Battle of Macau’ (June 23-24, 1622)
Mariana Pinto Leitão Pereira University of Cambridge
The defeat of a Dutch invasion to Macau in June 1622 remains to this day in the popular imaginary of the Macanese, the Portuguese descendant community of Macau, SAR China. Macau – a small Portuguese settlement at the turn of the 17th century – was a commercial hub and much sought after by the Dutch since 1601, in their aim to control the lucrative maritime trade routes of the region. While it was not the first, nor would be the last Dutch incursion, the narratives surrounding the battle of 1622 remain multiple. This paper seeks to position Macau and the Dutch incursions within the broader sphere of Early Modern politics in Southeast Asia and reconsider the wider impact this military encounter – between the Dutch armada and the local communities in Macau – had for the identities of the Macanese and geopolitics of the region, not just at the time, but in the following centuries. The main argument of the presentation is that multiple views of the historic past gain more significance for contemporary communities than sustaining ‘a single historic narrative’. This will be showcased by bringing together historical sources, including those in Arquivos de Macau (1929-1979) and the Boletim Oficial (1850-1999) on the one hand; and through the narratives of contemporary Macanese interlocutors, interviewed both in Macau and the Macanese diaspora, on the other hand. In the eve of the Battle’s 400th anniversary (1622-2022), the steppingstone for negotiating the past in the present is by acknowledging, embracing, and fostering the possibility for manifold versions of history to coexist.
This panel investigates the origins, nature, extent and evolution of Portugal’s cultural legacy in Southeast Asia through transdisciplinary conversation. By bringing together archival studies, history, philology, cultural anthropology, linguistics and art history, we intend to reconstruct forgotten connections (material and immaterial, tangible and intangible) and rehabilitate neglected agencies. These insights serve to generate points of departure for the decolonization of discourse regarding what Southeast Asia is and how it came to be, and infuse this important conversation with updated knowledge. By scrutinizing historical connectivities across early modern Southeast Asia—from the individual to the community; from oral to material evidence—we propose to trace the (in)tangible character—widely felt to this day—of Portuguese presence in the region. The afterlives of this presence manifest themselves, for example, in the 1999 handover of Macau and the maintenance of rule of law until 2049, and by Timor-Leste’s independence process between 1999 and 2012. Historically, both localities were integrated within Portuguese (in)formal networks stretching from East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean World.
Portugal’s territorial presence in Southeast Asia was largely displaced by other European powers at an early stage. As such, it does not precisely amount to colonial rule, yet it has brought about a contact situation deeply affecting transregional connections, linguistic change, religious ceremonies, and the hybridization of intangible culture—including food, music and performing arts. Many cultural practices born during this historical period have become indigenous to Southeast Asia. Drawing on the idea of an informal empire—symbolized by the mysterious “Etc.” that adorned the title of the King of Portugal—this panel aims to trace transfers of culture and recover acts of agency during the early modern period (1500s-1650s), adding historical depth to today’s intercultural dialogues and exchange processes born out of this non-formalized legacy. Through a broad, transdisciplinary vision, we advocate for the recovery and mapping of a “Presence” highly felt in the region, albeit fragmented, mysterious, and often downplayed by subsequent European powers. By foregrounding the creolized elements of Portugal’s legacy in the region, we hope to contribute to the decolonization of discourse—on the early modern period and its afterlives—in Southeast Asian Studies.