Imagining the “West” in Southeast Asia: Construction, Deconstruction and Contestation


Double Panel

Part 1

Session 6
Thu 14:00-15:30 Room 3.01

Part 2

Session 7
Thu 16:00-17:30 Room 3.01


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Despite decades of calls from scholars to move away from the ongoing forms of westerncentric knowledge production (Nandy 1983, Hall 1992, Comaroff & Comaroff 2012, Cooper & Morrell 2014), the force of neoliberal globalisation has intensified the desire for “the West” in the “rest”. In Southeast Asia, states’ global aspirations and outlook have driven them toward the so-called “western standards” in governance, economic development, and everyday practices. Within the region, various economic, social, and political transformations have been shaped by ideals of “the West” as the model for nation-building, modernisation, and knowledge production. Promoted largely under Western and/or international tags by many scholars, policymakers and citizens alike, these new ideas, practices, and values often mean different things and advocate different values to different stakeholders. Yet, they also evoke certain imaginaries of what the “West” is. Aspirations toward idealised versions of the West as models for societal advancements intrinsically reveal the underlying imperial and colonial indoctrination that continues to exist in Southeast Asia, in which imaginations of the West continue to perpetuate an imperialist hierarchy between the global “core” and “peripheral”, and among the “peripheral”.

Acknowledging and calling attention to the need to move the conversation beyond a neocolonial and comparative gaze from the West, this panel welcomes contributions that examine how the West is perceived, imagined and practised across Southeast Asia and discipline; as well as de-colonial and de-imperialising approaches aiming at dismantling the Western-centralism that has constituted the prevailing structure of desire and knowledge to construct new research understanding and imaginations.