Intellectuals in Intercontinental Conversations
Part 1Session 8
Fri 09:00-10:30 Room 3.06
Part 2Session 9
Fri 11:00-12:30 Room 3.06
- Jan Mrázek National University of Singapore
- Preciosa Regina De Joya Singapore University of Social Sciences
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A “Failed” Formation of a Communist Network in the Philippines during 1930s: The Correspondence between Comintern Agents and Filipino Communists
Takamichi Serizawa Kyoto University
This presentation will explore the correspondence between Comintern agents dispatched from Moscow and Filipino communists in the Luzon island, which is kept at the Russian State Archives of Social and Political History (RGASPI). In order to enlarge the communist network in the Philippines, the Comintern agents recruited members of the Filipino elite who could mobilize a large number of workers and peasants. For the Filipino elite, who were allowed by the Comintern to form the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1930, spreading the ideas and movements of communism was not the only important task; they were also concerned about the decolonization of the country from the United States. Each side had an agenda and used each other in order to attain their goals. This presentation addresses this gap between the Comintern and CPP, and aims to understand how their correspondence and solidarity failed both in effecting a communist and an anti-colonial revolution in the country.
Across the Pacific: Interwar Scientists in Conversation
Jonathan Victor Baldoza Princeton University
The paper draws from a broader project exploring “scientific selves” in the Pacific Science Congress during the interwar. Held six times from 1920 to 1939, the Congress aspired to systematically organize scientific knowledge production and exchange on the Pacific region, gathering scientists of disparate backgrounds and fields from different geographical and national origins. With focus on Anglophone Filipino scientists then under American colonial rule, the paper interrogates the ways in which contact and exposure to a wider community of credentialed scientists shaped their visions and plans for the future independent nation, and how transnational “conversations” with foreign colleagues elevated the authority and prestige of their professional practice at home.
Human dignity in an age of oppression: a dialogue between Sjahrir and Edgar du Perron, and the input of their intimate circle
Kees Snoek Paris-Sorbonne
The Indonesian nationalist Sutan Sjahrir (1909-1966), exiled to a remote island, and Dutch writer Edgar du Perron (1899-1940), born in the Dutch East Indies, engaged, in the course of 1939, in a dialogue about literature, ideology and politics. This dialogue took place toward the end of Du Perron’s stay in his country of origin, and reached a conclusion in the open letter (August 1939) he addressed to the prominent exile, in which he clarified his decision to leave the Dutch colony: his sympathy was with the Indonesian nationalists, but he felt his own destiny was in Europe. It was less than one month before the outbreak of the Second World War. Du Perron had sent books to Sjahrir, and continued to do so after his return to Europe. One of these was Le Temps du Mépris (1935), about a political prisoner of the Nazis in the early 1930s. This novel, translated into English as An Age of Oppression, was one of the novels by André Malraux that Sjahrir read and appreciated, as he esteemed Du Perron’s essays and his autobiographical novel Country of origin. In the end, Sjahrir adopted Du Perron’s rather individualistic concept of human dignity as an essential value in times of oppression. This concept is also put forth in four articles Soewarni Pringgodigdo (1910-1967) wrote about Du Perron’s influence on Western oriented Indonesian intellectuals belonging to Sjahrir’s circle. Her letters to Du Perron’s wife Elisabeth de Roos (1903-1981) provide another, very human, view on this cross-cultural exchange.
“Our mutual dreams are very curious”: Distance, nearness, love and science in the letters of Jose Rizal and Ferdinand Blumentritt
Jan Mrázek National University of Singapore
Preciosa Regina De Joya Singapore University of Social Sciences
The correspondence of the Filipino patriot, scholar, novelist and ophthalmologist Jose Rizal and the Austrian-Bohemian-German high school professor and Filipinist Ferdinand Blumentritt has been a major source for scholarship, mainly on Rizal’s political and scholarly thinking. However, relatively little has been written about the nature of their relationship. In the letters, discussions about ethnology, anthropology, linguistics, and politics, with focus on the Philippines, are intertwined with expressions of “love,” dreams of each other, visions of a future life together, and complaints about ailments and bad weather. Enclosed with some of the letters are flowers and photographs of themselves. The paper, another conversation between a Filipino and a Bohemian, is a reflection on the Rizal-Blumentritt relationship as a microcosm of an interconnected, cosmopolitan world, where modernity, progress, and mobility are infused with myths and dreams of a single humanity. We explore how conventional opposites–distance and nearness, love and impartial science, objective knowledge and dreams, writing and touching, Rizal’s travels and Blumentritt’s immobility, Austria/Bohemia and the Philippine Islands–come together and gain in intensity, energized by each other, as if in engrossing conversations.
Dialogues of Centricity: John Bastin’s 1959 Lecture and its Impact on Southeast Asian Historiography
Chi Tim Ho Singapore University of Social Sciences
In 1959, the historian John Bastin gave a lecture as the inaugural Chair of the History Department, University of Malaya (Kuala Lumpur). Entitled The Study of Modern Southeast Asian History, Bastin was responding to a claim by his counterpart in Singapore that it was possible to argue that the European historical presence in Southeast Asia and Asia was insignificant. Bastin suggested among other things that it was near impossible to arrive at a local (Southeast Asian) perspective of history, since the methods and source materials are largely derived and interpreted from a Western context. If Bastin was being deliberately provocative, he succeeded. Among some of the respondents were John Smail and Harry Benda. Their responses, on the possibility of an autonomous history and a structural approach to Southeast Asian history, were published and remain essential readings for classes on Southeast Asian historiography.
Dr. Cecilio Lopez (1898-1979), Father of Philippine Linguistics, and Otto Dempfwolff’s Vergleichende Lautlehre des Austronesischen Wortschatzes (Comparative Phonetics of the Austronesian Vocabulary)
Zeus Salazar University of the Phillipines
Dr. Cecilio Lopez, the first Filipino trained linguist, studied under Professor Otto Dempwolff for his doctorate which he obtained in 1928. The founder of Austronesian Comparative Linguistics was then in the thick of research for his magnum opus, the Vergleichende Lautlehre, which he subsequently published between 1934 and 1937, shortly before his death in 1938. Lopez was his principal informant for Tagalog. Back in the Philippines, Lopez published a summary in English of his mentor’s work to make it accessible to Filipinos and an addendum to the Tagalog words in the Vergleichende Lautlehre. While working on Tagalog as the basis for his country’s national language as well as teaching as professor of linguistics at the U.P. Oriental Languages Department which he headed, he continued his studies in Austronesian comparative linguistics with Tagalog as focus. This paper concentrates on the Tagalog words in Dempfwolff’s work as well as on Lopez’s addenda and other relevant data. On this basis Lopez founded comparative Austronesian studies in the Philippines as well as Philippine linguistic research in other Philippine languages.
Intercultural Dialogism in the Development of Gamelan Theory
Sumarsam Wesleyan University
What kind of music theory can arise amidst heterogenous complex of perspectives resulting from traditional-Western cultural encounters? My paper attempts to answer this question, regarding the development of gamelan theory in the contexts of colonial and post-colonial Java. The assumption is that gamelan theory developed in response to socio-musical and technological circumstances at given period of history and its continuing influence on its subsequent formation. The perspectives of certain individuals (Javanese, Westerner, musician, or scholar) who are involved in the formulation of theory through (or lack of) dialog between them will shape the character of the theory being constructed. This heterogeneously intercultural dialogs have brought about the richness of the content and context of and lively discussion on gamelan theory.
In an attempt to redeem thinking from the normative discipline of philosophy, the Filipino Jesuit philosopher Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J. re-writes the Platonic dialogue, replacing the exchange between the iconic master philosopher Socrates and the quintessential ignorant pupil with a conversation between two nondescript characters, “A” and “B.” Before the designation of roles and titles or the establishment of any corpus, the search for knowledge takes place in the encounter between persons, and ideas are born in the process of speaking and talking back to each other in the intimacy of an intellectual conversation.
Postcolonial/ decolonial theories have highlighted the politics of discourse, and have heightened our awareness of the epistemic violence that subalternizes non-Western agency and thought, sometimes to the point, however, that systemic oppression and silencing alone appear to define knowledge production. But as has been richly shown in more grounded scholarship on Southeast Asia, engagement with Western ideas have led not simply to a slavish submission to the influence of the other, but to localisation in two senses: as a creative adaptation of ideas that leads to the emergence of what Sumarsam calls the “mestizo culture” of fruitful intercultural dialogues; and Zeus Salazar’s pagpopook (pook, “place”), which involves an articulation of difference, an untranslatability of experience, and an affirmation of a self consciousness.
This panel aims to explore historical encounters of Southeast Asian intellectuals with Western interlocutors, with attention not only to the power structures that defined their relation, but also to the complexity and liveliness of conversations, which may transform, disturb, and/or inspire both thinkers, and where thinking grows from the back-and-forth of an encounter. The contribution of this panel lies in its focused, grounded questioning of the particular dynamics and transformative mutuality of each encounter. To retain a sufficiently sharp focus, we are limiting the scope of our conversations to thinkers who lived in the same times and communicated with each other (thus, the likes of Socrates are excluded).