Movements at the Liminals: Reconsidering European Colonialism in Southeast Asia


Single Panel


Session 7
Wed 14:00-15:30 REC A2.15


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Studies of modern Southeast Asia during colonial times have shown the limits of a too narrow understanding of colonialism. Scholars have pointed out various small actors who have not been adequately represented in the wider history of colonialism focusing on Empires. More often than not, the colonial state did not present itself in the colonies as an omnipotent power of the metropole. Rather, the empires were dependent on intermediaries to both govern and to create knowledge about the colonies. Traders, entrepreneurs, spouses, missionaries, collaborators, travellers, even rogues, are important in understanding how the Age of Empire was a cacophonous one and how empires were in fact resisted everywhere it reached. It has been argued that instead of being the marginal phenomenon, these voices have been fundamental to the making of modern Southeast Asia.

This panel encourages scholars who study colonialism through the role of small actors who stubbornly resist a simple categorisation of the coloniser and the colonised. How do we, for example, account for a relation between the non-colonised Siam, and the small-colonisers Scandinavia during this period? How do we address the role of capitalists and entrepreneurs, both Western and non-Western, who were not state representatives, in the making of modern Southeast Asia?

The panel invites papers that look at intermediaries and small scale actors in-between European empires and Southeast Asian polities from the late nineteenth century to the post-second world war decolonization