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Incorporating Southeast Asia into the World History Curriculum: Why and How?. Dr. Jim Hastings Wingate University. Cultural illiteracy?. What is “wrong” with this scene from Pirates of the Caribbean III?. No ConCEPT.
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Dr. Jim Hastings
What is “wrong” with this scene from Pirates of the Caribbean III?
Here, Chow Yun Fat welcomes Caribbean pirates fleeing the soldiers of the English East India Company to Singapore……in the 18th century!
How many American students know that Singapore was founded in 1819?
How many only know about it from this film?
I. The “Indochina” problem
Is Southeast Asia “something more than just a geographical space between India and China”?
- O.W. Wolters
For many, the answer is “No”
II. Complex historiography
“…precolonial Southeast Asian historiography was desperately chaotic and difficult to penetrate.”
– Victor Lieberman
III. Relatively little has been written about the region as a whole compared with other regions
It’s a vicious circle:
In world/global history courses, for the reasons mentioned, SE Asia is often passed over cursorily
Therefore, most future history professors do not learn much about SE Asia (unless that is their focus)
Most world history professors are self-taught when it comes to regions beyond the scope of their training
Therefore, SE Asia (along with sub-Saharan Africa, pre-Columbian America, and Polynesia) is considered expendable in the interest of time
It seems easier to focus on the “important” regions: India and China
Victor Lieberman offers this overview of the changing historiography of SE Asia
Textbooks often have outdated historiography, so even those who want to learn more about SE Asia find it daunting.
I. Though SE Asian civilizations are considered “third wave”, they are still impressive in terms of scale.
In discussing classical civilizations, Pagan and Angkor should be included.
II. SE Asia and world religions
Most of the major world religions took root in SE Asia, making it perfect for comparing patterns of syncretism, indigenization, and conversion.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Christianity and Islam are all imported religions that have become localized.
III. SE Asia and seagoing trade: role and contributions.
SE Asia was formed by its maritime culture and its contact with other civilizations. It was the destination of Chinese, Indian, Arab, Persian and European traders who wanted its spices and other commodities. It was at the forefront of early globalization.
Any discussion of globalization should include SE Asian entrepôts such as Melaka.
IV. SE Asia and the study of colonial imperialism
SE Asia was colonized by the Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, British and Americans. It thus makes a good region for the comparative study of colonialisms.
In particular, American imperialism in the Philippines should be included in any module on colonialism.
American students are often shocked to learn the US was indeed an imperialist country.
Such a module should include Kipling’s famous poem on the topic (a warning to the American public), “The White Man’s Burden” which has been interpreted as both pro- and anti-imperialism