In the Introduction to the book, Everyday Life In Southeast Asia, the editors Kathleen M. Adams and Kathleen A. Gillogly briefly explains what makes Southeast Asia so diverse and the importance of regional studies in a global era of the world. The authors argue in the introduction that Southeast Asia is one of the worlds’ most dynamic, complex, and unique regions. The region includes eleven diverse and distinct counties, which some people are unaware of and that are commonly lumped into the general category of Asia.
However, this idea is overshadowed internationally by news media, which only portrays Southeast Asia as an exotic vacation location or as historic disaster areas. This chapter represents the author’s efforts to convey to the reader the inherent complexity of Southeast Asia shared through the experiences of diverse people and explorations of their daily lives. This is meant to highlight the details of everyday life which offers a provocative lens for reflecting on more abstract cultural principles prevalent in the region. The authors divide the chapter into four brief parts after an introduction to their studies.
The authors provide metaphorical details for what Southeast Asia is by asking a culture association question, whether the region would be considered a rose, unicorn, sponge, jigsaw puzzle, or a college. What is Southeast Asia? Is it just a subregion of Asia comprised of eleven countries? Or is it more than that a sponge-like region that absorbed the cultural and religious influences of more powerful neighboring areas? The authors give an example from the Filipino scholar Fernando Zialcita, who points out the term “Southeast Asia”, has been gradually changing in the minds of Southeast Asians.
He also explains that Southeast Asians themselves did not have an unifying, common term to identify them with the region in which they live. Before western names for the region began circulating in the twentieth century, pan-Southeast Asian organizations enabled modern search for symbols to distinguish themselves from the world. “Zialcita argues that although we tend to conceive of the world as an enormous jigsaw puzzle wherein each region has its unique defining essence, in fact it is more realistic to conceive of Southeast Asia as a collage.
With this in mind, Southeast Asia is best portrayed as a region with glued together culture traditions. The authors remark that cultural diversity in the region has many fundamental divisions based on geography; one of these is between island and mainland Southeast Asia. This is why the authors have joined in editing the book in part to unite their personal regional specializations. The disciplinary convenience is more than just a divide between the mainland and islands of Southeast Asia. Those of the mainland have long ties of shared belief in culture, language, overland trade with the people of southern China.
While the islands share various features. Traditions and visions of the world stretch beyond island Southeast Asia through much of the pacific. A continuing problem in state policies that Southeast Asia faces is there is no single language family uniting the entire region with some languages crossing national borders. The dominant language family in island Southeast Asia is Austronesian, while the mainland languages are bit more diverse in some countries. Besides languages and culture differences, Thailand has preserved its independence, while the colonial histories of the countries that compose Southeast Asia differ dramatically.
This was because of Thailand acting as a buffer state between British and French colonial territories, while also assimilating Western technologies of governance. The authors’ notes that over the last sixty years of independence Southeast Asia have allowed the region to become well-known politically, economically, and through social interest with associations such as ASEAN. “This contemporary cooperation in itself justifies a textbook covering the region of Southeast Asia. There is also a history preceding colonialism, one in which pre-modern kingdoms traded goods and ideals. (5) The region of Southeast Asia is separate and distinct from the rest of Asia – that absorbs influences from China, India and beyond – restructuring and producing a unique region within its own internal, regional variations. The authors express that “we are not original in making this point. Others have argued there are widespread cultural traits that unite Southeast Asia as a cultural region. ”
The cultural coherence within the region gives it a long history of trade. An example of this is religious influences from other regions – for instances China, India, and Europe – carried through trade networks. Despite the influences of Islam and Christianity, many educated Southeast Asian urbanites still retain respect for the legendary powers of certain ancestral kris. ” (6) Further, besides religion another Common trait the people of Southeast Asia share is their ability to shift identities in certain. People can shift identities because they are multilingual even though there are multiple types of languages spoken in Southeast Asia. Despite many cultural differences this further connects the Region.
The authors conclude with an analysis that we study this culturally region in this age because it is one of the most linguistically, culturally, and religiously areas in the world that faces dramatic transformation in the face of globalization. Two of the main points that we learn that this region has become major centers for global manufacturing: Singapore has become a center for medical technology and pharmaceutical production; Indonesia is a major oil producer. Understanding this should tell us that Southeast Asia is hardly a backwater of globalization but a developed sophisticated region.
For the last sixty years of independence, Southeast Asia has seen the rise of associations such as ASEAN. I am curious to how this association works, is it comparable to the United Nations or is it more than that? Another question I have is Did the economic transformation during European colonization period in Southeast Asia contribute to improve the indigenous population lifestyle in the region? Further, why is it that Thailand was clever enough to avoid European colonialism while the rest of Southeast Asia was not so fortunate?