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Rickshaw pullers, prostitutes and "pirates": Researching and writing about Southeast Asia and the people without history

Warren, J.F. (2004) Rickshaw pullers, prostitutes and "pirates": Researching and writing about Southeast Asia and the people without history. Taiwan Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 1 (1). pp. 1-17.

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The origin of my work began in personal experience rather than with books and formal training. In a very real sense, my interest in studying about Southeast Asian society and history both from interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives, started at the edge. The reason is twofold. First, my introduction to Southeast Asia was based on witnessing the traumatic experience of adjustment of a maritime-nomadic people to a sedentary way of life-a pariah people who, socially and politically, were at the edge, on the margin of society and history. Second, to acquire the socio-historical methodology necessary to investigate problems of cultural-ecological transformation, such as their continuing adjustment to a sedentary way of life, I subsequently chose to study for my doctorate in Southeast Asian modern history at the Australian National University in 1971, rather than Cornell University, at that time arguably the undisputed intellectual centre of the world for the study of Southeast Asia. The choice to opt for Australia, then considered in certain respects to be at the edge of Southeast Asia studies, was deliberate. It allowed me the ultimate practical experience of "passing over" into another culture situated on the rim of Southeast Asia and the chance of studying and working in a different system of education, which at the postgraduate level primarily emphasised research and participation in a variety of intra-university inter-disciplinary seminars. More importantly, the journey was to provide the opportunity, albeit in a modest way, to help redefine where the centre and the edge were located for the formal study of Southeast Asia over the next quarter of a century...

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Center for Southeast Asian Studies
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