Asian Studies and Geo-politics

In a new book review, JCA editor-in-chief Kevin Hewison of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looks at Framing Asian Studies. Geopolitics and Institutions (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1483999).

Published by Singapore’s semi-government ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Hewison suggests that the collection generally has a very optimistic tone. The co-editors argue that “Asian Studies appears alive and well. . .” in places as diverse as the US and Europe and and Australia and Asia itself.

He’s less happy with the framing of the chapters and the book. With “geo-politics” in its title, Hewison argues that:

“Area studies in the US and … elsewhere – including Asian studies – are deeply enmeshed in an intellectual conversation with Edward Said’s characterisation of Orientalism and post-colonialism. This is somewhat curious. In fact, much of the US’s area studies … saw … greatest expansion during the Cold War.”

He suggests that the focus on Said is a “decoy allowing the turbocharged state funding of area studies and Asian studies after World War II to be left only fitfully examined.”

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