Colonial Heritage in Southeast Asian Identity Need to be Dismantled

Slider - Farish Lecture

Lecture by Prof. Farish Noor – 29 September 2014

Southeast Asia is essentially a dynamic region, not just after colonialism and decolonization in the 1950s, but also before that. Kirti Chaudry comprehensive study about Southeast Asia before the colonial era shows that Asian identity emerged preceeding European identity, which in the mid-1500s are still sealed in the warring countries to fight over territory.

Those was delivered by Professor Farish Noor, Associate Professor at Nanyang Technological University in the Faculty (29/9). Prof. Farish gave a lecture on the formation of political identity in Southeast Asia. There are around 35 students who attended his class.

“Indeed, Asian identity is born first before Europe. However, the experience of colonialism led to a shift in their identity “, he said.

According to him, the colonial administration established both by the Dutch in Indonesia and the British in Malaysia contribute to the re-establishment of identity in Southeast Asia. “Colonial Government has interest to build an administration that could ruled the colonial society. The Administration, in Malaysia and Indonesia, divide society into certain ethnic base in order to ease the control over the society. Though, this regulation is unknown in the pre-colonial society “, he concluded.

Farish who is also the Coordinator of the Doctoral Program at NTU stated that the identity in Southeast Asia is not a normative identity and could not be changed. “Political identity in Southeast Asia is not something that “fell” from the sky. It grew up and evolved dynamically within the community. We, as the Southeast Asian people actually could have created our own Southeast Asian identity, “added the alumnus of the University of Essex, UK.

The creation of identity in Southeast Asia needs to be done, for example, by exploring local heritages in Southeast Asia that were buried in the colonial era. “There is a study of doctoral student at Universitas Gadjah Mada, for example, that explored the legacy of Bajau Laut tribes in Sulawesi, Kalimantan, to the Philippines. Bajau Laut is a tribe whose identity beyond the nation-state in Southeast Asia. Bajau tribe in Sulawesi, Sabah and the Philippines, claimed that they were relatives though they were separated by the boundaries of nation-states created by colonialism. They are one of the examples of a legacy that needs to be revived, “added Farish.

At the end of the lecture, Farish urges participants to reflect back the identity of Southeast Asia critically. “The identity of Southeast Asia is still possible to be redefined,” Farish councluded in his lecture.

The lecture, which lasted for 120 minutes is listened carefully by the participants, which consisted of enthusiasts of Southeast Asian studies at the Faculty. Some foreign students attended this class with enthusiasm. These lectures then were closed by the Director of the ASEAN Studies Center, Randy Wirasta Nandyatama.