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H-ASIA August 27, 1995 Asian Studies (was South Asian studies and Indian econ.) *************************************************************************** From: Mark Berger <email@example.com> I would like to clarify my comments on the current trajectory of 'Asian Studies' which flowed out of an earlier posting on the future of South Asian Studies. I would also like to respond to Eric Olsen's posting. I should point out that my 'frustration' regarding the current situation facing Asian Studies (and its uneasy relationship with Business Studies etc) does not flow out of a concern that there is a need for greater cultural understanding that is going begging because many students coming into Asian studies and pressure from the top is driving Asian Studies in an opportunistic and instrumental direction. My concern is more political and/or ethical. I see Asian Studies as being driven by elite concerns and preoccupations around the Asia-Pacific in an age of globalization. Asian studies is becoming a site of elite integration and a focus for the reproduction and recruitment of members of a broad group of 'managers'. I do not share the hope of my colleague Eric Olson that instrumentalism will pass and people coming into Asian studies for instrumental reasons will mature and greater cultural understanding will follow. That vision seems to me to rest on a set of liberal assumptions about 'progress' and historical change which events of the twentieth century have called into question. I see Asian studies (which came into its own as a product of the Cold War) becoming increasingly transnationalized and integrated into a wider process of elite conflict and enmeshment in the region. By the same token I am not expecting Asian Studies to be some sort of progressive bastion of political change. Research and teaching on 'Asia' or anything else always occurrs against the background of wider political and institutional trends and in an age of geo-economics, globalization and dynamic and uneven capitalist industrialisation I would be surprised if the high ground in Asian Studies was held by anything other than the geo-economists. Nevertheless, I define my job in research and teaching terms as being primarily about critical thinking, reading and writing and not about (and this is not something one has nice easy control over) complementing Washington, or Canberra or Tokyo's various agendas or helping in the pursuit of new investment opportunities for Mobil, or BHP or Matsushita. To return to Eric Olson's point. He seems to think that Asian Studies is going to transform people and even things as it moves forward. I would argue that the trend is in the opposite direction Asian Studies is being transformed in profound ways. While geo-politics was the dominant and defining trend shaping Asian Studies during the Cold War, geo-economics is changing Asian Studies in profound ways and they have little to do with cultural understanding in some broad sense and more to do with elite integration in the Asia-Pacific. Mark Burger Murdoch University ================================================================= To post to H-ASIA send your message to H-ASIA@msu.edu To temporarily interrupt your H-ASIA service for holidays send a posting to <firstname.lastname@example.org> with the message: SET H-ASIA NOMAIL When you return and wish to resume H-ASIA service send a similar posting with message: SET H-ASIA MAIL Private questions should go to: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org