New Area Studies as an Emerging Discipline. The Way Ahead for Southeast Asian Studies
Southeast Asian Studies and Area Studies have a rather weak position in German academia, according to Vincent Houben, due to internal, but especially external institutional factors, with universities being part of a neoliberal machinery. As a field of study, Area Studies is more financially vulnerable than a discipline, and constantly has to prove itself academically, which is why Houben calls for a disciplinary reinvention as a singular New Area Studies. Area Studies already has most of the important characteristics that make a discipline, but lacks the necessary coherence. Houben proposes the advancement of middle-range theories and Situational Analysis as a meta-methodology to solve this issue and draws attention to the importance of cooperation among scholars. Ramon Guillermo and Elísio Macamo offer different perspectives on this proposal. Guillermo criticises Houben’s piece as being too rooted in an internal Western conversation that reflects power relations in Southeast Asian Studies. Similarly, Macamo warns against exerting Western dominance through an approach such as Houben’s, while also arguing that the interdisciplinary integration of Area Studies has actually given it significant symbolic capital.
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