Introduction To Research In Asia-Pacific Affairs

Michael Wesley

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The study of the societies of Asia and the Pacific through Western methods of the humanities and social sciences has always been driven by the dynamics of wealth and power. The European study of Asian and Pacific societies and cultures was central to the colonial enterprise; originally as a fascination with other wealthy and powerful societies, then as part of a Western ideological hegemony determined to demonstrate that the societies of Asia and the Pacific were in decline, in contrast to the Europeans’ own ascendancy (Anderson 1991, 163–64). The study of proud pasts and contemporary societies soon became part of dozens of independence movements across Asia and the Pacific, a vital ingredient of the intellectual emancipation of colonized peoples (Chatterjee 1993). With independence came a Cold War, a desperate zero-sum struggle between capitalism and communism that mandated the need in the rival camps to understand the particular character of the newly independent governments and the societies they ruled in Asia and the Pacific. “Area Studies”, the deep research of Asian and Pacific societies, grounded in extensive fieldwork and advanced proficiency in vernacular languages, was born. Across the Western world, Asia and the Pacific were divided into regions and studied in their own departments. In establishing a national university in 1946, the Australian government mandated that one of four areas of global excellence the new university had to achieve was in Pacific studies (which at the time was intended to include Asian studies) — precisely because of the new and unknown world of international relations that was to be ushered in by the independence of states to Australia's north and east.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationMuddy Boots & Smart Suits: Researching Asia-Pacific Affairs
    Editors Nicholas Farrelly, Amy King, Michael Wesley and Hugh White
    Place of PublicationSingapore
    PublisherISEAS Publishing
    ISBN (Print)9789814459785
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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