Tracing Trajectories of Modernity in Southeast Asia

The international workshop Tracing Trajectories of Modernity in Southeast Asia, 1920s−1970s which was held on 12 and 13 January 2015 at the KITLV was productive and stimulating. Participants from Australia, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and the Netherlands explored how people envisioned and shaped modernity in late-colonial, wartime and decolonizing Southeast Asia.

The participants challenged the presumption of conventional historiography of a linear development from the colonial state and nationalism towards revolution and the independent nation-state. In their contributions the participants tried to go beyond standard periodizations, in which the postcolonial nation is a the logic outcome of people’s endeavours for ‘change’. Modernity refers to secularization, rationality, progress, mobility, and especially to the need to reformulate attitudes to a changing world. Trajectories of modernity are fundamentally open, and thus debatable and optional.

The convenors of the workshop were Susie Protschky (Monash University) and Tom van den Berge (KITLV). The workshop was funded by KITLV.

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