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A Saucer Model of Southeast Asian Identity

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This essay argues for an indigenous origin of the Southeast Asian idea. Two inherently Southeast Asian factors determined that the region would be seen as one: (i) a positive view from what we now call Malaysia/Singapore, that it sits in the centre of a meaningful region called by a diversity of names. This self-conscious centrality is based, however, on communications, not on civilization or empire like the cores of many other historic regions. The Malacca Straits area has always been a meeting place of ports and portages, not a centre of agriculturally-based population, large armies, architectural or literary monuments; (ii) a negative decision by the peripheries of this region that they did not want to be appendages of their larger and more threatening neighbours, so that Southeast Asia became a kind of default option.

Affiliations: 1: Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies Australian National University


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