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Historicising “Modernity” in Southeast Asia

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The term “modernity” implies Western influence and the weakening of beliefs and practices associated with traditional culture. Although it is increasingly used in reference to contemporary Southeast Asia because of the region's current economic growth, there seems little room for historical perspectives. This paper takes up the idea that if we broaden our understanding of modernity in Southeast Asia so that it is not restricted to recent history, we may see evidence of a modern spirit in earlier times. Although being modern became increasingly linked to Europe, Southeast Asians never rejected their own past. However the eclectic nature of “modernity” in Southeast Asia was undermined as “modern” ideas and practices came increasingly from Europe, to be inevitably associated with Europe's political and economic control.

Affiliations: 1: University of Hawaii


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