- Prof. Hilde Heynen, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
- Prof. William Logan, Deakin University
- Prof. Mark Crinson, The University of Manchester
What is Southeast Asia architecture? Does the construction of Southeast Asia architecture depend on the validity of Southeast Asia as a geographic unit of analysis? In Southeast Asia studies, the cogency and usefulness of Southeast Asia as a geographic unit of analysis has been much discussed and debated. Scholars have wondered if a diverse region divided by different cultures, languages, ethnicities and religions has sufficient commonality to be productively considered as a single region. With the end of the Cold War and the crisis of Area Studies, the relevance and validity of Southeast Asia as a geographic unit has been subjected to further interrogation in the past two decades or so.
While there are scholars who question the relevance of a geographic unit of analysis that was only invented recently and by external observers for a post-Cold-War era, there are others who are keeping faith with Southeast Asia as a unit of analysis. Some argue that, as a geographic unit, Southeast Asia serves as a useful conceptual tool for framing meaningful analysis. Others contend that the polyvalency and fluidity of Southeast Asia as a geographic unit can be an analytical strength, allowing them to explore networks, flows and connections – the new emphases of globalisation studies. We share the optimism of these scholars who have kept faith with Southeast Asia. We further believe that the scholarship on Southeast Asia’s architecture need not just draw on but can also contribute to the understanding of Southeast Asia as a geo-historical unit. Architecture is after all a spatial art and it should productively shape our conception of Southeast Asia as a region.
How have or can scholars of architecture and urbanism in Southeast Asia contribute to this broader discourse of space and history in this region? This symposium invites scholars to submit papers that explore the multifarious relationships between architecture in Southeast Asia and issues surrounding its use as a geographic unit of analysis.