Gia Long’s De-Localization of Hanoi’s Văn Miếu

When the Nguyễn Dynasty came to power in 1802, there was a Confucian Temple (Văn Miếu 文廟) in Long Hồ hamlet, outside the imperial citadel. In 1807, Emperor Gia Long ordered that a new Confucian Temple be constructed in the nearby An Ninh hamlet.

That same year, Emperor Gia Long also ordered that a shrine dedicated to the father of Confucius (Khải Thánh từ 啓聖祠) be constructed.

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Area Studies is the New Philology

Knowledge production continuously transforms alongside changes in society and technology. At times, however, societal and technological changes are so profound that forms of knowledge that had previously been considered of central importance get displaced by new ways of knowing.

We are currently living in such a time of profound social and technological change (think globalization and the Digital Revolution), and area studies is a realm of knowledge production that is losing its position of previously held importance.

Interestingly, were we to look back at the rise of area studies in the decades following World War II, another time of profound change (think decolonization and the Cold War), we would find that area studies at that time itself replaced an earlier way of investigating and knowing the world: philology (the study of literary texts).

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The Digital Age World Does Not Need Southeast Asian Studies – And That’s the Problem

Today I stumbled across an article by historian Thongchai Winichakul on “Southeast Asian Studies in the Age of STEM Education and Hyper-Utilitarianism.” Being a fan of Thongchai’s work on Thai history, and seeing that this essay covers a topic that I’m always interested in – Southeast Asian Studies in the current (digital) age – I decided to read it.

It is no secret that the world of area studies in general, and the humanities in particular, are not faring well these days. What I find problematic is that in discussing this issue many academics simply try to argue that area studies (or history or the humanities, etc.) is important because it promotes/teaches critical thinking or certain knowledge that leads to a more meaningful life.

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Exploring Brunei

For the past six months I have been living in Brunei. Before coming here, like many people I know, I knew very little about the country and did not know what to expect.

After arriving, I quickly realized that Brunei is incredibly beautiful.

At present there isn’t much of a tourism industry. And while that will likely change to some extent in the years ahead, hopefully whatever changes come will not disrupt the lifestyle and beauty of the country.

I’ve been making videos to document my explorations (and to practice video editing). I’m sharing the ones I’ve made here for anyone who is curious to see what beautiful Brunei looks like, as it is indeed beautiful.

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Ooi Keat Gin, An Historical Encyclopedia of Southeast Asia, & the State of Southeast Asian Studies

In this video, Professor Victor T. King of the Institute of Asian Studies at Universiti Brunei Darussalam continues his discussion with Professor Ooi Keat Gin, an historian in the School of Humanities at Universiti Sains Malaysia. They begin by talking … Continue reading Ooi Keat Gin, An Historical Encyclopedia of Southeast Asia, & the State of Southeast Asian Studies

History is Ending. . .

As a blog that has the word “history” in its title, I think we need to pause and talk a little bit about that word, because it’s in the news again. Let me explain.

I used to serve as an undergraduate advisor for a History Department in the US, and in that capacity, I saw that starting around 2012 the number of students majoring in History started to decline rapidly. That decline continued for about 5 years, until the number of majors was around 50% what it had once been.

This same decline in History majors has taken place at universities all across America (and I’m sure in other parts of the world too), and historian Benjamin M. Schmidt has just published a new article about this topic.

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Introducing Historian Ooi Keat Gin

Ooi Keat Gin is an historian who has written extensively on World War II and its aftermath on Borneo. Among his many works are Rising Sun over Borneo: The Japanese Occupation of Sarawak, 1941-1945 (Springer, 1999), The Japanese Occupation of Borneo, 1941-45 (Routledge, 2010) and Post-War Borneo, 1945-1950: Nationalism, Empire and State Building (Routledge, 2013).

I recently made this video of a conversation that anthropologist Victor T. King had with Ooi Keat Gin about his career and work, and I share it here with anyone who is interested in learning about this historian and his many writings.

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