Tag: Asia

going with the rest of my night…

In this week’s lecture we sat down with Arnott Van Demeer who discussed the Search of the Origins of National Identity in Southeast Asia. Professor Demeer focused particularly on Indonesia and how their culture has changed over time but also how common themes can be traced through the changes in history. Professor Demeer focused especially on the impact of Soemarson. Demeer’s lecture focused on two theories one of called the lamp lighting theory and the other is called the onion theory.

Demure touched on the influence of the marine trade and the way in way in which the outside trade cultures. However, the culture of Southeast Asia was able to remain in tact given all of the outside influences.  Through the rise in marine trade, Southeast Asia became more connected to the Southern and Western Asia, Europe and Africa. While the marine trade had a strong influence, the culture of the Southeast Asian people stayed in tact.

The lamp theory goes to explain each part of the Southeast Asian culture as if it were to be a part of the lap. The wick is hindu-buddist heritage. It is the core of the candle and is a main source of light. The lamp’s oil is describes as Islam and Islamic modernism and the lamp shade is the Dutch culture. Soemarsono explains that while all of the pieces need for the lamp is present, the lamp still needs to be lit. Soemarsono mentioned how Western cultures and colonialism allowed for the Indonesians to be able to actually light the lamp. In addition it shows how the culture does not complete change but instead comes together to build something new. In the case of the analogy what is built is the lamp.

Demeer brought up an analogy which he teaches in another class. It is that if you were to take a 3D map of the world and drop paint in the middle of the map, when moved around the paint would only spread out to reach certain points of the map. In other words no matter how thinly or well-distributed the paint is, not every area on the map would necessarily receive enough paint. If one were to look at this in terms of a countries economic prosperity, the center of the map could be viewed as the most affluent area and as you got further and further away from the center the socio-economic profile begins to change drastically. What this shows is that as people living in a society are further and further away from the view of those who hold power their well-being becomes less important. They are not in the focus of those who yield the power but rather in their periphery.

Deemer’s final theory is that of the onion theory. The onion theory, simply, explains how the history of the Indonesian country has many layers which need to be peeled back to understand. Similar to an onion which has many layers, each layer helps to understand the Indonesian society and how it has become what it is to date.

The complexity of nationality

As a student growing up in East Asia, other regions in this continent always seem both mysterious and somehow connected to me. Therefore, it was a great pleasure to have Prof. Arnout van der Meer from the history department to come to our class and talk about the origins and history of national identity in Southeast Asia. Particularly, I found his onion model and his analysis on the relationship between world history and regional history very inspiring, both of which reflect the complexity of the origins of national identity.

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American Origin of Nationalism: An etymological approach.

This past week, Professor Arnout Van Demeer, come to discuss the origins of nationalism in Southeast Asia. While I could summarize the tale of Soemarsono igniting change and deconstruct the analogy of the oil lamp, I feel more compelled to search for our origins of nationalism. Now, to be clear, “our” refers to the American origins of nationalism, and that in itself contains a number of complications. So I care to ask, just as I have scrawled in my notes: can we be nationalistic despite not being a native. Yet, though not a native American (note how I’m not capitalizing native), I am still an American national. This of course, opens a further can of worms, stemming from questions of national identity. Thus, I’ll start at the root: ‘nat’.

‘Nat’, as in nation, nationalism, and native directly means ‘to be born’ or ‘to spring forth’. Yet, the majority of our country has familial roots spanning multiple nations, thus ‘international’ and ‘internationalism’ seem a better. Therefore I question that, unless you are indeed a native American, wouldn’t it be better to refer to your nationalism as internationalism. With such a minute percentage of native Americans, isn’t then nationalism re-branded internationalism under the guise of a unifying umbrella nation? Perhaps the suffix clarifies this ambiguous derivation…

The suffix ‘al’ is simple, meaning “of a kind or pertaining to”; therefore ‘national’ means ‘concerned with or pertaining to a nation’.1(<<apparently I cannot superscript) Does that not therefore deem my previous assessment of nationalism invalid? The final suffix, ‘ism’, is merely means “the distinctive doctrine or theory of”. Therefore, nationalism is the doctrine pertaining to a nation, and I care to argue that my previous logic is actually backwards. Instead of nationalism being exclusive to those tied to the nation from birth, perhaps nationalism, in a way, ties those who share the unifying ideals of a nation regardless of birthplace as ‘nat’ suggests. Of course, this is only an etymological view of nationalism, but it seems to suggest that anyone — immigrant, national, or otherwise — is as much as an American as those born in America*.2

Now where does this fit in with the larger theme of origins? I’m not sure if it does…yet

With such a large uprising in nationalism” surrounding the recent elections, it’s hard not to notice the hypocritical rhetoric that helped our president into Washington. Threats of deportation and slogans of “make America great again” don’t exactly mix with the idea that Americans are any people who agree with core “American values” (and yes I do put this in quotations because, I believe, ideals of equality and freedom aren’t exclusively American). However, I do believe that we, as Americans, in the upcoming years must bring this issue of inclusive nationalism to light, and find order in our self-referential chaos.

* The fine print here being: as long as they share the ideals of the nation as a whole.

  1. Sidenote: Notice how ‘foreign national’ is one who does not belong to the nation where they preside. Yet, when taking the root ‘nat’ literally, every immigrant, citizen or not, is a foreign national.
  2. Revisiting the preceding footnote: With the understanding of national and nationalism I have just derived and ignoring legal classifications, a ‘foreign national’,  is not so different from ‘immigrant’. More reading here: https://medium.com/reportedly/the-language-we-use-foreign-vs-immigrant-4e70f955f56b