Tag: onion

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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