Rommel Argamosa Curaming, "Power and Knowledge in Southeast Asia: State and Scholars in Indonesia and the Philippines" (Routledge, 2019)


Why did leading historians in both Indonesia and the Philippines become involved in projects to write national histories during the 1970s? How far were these projects essentially political undertakings to legitimate the Suharto and Marcos regimes respectively? In conversation with Duncan McCargo, Rommel Curaming discusses how he managed to interview key protagonists behind these controversial history-writing endeavors, many of whom were initially rather reluctant to talk about their roles.

Examining two state-sponsored history writing projects in Indonesia and the Philippines in the 1970s, Power and Knowledge in Southeast Asia: State and Scholars in Indonesia and the Philippines (Routledge, 2019) illuminates the contents and contexts of the two projects and, more importantly, provides a nuanced characterization of the relationship between embodiments of power (state, dictators, government officials) and knowledge (intellectuals, historians, history). Known respectively as Sejarah Nasional Indonesia (SNI) and the Tadhana Project, these projects were initiated by the Suharto and Marcos authoritarian regimes against the backdrop of rising and competing nationalisms, as well as the regimes' efforts at political consolidation. The dialectics between actors and the politico-academic contexts determine whether scholarship and politics would clash, mutually support, or co-exist parallel with one another. Rather than one side manipulating or co-opting the other, this study shows the mutual need or partnership between scholars and political actors in these projects. This book proposes the need to embrace rather than deny the entwined power/knowledge if the idea is for scholarship to realize its truly progressive visions. Analyzing the dynamics of state-scholars relations in the two countries, the book will be of interest to academics in the fields on Southeast Asian history and politics, nationalism, historiography, intellectual history and the sociology of knowledge.

Rommel A. Curaming is Senior Assistant Professor at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD). His areas of research include comparative historiography, history and memory of violence, historical theory, and knowledge politics in Southeast Asia, mainly Indonesia and the Philippines. 

Eighteen books have appeared to date in the Routledge Rethinking Southeast Asia series, which was launched in 2000. The series includes a number of ground-breaking monographs by scholars including Bob Hadiwinata, Jun Honna, Michael Connors, David Streckfuss and Jess Melvin. 

Duncan McCargo is an eclectic, internationalist political scientist and literature buff: his day job is directing the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Learn more here, here, here, and here.

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Duncan McCargo

Duncan McCargo is an eclectic, internationalist political scientist, and literature buff: his day job is teaching global affairs at NTU in Singapore.

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