Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 July 2013
Departing from the “Orientalist” view of the learned society in South Asia, this paper examines the role of the learned society in Southeast Asia as a site of sociability and intellectual exchange. It traces the emergence of such societies as independent, rather than official, initiatives, from nineteenth-century societies in Singapore to the Siam Society and Burma Research Society in the early twentieth century. Their journals provided pluralist interpretations of the nation, turning from grand histories of kings to new practices of social history. While such societies were limited to a small circle of European and Asian literati, they also contributed to an emerging intellectual culture of libraries, public lectures, and universities. Moreover, via correspondence, travel, and exchanges of publications, such societies contributed to a growing sense of Southeast Asian regionalism, laying the institutional foundations for in-depth study for the region and the post-war emergence of Southeast Asian studies.
I am grateful to Tim Harper, Michael Dodson and Henk Maier for their comments on various drafts of this article. Any remaining shortfalls are my own.
1 Taylor, L. F., “Ethnological and Linguistic Research in Burma and South-East Asia”, Journal of the Burma Research Society 12/1 (1922), 1Google Scholar.
2 See, for instance, Inden, Ronald, Imagining India (Oxford, 1990)Google Scholar; Cohn, Bernard, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge (Delhi, 1997)Google Scholar; and more recently, Kaviraj, Sudipta, “Said and the History of Ideas”, in Bose, Sugata and Manjapra, Kris, eds., Cosmopolitan Thought Zones: South Asia and the Global Circulation of Ideas (New York, 2010), 58–81Google Scholar; Suzanne Marchant, “On Orientalism and Iconoclasm: German Scholarship's Challenge to the Saidian Model”, in ibid., 260–83
5 Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1991)Google Scholar.
6 Anderson, Benedict, The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia, and the World (London, 1998), 5Google Scholar.
7 Ballantyne, Tony, Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (Basingstoke, 2006), 14Google Scholar.
10 Snelders, H. A. M., “Professors, Amateurs, and Learned Societies: The Organisation of the Natural Sciences”, in Jacob, Margaret and Wijnand, Mignhardt, eds., The Dutch Republic in the Eighteenth Century: Decline, Enlightenment, and Revolution (Ithaca, 1992), 308–23Google Scholar. For an excellent analysis of the relationship to metropolitan academia in France and colonial scholars in Indochina see Singaravelou, Pierre, L'Ecole française d'extreme-orient ou l'Institution des Marges (1898–1956) (Paris, 1999)Google Scholar.
11 See Taylor, Jean Gelman, The Social World of Batavia: European and Eurasian in Dutch Asia (Madison, 1983), 85–7Google Scholar; Zuidervaart, Huib J. and van Gent, Rob H., “A Bare Outpost of Learned European Culture on the Edge of the Jungles of Java: Johan Maurits Mohr (1716–1775) and the Emergence of Instrumental and Institutional Science in Dutch Colonial Indonesia”, Isis 95/1 (2004), 1–33CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; and, for a comprehensive study of the Batavian association in Dutch, Groot, Hans, Van Batavia naar Weltevreden: het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, 1778–1867 (Leiden, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
12 Wurtzburg, C. E., Raffles of the Eastern Isles (London, 1954)Google Scholar, Collis, Maurice, Raffles (London, 1966)Google Scholar. For an excellent account of the debilitating perspective of Raffles and Marsden on the Malays and their religion see Aljunied, Syed Muhd Khairudin, Rethinking Raffles: A Study of Stamford Raffles’ Discourse on Religion amongst the Malays (Singapore, 2005)Google Scholar.
13 Debernardi, Jean, Rites of Belonging: Memory, Modernity, and Identity in a Malaysian Chinese Community (Stanford, 2004), 49Google Scholar.
14 See Butcher, John G., The British in Malaya, 1880–1941: The Social History of a European Community in Colonial South-East Asia (Oxford, 1979)Google Scholar; Bayly, C. A., “Ideologies of the End of the Raj: Burma, India and the World, 1940–50”, in Ghosh, Durba and Kennedy, Dane, eds., Decentring Empire: Britain, India and the Transcolonial World (London, 2006)Google Scholar; Myint-U, Thant, River of Lost Footsteps (London, 2006): 189–190Google Scholar.
15 See Freeman, Andrew's memoirs, Brown Women White, reprinted as A Journalist in Siam (Bangkok, 2007)Google Scholar.
17 Lewis, Su Lin, “Print and Colonial Port Cultures of the Indian Ocean Littoral: Penang and Rangoon”, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 82/2 (2009), 9–24Google Scholar.
18 “Inaugural Address” in Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1 (1868).
19 Harper, 277; Frost, Mark, “Transcultural Diaspora: The Straits Chinese in Singapore, 1819–1918”, Asia Research Institute Working Paper Series 10 (2003), 30Google Scholar.
21 Ko, Taw Sein, “A Plea for a University” (1910), in Ko, , Burmese Sketches (Rangoon, 1913)Google Scholar.
22 Editorial, Bangkok Times, 17 March 1888, as quoted in Davis, Bonnie, The Siam Society under Five Reigns (Bangkok, 1989), 11Google Scholar.
24 For excellent recent work on the impact of the colonial encounter on Buddhist scholarship in Thailand, Burma and Cambodia see Charney, Michael W., Powerful Learning: Buddhist Literati and the Throne in Burma's Last Dynasty, 1752–1885 (Ann Arbor, 2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Alicia Turner, “Buddhism, Colonialism and the Boundaries of Religion: Theravada Buddhism in Burma 1885–1920”, unpublished thesis, University of Chicago, 2009; Jory, Patrick, “Thai and Western Buddhist Scholarship in the Age of Colonialism: King Chulalongkorn Redefines the Jatakas”, Journal of Asian Studies 61/3 (2002), 891–918CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jackson, Peter, Buddhism, Legitimation, and Conflict: The Political Functions of Urban Thai Buddhism (Singapore, 1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Hansen, Anne, How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia 1860–1930 (Honolulu, 2011)Google Scholar.
25 See Limapichart, Thanapol, “The Emergence of the Siamese Public Sphere: Colonial Modernity, Print Culture and the Practice of Criticism (1860s—1910s)”, South East Asia Research 17/3 (2009), 361–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Su Lin Lewis, “Asian Urbanites and Cosmopolitan Cultures in Bangkok, Penang, and Rangoon, 1910–1940”, unpublished thesis, Cambridge University, 2010.
26 See Eoseewong, Nidhi, Pen and Sail: Literature and History in Early Bangkok, trans. Baker, Chriset al., ed. Baker, Chris and Anderson, Benedict (Bangkok, 1982)Google Scholar.
27 As quoted in Davis, The Siam Society under Five Reigns, 36.
28 See Winichakul, Thongchai, “The Quest for ‘Siwilai’: A Geographical Discourse of Civilizational Thinking in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Siam”, Journal of Asian Studies 59/3 (2000), 528–49Google Scholar.
29 Edwards, Penny, Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation, 1860–1945 (Honolulu, 2007)Google Scholar. For a contrasting, intimate look at the EFEO scholars see Singaravelou, L'Ecole française d'extreme-orient.
30 Reynolds, Craig and Day, Tony, “Cosmologies, Truth Regimes and the State”, Modern Asian Studies 34/1 (2000), 1–55Google Scholar.
31 Seidenfaden, Erik, “In Memoriam”, Journal of the Thailand Research Society 35/1 (Feb. 1944), iiGoogle Scholar.
32 Baker, Chris, “Introduction”, in Baker, , ed., The Society of Siam: Selected Articles for the Siam Society's Centenary (Bangkok, 2004), ixGoogle Scholar.
33 “Report of an Initial Meeting for Associate Membership”, Journal of the Siam Society 31/1 (1939), 103–7.
34 On examples of anxieties of the Thai elite towards educated commoners see Kullada Kesboonchoo Mead, The Rise and Decline of Thai Absolutism (Abingdon, 2004), 81–85. On “commoner intellectuals” see Baker, Chris, History of Thailand (Cambridge, 2005), 74–5Google Scholar. On Phya Anuman Rajhanon see Warren, William, The Siam Society: A Century (Bangkok, 2004), 5Google Scholar.
35 “Publications of Interest in Other Journals”, Journal of the Siam Society 30/2 (1938), 401–4.
36 Journal of the Siam Society 30/2 (1938).
38 Tin, Pe Maung, “The Late U May Oung”, Journal of the Burma Research Society, 16 (1926), 158Google Scholar.
40 Furnivall, J. S., “The Dawn of Nationalism in Burma”, Journal of the Burma Research Society, 30 (1950), 2Google Scholar.
44 Furnivall, J. S., “Twenty Five Years: A Retrospect and Prospect”, Journal of the Burma Research Society 25/1 (1935), 41–2Google Scholar.
45 Maung Tin, “Missionary Burmese”, Burma Research Society 1/1 (1911), 87–91. Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies: Britain's Asian Empire and the War with Japan (London, 2005), 87.
47 See Gandhi, Leela, Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought, Fin-de-Siècle Radicalism, and the Politics of Friendship (Durham, 2006)Google Scholar.
48 I am grateful to Pamela Gutman for sharing parts of her forthcoming biography on G. H. Luce.
50 Tin, U Pe Maung, “Introduction”, The Glass Palace Chronicle of the Kings of Burma (London, 1923), ix–xxiiiGoogle Scholar.
51 Stewart, J. A.. “Notes on Some Authorities for the History of Burma”, Journal of the Burma Research Society, 13 (1923), 75Google Scholar.
54 Silverstein, Joseph, “Foreword”, in Daw Mya Sein, The Administration of Burma (Kuala Lumpur, 1973), v–xviiiGoogle Scholar.
55 “Permission Granted to Miss May Oung”, Chief Secretary's Office, 1929, Political Department, 4834/169B29, Myanmar National Archives, Yangon.
56 See Turner, “Buddhism, Colonialism and the Boundaries of Religion”.
57 Aung, Shwe Zan, “Buddhism and Science”, Journal of the Burma Research Society 8/2 (1918), 99–106Google Scholar.
58 Aung, Shwe Zan, “The World is Round”, Journal of the Burma Research Society 7/2 (1917), 184–6Google Scholar.
59 Journal of the Burma Research Society 1/1 (1911) and 12/1 (1922).
60 “Proceedings of the Burma Research Society”, Journal of the Burma Research Society, 14 (1924), 78–9.
61 Private collection, Damrong Rajanupab Library, Bangkok.
62 Editorial, “The Architect of Our Destiny”, Oway (1938), 2–3.
63 See Furnivall, J. S. “Sunlight and Soap”, Journal of the Burma Research Society 8/3 (1918), 199Google Scholar. For a discussion on Furnivall's paternalism see Pham, Julie, “Ghost Hunting in Colonial Burma: Nostalgia, Paternalism and the Thoughts of J. S. Furnivall”, South East Asia Research 12/2 (2004), 237–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
64 Furnivall, J. S., “Bulletin des amis du Vieux Hue”, Journal of the Burma Research Society, 12/1 (1922), 55–7Google Scholar.
65 Anderson, The Spectre of Comparisons, 9.
66 Straits Echo, 15 Sept. 1938, 11.
67 Straits Echo, 15 Sept. 1938, 11.
68 See Tun, Than, “An Estimation of Articles on Burmese History Published in the JBRS, 1910–70”, Journal of the Burma Research Society 53 (1970), 53–66Google Scholar.