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Keynote Lecture



Anthony Reid
Australian National University Cosmopolis and Vernacular: Competing impulses in Asian history

Spring History Symposium 2018

4 May 2018

3:30 p.m.
4.36 Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus



The competing impulses of globalization (or "transnationalism") and local reactions against it appear to dominant our contemporary world. Understanding the past ebb and flow of these impulses in Asia may help us better understand where we stand today. Do Trump, Putin and Brexit represent a 21st century trend, or are they merely last-gasp reactions against the irresistible pressures of convergence?


This lecture will seek to show that Asia has seen several phases of globalization / transnationalism, which, following Sheldon Pollock's 'Sanskrit cosmopolis', I will characterize as cosmopolis or cosmopolitanism. Such globalizing impulses tend to be followed by major cultural swings in the other direction, which I will call vernacularization, when the foreign ideologies and technologies are tamed and limited, creating new hybrid 'traditions'. The globalizing impulse which I have labeled the 'Age of Commerce' for Southeast Asia, gave way to a particularly marked vernacularization (17th-19th centuries) when the national cultures of that region were formed. This pattern has some resonance also in Northeast Asia. From the late 19th century, in both cases, a new impulse became irresistible. We tend to call it modernity, through which we all came to dress alike and adopt the same technologies, with similar values and popular cultures. What next?


Anthony Reid was a member of ANU's former Department of Pacific & Asian History from 1970 1999. In 1999 he became founding Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at UCLA, Los Angeles, and in 2001 founding Director of the Asia Research Institute of NUS in Singapore. He was honoured with the Fukuoka Prize for Asian Culture (Academic) in 2002 and the Life Achievement Award of the Association of Asian Studies in 2011. He has been a fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities since 1987 and the British Academy since 2008. Among his ten authored and 30 edited books are the 2-volume Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce and the recent (2015) A History of Southeast Asia: Critical Crossroads.


All are welcome. No registration is required.