Over the past few decades, there have been many outstanding works that have looked at Asian societies and polities in the postcolonial present, focusing on the various aspects of socio-cultural-political-religious life from a range of disciplinary angles – ranging from postcolonial political analysis to literary criticism to media studies to new forms of religiopolitical mobilization and organization. Present-day Asia is a region that is vast and which offers ample opportunities to scholars who wish to study present-day modes of social, economic, and political activity.
There remains, however, the question of historical continuity; and the tendency for works of country/regional/area studies to focus on particular states or regions as if they were ontologically distinct, fully present, and constituted as is. This, in turn, blinds us to the fact that much of the postcolonial world is built upon the foundations laid during the colonial era. One has to look at the map of present-day Southeast Asia today to see how all the political boundaries that divide the respective countries of the region were, and remain, artificial boundaries drawn during the colonial era. The same can be said for the borders of Africa and Latin America as well. Notwithstanding all the talk we have heard about globalization and the globalized world we live in today, it cannot be denied that the global world we inhabit was built and shaped during the days of empire, roughly the two hundred years between 1750 and 1950.
This series will invite works that trace the continuities – structural, institutional, organizational, linguistic, cultural, economic – between the colonial past and the postcolonial present. It takes as its working premise the notion that history is neither linear/teleological nor episodic and that we should not introduce a ‘temporal boundary line’ between the colonial past and the postcolonial present (and, for that matter, the pre-colonial part as if these were distinct and unconnected episodes in history. Instead, we invite works that focus on the continuities between the colonial past and the postcolonial present, hoping that an understanding of the colonial past may also shape and inform our understanding and analysis of present-day realities.
The series invites contributions from all major disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and law, including history, sociology, political theory, economics, geography, literature, media studies, cultural studies, etc. The unifying factor that would bring all these works together in this series is the central argument that we cannot, and should not attempt to, understand the postcolonial present as if it was a unitary and distinct unit of time cut off from the recent colonial and earlier pre-colonial, pasts. We hope that this series will attract contributors who are equally keen to demonstrate how and why our understanding of the postcolonial world today needs to be grounded upon an account of the colonial and pre-colonial eras that came before and how we have not been able to step entirely out of the long shadow of the nineteenth century when the European colonial presence transformed pre-colonial Asia.
Peter Carey, Farish Noor
Anne Booth, Bryna Goodman, Jan Michiel Otto, Vineeta Sinha
Farish Noor / Saskia Gieling