Southeast Asian Identity

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Topics: Southeast Asia
Question 3: “SEA is a region without an identity”. Discuss this statement with reference to at least 3 examples.

Making a check with Oxford Dictionary; Southeast Asia is defined as the part of south-eastern Asia that includes the countries of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma (Myanmar), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. A “region” refers to an area, especially part of a country or the world having definable characteristics but not always fixed boundaries, and an “identity” refers to a close similarity or affinity (Oxford University Press n.d.). Now, if we relook at the definition of each word in the sentence, “SEA is a region without an identity,” you do see a certain paradox. The phrase “SEA is a region” itself suggests that that area we are talking about share ‘definable characteristics’ that could be used as an identity within the region. And they have already defined which countries are included in Southeast Asia. Yet, if it was so simple why then are there numerous studies and discussions regarding its identity, who is included and what makes Southeast Asia? What do the countries in the region Southeast Asia have as a ‘definable characteristic’ that gives the region its identity?
Let me first discuss location and how it is used as a ‘definable characteristic’ and henceforth as an identity that makes Southeast Asia. Obviously, Oxford Dictionaries has already defined for us which countries are included. Just to make sure, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries could also be used as a medium to look into which countries is part of Southeast Asia. But is there all there is to it? Obviously in order to define a region, it has to have ‘definable characteristic,’ and henceforth identity, that each individual country in it share to make up the region Southeast Asia. Now Oxford states that the countries listed are “parts” included in the region Southeast Asia. With that said, are there any other countries that



Bibliography: Acharya, Amitav. The Quest for Identity. International Relations of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 2000. Adams, Kathleen M, and Kathleen A Gillogly. Everyday life in Southeast Asia. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2011. Bloodworth, Dennis. An Eye for the Dragon: Southeast Asia Observed. New York: Farrar, 1970. Emmerson, Donal K. ""Southeast Asia": What 's in a Name." Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 1984: 1-21. Emmerson, Donald K. "Security, Community and Democracy in Southeast Asia: Analysing ASEAN." Japanese Journal of Political Science, 2005: 166. Google Maps. Google Maps. https://maps.google.com.sg/ (accessed September 18, 2012). Hellstrom, Anders. "(Re)making European Unity." In Identity Dynamics and the Construction of Boundaries, by Bo Petersson and Eric Clark. Nordic Academic Press, 2003. Jones, E Michael. "Forging an ASEAN Identity: The Challenge to Construct a Shared Destiny." Contemporary Southeast Asia, 2004: 141. Jonsson, Kristina. Lunds University Centre for East and Southeast Asian Studies. 2008. http://www.ace.lu.se/images/Syd_och_sydostasienstudier/working_papers/tina_final.pdf (accessed September 18, 2012). Oxford University Press. Oxford Dictionaries. http://oxforddictionaries.com/ (accessed September 18, 2012). Souchou, Yao. House of Glass. Culture, Modernity and the State in Southeast Asia. Singapore: ISEAS, 2001. The ASEAN Secretariat. the official website of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. http://www.aseansec.org/18619.htm (accessed September 18, 2012). Yoshimatsu, Hidetaka. "Collective Action Problems and Regional Integration in ASEAN." Contemporary Southeast Asia, 2006: 136-137.

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