Exploring Transnational Approaches to the History of US-Southeast Asian Relations after 1945

AHA Session 245
Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Boulevard B (Hilton Chicago, Second Floor)
Lien-Hang Nguyen, Columbia University
Lien-Hang Nguyen, Columbia University

Session Abstract

The papers of this panel adopt transnational approaches to explore the broader dimensions of the U.S. encounter with Southeast Asia following the Second World War, within the sub-region and beyond. Currently, the study of U.S.-Southeast Asian relations history is dominated by analyses of America’s bilateral relationships with various nations of the region. Discrete examinations of each bilateral relationship, while valuable in and of themselves, still fall short of analyzing American involvement across wider region. Crucially, a large proportion of such works concern mainly the U.S.-Vietnam relationship, overshadowing all other Southeast Asian countries. This panel attempts to go beyond the U.S.-Vietnam relationship and the bilateral studies that typify the history of American involvement in Southeast Asia, examining the region’s authoritarian regimes and diasporic networks to illuminate transnational connections between the United States, multiple states in the Southeast Asia and political communities on both sides of the Pacific. Mattias Fibiger explores how institutions and ideologies of authoritarian rule traversed Southeast Asia’s national boundaries from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Wen-Qing Ngoei explores how U.S. Cold War policies toward Southeast Asian nationalism intertwined with colonial and indigenous prejudices against the ten-million strong Chinese diaspora throughout Southeast Asia. Joy Sales’s paper analyzes transnational Filipino activists in the Philippines and the United States in the era of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos’s rule by martial law. The transnational perspectives of these papers transcend the nation-state as a basic unit of analysis, probing how individuals inside and beyond elite policymaking circles across Southeast Asia understood, performed or reformulated their ideological and ethnic loyalties under the stresses of the big powers’ Cold War struggle for the region. In so doing, these papers highlight the transnational and local agency of a range of Southeast Asian actors and address the existing dearth of U.S.-Southeast Asia histories that offer broad, regional narratives.
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