Identity: Forging Regional Belonging in Southeast Asia

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Abstract

Southeast Asia is home to multiple ethnic and religious identities, which – through historical processes dating to colonial and pre-colonial times – have shaped the nationalism of modern nation-states. Local loyalties were shaped by their inclusion in broader systems of belief like Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam and other ideological frameworks, both transnational, and national, and often mixed. These identities underpin Southeast Asian citizens’ sense of their membership of the ASEAN Community. In recent years, ASEAN has paid attention to the shaping of new forms of collective imaginations about the future of the region. These have committed the Association to directions that reach beyond the politico-economic realm and are grounded in a growing awareness of the interrelatedness of the region’s diverse cultures. In fact, Southeast Asian identity should not be confused as a conceptual tool with the identity of ASEAN as a regional organisation. The identity of Southeast Asians may rather be seen as an arena for the interplay of different forces competing for the allegiances of its inhabitants.

We invite papers dealing both with elite-driven projects of forging a regional belonging and endeavours evolving from grassroots movements. Special emphasis is laid on competing forces providing a key to understand the dynamic or regional belonging in Southeast Asia, such as generations (belonging shaped by collective experiences of age groups), transnationalism, violence and trauma (identities forged by perpetrators as well as victims), gender, and migrational experiences.