Strongmen in Southeast Asia

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Abstract

Scholars of Southeast Asia have produced an extensive literature on strongmen. The study of traditional strongmen focuses on men of prowess across Southeast Asia, emphasizing the importance of shared belief systems about the basis of an individual's power and the historical processes that influenced these beliefs. Scholarship on modern strongmen also discuss elements of traditional authority, but often emphasize the reliance of strongmen on coercion and ties to the state as the basis for their domination of society.

This panel brings together scholars from various perspectives to examine a broad range of issues regarding strongmen in Southeast Asia. The goals of the panel are to present recent research on strongmen to broaden our understanding of several dynamics. Among the questions addressed: 1) What is the basis for strongmen’s domination of society? 2) When and how do strongmen ally with/violently challenge the central state? 3) What are the economic and social foundations of their authority?