Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Freiburg seeks a transdisciplinary research agenda. Participating disciplines include Political Science, Social Anthropology, Economics and Asian History. Located at the crossroads of multiple encounters between the Middle East, India, China and Europe, Southeast Asia has been exposed to strong external cultural influences for many centuries. These foreign influences have been persistently localized and transformed over time into layers of indigenous culture. Research on Southeast Asia is therefore a suitable terrain for the empirical study of “multiple modernities” conceptualized both as a globally as well as an intra-regionally differentiated process.
Southeast Asian Studies at Freiburg mainly build upon a constructivist theoretical paradigm, although with the intention of reconciling it with rationalist arguments. Their focus is on the region’s ideational developments and on their implications for and in relation to material dynamics. Grounded and extensive empirical research is carried out within a framework of methodological pluralism that combines hermeneutic-inductive and qualitative approaches with deductive-nomothetic and quantitative research techniques such as model building, econometrics.
Southeast Asian Studies at Freiburg seek to contribute to theory building that is sensitive to local dynamics and knowledge production in the region. Research takes a close look at Southeast Asia both from a four-fold perspective: An outside-in perspective focuses on the external influences and their localization, an inside-out perspective on the region’s own norm production and their export, a top-down perspective focuses on Southeast Asian elites as norm entrepreneurs, and a bottom-up perspective examines the impact of local social and cultural practices, belief systems, and discourses.
Research focuses on two thematic pillars: democratization and institutional change as well as constructions of the “Other” in Southeast Asia.
This research cluster focuses on processes of democratization and institutional change in Southeast Asia. Of particular interest are the ideational shifts accompanying such transformations. Studies explore how and why new ideas and norms emerge and in which way they reconfigure polities, societies and economies in the region. What is the role of foreign ideas on democracy, security and statehood, how are these external influences integrated into the local political script and what are the consequences for democratization and institutional reform? This research field is conceptualized as a multi-level process that can be studied at the international, domestic and sub-national government levels in Southeast Asia.
You may find a list of current research projects here:
Second Research Pillar: Beyond Occidentalism: Conceptions of „the West“ in Asia (Associated Research Project funded by DFG)
The second pillar of the research agenda is structured around the Freiburg Interdisciplinary Research Association that investigates discourses of alteration and representation of foreignness in Indonesia. This research explores how various social groups in Indonesia articulate knowledge of “the West,” of “Self” and “Other,” and how this articulation is related to ideas on modernization and globalization. Which images of “the West” can be identified, how are they assimilated in social practices and with what implications?
The interdisciplinary research association started its work in October 2009 and three Indonesia-based research projects are funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). A synergetic relation exists between the research association and the research agenda of the Southeast Asian Studies at Freiburg both thematically and conceptually.
You may find a list of current research projects here
Third Research Pillar: Sinicization in Southeast Asia
This research pillar focuses on the multiple facets and dynamics of China’s cultural, political and economic influences in Southeast Asia. As a “near abroad” region, the latter has traditionally been of great significance for Chinese rulers. Research on Sino-Southeast Asian relations often operates with simple categories such as the “China model,” the “China threat,” “Chinese hegemony” or regional “hierarchy” which only superficially capture the intensifying encounter of China as a (re-)emerging power with actors and institutions in the neighboring Southeast Asian region. Transcending established one-directional perspectives searching for patterns of Chinese dominance, scholars in this research pillar conceptualize Sinicization as a set of variegated and open-ended processes of multi-directional discursive and material interactions. The underlying social mechanisms may lead to numerous reconfigurations of social orders ranging from resistance to integration or adaption and may induce confrontation, cooperation and acculturation. The concept of “Sinicization” enables interdisciplinary collaboration as well as diachronic comparisons. However, participating scholars still root their research in their own disciplinary background. Different disciplinary perspectives deepen our understanding of the actors and catalysts of Sinicization processes in the domestic and international sphere.
You may find a list of current research projects here
You may find a list of former projects here
You may find a list of Doctoral Dissertations and Habilitations related to Southeast Asia here