The Importance of Regional Studies in a Global Era

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Why study a culturally particular region in this age of globalization? Are we not all becoming one world? Not only is Southeast Asia one of the most linguistically, culturally, and religiously heterogeneous areas in the world, but it is also a region undergoing dramatic transformations in the face of globalization. For instance, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and islands off the coast of Singapore have become major centers for global manufacturing and outsourcing. Bangkok, Thailand is Southeast Asia’s banking center. Singapore has recently become a high-tech hub as well as a center for medical technology and pharmaceutical production. And Indonesia is a major oil producer (in addition to being the world’s largest Muslim nation and the fourth-most-populous nation in the world). Given that Southeast Asia is hardly a backwater of globalization, we believe it is essential to develop a richer, more nuanced appreciation of this region. Understanding the processes by which global forces (such as Western corporate expansion, the spread of Middle Eastern forms of Islam, or the growth of foreign markets for Southeast Asian fish) play out in different local settings requires that we have a detailed and intimate knowledge of particular places, as well as of past and present relationships among the different societies within the region. That is, there remains a need for place-based studies.



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