Southeast Asian Anthropologies now available Open Access! October 15, 2019 16:27

What is the state of anthropology in Southeast Asia? How are Southeast Asians teaching and practicing the discipline, given its origins in colonial knowledge projects and the diverse paths of nation-building undertaken by the countries in the region?

NUS Press is proud to announce that an important new publication exploring these and other questions, Southeast Asian Anthropologies: National Traditions and Transnational Practicesedited by Eric C. Thompson and Vineeta Sinha — is now available as an open access title, free of charge for scholars and students in Southeast Asia and beyond. This is thanks to NUS Press’ participation in the Knowledge Unlatched project, which works with academic libraries around the world to unlock funds to make important publications open access.

The project is more than a publication; it is also a means of deepening networks across the region, through an initial series of book-planning workshops and most recently, a series of book launching events in Singapore, Jakarta, and Yogyakarta, with further events planned in the Visayas, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur.

The full text of the book can be downloaded here.

Published earlier this year in paperback, Anthropologies reflects ongoing endeavours to strengthen critical scholarship within Southeast Asian anthropology while seeking to consolidate efforts of teaching, research, and conceptualisation via local and transnational networks.

The project sought to bring practicing anthropologists from across the region together and into conversation with each other. The joint publication eventually materialized from a variety of disciplinary contributions. The first section of the book details the making of national anthropological traditions: the role of anthropology in producing “Filipino” identities in the Philippines (Canuday and Porio, Ch. 1), the struggle for institutionalization in Cambodia (Peou, Ch. 2), and a critical re-examination of Soviet and Western influences on contemporary Vietnamese anthropology (Nguyen, Ch. 3).

Chapters Four to Six shed light on the everyday challenges of conducting anthropological research in specific communities. These include maritime anthropology in the Philippines (Mangahas and Rodriguez-Roldan, Ch. 4), ethnicity and race studies in multi-ethnic Malaysia (Yeoh, Ch. 5), and the shifting institutional and intellectual pressures facing anthropologists in Singapore (Sinha, Ch.6).

The final third of the volume highlights the increasing significance of transnational dimensions in anthropological practice: the development of a “Borneo” anthropology that cuts across three nation-states on one island (King and Zawawi, Ch. 7), the construction of selves and others by Indonesian anthropologists within and beyond the border (Winarto and Pirous, Ch. 8), the opening up and diversification of both theory and practice in Vietnam (Dang, Ch. 9), and the role of Thai scholarship in transnational research (Tosakul, Ch. 10).


Since the book’s publication, meetings, roundtables, and launch events have prompted lively discussions surrounding the state of and prospects for anthropology across Southeast Asia. This volume, then, is by no means intended as the last word, nor does it begin to cover the breadth of exciting and important work being done across the region. We can only hope that it will serve as catalyst for an explosion of growth, interest, and visibility in the traditions and practices that the editors have strived to illuminate.

Anthropologies is one of a number of recent NUS Press efforts to provide the widest possible access to Southeast Asian scholarship while ensuring the quality and sustainability of high value-added publishing. The pioneering journal Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia went open access, beginning with volume three, earlier this year.

Other NUS Press OA projects include Southeast Asia in the Ming Shi-lu, a shared database containing all references to Southeast Asia within the Ming Dynasty reign annals; and the Southeast Asian Site Reports series, a project to develop an appropriate format for the publishing of archaeological reports, many of which include large datasets as well as visual material.