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Southeast Asia: Is there a “there” there?


A Talk by Prof. Stephen O’Harrow from the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Friday, September 18, 2015
12:00 – 1:30pm
Tokioka Room, Moore Hall 319

It’s a play on the famous saying by Gertrude Stein about her hometown of Oakland, California, “there’s no there there.” Gertrude ran away to Paris with her girlfriend to get to someplace with a “there” in it. Picasso and Hemingway were “there,” so  she probably got what she was looking for. But are Southeast Asianists getting what they’re looking for? The talk will be about whether there is any reality to the concept of “Southeast Asia” [and therefore “Southeast Asian Studies”] other than a simple set of lines on the map of the earth. It will be about the angst that a lot of SEAsianists seem to feel about the topic, go into the history of how the idea of SEAsia came about, and Professor O’Harrow’s own idea of a socio-linguistic reality that could be said to unite the region into a reasonable unit for continued study.

Speaker Bio

Stephen O’Harrow, University of Hawaiʻi Director of Southeast Asian Studies from 1997 to 2003 and again from 2010 to 2014 and member of the UHM faculty since 1968, has been thinking a long time about what the words “Southeast Asian Studies” really mean. Prof. O’Harrow did his undergraduate degree at the Univ. of Michigan in East Asian Languages, was a Marshall Scholar at the School of Oriental & African Studies (London) for his MA in Chinese & Vietnamese, and he took his doctorate in Oriental Philology at the Sorbonne. He is past-President of GUAVA, the national Vietnamese language teachers association, and is currently the Coördinator of the Vietnamese language and literature program here at Mānoa.

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