Award-Winning Books on Southeast Asia
View recipients of the Association for Asian Studies’ highest honor: View Below is a list of the book prizes administered by the four AAS regional councils. Submission procedures vary each year, and are posted each spring (APRIL/MAY) after the councils meet at the AAS Annual Conference.
Catholic Vietnam: A Church from Empire to Nation (2015 AAS Harry J. Benda Prize)
In this important new study, Charles Keith explores the complex position of the Catholic Church in modern Vietnamese history. By demonstrating how French colonial rule allowed for the transformation of Catholic missions in Vietnam into broad and powerful economic and institutional structures, Keith discovers the ways race defined ecclesiastical and cultural prestige and control of resources and institutional authority. This, along with colonial rule itself, created a culture of religious life in which relationships between Vietnamese Catholics and European missionaries were less equal and more fractious than ever before. However, the colonial era also brought unprecedented ties between Vietnam and the transnational institutions and culture of global Catholicism, as Vatican reforms to create an independent national Church helped Vietnamese Catholics to reimagine and redefine their relationships to both missionary Catholicism and to colonial rule itself. Much like the myriad revolutionary ideologies and struggles in the name of the Vietnamese nation, this revolution in Vietnamese Catholic life was ultimately ambiguous, even contradictory: it established the foundations for an independent national Church, but it also polarized the place of the new Church in post-colonial Vietnamese politics and society and produced deep divisions between Vietnamese Catholics themselves.
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Islamisation and Its Opponents in Java: A Political, Social, Cultural and Religious History, c. 1930 to Present
(2015 AAS George McT. Kahin Prize)
The Javanese – one of the largest ethnic groups in the Islamic world – were once mostly ‘nominal Muslims’ with pious believers a minority and the majority seemingly resistant to Islam’s call for greater piety. Over the tumultuous period analyzed here – from colonial rule through Japanese occupation and Revolution to the chaotic democracy of the Sukarno period, the Soeharto regime’s aspirant totalitarianism and the democratic period since – that society has changed profoundly to become an extraordinary example of the rising religiosity that marks the modern age. Islamisation and Its Opponents in Java draws on a formidable body of sourecs, including interviews, archival documents and a vast range of published material, to situate the Javanese religious experience from the 1930s to the present day in its local political, social, cultural and religious settings. The concluding part of the author’s monumental three-volume series assessing more than six centuries of the on-going Islamisation of the Javanese, the study has considerable relevance for much wider contexts. Beliefs, or disbeliefs, about the supernatural are important in all societies, and the final section of the book, which considers the significance of Java’s religious history in global contexts, shows how it exemplifies a pro
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Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City (2014 AAS Harry J. Benda Prize)
Much of the world’s population inhabits the urban fringe, an area that is neither fully rural nor urban. Hóc Môn, a district that lies along a key transport corridor on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, epitomizes one of those places. In Saigon’s Edge, Erik Harms explores life in Hóc Môn, putting forth a revealing perspective on how rapid urbanization impacts the people who live at the intersection of rural and urban worlds. Unlike the idealized Vietnamese model of urban space, Hóc Môn is between worlds, neither outside nor inside but always uncomfortably both. With particular attention to everyday social realities, Harms demonstrates how living on the margin can be both alienating and empowering, as forces that exclude its denizens from power and privilege in the inner city are used to thwart the status quo on the rural edges. More than a local case study of urban change, Harms’s work also opens a window on Vietnam’s larger turn toward market socialism and the celebration of urbanization—transformations instructively linked to trends around the globe.
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Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion, and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia (2013 AAS Harry J. Benda Prize)
The spread of Islam eastward into South and Southeast Asia was one of the most significant cultural shifts in world history. As it expanded into these regions, Islam was received by cultures vastly different from those in the Middle East, incorporating them into a diverse global community that stretched from India to the Philippines. In Islam Translated, Ronit Ricci uses the Book of One Thousand Questions—from its Arabic original to its adaptations into the Javanese, Malay, and Tamil languages between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries—as a means to consider connections that linked Muslims across divides of distance and culture. Examining the circulation of this Islamic text and its varied literary forms, Ricci explores how processes of literary translation and religious conversion were historically interconnected forms of globalization, mutually dependent, and creatively reformulated within societies making the transition to Islam. Islam Translated will contribute to our knowledge of this region of the Muslim world that remains crucially important to world affairs.
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