Imperial Alchemy: Nationalism and Political Identity in Southeast Asia

Imperial Alchemy: Nationalism and Political Identity in Southeast Asia

By: Anthony Reid (author)Paperback

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The mid-twentieth century marked one of the greatest watersheds of Asian history, when a range of imperial constructs were declared to be nation-states, either by revolution or decolonisation. Nationalism was the great alchemist, turning the base metal of empire into the gold of nations. To achieve such a transformation from the immense diversity of these Asian empires required a different set of forces from those that Europeans had needed in their transitions from multi-ethnic empires to culturally homogeneous nations. In this book Anthony Reid explores the mysterious alchemy by which new political identities have been formed. Taking Southeast Asia as his example, Reid tests contemporary theory about the relation between modernity, nationalism, and ethnic identity. Grappling with concepts emanating from a very different European experience of nationalism, Reid develops his own typology to better fit the formation of political identities such as the Indonesian, Malay, Chinese, Acehnese, Batak and Kadazan.

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About Author

Anthony Reid is a Southeast Asian historian, currently again at the Australian National University after periods at the National University of Singapore (2002-7, where he was founding Director of the Asia Research Institute) and the University of California, Los Angeles (1999-2002, where he was Professor of History and first Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies). Previously, he worked at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, the Australian National University, Canberra (1970-99) and the University of Malaya (1965-70), and had visiting positions at Yale University (1973-4), the University of Auckland (1976), Oxford University (1987), Washington University, St Louis (1989), the University of Hawaii (1996), Cambridge University (2005) and the Social Science Research Training Center, Makassar, Indonesia (1980-1). He was awarded the Fukuoka Asian Culture prize in 2002, largely for Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450-1680 (2 volumes, 1988-93). He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities, and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society. His other books include The Contest for North Sumatra: Atjeh, the Netherlands and Britain, 1858-1898 (1969), The Indonesian National Revolution, 1945-1950 (1974), The Blood of the People: Revolution and the End of Traditional Rule in Northern Sumatra (1979), Charting the Shape of Early Modern Southeast Asia (1999), An Indonesian Frontier: Acehnese and Other Histories of Sumatra (2004) and To Nation by Revolution: Indonesia in the Twentieth Century (2011). He has also edited or co-edited over 20 books, including Essential Outsiders: Chinese and Jews in the Modern Transformation of Southeast Asia and Central Europe (1997), Asian Freedoms (Cambridge University Press, 1998), Verandah of Violence: The Historical Background of the Aceh Problem (2006) and Negotiating Asymmetry: China's Place in Asia (2009).


1. Nationalism and Asia; 2. Understanding Southeast Asian diversities; 3. Chinese as the Southeast Asian 'other'; 4. Malay (Melayu) and its descendants: multiple meanings of a porous category; 5. Aceh: memories of monarchy; 6. Sumatran Bataks: from statelessness to Indonesian diaspora; 7. Lateforming ethnie in Malaysia: Kadazan or Dusun; 8. Imperial alchemy - revolutionary dreams.

Product Details

  • publication date: 19/11/2009
  • ISBN13: 9780521694124
  • Format: Paperback
  • Number Of Pages: 264
  • ID: 9780521694124
  • weight: 390
  • ISBN10: 0521694124

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