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Reconceptualising Southeast Asian Studies: New Methodologies and Perspectives

Prof Alan Hao Yang
National Chengchi University



Paper 1: Relocating the Transnationality in the Making of Indochinese Border Politics

Prof Alan Hao Yang
National Chengchi University

Border politics in Indochinese region is influenced by historical legacy and contemporary inter-state politics. The study of border politics may reconfigure the linkage between the scholarships of international politics and domestic politics for it is both international and local in essence. Departure from traditional IR conceptualization of border politics, this paper will first re-examine the relations of territorial space and territoriality by highlighting the “transnationality.” Then, it is aimed at proposing a new framework of trans-localization by incorporating state-society relations at locality. Five borderland cases will be discussed, that is, China-Vietnam border, three from Thai-Cambodian border and the Laotian-Thai border. The reframing of transnationality in the context of border politics may  prop up solid and integrated interdisciplinary attempts to conduct Southeast Asia area studies.


Paper 2: Asian Network for Public Opinion Research: Challenges and Opportunities

Prof. Jantima K. Kheokao
University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce

The Asian Network for Public Opinion Research (ANPOR) was officially established on November 28, 2012, by scholars and experts in public opinion research coming from 9 different Asian countries and regions. The aims and objectives of ANPOR are: a) to promote in each country or region in Asia the right to conduct and publish scientific research on what the people and its groups think and how this thinking is influenced by various factors, b) to promote the knowledge and application of scientific methods in this objective, c) to assist and promote the development and publication of public opinion research in Asia, d) to promote worldwide the publication of public opinion research on Asia, e) to promote international cooperation and exchange among academic and commercial researchers, journalists and political actors, as well as between the representatives of the different scientific disciplines.

ANPOR’s activities include professional meetings and publications, encouraging high professional standards, promoting improved research techniques, informing journalists about the appropriate forms of publishing poll results, observing the democratic process and use of polls in elections, promoting personnel training, coordinating international polls, and maintaining close relations with other international and regional research associations. This paper will shed light on the current development of public opinion research in Southeast Asia and will discuss the challenges and opportunities for this emerging area of studies.


Paper 3: Contributions by Cambodian scholars to the study of decentralisation and local politics in Cambodia

Netra Eng
Monash University 

Many works have been published about decentralisation and local governance in contemporary Cambodia, especially after the implementation of the government policy on decentralisation and deconcentration in 2002. Cambodian researchers have taken a keen interest on the subject although funding for such research almost entirely comes from foreign aid. Publications and studies by Cambodian researchers on decentralisation and local governance have been growing in recent years, providing a new perspective into scholarship currently dominated by foreigners. This paper will review published works on decentralisation and local governance particularly studies on district and provincial levels by Cambodian researchers with the aim of examining the contributions these works make towards the study of contemporary Cambodian local politics. One important contribution is to bring to life the rich voices and original accounts of how local actors from national to sub-national governments function and understand what the decentralisation reform is likely to achieve. This insight is significant as there is still limited knowledge about these levels of government in the existing literature. Moreover, these researchers provide a different way of looking at local governance: how it really works rather than how it should work and in this way they open up critical and locally-grounded questions crucial to explaining and understanding governance reform and local politics, and thus strengthen the Cambodian scholarship. At the same time, however, Cambodian scholars have difficulty discussing and disseminating certain research findings publicly for fear of discrimination and harassment from the authoritarian state.


Paper 4: Doing research in your own culture: Some methodological hurdles

Somatra Kim Sean
Cambodia Development Research Institute

Conducting research in a context where there is limited freedom of expression, a culture of violence against the press and strong state surveillance capacity often presents researchers with challenges in data collection, particularly on topics considered politically sensitive. Success then is largely dependent on the researchers’ skills in conducting interviews, asking questions around sensitive topics in a manner that makes them sound less sensitive. In addition, researchers need to depend on other non-verbal sources such as participant-observation and perhaps ethnography to fill the data gaps. Inevitably this creates a tension between research ethics, on the one hand, and the need for data that are otherwise inaccessible, on the other, and it raises the question to what extent should the researchers be upfront about their identity and research interest as doing so would compromise their ability to collect those sensitive data.

Based on his PhD field work experience, the author discusses, in this essay, two methodological challenges that Cambodian researchers doing research on political and governance issues in Cambodia might face. One concerns the ethics of covert data collection. For this, the essay discusses the dilemma posted by the attempt to strictly observe the research ethical code of conduct and the practicality of collecting data on sensitive topics, and how this researcher resolved the problem. The other concerns the difficulties of doing research, particularly research that is ethnographic in nature, in one’s own culture, and how familiarity with one’s own culture might be an advantage or disadvantage for success in data collection and interpretation.