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Cultural Configurations of “Countries” in Southeast Asia Eric C. Thompson National University of Singapore American Anthropological Association, Poster.

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Presentation on theme: "Cultural Configurations of “Countries” in Southeast Asia Eric C. Thompson National University of Singapore American Anthropological Association, Poster."— Presentation transcript:

1 Cultural Configurations of “Countries” in Southeast Asia Eric C. Thompson National University of Singapore American Anthropological Association, Poster Presentation, 1 December 2007 What are the cultural conditions that make possible the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)? ASEAN is a regional grouping of ten nation-states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

2 MALAYSIA BRUNEI SINGAPORE MYANMAR THAILAND CAMBODIA LAOS VIETNAM PHILIPPINES INDONESIA STANDARD POLITICAL MAP OF SOUTHEAST ASIA

3 The broad aims of the project are empirically to enhance our understanding of ASEAN as a regional grouping and theoretically to speak to the concept of culture as learned, shared knowledge. The poster presents four facets of the broader project, based on research from in all ten ASEAN nations: (1)Countries as a semantic domain, including discussion of the historical context of its diffusion in Southeast Asia. (2)Samples from secondary school textbooks from around the region, as a medium for diffusion and reproduction of the domain. (3)Cognitive maps of the domain from several of the ASEAN nations, based on free-list and judged-similarity (triad) surveys. (4)A comparison of judged-similarities demonstrating the correlation of national and ethnic frames of reference to conceptual relationships among countries in the region. Note: Only parts 3 and 4 are contained in these slides.

4 Cognitive Maps of Southeast Asia The panels here visually represent two sets of data from surveys conducted among university students in four ASEAN countries. Free list data are used to measure the relative cultural salience of countries in different nations (*“countries” to refer to the domain items and “nations” to the places where the research was done); the larger symbol & font representing each country the more salient. Salience is measured using Smith’s S. Judged-similarity (triad-test) data are the basis of the organization of the domain in two dimensions. The closer two countries are to each other, the more similar they are judged to be (the farther apart, the more different). The locations are produced by applying correspondence analysis to the data following procedures outlined by Romney, Weller, Moore, et al. in numerous publications.

5 Interpretive Highlights The cognitive maps inferentially demonstrate the different evaluative criteria that students in each country are applying to the domain, producing different patterns of relationship. The patterns of countries suggest that Indonesian and Thai students are primarily applying historical-cultural criteria. For Indonesians Malay-Muslim countries (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia) are most similar. Thai students differentiate Mainland (right side) and Maritime (left side) countries, but do not cluster Muslim countries. Filipino and Singapore students emphasize economic-developmental criteria. Filipinos cluster countries by wealth; Singaporeans by development (wealth and “modernity”). Note the relative positions of Singapore and Brunei (the latter is wealthy but not “developed”). In the East Asia maps, is Singapore part of East or Southeast Asia?

6 PHILIPPINES INDONESIA MALAYSIA THAILAND SINGAPORE BRUNEI VIETNAM MYANMAR CAMBODIA LAOS

7 PHILIPPINES INDONESIA MALAYSIA THAILAND SINGAPORE BRUNEI VIETNAM MYANMAR CAMBODIA LAOS

8 PHILIPPINES INDONESIA MALAYSIA THAILAND SINGAPORE BRUNEI VIETNAM MYANMAR CAMBODIA LAOS

9 PHILIPPINES INDONESIA MALAYSIA THAILAND SINGAPORE BRUNEI VIETNAM MYANMAR CAMBODIA LAOS

10 PHILIPPINES INDONESIA MALAYSIA THAILAND SINGAPORE BRUNEI VIETNAM MYANMAR CAMBODIA LAOS CHINA TAIWAN JAPAN SOUTH KOREA NORTH KOREA

11 PHILIPPINES INDONESIA MALAYSIA THAILAND SINGAPORE BRUNEI VIETNAM MYANMAR CAMBODIA LAOS CHINA TAIWAN JAPAN SOUTH KOREA NORTH KOREA

12 National & Ethnic Comparison Panels in this section represent direct comparisons of co-national and co-ethnic subjects. Correspondence analysis of data from all subjects produces an aggregate map (ALL). The average position of each country is then plotted for each group. These graphs compare Malay-Singaporean, Chinese- Singaporean, Malay-Malaysian, Chinese-Malaysian, and Indonesian subjects. These five groupings represent overlapping ethnic and national frames of reference. Comparing the graphs visually allows us to consider competing hypotheses that perceptions of countries may be driven by either national or ethnic frames of reference. Do co-ethnics (Malays & Indonesians; Chinese) or co-nationals (Indonesians; Malaysians; Singaporeans) produce more similar results? How do the results vary among these groups?

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19 Interpretive Highlights The results suggest that for these subjects overlapping ethnic and national frames of reference influence their perceptions of the relationships among Maritime Southeast Asian countries. Despite divergent national school systems and mass media, the graphs suggest that there are distinct Malay and Chinese perceptions of Maritime Southeast Asian countries among Singaporeans and Malaysians; with the convergence of perceptions stronger among Malays than Chinese. At the same time this convergence is much weaker with respect to predominantly “Malay-Muslim” Indonesians. National convergence is also clearly stronger in Singapore as compared to Malaysia. Other results (not shown here) demonstrate that in the case of Thailand, Thai and Sino-Thai subjects exhibit no difference with regard to ethnic frames of reference.


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