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Colonialism - Southeast Asia - Historical Overview, Trends In The Study Of Colonialism, Colonialism Since 1970, Colonial Dichotomies, Trends In The Late 1990s And Early 2000s

differing polities studies levels

Studies detailing the nature of colonial policy and practice in Southeast Asia have all acknowledged its disparate nature and overwhelming range of characteristics. While many European powers shared the desire to establish colonies overseas, the manner in which this was accomplished was more random than regular. Factors contributing to this variance include differing philosophies of administrative governance, differing levels of indigenous resistance, and differing periods of influence in the region. For instance, Spanish colonial projects in Southeast Asia began in the 1560s, nearly two hundred years earlier than the efforts of the British, French, and Dutch, resulting in a much longer and more enduring history of colonialism in the Philippines (originally a Spanish colony) than in Malaya (a British colony). The Dutch employed a more indirectly ruled system (using indigenous elites to initiate their policies) than the British, who in Burma, for example, deposed the sitting monarchy in favor of ruling more directly through an impersonal civil service administration. In French Vietnam, there was a mixture of both systems, resulting in corresponding levels of resistance in areas more intensively encroached upon by colonial authorities. In general, polities that had achieved sophisticated levels of cultural, political, and economic integration tended to resist European powers more vigorously than polities in more decentralized areas. Some polities in insular Southeast Asia, whose political relations were more tenuous because of geographical constraints, competitive economies, and personal ties, offered less sustained, organized, or intensive resistance than in the mainland kingdoms whose populations were linked by common religious, economic, and historical worldviews. Simply put, the shape of colonialism in Southeast Asia was in large part determined by the nature of precolonial regional dynamics and the ability of the local communities to interact and respond to the differing policies, attractions, and challenges of colonial governance. Yet the idea of colonialism in Southeast Asia has also been understood and considered through approaches suggested by scholars of both Southeast Asian and colonial studies. This entry, after first providing a brief historical overview of colonialism in the region, discusses the ways in which Southeast Asian studies was constructed and shaped by scholars who were writing about or reacting to colonialism, producing works that revealed the complexities of that encounter as well as the epistemological links between the two branches of study.

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