Jun 04 2013

Growing up

Philippe Peycam

ICAS 8 in Macau is a landmark event for IIAS. It is not just because, as host of the ICAS Secretariat, IIAS was privileged to work with colleagues from tens of institutions and hundreds of individual scholars worldwide, including in particular our colleagues from Macau University, our partner for the event. It is also because, on the occasion of ICAS 8, the Institute will celebrate its twentieth anniversary. Since its creation in 1993, IIAS has grown to become, let’s not be afraid of saying so, the global meeting ground and network builder in the field of Asian studies.

With its publication The Newsletter, its website, its fellowship programmes, and with its numerous research projects under the three thematic clusters of Urban Asia, Critical Asian Heritage Studies and Global Asian Connectivities, IIAS reaches out to thousands of individual researchers or aspiring ones on all continents and in all world regions. IIAS’s ‘constituency’ is thus global, hence the fortunate ‘International’ in its name. Indeed, headquartered in the historical university city of Leiden, IIAS is decidedly and ineffably a Dutch institution in both its spirit and its modus operandi. Undoubtedly, as a founding member of the European Alliance of Asian Studies, IIAS is clearly a committed European institution. But above all, and perhaps because of its origins, IIAS stands as the most extravert transnational ‘public space’ for Asian studies.

For one thing, all its activities are collaborative. Nearly two thirds take place outside Europe, in most cases in Asia. Its fellows come from every region of the world, without discrimination. The Newsletter is the periodical of Asian studies – and not just the institute’s mouthpiece. This assumed internationalism has enabled IIAS to help develop a number of thematic trans-regional networks, such as its Urban Knowledge Network Asia, and the joint graduate programme in Critical Heritage Studies between Leiden, Gajah Madha and National Taiwan universities; it has also enabled IIAS to assist in the establishment of the first pan-African network on Asian studies. This assumed cosmopolitanism is perceptible in the interactions occurring between the IIAS fellows, where individuals with the most diverse backgrounds and interests work closely alongside each other, learn from each other and often decide to organize a joint event or write a joint article together.

You will get a glimpse of IIAS’s healthy inclusiveness in Macao, where the institute, for its twentieth anniversary, is sponsoring or co-sponsoring 10 panels and round - tables. Topics will range from the “Effects of UNESCO Politics on Local Notions of Heritage”, “Redefining the Relationship between Sciences and Society in Europe and Asia”, “Defining Asian Studies in Africa”, or on the social role of Asian artists. These IIAS-supported events demonstrate the current vitality of the field of Asian studies, and bear testimony to IIAS’s undiminished vibrancy as it enters a more mature age.

We look forward to seeing you in Macao!