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Cluster Overview

IIAS adopts a thematic approach to the study of Asia, involving scholars and experts from different disciplines and regions in its activities. IIAS moreover works together with academic and non-academic partners, including cultural, political and social organisations. Through our activities, IIAS aims to act as a trans-cultural interface, linking academic expertise with practitioner experience. While we remain open to other possible avenues of knowledge, our current thematic and interconnected research themes are ‘Asian Heritages’, ‘Global Asia’ and ‘Asian Cities’.

Asian Cities

With a special eye on contemporary developments, IIAS aims to explore the longstanding Asian urban "tradition", by exploring the origins of urbanism and urban culture in different parts of Asia and linking the various elements of city cultures and societies, from ancient to modern (colonial and post-colonial) times.

The "Asian Cities" cluster explores modes of urban development in Asia, and deals with cities and urban cultures with related issues of flows and fluxes, od ideas and goods, cosmopolitism, "métissage", and connectivity at their core, framing the existence of vibrant "civil societies" and political micro-cultures.

Asia is experiencing a process of increasing human concentration built upon ancient urban traditions at a pace never before encountered. This unprecedented rate of change brings with it tremendous transformations framing new expressions of social, cultural and political modernity.

Keeping a close eye on contemporary developments, the cluster seeks to explore the longstanding Asian urban 'tradition', by discussing the origins of urbanism and urban culture in different parts of Asia, and by linking the various elements of city cultures and societies, from ancient to modern (colonial to postcolonial) times.

Through an international knowledge network of experts, research institutes and cities, it aims to create a platform for scholars and urban practitioners focusing on Asian cities 'in context' and beyond traditional western norms of knowledge, with the potential to evolve into a broad multi-disciplinary corpus contributing to the actual development of Asian cities today.

Global Asia

Paying attention to past and present trends, the 'Global Asia' cluster addresses contemporary issues related to transnational interactions within the Asian region as well as throughout the world via the flows of people, goods, capital and ideas.

The cluster aims to expand the understanding of the process of globalisation by considering the various ways Asian and other world regions are interconnected within a long-term historical framework, recognising Asia's historic economic prominence and geopolitical influence from before the colonial era. Acknowledging the central role of Asia as an agent of global transformations, it challenges western perspectives that underlie much of the current literature on the subject, and explores new forms of non-hegemonic intellectual interactions in the form of 'south-south-north' and 'east-west' dialogue models.

IIAS also aims to develop a more evenly balanced field of Asian Studies, by collaborating in trans-regional capacity building initiatives and by working on new types of methodological approaches that encourage synergies and interactions between disciplines, regions and practices.

In principle, any research dealing with Asian global interactions is of interest. Topics include, but are not limited to: the migration of peoples and their diasporas, religious transnational pilgrimages and networks, forms of economic expansion, cultural dissemination, geo-strategic projections and engagements. Also of interest are issues that are central to the contemporary discussion on knowledge production and its circulation within a globalised world.

Asian Heritages

IIAS addresses the variety of definitions associated with heritage and their implication for social agency, including those currently questioned of 'national heritage' or 'shared heritage'.

The Asian heritages cluster focuses on the politics of culture and cultural heritages in Asia. It addresses the variety of definitions associated with heritage and their implications for social agency.

In particular it explores the notion of heritage as it has evolved from a European originated concept associated with architecture and monumental archaeology to incorporate a broader diversity of cultural forms and values. This includes the contested distinctions of 'tangible' and 'intangible' heritages, and the importance of cultural heritage in defining one's own identity or identities vis-à-vis those of others.

Other areas of exploration include the practise of heritage conservation in Asia and Europe and urban revitalisation through cultural heritage preservation.

'Heritage' includes the process in which heritage is produced. The cluster recognises that in addition to governments and institutions a larger set of stakeholders are involved in the field of heritage, with a role for local communities in defining and preserving their own heritage.