The Newsletter 59 Spring 2012

IIAS brings together

Philippe Peycam

The Year of the Dragon is set to be another year rich in activities for IIAS, with the reinforcement of recently launched projects under our three thematic clusters. The last months of 2011 already saw a succession of defining events.

ON 20-21 OCTOBER, IIAS and Nanyang Technology University (NTU), Singapore, organized an experimental roundtable entitled “Science and Nature in Europe and Asia: Scientific Traditions and New Technologies”, in which 20 scholars and social practitioners met to discuss scientific knowledge traditions in Europe and Asia with a special focus on science in relation to nature and the environment. The variety of approaches toward issues ranging from food security, natural disasters, to medicine, their implications on the everyday lives of millions, called for a truly intercultural and multidisciplinary exchange. Thematic interactive sessions culminated into the shaping of what will hopefully become a long term collaborative programme. To assist the participants, a “framework document” was developed by PhD researcher Jan van der Ploeg, and coordinated by the two conveners, Prof. Gerard Persoon (Leiden University) and Prof. Lui Hong (NTU).

Similarly, on 21-22 November, IIAS and the South-South Exchange Programme for Research on the History of Development (SEPHIS) organized what can best be described as a truly audacious feat: to bring together around the same table, scholars from the West Indies, Latin America, Africa, the Middle-East, Europe, central, southern, eastern and southeast Asia, all working on modes of hegemony, past and present, to openly explore the possibility of formulating a common “post-postcolonial” research agenda. Entitled “Postcolonial Dialogue(s): Crossed and Parallel Identities in Former Colonizing and Colonized Societies”, the meeting was symbolically held in the old VOC (Dutch East India Company) Board of Directors’ room in Amsterdam. The recent revolutions in the Arab world, the rise of the BRIC countries, and the relative decline of Europe and Northern America framed the discussions. The 26 participants succeeded in overcoming diff erences by laying out an ambitious research platform capable of mobilizing scholars from all ends of the world. Here too, discussions were facilitated by an excellent background report authored by two young Leiden University PhD students, Ariel Lopez and Yedda Palemeq, under the supervision of Dr Michiel Baas from IIAS (and guest editor for this issue’s Focus section).

Finally, on 14-15 December, IIAS and its three EUforAsia consortium partners – the Asia-Europe Foundation, the European Policy Centre and the Singapore Institute for International Affairs – in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael, organized what was the fi nal event of our EU-funded programme “EUforAsia”. The conference, entitled “Re-engaging Europe with Asia”, was held at Clingendael’s headquarters in The Hague. The event was planned to take place on the eve of the preparation of the European Commission’s “Regional Programming for Asia (2013-2020) Strategy Paper”. By exploring topics such as economic integration, regional security, energy, and cooperation in higher education, it aimed to assist the EU in framing its strategy toward Asia. IIAS’s contribution was to ensure that a diversity of voices was heard, and especially that social scientists and classical “humanists” were off ered a chance to directly engage the often hermetic world of policy makers (page 53).

The inclusive format used for these three interactive events helped us draw new research orientations for a more contextualized, shared, knowledge of Asia, helping “Asianists” of all kinds to claim a sense of ownership over their fi eld. Yet, these eff orts can only succeed if they are supported by cohesive networks of individuals and institutions, something IIAS strives to achieve. On that last note, I am pleased to announce that the eighth International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS) will take place in Macao, 24-26 June 2013, in partnership with the University of Macau.

Philippe Peycam, Director of IIAS