The Newsletter 72 Autumn 2015

The New Asia Scholar

Sonja ZweegersPaul van der Velde

There have been many developments in the field of Asian Studies and among its scholars during the last few decades, and we have been taking note. Our particular observatory has been the biennial meetings of the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS), which had its fi rst assembly in 1998, and its most recent earlier this year. After the first two meetings in Europe (Leiden and Berlin), ICAS was moved into Asia (with two diversions: Honolulu and Adelaide), not only to further increase participation of scholars from Asia, but also with the idea that the Asian case provides an ideal breeding ground to refine existing theories and to develop new ones.

Unlike other Asian Studies conferences, where the majority of participants come from the United States and Europe, ICAS boasts the greatest diversified cross-continental representation, and most of its participants come from Asian countries. One of our most obvious observations has been that Asian Studies is now more and more being produced in Asia. New ideas and research findings are discussed not only among researchers who study Asia, but also among scholars who live in Asia. This is important because so far the conceptual lexicons and theoretical tools used in social sciences and humanities have been derived almost exclusively from the West. Although these theories and methods have been applied throughout the world with considerable success, their limitations are increasingly apparent, especially in a place like Asia (or Africa for that matter) with its long indigenous traditions of organising social relations, its own norms concerning power and order, and its legacies of implementing rule.