Session Abstract: Departing from the earlier call for “autonomous” histories, a generation of Marxist-inspired Southeast Asianists (Stoler 1985, Robison 1986, Jomo 1988) stressed the continuity of capital's development over the colonial-national temporal divide, and focused on questions of capital ownership and class formation over the long duration. This panel explores new ways of studying capitalism's history in Southeast Asia, in light of insights gained from the cultural turn and from culturalist approaches to economic and business history (Stoler 1995, Birla 2009).
How did colonial governmentality project its power over capitalism’s fluid and mobile processes? Could the speculative and subversive endeavours of colonial subjects be made safe, if not profitable? To what extent did colonial capitalist formations survive the transition to sovereign nationhood? Michael Yeo traces the development of the rubber economy on Sabah’s western coast, in which private actors operated in a setting laid out by a chartered company government. Guo-Quan Seng compares the varying logics behind early economic nationalist attempts at reclaiming local shops from the Chinese wholesale-and-retailing networks in Malaya and Indonesia. Farabi Fakih studies how municipal town planning along with the real estate industry in the Dutch East Indies created exclusive urban spaces and resulted in politically explosive questions of excluded Indonesians. Anti-colonial politics reversed the otherwise increasingly free traffic in goods, people and ideas. In the context of the communist revolt of the 1926/7, Rianne Subijanto looks at how the Dutch colonial state passed repressive laws to make communicative technologies safe from political discourse.
Paper Presenter: Guo-Quan Seng – National University of Singapore
Paper Presenter: Farabi Fakih – Gadjah Mada University
Paper Presenter: Rianne Subijanto – City University of New York, Baruch College
Paper Presenter: Michael Yeo – University of Oxford