Classical empires of SEA critique + essay.


Eurocentric in this context implies a term having its origin from Western Europe, but with no historical significance to the historical context of SEA people.

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According to Aung-Thwin,2 when historians refer to the “classical” period in Southeast Asia, they are usually referring to the period between the ninth and fourteenth centuries AD. In other words, the use of the term “classical” refers to civilization of SEA ancient kingdoms. The term refers to specific dynamics in the past considered critical in shaping the current dynamics in SEA countries. Moreover, as Aung-Twin argues, the word “classical” in SEA historical context was only recently used. Its use gained root in lectures and seminars during the 1960s and 1970s by western history scholars.3 Importantly, the term “classical” was first used when a group of western scholars of SEA studies met in 1977 to discuss “indigenous conceptual systems” among the “Indic” states.4 After some heated discussions among the scholars in the conference, the term “Indic” was deliberately replaced by the term “classical,” and all the following scholastic work in SEA studies started bearing the term “classical” instead. Essentially, the aim of the scholars was to separate the SEA historical context into distinct and systematic periods that successfully built on one another, similar to the European pre-medieval to post medieval periods. Therefore, judging from these dynamics, the term “classical” is Eurocentric and does not have any relevancy or meaning to the SEA people regarding their history. In addition, the current breed of scholars have refrained from writing anything about the classical SEA as people are more and more becoming aware of Eurocentrism, which is portrayed as a biased interpretation of history.

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