Comments from Laurie Sears, Director, Southeast Asia Center
The highlight of the 2011-2012 year at SEAC was the book launch of the late and beloved Professor Emeritus Daniel S. Lev’s new book No Concessions: The Life of Yap Thiam Hien, Human Rights Lawyer. In the photo below, Professor Emeritus Benedict O’ G. Anderson and Yap Thiam Hien’s grandson Sigfried Looho offer a toast to the work of Arlene Lev. Arlene worked with Ben Anderson and Audrey Kahin to bring her late husband Dan Lev’s biography of Yap to completion. Ibu Ertie N. Oei, who formerly taught Indonesian at UW in the 1980s and early 1990s, holds a copy of the new book in the background (and see above).As part of this moving event, Dan’s close friend Ben Anderson came to celebrate the new book and to present a lecture for the University of Washington’s prestigious Jessie and John Danz Lectures Series. The title of Ben Anderson’s wonderful lecture was: “Long Live Shame! The Good Side of Nations and Nationalism.” The Danz Lecture Series now asks faculty to choose a graduate student to introduce the distinguished visiting faculty. We chose Allan Lumba of the History department. Lumba is writing a dissertation on “Monetary Authorities: Market Knowledge and Imperial Government in the Colonial Philippines, 1892-1942.”
Comments by Allan Lumba, PhC, History, UW, on the introduction of Emeritus Professor Benedict Anderson, recent recipient of the Albert O. Hirschman Award. Professor Anderson gave a 2011 Danz Lecture at the University of Washington:
For almost three decades Professor Benedict Anderson was banned from Indonesia. He was banned because he helped research and write a confidential preliminary analysis critiquing the government narrative of the failed October first, 1965 Indonesian coup. The analysis turns the official military stories upside down, asserting that the Communist Party might not have been behind the coup, but instead, possibly the scapegoat of discontented army officers. Although he was a young scholar and his academic career was at risk, he refused to comply with the Indonesian government’s wishes.
Professor Anderson’s consistent critique of power remains one of the most inspirational aspects of his transdisciplinary and transnational scholarship. His most famous works, such as Imagined Communities, Language and Power, The Spectre of Comparisons , and Under Three Flags, to name but a few, emphasize the types of social relations and political identities only imaginable through confronting imperial, colonial, and authoritarian power. He is best known, however, for transforming our understanding of nationalism.
According to Imagined Communities, the popular creation of a political community, such as the nation, could only come about through a reconceptualization of time, language, and writing, within a capitalist world system. Indeed, the circulation of anti-colonial and anti-imperial ideas within a public sphere and the feeling of belonging to a nation would remain impossible if not for the emergence of a new technological era that brought into focus a system of newspaper and novel production he ingeniously termed “print capitalism.”
In Professor Anderson’s later writings, such as The Spectre of Comparisons and Under Three Flags, he provocatively asserts that within the very nature of nationalism lies a cosmopolitan world-view. He illustrates this worldliness by tracing the political practices and historical effects of those who saw themselves as belonging not only to a specific nation, but a world of nations, made up of universally recognized identities, such as patriot, revolutionary, or anti-colonialist. In other words, revolutionary nationalism entailed drawing from universal political struggles in order to transform local conditions.
In this urgent moment when newer articulations of the public sphere and “print capitalism”—such as social networking sites—are utilized as a critique of official narratives; when the direct action of “occupying” is a modular form of national organizing; and when the identification with the “99%” reinvigorates the popular imagining of a cosmopolitan community: it is without any doubt just how fundamental and powerful the thoughts and writings of Professor Anderson remain. I am thus immensely honored, to introduce to all of you, Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Benedict Anderson.