Southeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

(20) Mimetic Entanglements: Rethinking Sociopolitical Dynamics in Upland Southeast Asia

3/22/2018
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Truman, Mezzanine Level

This interdisciplinary panel uses the idea of mimesis to explore sociopolitical dynamics in the uplands of Southeast Asia over two centuries. Defined as a creative form of engagement and imitation, mimesis offers a way to understand complex relations along a culturally diverse lowland-upland continuum. In contrast to simplistic binaries of highland non-states versus lowland states, a mimetic approach investigates the interactions across cultural difference, class-status position, and alternating forms of political organization. By temporarily becoming “Other” and appropriating foreign elements, such as political titles or prestige items, local powerbrokers enter a perilous game of adaption, competition and estrangement. Investigating processes of mimetic appropriation and the precarious interplay between submission and subversion, this panel offers insight into a form of shared sovereignty that ties local powerbrokers to various sources of power.

From 19th century warlords to indigenous village headmen in present-day Laos and Vietnam, upland powerbrokers have engaged with—and sometimes submitted to—external powers to gain status, control resources and mobilize people. Carefully balancing communal obligations and supra-local relationships, these local authorities maintain and adjust the rules, norms, and values of their society vis-à-vis their counterparts. Drawing on skills and connections, local elites cross linguistic and cultural boundaries to forge alliances, accumulate resources and create networks of debt and social obligations. In sum, exploring these translocal networks and empirically tracing out their mimetic entanglements enhances scholarly understandings of sociopolitical dynamics in upland Southeast Asia—including the often overlooked contribution by upland societies to lowland state-building processes.

Presentations:

Oliver Tappe

University of Cologne, Hessen, Germany

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Christian C. Lentz

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Oliver Tappe

University of Cologne, Hessen, Germany

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Oliver Tappe

University of Cologne, Hessen, Germany

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Christian C. Lentz

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Mai Na M. Lee

University of Minnesota, Minnesota

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Vanina Bouté

Centre Asie du Sud-Est (CNRS-EHESS), Not Applicable, France

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Hjorleifur Jonsson

Arizona State University, Arizona

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