Leiden Anthropology has historically emerged from the study of and engagement with Indonesia. While already after WWII Leiden Anthropology regionally broadened up to Africa, Europe and the Americas, and more recently the institute’s regional foci became secondary to thematic ones, the institute continues to house a substantial number of researchers who are working with Asia in research and teaching. Most recently, it has established a specific Research Cluster Asia to further encourage this regional emphasis. Over the past decades Anthropologists have critically reflected on colonial legacies, and attempted to redefine the relationships that they maintain with their interlocutors, moving from research ‘on’ to research ‘with’. The conjunction of this reflexivity with the shifting relation between area studies and thematic specializations, raises a number of important questions: To what extent are area studies, particularly in Asia, still associated with the study of specific topics and what do cross-regional comparative approaches bring to an anthropology of Asia (cf. Guyer 2004)? How do Leiden Anthropologists address both the historically specific legacies and the changes in area studies in teaching and researching Asia? What challenges do they face? How can future research and teaching collaborations with Asian academic partners and interest groups take shape? Can an area specific focus on Asia continue to benefit anthropology? In what ways?
In this roundtable, Leiden Anthropologists will reflect on these questions by bringing to the conversation their individual and collaborative experiences in research and teaching. They thereby draw on their respective research themes that vary from digital social media to land use, and from disaster to commodity chains, and the wide geographical scope of their work, encompassing South, Southeast, and Central Asia.
This Institutional Roundtable is organized by the Research Cluster Asia of the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Leiden University. We warmly invite conference delegates to join the conversation!