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Wang Gungwu on Overseas Chinese identity and assimilation in Southeast Asia, Singaporean exceptionalism, European and Asian maritime history

This lecture – from the exceptional Wang Gungwu – is tremendous on all of the above and more besides.

Wang is the embodiment of a kind of Chinese-Southeast-Asian cosmopolitanism: born in Surabaya, Indonesia when it was still the Dutch East Indies; raised in Ipoh, Malaysia in what was British Malaya, then Japanese occupied Malaya, and then the Malayan Union/Federation before it finally became Malaysia; studied in Nanyang, China until forced to leave by the communist revolution, then in Malaysia and London (PhD from SOAS in 1957). Wang has held senior academic positions in Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. In short, he has an impressive (and long!) CV.

The lecture is hard to excerpt, but here are a few highlights:

  • 16 mins 45s – on the history of the Chinese in Southeast Asia, diverse patterns of assimilation and family structures in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia;
  • 38 mins 45s – on ethinc Chinese as ‘the enemy’ in Southeast Asia;
  • 48 mins 00s – on Singaporean national identity;
  • 1 h 06 mins 25s – on Asian vs Western maritime traditions and the first globalisation;
  • 1 h 28 mins – bonus contribution from Penny Edwards on the history of how Chinese overseas identity was regarded by Chinese officials.

Highly recommended to anyone interested in Singapore, Indonesia or China.

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