Cornell University Press

John T. Sidel on Revolution in Southeast Asia

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We asked John T. Sidel three questions about his new book, Republicanism, Communism, Islam, and the most important concepts he wants to relay to readers.

What inspired you to write this book?

There were many sources of inspiration for this book: the writings and teachings of Benedict Anderson (whom I studied with years ago), a growing body of historical research by scholars such as Chris Goscha and Mike Laffan, and by a diverse set of studies on other revolutions (broadly construed) beyond Southeast Asia which stressed their transcontinental/transoceanic origins. In addition, I think I was inspired by a growing sense that the defining features of Southeast Asian Studies—a preoccupation with nationalism and a protective concern to privilege the ‘local’—worked to obscure the abiding importance of the diverse connections between various parts of the region and the rest of the world.

How will your book make a difference in your field of study? In what way is your argument controversial or one that will shake up preconceived ideas?

The book provides the analytical and empirical basis for a de-nationalized, trans-nationalized, and inter-nationalized approach to the study of Southeast Asian history. It challenges the established national and nationalist historiographies of the Philippine, Indonesian, and Vietnamese revolutions and it provides a template for the understanding of Southeast Asian history which complements or supplements that suggested by Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities.

What are three specific things in your book that will resonate most strongly with potential readers and/or the media?

  1. The importance of Freemasons in the making of the Philippine Revolution.
  2. The importance of Communism and Islam in the making of Indonesia.
  3. The importance of Africa in the making of the Vietnamese revolution.

*Featured photo: The Grand Bazar, Istanbul, Turkey. Credit: Rumman Amin.

Cover image of Republicanism, Communism, Islam. Read more about this book.

John T. Sidel is the Sir Patrick Gillam Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His previous books include Capital, Coercion, and CrimeThe Islamist Threat in Southeast Asia, and Riots, Pogroms, Jihad.

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