Southeast Asia as a Litmus Test for Grounded Area Studies
Using Southeast Asia as an example, this paper is a plea for a reconciliation of diverging epistemologies in Area Studies. The argument is for a moderate realism that conceptualises areas as socially constructed but based on empirical research. The southeastern part of Asia, being extremely diverse – historically a mixing zone with no hegemonic dominant civilisation and currently lacking a truly regional power – provides us with a litmus test for area methodology. In reclaiming a spatial reality this contribution systematically develops steps towards a realist approach to Area Studies. This is done by demonstrating that the core of Area Studies should be seen in a theory and methodology of socio-spatial relations. With regard to theoretical approaches and methods it is argued that the notion of family resemblance and the method of social network analysis are especially fruitful by allowing for a critically reflected and yet empirically oriented study of areas in Asia.
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