Southeast Asia is the place with the lowest latitude in Asia. The abundant rainfall and sunshine make it a paradise for species. The warm climate embraces everyone who stays here, and multiple civilizations co-exist here. The Malay Peninsula is located between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The Strait of Malacca is an important traffic route between east and west, with sails like clouds. From the west coast of Myanmar to the east coast of the Philippines, from Java all the way north to South China, this is an area known as the “land below the wind”, which is also covered by the “Mediterranean of Asia”. How to better understand the historical process of this very diverse region has always been a very challenging issue. Themes such as commerce, ethnicity, and colonization are enduring and eye-catching entry points—geographic location, monsoon influence, and historical evolution have created the coexistence of different groups of Malays, Indians, and Chinese, and created a prosperous The extremely temporary “trade era”. The British in Burma, Malaya, Singapore and North Borneo, the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies, the Portuguese in East Timor, the Spaniards and Americans in the Philippine Islands, the French in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and the The Siamese “buffered” between British and French forces, and various imperial and colonial heritages have jointly shaped the intertwined history, bringing a material and perspective that are very different from European nationalism studies. Noli Me Tangere (Noli Me Tangere), written in Spanish by José Rizal of the Philippines in 1887, describes the young biracial protagonist returning to the colonial Philippines in the 1880s The sight of the city through the window of the carriage at that time made him submerge himself, naturally and inevitably, in images of Europe. During this period, the politics, economy and culture of the Philippines were all saturated by Spanish colonial rule. This double illusion of being close at hand but far away in the sky still exists even in Indonesia under the Suharto regime in the 1960s, Thailand after the 1930s, and the Philippines after the end of American rule. The plot of the novel reminded Benedict Anderson of his experience as an interpreter for European diplomats in 1963, when he heard Indonesian President Sukarno praise Hitler as a nationalist rather than an executioner or anti-Holocaust. When he was a Jewish, the diplomats were uneasy, puzzled, surprised and repeatedly confirmed to him, while Anderson felt dizzy and had no resonance as a “leftist”. The illusion created by having to look at Europe through an inverted telescope is what Rizal said: the specter of comparison.
1. From “Gentini” to “Sand in Jakarta’s Shoes”: Nationalism in Southeast Asia
If “Imagined Communities” focuses on the interpretation of the origin, nature, and social significance of nationalism from a global perspective, then Anderson’s other work “Specters of Comparison: Nationalism, Southeast Asia, and the World” focuses more on Southeast Asia. A comparative study of the characteristics of nationalism in different countries. This book is far less well-known than the previous one, probably because of its writing style and some obscure expressions, as well as the fact that it is not as systematic as the former as a collection of essays. For Anderson, though, “Southeast Asia has always been a great place to try to come to terms with these lingering specters.”
Different from purely political or historical works, based on the author’s background in classics, this book uses a large number of Southeast Asian literary works and fieldwork data, starting from the perspective of nationalism, and intends to show the relationship between transnational comparative studies, regional studies and “theory”. associated. The author starts with the various origins of “Southeast Asia”, arguing that the definition of its regional concept did not come until the 1950s, which is directly related to the long-term hegemonic rule of European colonists in Southeast Asia. The understanding of “Southeast Asia” did not deepen until after the Pacific War, the rapid decolonization after the war, the start of the Cold War, and the US’s desire to replace Japan as the sole hegemon of the region. The countries in the region fought for independence, and this understanding was established overnight. . However, looking at the modern history of Southeast Asia, after the formation of the overall concept or cognition, Europe’s political, economic, cultural and other layers of penetration are still indelible memories, not to mention the fragmented differences left by the colonial legacy in various countries.
In the 19th century, the Dutch colonists supported the puppet regime of the Javanese royal family with the strategy of “ruling the local” and intervened in Islamic religious affairs in the region with a tolerant attitude. social appearance. The masterpiece of Javanese literature written in 1814, “Serat Centini” (Serat Centhini), depicts a scene of peaceful and comfortable rural life in Giri, the port kingdom of East Java in the 17th century. Aside from the heavy-duty content, its reflection of the strong characteristics of the Javanese countryside and its vivid depiction of people from all walks of life are amazing. Despite the bloodbath of the Kingdom of Mataland, the plot of the book is hardly involved, and it is only used as an off-stage background, that is, the Javanese rulers are marginalized. More importantly, the book was written during the period of Dutch colonial rule, but there was no colonial and royal oppression at all. There were no civil wars, looting, plagues, and taxes. Ethnic groups and religions did not become ruling means during this period, and the people showed a Utopian style. Peaceful appearance. Of course, the appearance of “Gentini” is not evidence that the colonizers treated the colonies with a moderate policy to prevent the birth of nationalism. It is easy to imagine that, as late as the end of the nineteenth century, in the discourse on rights of Princess Raden Ajeng Kartini of Jepara, considered a representative figure of Indonesian nationalism and a pioneer of women’s liberation, no “Nationalism” has only emphasis on “civilization” and self-expectation. The emergence of commercial performances at the end of the nineteenth century also did not breed the seeds of violence, but split traditional culture apart like frogs boiled in warm water. When the Indonesian wayang puppet show is naturally added to European drama characters such as Sherlock and Hamlet, traditional culture will inevitably be forcibly brought into European culture. This seems to break the barrier, but in fact it is engraved with the shadow of the suzerain. When the threat and conflict between colonialism and Islam intensified, the social order was obviously in a state of serious imbalance. Famine, riots and immorality flooded the entire bottom society, and the unbearable people set off wave after wave of resistance. From the Javanese Uprising to the founding of the first nationalist organization, the Best Society, to the Youth Pledge (Sumpah Pemuda) ), Javanese elites gradually accepted Western-style education and were determined to reconnect with their nation’s pre-colonial history. “From this explosive combination of development, education, and conditioning, Indonesian nationalism sprung up, and within a few decades, it killed Dutch rule.” , but was backlashed by itself. The Suharto regime invaded East Timor with the acquiescence and support of the United States. Anderson used “sand in Jakarta’s shoes” to describe the conceit of this “secondary imperialism” and the ultimately uncomfortable state in any case. The actions of the Suharto government, ironically a hotbed of nationalism in Indonesia, are opening the way for nationalism in East Timor, in Anderson’s eyes.
From “Gentini” to “The Sand in Jakarta’s Shoes,” the example of Indonesia reflects what nationalism looked like in Southeast Asia as it experienced the highs and lows of imperial adventure. Colonialism can be traced back as one of the roots of nationalism, but its unfair demarcation cannot be a reason for contemporary nationalists to condemn and spark disputes. Anderson did not directly point to the “culprit”, but used the “retreat syndrome” as a metaphor for the nationalist trend of thought caused by the American power’s intervention in Thai affairs and the behavior of the upper class in Thailand attached to the United States, as well as the regime defects caused by the Philippine oligarchy. Powerful intervention in Southeast Asian affairs and dissatisfaction of the local upper class still attached to the “sovereign country”.
2. “The First Filipino”: Southeast Asia and the World
Southeast Asia is a regional concept. In the past five hundred years, people from many parts of the world have poured into this region, but the concept of “Southeast Asians” has not been formed. Located at the crossroads where Eastern and Western cultures meet, the area absorbs many elements of world culture and integrates with its own traditions, resulting in a form of cosmopolitanism with strict boundaries but manifested in pluralism: ethnic differentiation and estrangement, religious differences and exclusions, and the inclination of rights in the central position. Similar to the current distinction between “Malays” and “Malaysians”, the division of ethnic groups is generalized by country, allowing people with different bloodlines, beliefs, and political concepts to coexist and coexist in a more diverse form. This kind of “plurality” is fully practiced in the novel “Don’t Offend Me”. The characters in the book come from all walks of life in recent colonial society, “from the free-thinking peninsula governor down to the various racial strata of colonial society–Creoles, mestizos, ‘pure’ Chinese, down to the illiterate Indigenous people”, but the geographical space is strictly limited to the suburbs of Manila. This limitation makes readers feel the “Philippines” as a whole, even if the people in it do not have a common name at that time. Rizal was the first to imagine this social ensemble and is remembered as “the first Filipino”.
According to Rizal himself, he comes from a Chinese family and is a Catholic. He went to Spain to study at the age of 21, traveled around the world, and is fluent in English, French and German. Life in Europe led him to appreciate Spain’s own backwardness, and to feel that “from a vantage point he could laugh at the metropolitan country, which for generations had mocked the natives from the same vantage point”. “Don’t Offend Me”, written in Spanish (at that time, the social literacy rate was only 3 percent), was like a political grenade, igniting the national enthusiasm of Filipino youth under Spanish colonial rule. But Rizal didn’t know that choosing to write in Spanish would cost him a lot. After the United States destroyed the First Republic of the Philippines, it replaced Spain as the new “master” here. “American English, as a new language that expresses truth and has international status, was introduced to the Philippines and promoted through the ever-expanding education system. By the time of World War II ‘ Before then, it had become (barely) the most common language in the archipelago. Spanish faded away, so that by 1946, when the Philippines was granted quasi-independence, it was unreadable.” Although Rizal himself was given the title of “National Hero”, his works that led the nation to unite forward in dark times were lost in the dust of the times. Southeast Asian students under the European and American education systems spontaneously develop nationalist sentiments in the study of their own country or region, which enables them to bravely protest and demonstrate against the war. Although their national politics is democratic and inclusive, it is not. It is always formed under the educational paradigm of the mother country, and the reproduction of knowledge discourse is difficult to break away from a certain paradigm.
Rizal’s enthusiasm for nationalism came from the comparison between the metropolitan country and the Philippines when he voluntarily went to Europe to study, and those involuntary and fateful immigrants also provided new possibilities for the birth of nationalism. Anderson starts with Lord Acton’s view that nationalism “comes from exile”, and proves that loose immigration does provide a breeding ground for nationalism. The immigration issue is inseparable from the old imperial consciousness, and it cannot be simply regarded as the influence of imperial consciousness. For example, the new ethnic consciousness naturally formed by the Chinese immigrants in Malaya under the spirit of helping each other makes them a powerful force in an unfamiliar environment. Their nostalgia for their home country is reflected in their language, diet, and childbearing. They support and promote political activities in their home country, and provide financial, technical, and media assistance in all aspects of their home country, while striving to gain legal rights and identity in their new country. It is also the ethnic divisions and general features of Southeast Asia’s connection to the world, which Anderson calls “distant nationalism” and sees it as “a ruthless, increasingly magnified exercise of capitalism on all human societies.” product of transformation”. However, Singapore, which Anderson did not mention, is an anomaly. It forms another possibility of multi-ethnic or multi-racial development under the dominance of the Chinese. “ism” has declined, after all, “home” is here but not there.
3. Where does the “ghost of comparison” come from?
Looking back at the title of this book, nationalism, Southeast Asia, and the world are three interrelated research objects, and the “ghost of comparison” is the theme throughout the book. The direct exposition of “the specter of comparison” comes from Rizal’s comparison of his feelings in Spain and the Philippines under colonial rule, and his comparison of the Suharto government with Hitler’s Nazi regime, arguing that “nationalism relies mainly on comparison.” In Southeast Asia, such “comparisons” do not exist in only one aspect. Multivariate symbiosis, East and West, integration and conflict, ethnic differentiation, religious adjustment, language barriers, class conflicts, etc. may inadvertently trigger nationalist thoughts. But what exactly is a “ghost”? Throughout the book, the author did not give a clear answer. From the inside of Southeast Asia, the differences between its own ethnic group, religion, class and other regions seem to be a part; from the perspective of the influence or intervention of external colonial rule, it is obviously another “ghost” reflected by inversion. Whether or not it was the same as the one wandering over Europe, the spirit obviously needs to be seen by comparison.
From the inside of Southeast Asia, the appearance of ideology or political movement brought about by ethnic groups, religions, classes, etc., and the reality of oppression brought about by recent colonial rule and the interference of Western powers after independence from the outside are indeed ambiguous. “Symptoms” that do not go away and are difficult to eliminate. To a certain extent, nationalism is also a product of modern construction, and it should first be combined with the deep-seated human consciousness and changes in world outlook. Starting from the “serial logic” described by Anderson, this abstract concept has reshaped the framework for the formation of collective subjectivity in the modern world. It expands the concept of “sequence” into a free sequence and a restricted sequence, which are used to distinguish the changes in material, system and discourse of different groups in the era of rapid change in the past, which is very thought-provoking.
Newspapers are one of the entry points Anderson used to discuss the concept of free sequence. When reading the news, people learn to see the world in a certain way, and seek their own, country or nation’s position in the world in this world view. In the early seventeenth century, Dutch publishers began to mass-produce newspapers for a growing audience, mainly businessmen and low-level government officials. In addition to the discussion of the official power class, the public can also discuss current affairs in public places. Moreover, newspapers played a crucial role in language standardization, uniting readers of different dialect groups in the region and creating the conditions for an “imagined community”, “a natural universality wherever are deeply reinforced by an involuntary standardization of vocabulary, completely obliterating any formal boundaries between local and out-of-town news in newspapers.” In the same way, the emergence of commercial center performances broke the traditional form of troupes to entertain people from all over the world to watch the performances. Constrained sequences, as opposed to free sequences, generally occur in high-level society. Anderson uses the census as an entry point to demonstrate how this politically charged statistical behavior originated in Europe and the United States has become a means for countries to construct national identity. Compared with liberalized and universalized newspapers, the census creates a sequential, agglomerable, and opposite majority and minority, and presents them in a highly politicized form. Taking the three censuses carried out in the Philippines from the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century as an example, in the first survey carried out in 1818, “dead people, pagan blacks, tribute payers, Spanish mestizos, brown people, individual Taxpayers” are distinguished. Such divisions have a strong sense of religion and hierarchy. In the 1877 census, groups were counted according to nationality and skin color. Although religious divisions were abolished, they did not get rid of the political undertones of dictatorship. . During the colonial period of the United States, the census was organized according to the archetype of the electoral system, which was unique to Americans, and groups were divided according to ethnic language groups, skin color and nationality. This approach made the opposition between the majority group and the minority group more obvious. . It can be seen from this that the consequences of the framework formed by the sequence of constraints on the subject of rights, the state, and social organizations are to make them more and more antagonistic.
”Imagined Communities” once discussed: “In a world where the nation-state is the supreme norm, all this means that today, even without the commonality of language, nations can still be imagined.” In the process of being “serialized” through newspapers and censuses, groups lose the mechanism of individual imagination. Even if the language is not clear, a collective consciousness can be formed through symbolization. When we get out of this environment and look at the original collective consciousness with a comparative perspective, we will find that the memory is lingering like a ghost. Anderson tries to weed out the “monsters” of “der ivat ive discourses” and “imitation” as they are used to understand nationalism and a deeply standardized view of politics. The “derivative discourse” comes from Partha Chatterjee’s viewpoint on nationalism, that is, the colonized people retain their own cultural identity, while emphasizing that backward nations can also “modernize” themselves. The concept is still not free from European influences. In fact, apart from affirming the claim that nationalism challenges colonial rule, it seems unnecessary to think that accepting the concept of “modernity” will become the basis for strengthening colonial rule (as is the inheritance and “replication” of discourse and ideas). As the author observes, nascent nationalism was bred from the new types of professionals created by late colonial capitalism, who later rebelled against the old regime of the Batavian authorities, leading to Rizal The resistance of the Philippine elite represented by the Manila authorities also shows the same. It is true that colonialism can be seen as a catalyst for nationalism, but the production process of nationalism is not derived from colonialism alone (telephones, telegraphs, or even institutional arrangements can be universal rather than purely “Western” products), A connection to colonialism is also not inevitable.
4. “National Goodness”: A Praise to Nationalism?
At the end of the book, Anderson discusses why it is possible and necessary to “celebrate” nationalism on its roughly two-hundredth anniversary. The author’s pen is sharp, and all the examples of “national good” given by the author show in the same way, “Why, no matter what crimes a government commits and what its citizens at the time support, ‘my country’ always good”. The philosopher Grayling once believed that “there is no country on earth that cannot accommodate more than one culture that is different from each other and can share beauty in common”. The Philippines, which resisted Spanish colonial rule at the end of the nineteenth century, Indonesia, which struggled to secede from the Dutch East Indies in the early twentieth century, and Thailand, which reformed in response to pressure from colonial powers, all showed that nationalism was a “good thing” at the time. Anderson’s so-called “national good” is actually a collective attitude displayed by the people in pursuit of national interests within the framework of the state. The tombstone of the martyr will not indicate whether he is a pagan black, Spanish mulatto, or brown, but only that he is a Filipino fighting for national independence. Crucial role. However, “national good” often turns to its opposite: after the massacre in East Timor, would the Indonesians immediately think that the Dutch treated them in the same way more than 30 years ago? Turning our attention back to Southeast Asia today, political nationalism under the official narrative is prevalent. Although it is closely related to the political practice of “pursuing national identity” and striving to establish a national state and government, in fact, there are always “diseases” that are difficult to resolve in this region. Identity politics is ubiquitous, although reflections can vary widely across countries. For example, Indonesian demography eliminates the possibility of ethnic claims to Chinese and Indian identities, while Malaysian treatment reinforces ethnic politics and ethnic identity.
Today, the “ghost of comparison” is still hovering in the sky. How should Southeast Asia, which is at the critical crossroads between East and West, choose? Anderson also did not give a clear answer. Referring to what Anthony Reid said in “The Trade Age of Southeast Asia: 1450-1680”, part of the answer looms: “The prosperity of Southeast Asia in the early modern period for more than two hundred years depended on openness and tolerance.” Today, the form of a pluralistic society is the biggest obstacle to its reshaping prosperity due to the painful memory of the past and the created ethnic, religious and class conflicts. The new Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar bin Ibrahim (Anwar bin Ibrahim) has continued the conservative The right-leaning protectionist policies exported by the left-leaning government, the religious moderation measures implemented by Indonesia are increasingly challenged by extreme religious forces and political forces outside the region, and the oligarchy in the Philippines is still prevailing… Whether the glory of the “trade era” can be reproduced may still need to be found. Its own open and inclusive multi-symbiosis characteristics make tension and dependence recede as much as possible, rather than being haunted by “ghosts”.