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Between a fluid region and a hard state

COMMENT Allow me to begin by stating categorically that I am a committed South-East Asian-ist and a committed Asean-ist.

In my work as a lecturer I have constantly reminded my students of the constructed nature of South-East Asia today, the relative newness of our political borders, and the newness of our nation-states. I have also emphasised the shared overlapping histories of the many diasporas that populate this complex and sometimes confounding archipelago of ours.

I long for the day when the people of South-East Asia can see themselves as Asean citizens, but despite the fact that the Asean Community is almost upon us (by 2015), many of us in the region are still driven by primordial attachments to place, identity, language and culture.

It can be summed up thus: We South-East Asians are caught between a fluid region and a hard state.