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Southeast Asia-ness is the key to make ASEAN a success

November 2, 2013 Destination Thailand, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59In referring to the coming of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) at the end of 2015 and its future success, I always quote the Dutch sociologist Niels Mulder, who was the first academic to state that “communication across the seas may partly explain the similarities in religious thinking and the culture of everyday life” in the ASEAN countries of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam – even as these countries have strong differences in their political and religious organizations.

Niels Mulder first visited Southeast Asia as a student of social science in the late 1950s, where he visited Malaysia, Southern Thailand, Saigon and Manila, and was captivated in that region ever since. EGT_Artical Banner A 250x250

In 1965, Niels Mulder was supported by a Thai UNESCO grant and a moderate sum from the Netherlands’ Ministry of Education to go to Thailand. Later, only in March 1969-August 1970, he had the chance to do research in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia, which was followed up during the early 1970s, when he worked in Bangkok for the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far-East (now ESCAP). In late 1973, he returned to Europe to write his dissertation about “Mysticism and Everyday Life in Java.”

The end of 1975 saw him back in Thailand, where he stayed until late 1978 to collect the material for his eminent work about an interpretation of everyday life in Thai society. As this still was not enough, from 1983 onwards, he began field work in Manila and Lucena in the Tagalog region of Luzon. Thus, then finally, he could write his book about the similarities among three culturally and politically dominant peoples of Southeast Asia, namely Thai, Javanese, and Filipino interpretations of everyday life. Interesting to know is that the Thai are mainly Buddhist, Javanese Islam, and Filipino mostly Roman Catholic. The book was published in Bangkokin 1992.

Being a research scholar affiliated to the Sociology of the Development Research Centre of the University in Bielefeld, Germany, he later decided to spend his post-academic life at a secluded place somewhere in the Philippines, where he still is until now.

Actually, there were two more books published by German Diethard Ande, White Lotus in Bangkok, where you can find more detailed and personal information on the work history of Dr. Niels Mulder, especially in Thailand:

2008                                Doing Thailand: The Anthropologist as a Young Dog in Bangkok in the 1960s. White Lotus,Bangkok.

2009                                Professional Stranger: Doing Thailand during its most violent decade. A Field Diary. White Lotus, Bangkok.

Written by : Reinhard Hohler

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