SURROUND SOUND COPYRIGHT 2011
Background photo courtesy of Wasitthee Chaiyakan
My formal title at SOAS is Professor of Asian and Military History and the work I am mainly known for outside of Southeast Asian Studies is my longterm project on military history in the region.
The main focus of my research today is on the impact of modern warfare on the societies of West Africa and Southeast Asia, in particular the organisation of movement and mobility, my main case studies for this work being railways in war zones, and the emergence of the modern militaries of Southeast Asia.
I teach warfare and its impact on Asian societies in several courses I convene at SOAS, including the postgraduate courses, "Asian Wars: World War II and the End of Empire, 1942-1960" and "Asian Armies and National Development." I also teach a year long documents course on the Vietnam War. Details on these courses follow below, but see the official SOAS website for current information.
I am interested in the colonial and independence eras in the military history of Southeast Asia and these periods figure increasingly prominently in my research activity. While my precolonial work has focused more broadly on warfare, my work on modern Southeast Asia is most interested with the instituional emergence of the militaries of the region. I have recently authored my second peer-reviewed, annotated, bibliographic essay and bibliography, this one focused on colonial era militaries of Southeast Asia, for Oxford University Press as part of their Oxford Bibliographies series and this should be online soon.
This course examines the emergence of modern armies across Asia after the dust from national liberation struggles and their aftershocks had settled, with special attention to the period after 1960. The course focuses on some of the major themes of modern military history and its implications for national development, examining these armies and combatants as much in their peacetime institutional context and organisational regimes as in actual wars. The major sub-themes to be explored include changing perceptions in Asia of violence and killing in war, globalism and the tensions resulting from the accommodation of new generations of military technology, the military and civil governance, gender roles, military institutions and national development, and the legacies of military confrontation, including, for example, the long term constitutionally-enforced Japanese passivity with the repercussions from contemporary, if semi-hidden rearmament, on the one hand, and entrenched Taiwanese independence on the other. Students will learn what makes Asian militaries tick, why they act the way they do, and what the impact has been on society and politics across Asia, with special attention to East and South East Asia. The course will introduce students to the major secondary works on the military history of the region available in English as well as the major archival collections in London and published documents collections.The overall goal is to understand specifically the relationship between the development of post-revolutionary, modern militaries in Asia, the shift in the global centre of economic and political power from the North Atlantic to the Western Pacific, and social, cultural, and religious change in the region.
This course examines the relationship between the historical experiencce of World War II and the Wars of Independence that immediately followed in Asia. Attention is devoted to the major players in the theatre, including Britain, the United States, China, India, Japan, and South East Asia, and how they viewed the Conflicts in World War II and after in peculiar ways that were reflected in and reinforced by the historiography they produced both during and after the conflict was over. The course will show that many of the major developments, impacts, and controversies that arose out of the Campaign, with serious implications for Asia, can only be fully understood by approaching the war as a phenomenon that was transnational and global from the beginning and not through national lenses nor through a later Cold War lens. Moreover, the course puts the military history of this period at the intersection of South, South East, and East Asia into its broader social, economic, and political contexts. The course will introduce students to the major secondary works on the war in the theatre available in English as well as the major archival collections in London and published documents collections.The overall goal is to understand specifically the relationship between the experience of World War II and the postwar conflicts on their own terms instead of through the Cold War filter as historiography between the 1950s and the 1990s has tended to do until more recent revisionist historiography after the end of the Cold War.
This course examines the Vietnam War and its impact on Asia, in particular on a number of Southeast Asian societies. Properly known as the Second Indochina War, the conflict was unique in the scale of U.S. military investment and the profound destruction delivered by the world’s most powerful military machine, the U.S. Air Force. Nevertheless, the war did not result in American victory, nor did peace result in stability, leading instead to decades of civil war, social disruption, poverty, one of the world’s most notorious examples of genocide in modern history, and yet another Indochina War by the end of the 1970s. Why the war resulted in so much collateral damage is often explained by reference to American overkill and strategic errors by the Nixon Administration. This course considers whether these explanations are sufficient. The course examines the broader Asian experience of the Vietnam War, how Asians shaped and were impacted by the conflict, and why the war ultimately spun out of control and beyond the borders of Vietnam. It will do so by examining a wide range of primary source documents, including conventional archival documentation but also oral histories, newsreels, photographs, and even movie making.