Learning from Each Other

Scholarly Exchanges in Southeast Asian Studies
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2019 / October

Sharleen Su /photos courtesy of CSEAS /tr. by Robert Fox


Separated by a little more than an hour’s flight, Taiwan and the Philippines are in the same time zone and face similar social, economic, and labor issues. By harnessing the power of academic platforms, young scholars at National Chengchi University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies hope to find solutions for issues such as land reform, poverty, and preservation of cultures.


Once out of Manila, the nightmarish traffic jams were finally behind them.

Last year, 15 students from countries including Taiwan, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam participated in the first Winter School for Advanced Philippine Studies workshop. The course was jointly organized by National Chengchi University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), the Philippines’ Southeast Asian Studies Regional Exchange Program (SEASREP), National Chi Nan University’s Department of Southeast Asian Studies, and the Taiwan‡Asia Exchange Foundation (TAEF). The workshop aims to cultivate young ­Taiwanese and Asian scholars and experts who are familiar with Taiwanese and Southeast Asian affairs.

The students traveled to the Philippines, where they took part in a nine-day series of courses dealing with the current state of social change in that country. To delve deeper into the local culture, the students made a special trip to Baguio City, a six to eight-hour bus ride from Manila. As scenery on the northbound journey flashed past, the young people got a good feeling for the gap between urban and rural areas. Workshops like the Philippine Winter School are part of the exchanges between CSEAS and Southeast-Asian academic circles.

In 2016, National Chengchi University established CSEAS to promote interdisciplinary regional research projects in areas such as international relations, foreign policy, political economy, society, culture, and ethnic languages, and to strengthen bilateral cooperation and communication between NCCU and top international institutions in Southeast Asian studies.

Linking top research centers

“NCCU is stepping up its Southeast Asian research. We’ve already signed memoranda of understanding with the world’s top ten Southeast Asia research centers,” says Associate Professor Ong Nga-ping, chair of NCCU’s Department of Ethnology and a researcher with CSEAS, describing the connection as an academic blockchain. In 2015, NCCU established the CSEAS Preparatory Office in co­operation with Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies; Dr. Michael Hsiao, a distinguished research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology, acted as facilitator. With Dr. Alan Yang, deputy director of NCCU’s Institute of International Relations, serving as executive director, CSEAS has established partnerships with institutions such as the Vietnam Academy of Social Science’s Institute for Southeast Asian Studies and SEASREP in the Philippines.

The Winter School for Advanced Philippine Studies, one of the various exchange programs CSEAS has organized, is a practical means of enabling young scholars to observe Southeast Asian countries’ social problems from different perspectives. “Students first learn new ways of looking at issues, then go on to conduct fieldwork. They find that Taiwan and Southeast Asian nations are faced with many of the same problems,” Ong Nga-ping says.

One example is the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995, which Ong visited with Winter School partici­pants last year. A product of human ingenuity, the vast irrigation systems in Luzon’s Ifugao Province have felt the effects of rapid social change—an outflow of young people, the collapse of terraces, and the disappearance of traditional cultural rites have all negatively impacted local communities. “These problems are common to both Taiwan and the Philippines,” says Ong.

Feeling the land’s warmth

By engaging in in-depth academic exchanges, young Taiwanese scholars have become more aware of land ­issues in the Philippines. After land reform efforts failed, large numbers of rural residents migrated to Manila. Living in the overcrowded and chaotic city, Baguio’s indigen­ous people wistfully recall their ancestral homeland.

“We couldn’t get a feel for these things simply by reading books, but by going there, we were better able to unders­tand locals’ thinking,” Ong Nga-ping says, smiling at photos and messages students sent back: “You don’t real­ize how beautiful the terraces are until you come here.” “Listening to the Hudhud chants of the Ifugao, we feel the power and beauty of humans’ relationship with the land. This is what makes field research so fascinating.”

Partners in the quest for knowledge

In August 2019, NCCU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies hosted the “ASEAN Cultural and Economic Develop­ment Cross-Country Internship Program,” allow­ing NCCU students to gain first-hand experience in Thailand. In addition to visiting the Thai NGO Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN), where they delved into issues of labor exploitation and human trafficking, students also got a taste of riverside life at Bangkok’s Amphawa Floating Market.

Holding in-depth discussions on labor exploitation with a Thai NGO “was a rare opportunity,” says Ong, adding that it would be difficult for most independent scholars to be granted such access. Warasiriphong Chittaworn, a doctoral student at NCCU’s Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies, acted as intermediary, taking advantage of the NGO’s good relations with Dr. Rungnapa Thepparp, associate dean of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Thailand’s Thammasat University, who made the arrangements.

Currently, NCCU holds weekly international workshops and lectures related to Southeast Asia, establishing cooperative links and agreements with countries targeted by Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy. The university welcomes many visiting scholars, and friendships have never been closer. 

As a preeminent Southeast Asian studies think tank, CSEAS uses its influence to link together worldwide research in Southeast-Asia-related fields, allowing younger generations of scholars to find their voices.

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移地研究‧看見彼此

政大東南亞研究中心

文‧蘇晨瑜 圖‧政大東南亞研究中心

一個多小時飛行時間,菲律賓與台灣在同一時區內,竟然在社會、經濟、勞工等議題上,也有著相似的問題。政大東南亞研究中心的青年學者,正透過學術圈平台鏈結的力量,扣敲問題的核心,希望為亞洲的土地改革、貧窮與文化保存等問題,找出一條解決之道。

 


車子出了馬尼拉市區後,終於脫離塞車的噩夢。

去年,來自台灣、菲律賓、柬埔寨、越南等共15名學生,參加了首屆的菲律賓研究冬季學校工作坊系列課程。這場別出心裁的課程,由國立政治大學東南亞研究中心與菲律賓東南亞研究區域學術交流基金會(Southeast Asian Studies Regional Exchange Program, SEASREP)、國立暨南大學東南亞學系,以及臺灣亞洲交流基金會合辦,旨在培養台灣與亞洲熟悉東南亞事務的年輕學者專家。

各國學生們在菲律賓進行為期九天的系列課程,探討菲律賓的社會變遷現況,也體驗一下亞洲有名的馬尼拉大塞車。而為了更深入當地的人文參訪,課程特別安排同學到碧瑤市參訪。碧瑤市是菲律賓有名的避暑勝地,氣溫比馬尼拉涼爽很多。

從馬尼拉到碧瑤市約六到八小時車程,車行相當久。窗外飛掠景色從繁華的城市漸入鄉村,一路北行所見城鄉差距,讓同學們有相當強烈的感受。類似菲律賓冬季學校這樣的工作坊,是政大東南亞研究中心與東南亞學術圈相互交流的一部分。

2016年政大成立東南亞研究中心,目的是強化對東南亞區域研究的能量,並培養更多青年領袖。東南亞研究中心旨在推動東南亞國際關係、外交政策、政治經濟、社會文化與族群語言等跨領域的區域研究計畫,也積極強化政大與國際東南亞研究頂尖學術機構間的雙邊合作與交流。

快速串聯世界頂尖研究中心

「政大加強東南亞研究,不出手則已,一出手就與全世界十個最好、最頂尖的東亞研究中心簽訂備忘錄。」政大東南亞研究中心兼任研究員王雅萍形容,這就像是學術圈版的區塊鏈連結。2015年政大成立「東南亞研究中心籌備處」,透過中央研究院社會學研究所特聘研究員蕭新煌教授的促成,與執國際東南亞研究領域牛耳的日本京都大學東南亞研究地域研究所共同合作,由政大國際關係研究中心副主任楊昊教授擔任執行長,並進一步與越南社會科學院東南亞研究所、菲律賓東南亞研究區域學術交流基金會等單位建立夥伴關係。政大東南亞研究中心不只與各國學術圈交好,彼此交流頻繁,更常年舉辦論壇及工作坊,快速深化整個東南亞研究領域。

在政大東南亞研究中心舉辦的各類活動中,菲律賓冬季工作坊就是其中一項人才交流的實踐場域。這項工作坊除了強化夥伴關係,打造多元學術網絡以外,更有助於青年學者以不同角度來觀察每個社會的問題。「青年學者需要到當地去做田野調查、做移地研究。」這項課程把青年學子送到海外,透過當地頂尖大學師資授課,並有機會接觸當地人文風情,了解當地社會所面臨的挑戰。「在課程中,學生先學習到『觀點』,然後再到田野現場實察。你會發現,原來台灣與東南亞國家有很多共同的議題。」王雅萍說。

以王雅萍及同學們曾造訪的伊富高梯田為例,1995年伊富高梯田被聯合國教科文組織認證為世界文化遺產,這套以人類智慧結晶建構的龐大灌溉系統,卻不敵社會快速變遷的衝擊,梯田所在區域正面臨著青年人口外移、梯田崩壞、祭典文化消失等打擊,「而這些都是台灣與菲律賓共同面臨的處境。」

這樣的課程以更深層的方式去了解菲律賓的政治、社會、文化、教育及經貿發展,上完課後馬上有實際參訪的機會,能夠與來自各國的博碩士生交換意見,因此可以更貼近當地,而不會一直以外來者的觀點來思考。

心與心貼近,才能了解土地的溫度

此外,真正的移地研究有許多好處。除了讓青年學者不會閉門造車,也創造了許多在研究室埋頭苦讀所不能感受的體驗。例如在深入的學術交流中,台灣的青年學者更加了解菲律賓的土地問題。菲律賓土地改革失敗,大量的農村人民流浪到馬尼拉,在過度擁擠和失控的城市中,讓碧瑤的原住民更加喜愛自己的原鄉。對家鄉的依戀,以及回家後的那種安適自在,只能意會,不能言傳,書本無法傳遞這種情感。

「我們在書本閱讀這些知識時沒有感覺,但是來到這裡,就比較能夠貼近當地人的所思所想。」王雅萍看到學員回傳的照片,有時會會心一笑,「到了這裡你才會知道,這裡的梯田是這麼漂亮。」「聆聽傳統『呼得呼得』(hudhud)吟唱,感受人與土地結合的力與美,這就是移地研究迷人的地方。」

一位參與冬季工作坊的同學也深有體會。孤單的學術研究之路,竟然在參加冬季工作坊後全然改觀。「原來有一群人跟我一樣,在朝同一個方向前進。」觀點的匯流與激盪,創造出更鮮活的學術氛圍。一位來自泰國的博士生,就在工作坊期間詢問了來自台灣的學生:「你覺得我做的這個環境發展議題研究怎麼樣?」「可否以你的台灣觀點,告訴我有什麼需要補強的地方?」

夥伴關係助學術研究一臂之力

今年8月,東南亞研究中心舉辦「東協文化與經貿發展跨國見習計畫:台泰交流.南向前行」,安排學生到泰國見習。除了讓學生深入當地NGO組織LPN(Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation),了解當地人口販運中的勞工剝削問題,也安排參觀安帕瓦水上市場的河岸生活,並赴五座佛寺,了解因信仰文化而衍生的蓬勃「寺廟文化產業」。

「這樣的行程非常難得,」王雅萍說,尤其深入當地NGO組織,探討勞工剝削問題,以一般學者獨立的研究能量,很難進入這樣的場域,做如此近距離的第一手觀察。能讓眾緣聚合,是東亞研究所博士生丁永興的居中牽線,透過與NGO組織關係良好的泰國國立法政大學(Mahawitthayalai Thammasat)跨領域學院副院長Dr. Rungnapa Thepparp代為安排,才能夠在如此短的時間內,獲得這樣好的研究題材。這也讓人看到,政大東南亞研究中心所具備的學術影響力。而這次活動參與的學生橫跨政治、日文、教育、傳播、民族、歷史、法律等科系,除了廣納不同領域人才,也希望透過海外見習活動,能夠培養我國經貿文化人才,並深化國際間的學術連結。

「政大現在幾乎每日『東南亞』。」王雅萍表示,每週政大都有許多場跟東南亞相關的國際工作坊與講座,各種和新南向國家的合作連結與合作協議,到訪的學者很多,友誼的緊密程度前所未見。

身為東南亞研究智庫,政大東南亞研究中心發揮學術平台具備的社會科學研究影響力,正把世界各地的東南亞研究領域串聯起來,讓年輕世代學者,發揮更大的力量。

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