Cosmopolitan publics in divided societies: inter-ethnic interactions in Penang, Rangoon, and Bangkok, 1920-1940

Cosmopolitan publics in divided societies: inter-ethnic interactions in Penang, Rangoon, and Bangkok, 1920-1940

Wednesday, 4 March 2015 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Venue: 
Deakin Room, Founder's Building, St Antony's College
Speaker(s): 
Su Lin Lewis (Bristol)
Chair: 
Matthew Walton (Oxford)
Convenor: 
Matthew Walton (Oxford)
Series: 
Southeast Asia Seminar

The social history of colonial Southeast Asia has often been seen through the lens of ‘plural societies’, where diverse ethnic groups rarely mixed.  This paper challenges that narrative by examining cross-cultural relations in three of Southeast Asia’s most ethnically diverse port-cities - Penang, Rangoon, and Bangkok. It asks to what extent these cities could be called ‘cosmopolitan’ in the 1920s and 1930s, an era of profound social change, where communalism and nationalism co-existed in the same civic space alongside mentalities of globalism and internationalism. It explores the venues where Europeans and Asians interacted with each other, and where diverse Asian communities came together to debate and cooperate with each other despite racial and religious differences. It considers the importance of inter-ethnic interactions to class formation and colonial politics, and also examines their legacies in the post-colonial and contemporary period.

 

Dr. Su Lin Lewis is Lecturer in Modern Global History at the University of Bristol. She has also taught at the University of Birmingham, the University of California-Berkeley, and Birkbeck College, University of London.  She received her PhD in History from Cambridge University in 2010.