It is an understatement to say we live in unprecedented and highly uncertain times.
The combined impacts of catastrophic climate changes, both sudden and incremental, and increasing social and economic inequalities, have long been hurting Southeast Asian communities, and other people around the world, long before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a short span of less than six months, the pandemic has exposed systemic structural vulnerabilities, injustices and inequities in our life support systems—our health care, food supply chains, childcare, schools, universities, manufacturing industries, physical and social infrastructures—as well as our countries’ and regions’ increased interconnections and interdependencies. It has also exposed how emergent populist authoritarian rulers in Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, stoke long-standing fears and persistent prejudices with pandemic-related emergency powers as “perfect pretext” or cover for increased repression of their citizens, greater political manipulation, or power concentration.
Much of what is happening in the Southeast Asian region and the wider world today with the Covid-19 pandemic is deeply connected with the kinds of issues and concerns that CCSEAS scholars have long engaged with since its creation.
CCSEAS scholars have studied class structures and relations in SEA beyond the “three great classes” of peasants, workers and landed capitalists. They have fine-tuned mainstream capital, peasant, labour, political, development and resource studies by linking their analyses to broader challenges—including pandemics, disasters, urban insurrections and rural insurgencies—that cause severe social cleavages, economic dislocations, regime transitions, and intergenerational conflicts. They have connected urban, peri-urban and rural development concerns with governmentality approaches and roles of states, non-government, international financial agencies, and governance at various scales, magnified by resource constraints, legitimation crises, ecological stresses, and political emergencies.
They have taken up the challenge of examining “economic miracles,” “economic crises” and the political economy of “state penetration,” “crony capitalism,” “neo-patrimonialism,” “corporatization,” “financialization” and “neoliberal globalization” over the years, concepts and practices that have been wedded to discourses on human rights, liberalism, good governance and democracy, whose futures and prospects in the Southeast Asian region, and elsewhere, have been complicated by the still-spreading global pandemic.
To continue its tradition of critical scholarship and mentoring of young Southeast Asian studies scholars in Canada, and being well positioned to tackle old and new challenges our fast changing societies confront regularly, the CCSEAS has been blessed with a new and younger Executive members: Kai Ostwald (UBC) as Vice-President, Isabelle Cote (Memorial) as Treasurer, Stéphanie Martel (Queen’s) as Member-at-Large,Antoine Beaulieu (U Laval), and Mallory MacDonnell (York) as student representatives, supported by Alicia Filipowich (York) and Jennifer Langill (McGill). I am the eldest on the team, having attended CCSEAS Conferences since the 1990s when I was still a graduate student. At these meetings, I had the great fortune of meeting many seasoned senior scholars who undoubtedly have played a big role in my own intellectual growth and professional development as an academic and researcher.
Led by these young leaders and graduate students across Canada, we will renew our CCSEAS commitment to critical and engaged scholarship with a conference theme “People, Power, Politics, Pandemics and Other Perils in Southeast Asia” to be held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on 21–24 October 2021.
We will monitor the public health situation next year to determine how our travel and logistical arrangements will be affected by the pandemic. We are prepared to hold the Conference in virtual and hybrid spaces should travel advisories and other essential precautionary measures be still in place. Please watch out for our conference poster, a call for papers as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts with more details on how you can be involved in conference planning and preparations. Kindly get in touch with our CCSEAS Secretariat for more details.
We hope that the 2021 CCSEAS Conference will be your first post-pandemic conference of choice! Maraming Salamat. Mabuhay!
Leonora C. Angeles, President