From 3 - 5 July I attended the 22nd Biennial Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) conference, held this year at Sydney University.
The 22nd ASAA was the largest ASAA conference in history, and Sydney Southeast Asia Centre (SSEAC) did an outstanding job of coordinating the event.
For me, the conference was a busy a few days. In addition to listening to as many fascinating research presentations as possible, I was also fortunate enough to convene two panels on the Greater Mekong Subregion. With presentations from Simon Creak (Nanyang Technological University), Robert Farnam (Chiang Mai University), Josto Luzzo (Sydney University), Andrea Chareunsy (Macquarie University), Sunsanee McDonnell, and myself (James Cook University), the two panels explored shifting regional dynamics in Mainland Southeast Asia across a range of scales, sectoral issues, and disciplinary perspectives.
In my paper, titled '(Re)Negotiating the Belt-and-Road, ASEAN, and the Greater Mekong Subregion', I considered how China’s growing political, economic, and infrastructural advances into Mainland Southeast Asia have both reinforced and contested (1) ASEAN, and (2) The Greater Mekong Subregion. To illuminate the discussion with tangible examples, I provided special attention to how the Government of Laos has sought to maintain harmonious engagement with these interrelated - but occasionally conflictual - regional entities. It is my hope that this presentation will soon be worked into a full paper.
Beyond the panels, the 22nd ASAA was also an exciting (and busy) event for me because it served as the formal launch of the Association of Mainland Southeast Asia Scholars (AMSEAS).
To launch the association, a subregional keynote was provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison's Professor Katherine Bowie - who provided a fascinating historical vignette of the intersection between politics and religion in Thailand through a biographical account of the life of Kruba Srivichai.
There was much enthusiasm around the establishment of AMSEAS, and I am excited to see what the future will bring.