Thai manuscripts at the Royal Asiatic Society, London

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The Royal Asiatic Society London is pleased to announce that its small collection of Thai manuscripts is now searchable on its online catalogue.

The subject of the texts is very varied, ranging from Thai law, history and literature, to Buddhism, herbal medicine, proverbs and fortune telling. All but one of the manuscripts is in the form of a folding book and most date from the 19th century. Some are unfortunately only single volumes from multi-volume texts. Several of the manuscripts were given to the Society in the 1940’s by H. G. Quaritch Wales, and the rest came from various donors.

RAS MS 10A f6 (Courtesy of Royal Asiatic Society)

RAS MS 10A f6 (Courtesy of Royal Asiatic Society)

To see catalogue records for the manuscripts, go to http://ras.libertyasp.co.uk/library/Home.do and search for ‘Thai manuscripts’. Visitors are very welcome to view the manuscripts in the library. The Library page of the RAS web site at www.royalasiaticsociety.org has details of access arrangements.

More details about the Thai manuscripts collection at the Royal Asiatic Society and many other interesting collection items and events can be found on the RAS Blog.



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A new, co-operative effort – including South East Asian Studies – of Leiden institutes and musea.

LeidenGlobal is a community of leading academic and cultural institutions in the Netherlands. Through LeidenGlobal, academic and cultural institutions connect with local communities, media, government, business, and NGOs. The aim is to raise the impact of scholarship across the board, from cultural events and public debate to government policy and education. Participants of LeidenGlobal have expertise about Africa, Asia & Oceania, Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean, the Middle East, North America, Russia & the Caucasus, and the Circumpolar Regions. LeidenGlobal is a meeting place built for people interested in places around the world, and the dynamics between them, their histories, and their cultures.

LeidenGlobal provides information on events, collections, courses, academic institutions and experts based in Leiden.

To find out more, view the website www.leidenglobal.org

Buddhist Archive of Photography, Luang Prabang, Laos

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The Buddhist archive of photography, Luang Prabang, Laos, is most certainly the largest online photobase documenting the recent history of Buddhism in Laos.

The digitisation of the original photographs found in Luang Prabang was supported by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme. Coming from more than 20 distinct monastery collections, this unique view from inside documents 120 years of monastic life and ritual, pilgrimage, monks’ portraits, history and social life. Important historic and political events of an agitated century in Laos at the same time appear as in a mirror: French colonialism, the Royal court, civil war, the Indochina and Vietnam wars, revolution and socialist rule. Quantity and quality of the material are as surprising as is the fact that it was produced in a city as isolated as Luang Prabang. It seems that there has been a particular inclination towards photography, which had been introduced very early by the French, was practised by the Royal court where young princes would learn about it, and take it with them when they were ordained as monks and became abbots of the various monasteries (there are 64 in town).

Work started in 2007 with Pilot Project EAP086, followed by Major Research Project EAP177 – since then 33,933 photographs have been discovered in 21 monasteries of Luang Prabang and have been digitised, identified and safely stored. Most of the original photographs (prints and negatives) are now stored in specially designed wooden archive cabinets at the Sala Thammiviharn, Vat Khili, Luang Prabang – an historic monastic building in one of the monasteries, now entirely used by the Archive. Some minor collections have been restituted to their respective owners.

Together with the 15,000 photographs treated in Major Research Project EAP177, the additional 18,933 photographs of this second project constitute the largest collection of historic photographs in Laos, and certainly the one that has been most thoroughly researched.

Digital copies of the material have been deposited at The National Library of Laos, Preservation of Lao Manuscripts Project, Vientiane Capital, Lao P.D.R. and the British Library, London, United Kingdom.

Read more about the Buddhist Archive of Photography…

View on the former Royal Palace, Luang Prabang

View on the former Royal Palace, Luang Prabang

Important news about the KITLV – Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology

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As of July 1st, 2014 the care of the collections of the KITLV will be transferred to the Leiden University Library (UBL). All books, periodicals, archives, photographs, maps and print collections etc. will be moved to the UBL buildings – situated just opposite the present location of KITLV. The acquisition of books and periodicals will in future be a task of the UBL, a steering committee consisting of representatives of the UBL, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and KITLV will oversee consistency.
The present reading room of KITLV will close on the date mentioned but it is hoped that about a week later requests for books, periodicals etc. can be fulfilled at the UBL building. A separate reading room for KITLV is planned and current periodicals and manuals will be available there. Within a few years the UBL plans to open an Area Studies Library with its own reading room, in which KITLV will be incorporated.
A large part of the present library staff of KITLV will have to be made redundant, the remaining staff will be employed by the UBL.
KITLV will continue as a research institute of the KNAW, located on the Leiden campus.
The management of KITLV’s Jakarta office will be taken over by the UBL. It will maintain its functions of acquiring books and periodicals published in Indonesia and of supporting the research institute.
These developments are in consequence of a retrenchment-, reorganization- and relocation- operation by KITLV’s parent organization, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam.

[Reported by RS Karni]

Crossroads Studies: Mobilities, Immobilities and the Issue of Positionality for Rethinking Area Studies

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Crossroads Asia Conference at Center for Development Research, Bonn, Germany, November 27-28, 2014

Call for Papers

The research network Crossroads Asia: Conflict, Migration, Development, funded by the Area Studies Initiative of the German Ministry of Education and Research since March 2011 questions the validity of the conventional ‘world regions’ of Central and South Asia as defining bases for Area Studies as conceptualized, organized and taught at German universities. The increasing mobility of people, goods and ideas along Asia’s crossroads – so the networks assumption – does not  justify a division of the world in territorially fixed ‘areas’, defined by certain character traits to be found on the ‘inside’, but instead demands for concepts that take these dynamisms into account. The network chose Norbert Elias’ concept of figurations to generate knowledge transgressing conventional areas and brought together researchers trained in Central, South Asian and Iranian Studies with geographers, political scientists, sociologists, linguists and social anthropologists.

The here proposed conference on ‘Crossroads Studies’ as research programme aims to bring together the empirical research conducted by the network members with empirical, conceptual and methodological debates on the rethinking of Area Studies – from Asia just as much as from other parts of the world. It is the explicit aim to identify several empirically-based common lines of thought and emic patterns of  defining socio-cultural and physical spaces relevant for the rethinking of disciplinary constructs of those, namely for Area Studies.

Our research into the everyday lives of people living between Eastern Iran and Northern India, as well as the Aral Sea and Western China strongly indicates that different mobilities, just as much as immobilities, and thus different types of borders and boundaries are negotiated, take on shape, come into being or are deconstructed again in and as a consequence of human communication and interaction processes.

The notion of ‘Crossroads Studies’ therefore refers not only to the study of different types of mobility and immobility along some of Asia’s crossroads and the reflection of the researcher’s own position in this. But in addition it refers to the conscious reflection of these border/boundary negotiations as processes of the communicative construction of socio-cultural and physical spaces at the crossroads of Area Studies and ‘systematic’ disciplines. We thus locate ourselves, ‘Crossroads Studies’, in the centre of what Knorr-Cetina (1999: 12) calls “the disunity of science” and “the diversity of the manufacturing systems from which truth effects arise”. It is this diversity – with reference to ‘systematic’ disciplines, Area Studies and geographic regions of the world that we hope to nurture in this conference on rethinking of Area Studies, by studying the dynamisms and the blockades of today’s world.

We thus would like to encourage the submission of innovative papers related to the rethinking of Area Studies from any disciplinary or Area Studies perspective as well as of empirical and/or conceptual nature. For submission please send a max. 2 page long abstract and a short CV to Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge (Mail: crossroads@uni-bonn.de) by latest April 30th. Selected speakers will be expected to submit a full draft of the conference paper by October 15, 2014. The conference organisers will cover the travel expenses of all invited speakers.    

Center for Development Research
Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung (ZEF)
University of Bonn
Walter-Flex-Str. 1-3, Room 1.013
53113 Bonn, Germany

Mandalay Marionettes Theater Online

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The ever growing Southeast Asia Digital Library (SEADL), hosted by the Northern Illinois University, has made available access to ten videos recording various aspects of the Mandalay Marionettes Theater.

In Burma, marionette puppetry has played an important role in the history and development of dramatic art and culture over the last 500 years. Burmese puppetry served as a means of making people aware of current events; as a medium for educating people in literature, history, and religion; as a display of lifestyles and customs; and as mouthpieces for the people in the days of the monarchy.

Burmese puppet theatre show, photograph by Philip A. Klier, 1895 (British Library Photo 88/1(42))

Burmese puppet theatre show, photograph by Philip A. Klier, 1895 (British Library Photo 88/1(42))

The practice of traditional marionette puppetry in Burma has waned over the decades, and is on the verge of becoming a lost art form. In 1986, Mrs. Ma Ma Naing and Mrs. Naing Yee Mar formed the Mandalay Marionettes Theater as a step in saving this rich legacy. This troupe has been working to preserve Burmese puppetry and original Burmese traditions such as Burmese dancing and music, sculpture, sequin embroidery and painting.

The Mandalay Marionettes Theater troupe has contributed an assortment of performance videos to the SEADL. Included in these is an introduction and overview to the Burmese marionette tradition; a ritual dance that is done to respect the Nats, or the guardian spirits of the area; the Himalayas dance, featuring the horse, monkey and demons; and a dance of an alchemist or the Zaw-Gyi dance. Daw Ma Ma Naing, one of the founders of the Mandalay Marionettes Theater, also gives a brief history about marionettes. Other videos highlight the skills of the puppeteers themselves, while demonstrating the dance of the two royal pages; a humorous dance performed by two villagers named U Shwe Yoe and Daw Moe; a dance between a human being and a puppet; a romantic and sentimental dance called “Myaing Da;”and a performance from the Ramayana epic where Rama chases a golden deer for his princess, Sita.

To go directly to the video collection at SEADL, click HERE.

For further information about the Mandalay Marionettes Theater, please visit http://www.mandalaymarionettes.com/.

The Heritage Collection of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) Amsterdam moved to Leiden

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KIT Belder

When the library of the Royal Tropical Institute was forced to close its doors for good last year, it seemed for a moment that its splendid collection would be horribly fragmented or even literally be  lost altogether (to huge old paper recycle bins!). Despite serious efforts from various sides, it was, unfortunately, not possible to keep the collection as a whole in the Netherlands. The majority of the KIT library — almost 400,000 books and 20,000 journals — will be reallocated at the Library of Alexandria. The Heritage Collection, however, will remain in the Netherlands! On 12 December 2013 a memorandum was signed to make this unique collection officially part of the Leiden University Library holdings.

1,5 km paper and almost 25.000 publications have been moved to the Witte Singel where they have immediately been catalogued. Soon there will also be two websites with digitized material from that collection, among other things, a large number of maps. The newly obtained material is relevant to both students and researchers with an interest in the history and cultures of the Dutch East Indies, in colonial agriculture, economy and administration. The impressive collection of prints and manuscripts on and from Southeast Asia, Indonesia in particular, enriches the UB Special Collection splendidly.

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