State and Personhood in Southeast Asia: The Promise and Potential for Law and Society Research

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The diversity and pluralism of Southeast Asia make it an ideal subject for law and society researchers, but by and large they have not given the region the attention it deserves. In this article, we argue for a more intense and systematic linking of research about Southeast Asia and the field of law and society. We focus on the theme of state and personhood to suggest how some of the central concerns of law and society may be relevant to Southeast Asian peoples and cultures. We illustrate our argument by selecting nine excellent articles by Southeast Asian scholars who do not currently identify their work with the law and society field, and we demonstrate that their research is rich with implications for the field. We welcome in particular the ways in which they have portrayed personhood as an ongoing construction and have highlighted its contingent relationship with the state. Building on these themes, we conclude the article with a plea for a more far-reaching engagement between Southeast Asian studies and law and society research.

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Asian Journal of Law and Society

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