Armed Forces, State, and Society in Southeast Asia: Identity, Authority, Legitimacy, Legacy

Christopher Ankersen's picture
Call for Papers
October 31, 2019
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
South Asian History / Studies, Military History


Armed Forces, State, and Society in Southeast Asia: Identity, Authority, Legitimacy, Legacy

Conference date: December 6, 2019

Deadline for submission of abstracts: October 31, 2019

Location: New York University's Center for Global Affairs, 15 Barclay Street, New York, NY USA

Civil-military relations literature proceeds from a heavily Western-centric premise, which claims the military should not be involved with politics.  Samuel Huntington, for instance, claims that militaries should be content with having autonomy over their professional affairs in exchange for non-interference in politics.  This arrangement (objective control) is presented as normatively superior to the alternative (subjective control) whereby militaries are not autonomous but rather embedded in (and subordinated to) the civilian political system. 

In Southeast Asia today, there exists a range of civil-military relations along a spectrum. Some countries (such as Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines) operate, at least nominally, under a regime of objective control. In others, the military operates explicitly (Vietnam and Lao PDR) or implicitly (Cambodia) as a tool of the ruling political party. Indonesia is a former military dictatorship that has reformed its armed forces; Myanmar, operates what might be called a transitional model.  Thailand today has only recently (again) transitioned from military rule to an elected civilian government and the prime minister has suggested that if the current arrangements are not effective, the possibility of a military return to power cannot be ruled out.    

The key questions for the conference are as follows:

  1. What is the relationship between the military and the identity of the nation, people, or elites?
  2. What is the relationship between the military and political authority?
  3. How does the military impact structures of legitimacy?
  4. What are the key principles, myths, or events that have helped shape the relationship between the military and the country?  Is that expected to change or remain the same in the future?

Presenters may address one or more of these questions with reference to the entire region, in a comparative manner across several countries, or focus on a single state. Cases may be on current situations or focus on contemporary historical examples.   

Interested participants should submit 300-word abstracts detailing their proposal presentation, along with a short bio (no more than 100 words), to Dr. Christopher Ankersen, no later than October 31, 2019. 

Selected presenters may be invited to develop their work into a working paper (approximately 5000 words).  

Graduate students and early career researchers are particularly encouraged to submit abstracts.