Organized Panel Session
What are the specific mechanisms through which colonial and precolonial institutions shaped the development of postcolonial states? This panel challenges the simplistic narrative that directly traces the origin of interethnic violence, inequality, bossism and other negative socioeconomic and political outcomes in contemporary Southeast Asia to manifestly violent and abusive colonial and precolonial institutions and practices. Instead, the papers explore various indirect and unintended ways in which colonial and precolonial institutions shaped the development of postcolonial Southeast Asia, and contribute theoretically to our larger understanding of the dynamics of both institutional continuity andchange across historical eras.
Kim’s paper investigates the colonial origins of contemporary drug laws. She finds that the forcefulness of laws against narcotics across Southeast Asia can be traced to the colonial-era opium tax regime that made drug-related stocks and infrastructures a source of funding and patronage for societal challengers to the state. Pelletier demonstrates that variation in Islamic militancy across Java had little to do with the Dutch colonial government’s policies concerning religion; rather it was an unintended product of differences in the taxation strategies adopted by local authorities. Matsuzaki explains why the Philippine Constabulary, which successfully established and maintained peaceful conditions and helped legitimate the colonial state during the American period, became among the principal sources of insecurity, violence, and bossism after independence. Finally, Harish compares regions across Southeast Asia where the colonial state was largely absent to explore the ways in which differences in precolonial institutional development can explain contemporary economic and political patterns.