Friday, November 09, 2007

Jews' contribution to Southeast Asian Studies

Xiao Qing, the daughter of my friends Beng Cheng and Siew Lan, has brought back from Singapore for me the 3rd edition of Professor Michael Leifer's Dictionary of the Modern Politics of South-East Asia (London, Routledge, 2001). I have been using the first edition of the book as reference since its publication in 1995 but I think it is time to upgrade my infrastructure to prepare for intellectually more challenging time ahead in this fast-changing world.

Like world-renowned Cambridge historians Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper who specialise in the studies of the history of the now defunct British Empire in Asia, Michael Leifer also factually recorded in the all the editions of Dictionary of the Modern Politics of South-East Asia " that the most well-known veteran of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) Chin Peng "was born in Malaya". (1995, p. 82; 2001, p.87)

Professor Michael Leifer (1933-2001), a fair-minded and no-nonsense British scholar (of Jewish origin) of Southeast Asian studies, always articulated very thoughtfully and discoursed with accurate as well as dispassionate language on emotional and difficult subjects like past wars and other types of conflicts in the region, including Malaysia and Singapore. Like Professor Herb Feith (1930-2001), Dr. Leifer's books, monographs and articles have certainly and significantly contributed to my foundational as well as factual understanding of Southeast Asia and its modern politics at the domestic, regional and global levels.


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