Southeast Asia’s Early Modern Period and Its Global Links

1UCLA Department of Anthropology

2Department of Anthropology, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

3Department of Anthropology, University of Washington

Early Modern Period (EMP) Southeast Asia, from 1400-1820 CE, experienced major climatic fluctuations that impacted political patterns across the region. The period also witnessed European expansionism and subsequent resource extraction that shaped, and continues to shape, present-day environmental and social dynamics in Southeast Asia. Although these historical events are known, there is a dearth of work that synthesises and integrates investigations focused on the EMP as well as investigations that link the region to global events. This panel introduces the Program for Early Modern Southeast Asia (PEMSEA), highlighting ecological, economic, and political dynamics that link the region to Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds. Panelists provide case studies from Atlantic Africa, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia that emphasise a bottom-up approach to studying local responses to climate change, European contact, and Indigenous SEA networks that facilitated interactions during the EMP. Our focus on local responses to both global and local ecological change emphasises bottom-up/Indigenous perspectives and moves discussion away from Western colonialist views of the region. Integrating historians, archaeologists, palaeoclimatologists, and scholars from other humanistic disciplines provides a broad framework to aid our understanding of the various ways in which humans respond to crises.