Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies

How are South and Southeast Asia related?

You might have asked yourself what South Asia and Southeast Asia have in common. These terms didn’t come into use as names for these respective major geographical and historical regions until the second half of the twentieth century. They were adopted in an attempt to overcome the colonial designations for the areas comprised by these regions. Both regions border the eastern Indian Ocean, which stretches from the Bay of Bengal to the South China Sea, where it meets the Pacific. They are climatically similar, owing to the pervasive influence of the monsoon, which determines the agricultural calendar from today’s Pakistan to the Indonesian-Malay archipelago and Vietnam.

Historically, South and Southeast Asia are joined by linguistic, cultural, political and economic ties that arose though settlement, pilgrimages and trade relationships. By way of these historical connections, Indian religions, art forms and concepts of state spread across Southeast Asia. These developments are exemplified by the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, now a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, which was built according to principles of Hindu architecture.

Today, South and Southeast Asia are reviving their historical connections and intensifying their political, economic and cultural contacts. With their transcultural dynamics, these major regions lend themselves not only to historically oriented, but also contemporary translocal and transnational study.

More on the qualifications ...