At the Crossroads: Southeast Asia


Southeast Asia. The moniker suggests a peripheral zone (southeast) of the centers of power and culture (Asia), and belies this region’s location at the intersections of world culture, trade, and power.

 

Southeast Asia. The moniker suggests a peripheral zone (southeast) of the centers of power and culture (Asia), and belies this region’s location at the intersections of world culture, trade, and power.

 

Southeast Asia’s location along the main shipping lanes between Africa and Europe and East Asia, as well as its abundance of natural resources, have long made it a region coveted by Asian and European powers such as China, England, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, and France. It is no surprise, therefore, that Southeast Asia played a central role in global politics and conflicts in the 20th century, and World War II provides a useful hinge for examining how the region then and today shapes our world.

 

The East-West Center (EWC) developed “Southeast Asia: At the Crossroads of World War II” as a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute for School Teachers. Offered during the summer of 2011, the Institute captured the historical contexts and strategic aspects of World War II in Southeast Asia, and empowered teachers with knowledge and resources so that they could guide their students on a rich and nuanced exploration of how the conflict erupted and unfolded, and continues to influence world affairs today.

 

This companion website, also created with NEH support, showcases the resources and materials that were created through the Summer Institute. By taking a familiar topic (World War II) and examining it from a new vantage point (Southeast Asia), teachers and students alike can connect new and often surprising content to ones prior knowledge, and evaluate past assumptions as well as build investigative, analytical, and problem-solving skills that are essential in today’s interconnected world.