Southeast Asian Propaganda

Welcome to this blog on Southeast Asian Propaganda. The purpose of the blog is to collate resources and possible research topics for students of modern Southeast Asian History, and in particular for students at Aberystwyth University taking my skills module. All the posts on this blog can be discussed as a possible basis for the 5000 word project.


Information on the course:

Image Wars: Propaganda in Southeast Asian History

Southeast Asia sits at the cross-roads of Asia, and has throughout the twentieth century been considered a vital strategic location globally. This has meant that foreign powers have continuously worked with and fought against national leaders for hegemony and legitimacy. By taking a look at the key shifts in power throughout the twentieth century, this course will interrogate how they have done this. In doing so, the course will look at how, regardless of the underlying message, key themes have remained vital to the success of the propaganda in the region. In particular, the course will look at how the subjects of race, culture and nation were regularly drawn upon to engage viewers or readers. Moreover, it will identify how new technologies in propaganda production were quickly assimilated and exploited locally. From the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia during World War II, to the American ideological projection of the ‘Free World’ during the Cold War, the course will focus on the use of images and representation to assert explicitly political messages. For more information on the module see here: http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/modules/deptcurrent/?m=HY33720


Why Propaganda?
Propaganda is an ideal way to gain a sophisticated insight into the historical development of nations in Southeast Asia, regardless of whether you have studied the region’s history in the past. This is largely due to the nature of propaganda itself. Invariably, propaganda seeks to present simplistic narratives intent upon uniting a particular population. By reading this message we can understand something about the group that is creating it. If it is a state actor, for example, we can learn about how the state is trying to capture the imaginations of the population, and why they might want to do this. We can also, however, consider how effective that message might be. While propaganda is generally created to manipulate a group of people, it must nevertheless also appeal if it is to be effective. So, propaganda can also inform us about the priorities of the society from which it comes.
thai propaganda
Thai Propaganda from the Second World War
It is also important to recognise that modern propaganda has a history of its own. While political leaders and stake holders have always sought to alter perceptions to bolster their own legitimacy, it is not until the late nineteenth century that the leaders of nation states started to fully mobilise new technologies, and scientific approaches to mobilise a mass psychology. The fact that Southeast Asian states emerge through the late nineteenth and early twentieth century therefore needs to be understood in relation to these developing technologies.

Some interesting places to start thinking about what makes propaganda in the twentieth century a specifically modern phenomenon are as follows:

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