Engaged Scholarship in the Asia Pacific


There is an increasing number of anthropologists and allied social scientists who have intensified their cross-disciplinary work and engagement with communities that they work with. Of particular interest is the Asia Pacific Region where the long colonial histories and maintenance of colonial structures have continued to ignore local realities and needs. In our experience, involving local stakeholders as co-developers and co-investigators, not just as mere contributors, to the research process results in a more meaningful scholarship.

To encourage more scholars to actively engage the communities that they work with and motivate the latter to appreciate and support scholarly research programs, we organize a series of webinars highlighting the work of community-engaged scholars in the Asia Pacific. As part of a forthcoming edited volume of the same theme and title, we aim to contribute to community empowerment through knowledge co-production and co-creation.

Collaboration among local, indigenous, and other stakeholders provides a venue for inclusive co-production of knowledge. As such, the shift to greater engagement has also transformed research practices in the Asia Pacific region because of the realization that involving stakeholder communities results in meaningful research outcomes. Particularly, a growing number of investigations are dynamically seeking the involvement of communities, not just as mere contributors, but also as active and involved participants in the research. This undertaking humanizes our community partners and counters the exclusivity often associated with the authority of scholarship. There are an increasing number of scholars whose approach to research can be considered as inter-disciplinary, cross-nation, and cross-ethnic. This portends a growing realization that we are no longer working alone.

More importantly, engaged research in Asia Pacific counters the unequal power relations between the researcher and the researched. It highlights the political struggles that surround the relationship between state and indigenous groups. Collaborative research provides a space for  local and indigenous knowledge systems that have been disenfranchised by western scientific knowledge.  Revealing the experiences of community engagement in Asia Pacific is elucidating its methodological meanings of political/intellectual decolonization. 

In this webinar series, we showcase examples of successful scholarship where local stakeholders and communities are actively involved.  Panel members are researchers who actively engage with the communities that they work with and community members who have engaged the researchers. We argue that collaboration is a venue where indigenous/local knowledge systems and Western science intersect. The goal is to utilize the knowledge co-production to argue for policy recommendations towards co-administration. We highlight the importance of collaboration to empowering communities. Consequently, this approach decolonizes scholarship and humanizes research. We also underscore the power dynamics and tensions within communities on knowledge productions. It is not just State versus communities, but the conflicts within communities can be considered offshoot of the colonial experience.

Being one of the few, if not the only, effort that focuses on engagement and collaboration in the Asia Pacific region, panels in the series are also intrinsically multidisciplinary. This is a unique direction since one of the major intentions of the webinar series (and the book) is to break disciplinary boundaries and stress that in the practice of contemporary scholarship, we are no longer alone. Our co-production of knowledge is reconnecting local/indigenous relations to the landscape and diversifying the philosophy of human-land relations. We are enriching the knowledge of landscape. We are changing the landscape of knowledge. We are also breaking disciplinary boundaries and siloed academic work for more meaningful practiced-based research outcomes.