By Paul van der Velde
In the previous editorial it was stated that an Asia strategy can never be successful without a cultural dimension. Therefore close synergy between politicians, the business community, and researchers in the field of Asian Studies is indispensable to formulating an effective Asia Strategy. With its presidency of the European Union due in the first six months of 1997 the Netherlands has a historical opportunity to both broaden and deepen the dialogue with Asia and to work on improving the EU-Asia strategy. The Dutch government is actively engaged in formulating and contributing to an Asia strategy which can be deduced from e.g. the speech entitled: `Europe and Asia. Towards a New Partnership', delivered by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Hans van Mierlo last year at the IIAS. At the end of this year the Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs, Dr G.J. Wijers, will address the annual IIAS Asian ambassadors' lunch on the changing economic relationship between Europe and Asia. During a recent visit to the IIAS on 20 May, his colleague, Dr. J.M.M. Ritzen, Minister of Education, Culture, and Sciences gave an informal speech in which he put forward two concepts which he believed of crucial importance in the development of Asian Studies in Europe: Concentration and Ownership.
Concentration and Ownership
Ritzen sees Concentration as an even more far-reaching deepening and intensification of research by the formation of strategic alliances between institutes and organizations in the field of Asian Studies at national and international levels. The IIAS with its Memoranda of Understanding with institutes worldwide can be one of the key players in this formation process. The signing of a Letter of Intent in April with the biggest association in the field of Asian Studies the Association for Asian Studies (AAS, Ann Arbor) will be a great boost to international cooperation. A preliminary draft for a joint IIAS/AAS transcontinental convention of Asian scholars in Maastricht in 1998 will be worked out in September. This is an apt juncture to point out that the IIAS has joined the Asian Studies Information Infrastructure Group which consists of internet specialists in the field of Asian Studies from the Australian National University, the AAS, the H-Asia site, and the University of Texas. The Infrastructure Group has set its sights on optimizing the use of and improving the quality of the information available on the internet on Asian Studies.
In his use of Ownership Ritzen means that a strong relationship between the Asianists and the business world should be created in order to enlarge the societal basis for Asian Studies. This is the proper setting for the Asian Ambassadors' lunches organized by the IIAS, to give academicians, politicians, businessmen, and journalists interested in Asia to chance to meet. On 24 August 1996 the IIAS in cooperation with Asia-House, an Amsterdam-based organization for the promotion of business with Asia, will organize a meeting for Dutch ambassadors working in Asia during which lectures will be given by the famous Japanese author Shintaro Ishihara, Dr. F. Godemont, founding member of the Council for Asia-Europe Cooperation, and Professor. T. Svensson, President of the ESF Asia Committee. It is during this kind of meeting that the concepts like Ownership and Concentration put forward by Ritzen can be given a meaningful content.
In his article `Deployment of Knowledge and Science between Europe and Southeast Asia', our EU- correspondent Leo Schmit makes it clear that a lot remains to be done before any actual knowledge can be deployed between both continents. As a significant obstacle he singles out: ' the reluctance among European institutions to accept parity of competence among Asian professors and researchers.' Schmit also makes a case for the development of research strategies by universities along the lines developed by multinationals with long-term investments in Asia. At first glance it may seem curious that universities and institutes should do so, but on second thought it is not so very curious at all. With the development of long-term research programmes by consortia of institutes it may even be a prerequisite to translate business concepts into academical realities.
That it will take some time before the right balance is struck in this field of force emerges from two letters to the editor which deal with the selection procedures of researchers in the European context. Should 'developed' standards applied in one part of Europe become the standard for the rest of Europe or should consensus be reached on the selection procedures by for example a body like the ESF Asia Committee?
John Martinussen, a member of the ESF Asia Committee, warns against it becoming: ' an apex body for directing Asian Studies in Europe. What is needed is not a top-down approach, but a forum for aggregating in a bottom-up manner the priorities of European scholars [...]' (see page 49). Martinussen also points to the overriding Humanities perspective of the European regional organizations and pleads for cooperation with Social Science-oriented disciplinary organizations. To this one could add the question what will be the role of the emerging national organizations in the field of Asian Studies?
These are only a few of the new perspectives we have to come to grips with as European cooperation in the field of Asian Studies grows steadily. Questions of a practical nature will be addressed during the first meeting of editors of European Newsletters on Asia in Europe under the aegis of the IIAS which will take place in Leiden 26-27 September, 1996.
Guide to Asian Studies in Europe '97
Work on the first phase consisting of the collection of basic information about Asianists in Europe for the European Database for Asian Studies (EDAS) is nearing completion. At the beginning of 1996 we had this kind information at our fingertips on approximately 2500 European Asianists. This does not seem to amount to a great deal seen in the light of the estimate of 12,000 academics in Europe working on Asia made two years ago. A year ago we already mentioned a more cautious estimate of 7000 Asianists (Preliminary Guide to Asian Studies in Europe '95, 2). This estimate seems to be confirmed by two mailings conducted in June of this year in the framework of the EDAS-project.
The first mailing, in which we asked if all the information was still correct, was directed to 2500 respondents. In 50% of the cases corrections or changes were communicated to us. This response makes it abundantly clear that all information has to be checked at least once a year if we want to lay a claim to reliability. The second mailing was directed to the non-respondents on our mailing list in Europe. The mailing was accompanied by a personal letter asking the people to respond. Notwithstanding that at the time of the mailing everybody was supposed to be on holiday, between 50 to 100 replies a day were pouring in at the end of July. These replies have not yet been processed, but from some samples taken at random it transpires that it will push the number of European Asianists who will be included in GASE '97 to more than 5000. Those who still have not responded will be contacted by telephone in September. When this is set against the number of Asianists included in the Preliminary Guide to Asian Studies in Europe '95, somewhat more than 500, it means that in one year of data collecting the number has been multiplied by ten. GASE '97 will be distributed at the end of the year to all respondents. It will increase both the visibility and the transparency of Asian Studies in Europe. Included in GASE '97 will be a [qualitative] questionnaire asking more specific information about work and experience.
Netherlands Association for Asian and Pacific Studies
In IIAS Newsletter 7, the director of the IIAS Professor W.A.L. Stokhof, argued cogently for the foundation of a Dutch Association for Asian Studies. He made his appeal during a meeting of the working community Southeast Asia and Oceania in January. This organization decided to form a steering group consisting of members of its own organization, the working community South Asia and representatives of other regions in Asia as well as persons affiliated by discipline. The steering group discussed the perspective of a Dutch association and came to the conclusion that enough support was to be found in the Netherlands for such an organization whereupon the Netherlands Association for Asian and Pacific Studies (Nederlandse Vereniging voor AziŽ en Pacific Studies (NVAPS) was founded 20 August 1996. The association uses a broad definition of Asia. It is open in principle to all people with an interest in Asia and will act as a kind of Asia Platform. It will seek close cooperation with other groups and associations in the field of Asian Studies. The main aims of the organization will be to give greater visibility and transparency to Asian Studies, to act as a forum for non-institutional Asianists, and to have an advisory function in scientific policy making. Last but not least it will organize an Annual Meeting during which members of the organization will be given the opportunity to present research in different forms. The first meeting will be held in May 1997 in Amsterdam.