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Sociology Talks: Was Piracy a Crime in Southeast Asia?
Start Date: 5/3/2017Start Time: 1:40 PM
End Date: 5/3/2017End Time: 1:55 PM

Event Description:

The Department Of Sociology Is Proud To Present
Sociology Talks: A World Of Possibilities Fromvoices In The Field 

Was Piracy a Crime in Southeast Asia?

By
Robert Antony 
Distinguished Professor and Visiting Scholar

The concept of piracy was a Western construct, which in the eyes of the colonial powers was not only a crime but a
barbaric custom that needed to be eradicated for the sake of trade and civilization. However, before Western contact in Southeast Asia such notions of piracy were unknown. In fact, there were no words in any Southeast Asian language for what Westerners termed piracy. What the West labelled as piracy carried certain connotations that may not have been conceived by the rulers and natives of Southeast Asia. For many Southeast Asians maritime raiding was a way of life closely tied to war, slavery, and trade. Rather than being a crime, raiding was a respectable profession pursued not only by individuals but also by whole communities and even states. Maritime robbery and violence had long existed before Westerners had arrived, and were in fact, closely related to the many inter-tribal wars in the region. Raiders were considered warriors and even heroes, not criminals. However, over the course of the18th and19th centuries, as Southeast Asia was drawn deeper into the global economy and Western colonialism, the nature and meaning of piracy began to change among Southeast Asians. Only gradually did indigenous rulers come to accept Western notions that piracy was a crime that needed to be eliminated. As a legal concept and social construct imposed by Western colonialists, piracy in any form became a stigma for backwardness and barbarism. Its suppression therefore became an important and necessary component of modernization.

Robert Antony

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