Book chapter

Regional Organizations in Southeast Asia (2020)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies

Abstract

Research on regional organizations in Southeast Asia began to form during the Second World War. Although not always explicit, realist assumptions informed most of this early scholarship. From the organization's foundation in 1967 until the end of the Cold War, research focused almost exclusively on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In the 1990s, new regional initiatives led to a broadened empirical scope and encouraged the adoption of new perspectives from broader debates in International Relations theory, such as liberalism and constructivism. However, this increasing pluralism was still highly Western-centric in terms of its theoretical underpinnings. Since the 2000s, there has been a conscious effort, driven by scholars from inside and outside the region, to draw on critical and indigenous traditions of political thought in accounting for the distinctive features of regionalism in Southeast Asia. Despite the diversity of research questions and approaches, researchers keep returning to three central, long-standing themes: ASEAN's institutional features, its effects and relevance, and its relation to the broader regional and global context. By exploring these issues, scholars of regional organizations in Southeast Asia have not just passively adopted insights from broader International Relations research but also driven conceptual and theoretical innovation, most notably regarding the development of non-Western approaches in International Relations.