Cham Identity and Religio-Political Issues in Southeast Asia Revisited

Friday, September 27th, 2013, 15:34 WIB

wedforumThere is lacking of attention paid to the history of Champa in Vietnam in the context of broader Southeast Asian history. Champa was a powerful kingdom that has ruled central Vietnam from the 8th to 15th centuries. However, it gradually declined and its last king has lost his power in the 19th century. Therefore, new perspectives and issues about the history of Champa are emerging as new developments have been made in the historical, anthropological and archaeological fields. Furthermore, it is uneasy to trace the complex history of the kingdom of Champa because its civilization had been systematically dominated by Vietnamese authority until today. In other words, Champa is the victim of Vietnamese authority’s domination.

It will be more difficult to present Champa as a complete culture because of its cultural vagueness today. In this sense, the disappearence of Champa’s high civilization due to Champa’s expansionist tendency in the past that naturally create many enemies for it. Therefore, a comprehensive and deep study of Champa can produce serious implications in the study of the Southeast Asia, especially in term of to explain missingling links in the history of disseminations of Malay cultures. This is because Champa that clearly mentioned in some of writings produced by the great kingdom of Majapahit (in Negarakertagama) and the Sung Dynasty of China.

Dr. Mohamed Effendy, a post-Doctoral fellow in the Southeast Asian Studies Department, National University of Singapore, presented this enlightening topic. Dr. Effendy become a speaker at the CRCS-ICRS WedForum on 25 September 2013. He attained his PhD in History from the Department of History, University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is a winner of several awards and prizes including the Daniel W.Y. Kwok Endowed Fund in History, John F. Kennedy Memorial Fellowship in History and the Moscotti Fellowship. He is also a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies. His interests include pre-colonial and colonial Southeast Asian history.

In his interesting talk, Dr. Effendy brought up a new perspective on Cham history, especially related to the historical role of the Cham religious elites and their importance to Cham society. This includes the preservation of Ilimo Cam (Cham knowledge) or religious and cultural knowledge despite the demise of the Cham political elites in the 19th to early 20th centuries. Moreover, he argued that the Cham primarily tends to  enter other societies due to the “oppressed minority” layer. He mentioned that the Cham politically oppressed in Vietnam and economically destitute in Cambodia.

By referring to Cham manuscripts, Dr. Effendy brilliantly described that the Cham’s sentiment of being oppressed is a complex product of hundred years of political, economic and cultural oppressions. This constitute the spirit of resistance towards such domination in the development among the Cham today. In addition, he convincingly claimed that the destruction of Champa has affected various groups and societies in Southeast Asia complicatedly. However, the historical remains and current facts show that Cham society and its religious elites can survive without leadership of Cham political elites. (admin,che)