You are all invited to a research seminar with Dr. Mu’izz Abdul Khalid on 02 July 2024, 1:30-2:30 PM at the Department of Political Science Conference Room, 2nd floor Silangang Palma, UP Diliman. His talk is entitled “The Emergence of Modern Absolutism in Southeast Asia.”

Dr. Mu’izz Khalid is currently a 2024-25 Fung Global Fellow at Princeton University and a Research Associate at Global Awareness & Impact Alliance (GAIA).

The abstract of his work reads:

Why do absolute monarchies still exist in the modern world? Specifically, why did absolutism emerge in Brunei but not in other Southeast Asian states? While numerous works focus on Middle Eastern absolutism, this research departs from existing political science literature by examining Brunei, the last absolute monarchy in Southeast Asia. Unlike the Gulf monarchies, Brunei is a Malay kingdom that developed within a distinct political and cultural context in maritime Southeast Asia. Influenced by Indic notions of power and later by Islam and British imperialism, Brunei’s state formation provides a unique perspective on the interplay between colonial and indigenous forces in the region. I argue that, contrary to the local government’s claim of a fourteenth-century origin, absolutism in Brunei is a modern political system that emerged in December 1962 from the interplay between colonial and indigenous forces. British colonial rule centralized power and wealth in the Sultan’s hands, laying the groundwork for absolutism. However, the Sultan made decisions that opposed British decolonization plans, such as rejecting the offer to join Malaysia in July 1963. This perspective contrasts with earlier literature that attributes the emergence of absolutism outside Europe solely to Western imperialism. Furthermore, I contend that the resilience of the Bruneian monarchy is not exclusively due to its small size, Islam, or oil wealth. Instead, it was the British invention of a dual-state apparatus – the neo-traditional theatre state – that provided the Bruneian monarchy with a robust foundation to weather democratic tides in the modern world.

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