"Southeast Asia Is a Region Without an Identity." Discuss.

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3. ------------------------------------------------- “SEA is a region without an identity”. Discuss this statement with reference to at least 3 examples.

The term “Southeast Asia” has been debatable to be an imaginary “Unicorn” or true “Rose” as suggested by Ronald K. Emmerson in 1984. Over the years, “Southeast Asia” remains as a name given to this particular region, seemingly for convenience sake, to address the countries within this region collectively. “I began by picturing Southeast Asia as a cross between an unicorn and a rose – partly imaginary, partly real.” (Emmerson, 1984) Indeed, it is dismissive to simply state that Southeast Asia is a region without an identity. I acknowledge the reasons why some people advocate the idea
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(Jönsson, 2008) “For example, a common identity can be reinforced through peaceful conflict solutions in political, economic and territorial issues. Also, a united front to the outside world is identity strengthening.” (Acharya, 2000). In order for the Southeast Asian nations to come together in unity, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed. The aims and purposes set out by ASEAN seeks to create similarities within Southeast Asian nations and this effort to forge a regional identity has to be credited. The motto of ASEAN – “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” emphasized strongly on the unison that member nations are trying to achieve in order to establish a common regional identity. (The ASEAN Secretariat, 2009) “Regional identity formation becomes, in that sense, one of the main issues that are interrelated with ASEAN’s existence.” (Lakrintis, 2011) From this, we can see that the presence of ASEAN has allowed the Southeast Asian nations to work together towards the establishment of a regional identity. Jones also agrees, “although there has not been a clearly articulated vision of regional identity with temporal benchmarks, there is a historical precedent for a regional identity and it lies in the context in which ASEAN arose.” (Jones, 2004) The regional identity may not be concrete as yet. However, the efforts put in to create one and the traces of a regional identity should not be dismissed. In fact, the combined forces
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