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Pioneers and Legends: Professor MCM Santamaria Charts the History of the UP Asian Center

Posted in News @ UP Asian Center

(L): Professor Santamaria, Asian Center file photo. (R) Professor Santamaria presenting his paper during Asian Center Night, 25 November 2015. 


Professor MCM Santamaria of the UP Asian Center presented a brief history of the Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman during Asian Center Night, the culminating event for the college’s 60th anniversary celebrations in November 2015.

Established in 1955 as the Institute of Asian Studies, the UP Asian Center offers only graduate-level multidisciplinary academic programs on Asian studies and on Philippine Studies.

Professor Santamaria’s presentation is based on a full-length paper, “Pioneers and Legends: The Rise and Transformation of Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines Asian Center,” an abstract of which follows:

        The subject of Asian studies is not a very new field of inquiry in the Philippines compared to other countries in Asia.  The development of the field can be attributed to the trailblazing institution of the University Philippines Asian Center as well as to its predecessor units.  This paper examines how forward-looking and pro-active leadership combined with solid scholarship have contributed to the growth and transformation of the field in the country.   The leadership roles defined by Philippine post-war administrations for themselves and the engagement of scholars to this national discourse of leadership roles in Asia and the Pacific can be identified as the proper context for the growth of the field.  Part 1 presents a history of the Asian Center from its early beginnings in 1955 as an institute attached to the College of Liberal Arts of the University of the Philippines Diliman, to its creation as separate academic unit via a Republic Act in 1968, to its “cohabitation” with the Philippine Center for Advanced Studies (PCAS) which was created via Presidential Decree 342, and to its re-constitution as a college unit upon the “abolition” of the PCAS in 1979.  Part 2 looks at the works of four of the Asian Center’s professors:  Josefa Saniel (professor emeritus, former Dean of the Asian Center, scholar of Japanology), Cesar Majul (former director of the Institute of Islamic Studies, deceased: 2003), F. Landa Jocano (professor emeritus, former director of the Institute of Philippine Studies, deceased: 2013, Filipino anthropologist), and Juan Francisco (Indologist, deceased: 2010).  Part 3 interrogates knowledge production at the Asian Center through an examination of publications, theses and dissertations as well as the process of mentoring students.  Finally, part 4 ends the article by problematizing “area studies” in the Philippines, the balance relationship between Philippine and Asian studies, the trend towards inter-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary approaches, and the need to expand Asian studies beyond the National Capital Region.

“Trained as a political scientist,” Professor Santamaria remarked, “I found the task of (re)constructing the institution’s historical narrative to be, although most interesting, also most challenging.  I view this task as an ongoing process, and this manuscript is simply a first attempt at writing one interpretation of the institution’s history.”

An earlier version of the paper was presented at the Kanagawa University Hakone Seminar Program 2015 --- “Empire and Nationalism: Comparative Studies of Asia, Africa and Latin America,” Kanagawa University Hakone Lodge, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, 19-20 March 2015.

Professor MCM Santamaria has a Doctor of Law in Political Science at the Kyoto University, Japan. His research interests include Performance Studies, Politics, Japan and Southeast Asia, and Sama-Bajau studies. He teaches at the UP Asian Center several graduate courses on Japanese Culture and Society, Philippine Artistic Expressions, Southeast Asian Culture and Society, and Theater and Society in East Asia, among others. His latest publications include, “Sulu sojourns: Photo-ethnography and political discourses on four ethno-linguistic groups in the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi Archipelagoes,” which he co-authored with Professor Reuben Ramas Canete and Marc San Valentin. It was published in the Philippine Political Science Journal. View his faculty profile. 


The Asian Center offers M.A. degrees in Asian Studies with four fields of specialization: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. The Center also has an M.A. program in Philippine Studies that allows students to major in Philippine society and culture, Philippine foreign relations, or Philippine development studies. The Center offers a Ph.D. program in Philippine Studies in conjunction with the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. For an overview of these graduate programs, click here. The Asian Center also publishes Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia, the latest issue of which can be downloaded at the journal's website. View recent and upcoming Lectures & Conferences and read other News & Announcements.Join our mailing list to receive invitations to lectures, conferences, etc.    

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