The Gender in Southeast Asian Art Histories Research Network is an ongoing research collaboration focused on intersections between studies of gender and sexual difference, and art histories and practices in the region. By supporting and developing a range of research activities, including symposia, workshops, publications and digital humanities projects, the Network aims to trace parameters of current research and develop interdisciplinary, transnational frameworks for future studies in the field.

Building a Network of Initiators

When we first initiated the idea of a gathering of scholars on issues of gender in Southeast Asian art histories back in 2016, we did so in large part to stay connected with each other and to grow a field that was – then, and now – on the margins. This impetus to pursue serious research on gender and visual culture in Southeast Asian art histories was driven not only by our own research interests, but also by the inspiring work of a handful of scholars on pre-modern and modern art of the region. Among the challenges that we, as early career researchers, encountered were the difficulties of continuing what is oftentimes foundational work, or in the words of Flaudette May Datuin, ‘spade work’, in this still-very-nascent field.

Even as we planned for the Gender in Southeast Asian Art Histories II: Art, Digitally and Canon-making? conference that was held in the University of Sydney in 2019, we knew then, and now, that we had not wanted it to be just a singular conference or gathering, where we meet, talk and then move on… as a one-off gesture. Thus this Network is envisaged to be a convivial, supportive environment; a virtual space in which we might gather across time zones and share our research; a platform that we could all help to grow through continuous learning, and thus help advance this field in new, exciting and unknown directions – together.

At the conference, we acknowledged the role of digitality in both the production and reception of artistic practices which have by now at least two decades of history. We used the opportunity to take stock of the ways in which the digital environment has shaped, informed and facilitated innovative and critical artistic practices by women artists and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as to explore the impact that digital tools can have on the way we currently research, write and think about issues of gender in Southeast Asian art and its histories. This Network is thus the next step following on from the conference. 

Here, at this online platform, we aim to connect individuals and institutions, to facilitate collaborations that may evolve into events such as exhibitions, online archives, publications, conferences, and symposia, to foster and host digital humanities projects, to build useful resources and to explore new methodologies. Staying connected and keeping in touch with the field has never been more urgent than now, as art worlds and the world at large are upended by the Covid-19 pandemic. We have made this first step in the hope that the Network can provide some comfort and solidarity in such times of uncertainty. Please join us by registering with us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Clare Veal
Roger Nelson
Yvonne Low