Role of Knowledge Communities in Constructing Asia-Pacific Security

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This present study is an effort to address the dearth of critical and/or post-positivist perspectives in security studies of and about the Asia-Pacific region. It demonstrates how regional communities of security specialists and intellectuals, including knowledge communities such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Institute of Strategic and International Studies and the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, have contributed to just such a state-centric, political image at the expense of alternative ideas and, in so doing, have promoted and legitimized their own identities as authorities on regional security. This work shows how post-positivist analysis, contrary to what its many detractors may think, is neither prolix nor self-indulgent. Rather, it invites critical reflection on the conditions that produce particular ‘urgent questions’ (albeit at the expense of other questions) of about international relations, such as the question of Asia-Pacific regional security.


“In this ground-breaking work, Dr. Tan further extends the studies of Muthiah Alagappa and Amitav Acharya who juxtapose international relations theory and Asia-Pacific security studies. Dr. Tan’s approach, however, differs markedly from that of Alagappa and of Acharya, not least because it questions the rationalist and positivist grounds on which these efforts stand. Dr. Tan calls for greater critical self-awareness among the international relations and security analysts of the Asia-Pacific, urging that they examine the epistemological underpinnings in the dominant scholarly paradigms of realism and neoliberalsim – and, for that matter, mainstream or moderate constructivism – to discern two crucial and quite pervasive effects in security practice: on the one hand, how the concept of sovereignty itself imagines a unity or wholeness which disguises fissures in those entities we refer to as states, and, on the other hand, how the concept of subjectivity encourages a normative understanding and practical disposition that together refuse to acknowledge that agency – whether that of states, knowledge communities, or indeed individuals – is essentially and ultimately a political prerogative.” – (from the Preface) Professor Sheldon W. Simon, Arizona State University

“Taking a ‘radical’ constructivist approach, Dr. See Seng Tan argues the centrality of discourse, in this case that of the knowledge community networks, in producing, legitimating, and ‘policing’ Asia-Pacific security. This sophisticated study is an important contribution to critical security studies and provides an alternative lens to probe the construction over the last two decades of region and security in the Asia-Pacific.” – Dr. Muthiah Alagappa, Distinguished Senior Fellow, East-West Center Washington

“Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a proliferation of semi-official dialogues on how to construct a security order in the Asia Pacific region. Dr. See Seng Tan’s book is the first detailed study of the evolution and nature of this second track diplomacy, focusing on the work of policy communities such as the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. Written from a critical international relations theory perspective, it is theoretically sophisticated, empirically rich and makes an important contribution to the literature on Asia-Pacific regional security.” – Dr. Amitav Acharya, Professor and Head of Research, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

"The book serves as a building block for theorizing the role of the knowledge communities, both as a manifestation and an authorizer of the Asia-Pacific security discourse." - Journal of Peace Research

Table of Contents

Preface by Professor Sheldon W. Simon
List of Tables
1. Introduction
2. The Desire for Essence in Asia-Pacific Security
3. A ‘Radical’ Construcivist Approach to Asia-Pacific Security
4. Constructing the Asia-Pacific as a Realm of Abjection
5. Constructing the Asia-Pacific as a Region of Strategic Uncertainty
6. Constructing Agency and Sovereign Subjectivity in Asia-Pacific Security
7. Constructing the ‘Authority’ of Knowledge Communities

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