‘Southeast Asian’ beads?

Having looked at beads in the Philippines and Indonesia now and seen the disparities in documentation of these beads, I find it very strange that we constantly speak of Southeast Asian bead trade.  We honestly have very little idea about sites with glass beads in any country other than Thailand and Malaysia.  That’s where the data is coming from, and that’s where we have the most information.  So really, we should be making statements about relations of groups in Malaysia and Thailand to those outside Southeast Asia rather than speaking about Southeast Asia as a whole.

This goes back to the general issue of treating Southeast Asia as a homogenous entity.  One of the main arguments against Indianization was that it treated the populations of Southeast Asia as homogenous when in reality, the region is full of a wide range of people.  Scholars generally disagree with Indianization.  So why are we still treating Southeast Asia as a single homogenous group?  Why are we still talking about beads in Southeast Asia when we really only have data for Thailand and Malaysia?


About Heather Christie

Heather is an archaeologist, photographer, and writer whose research focuses on beads and bead trade, particularly in a maritime sense. She's currently working working on a PhD in Digital Design (focusing on heritage visualisation) at the Glasgow School of Art.
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