OSGA Annual Lecture 2024: Area Studies in a Time of Crisis

Professor Delphine Allès gave the OSGA Annual Lecture on 3 May 2024. Delphine Allès is a professor of Political Science and Southeast Asian studies at Inalco University (France), where she currently serves as Vice-President. Her research, rooted in a global IR perspective and Indonesian case studies, has mainly focused on the confessionalisation of international relations and the transformations of international policies and multilateral arrangements in the Indo-Pacific.

Professor Allès spoke about the way area studies have been rejuvenated over the past two decades by new forms of engagement with disciplinary knowledge and especially by the push towards de-centering concepts and references in the social sciences. It is generally accepted that area-based knowledge provides important contributions to  ongoing endeavours to developing frameworks of analysis based on a pluralistic understanding of universalism. Areal knowledge is a necessary condition to analysing a world of multi-crises, often rooted in identity claims, and where the legitimacy of global governance is questioned on the grounds of its presumed Eurocentrism. In many contexts, however, the increasing restrictions on academic freedom, combined with the politicisation of knowledge production and technological transformations, raise new challenges for the conduct and legitimacy of area studies. Taking stock of this critical context, the lecture emphasised its continuities with a long record of challenges faced – and overcome – by area studies since their emergence. Professor Allès argued that the current crises, rather than fragilising area studies, underscore their critical role in generating knowledge on regional and global affairs – provided they address the epistemological, methodological and ethical transformations prompted by this context, and find a proper balance of academic independence and policy relevance.

Many thanks to Professor Allès for a highly enjoyable lecture.