Home » Understanding the South China Sea: An Explorative Cultural Analysis, by Hans Dieter-Evers

Understanding the South China Sea: An Explorative Cultural Analysis, by Hans Dieter-Evers

Vol. 10, No. 1 (2014): 79-95


The South China Sea has attracted considerable attention among politicians, journalists and scholars since it has become a contested maritime space. Most works concentrate on conflicts and negotiations to resolve the ensuing issues. In this paper, a cultural theory will be applied to stress the importance of conceptions of space found in different cultures. The South China Sea is defined as “Mediterranean.” By comparing it to other maritime spaces, like the Baltic and the Mediterranean Sea, lessons will be drawn from the “longue durée” of history, as analysed by French historian Fernand Braudel and from concepts of the cultural theory of Oswald Spengler. The paper will look at the South China Sea from two perspectives. The political perspective will discuss various events that have happened due to political tensions because of territorial demarcations, fishing rights and access to natural resources. Comparing three “Mediterranean seas,” I shall argue that Mediterranean seas share certain properties that give rise to tensions and even armed conflict, but also solutions to its problems. The second perspective uses macro-sociology and cultural anthropology to classify and understand actions of the general population as well as political leaders when they ascertain property rights to Mediterranean seas.

Author’s bio

Hans-Dieter Evers, Emeritus Professor of Development Planning and Senior Fellow, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn (on leave) is Eminent Visiting Professor, Institute of Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Universiti Brunei Darussalam. Professor Evers taught sociology at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia; at Yale University, where he was also Director of Graduate Southeast Asia Studies; University of Singapore (Head of Department of Sociology); and Bielefeld University (Dean). He also served as Visiting Professor at the University of Indonesia, Gadjah Mada University, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, the EHESS (Paris), Trinity College (Oxford), the University of Hawaii, Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University and as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Sociology, National University of Singapore. His current research is concerned with conceptions of space, maritime studies, knowledge clusters and ASEAN knowledge societies. He has published a large number of refereed journal articles and book chapters. He is co-editor of Catalysts of Change: Chinese Business in Asia (World Scientific, 2013); Beyond the Knowledge Trap: Developing Asia’s Knowledge-Based Economies (World Scientific, 2011), The Straits of Malacca (LIT, 2008), and author of Southeast Asian Urbanism: The Meaning and Power of Social Space (ISEAS/McGrawHill, 2000; translated as Urbanisme di Asia Tenggara: Makna dan Kekuasaan dalam Ruang-Ruang Sosial [Yayasan Obor Indonesia, 2002]).


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