Thursday, June 12, 2014

America in Southeast Asia before the ‘Pivot’: The ‘Battle of Quallah Battoo’ in 1832

This RSIS Working Paper issue no. 275 dated 12 June 2014 by Farish A. Noor entitled America in Southeast Asia before the ‘Pivot’: The ‘Battle of Quallah Battoo’ in 1832 can be accessed by clicking:

No. 275 dated 12 June 2014

America in Southeast Asia before the ‘Pivot’:
The ‘Battle of Quallah Battoo’ in 1832

By Farish A. Noor

Today, there is much talk about the ‘American pivot’ back to Southeast Asia, and the role that America continues to play in terms of the geo-strategic relations between the countries in the region. That America has been a player in Southeast Asian affairs is well-known, as America’s presence in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam has been well documented since the Cold War. However, there has been less scholarship devoted to America’s role in Southeast Asia prior to the 20th century, lending the impression that the United States is a latecomer as far as Southeast Asian affairs is concerned.

This paper looks at a particular incident – the First Sumatran expedition of 1832 – where America played a visible role in the policing of the waters off Sumatra. Though the event has been largely forgotten today, and is not even mentioned in Indonesian history books, it was important for it marked America’s arrival – first as a trading nation, and later as a policing power – to the region. Drawing upon contemporary sources, the paper looks at how and why the expedition was launched, and the response of the American public in its wake. It tells us something about American public perception then, and how Americans were then divided over the role that America should play in Asian affairs.

Click on the following link to download the working paper


Dr Farish A. Noor
is presently Associate Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University; where he is the head of the research cluster ‘Transnational Religion in Southeast Asia’. He is the author of Islamism in a Mottled Nation: The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party 1951-2013, Amsterdam University Press, 2014; Moving Islam: The Tablighi Jama’at movement in Southeast Asia, University of Amsterdam Press, 2012; The Madrasa in Asia: Political Activism and Transnational Linkages. (With Martin van Bruinessen and Yoginder Sikand (Eds.), Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2008; and Islam Embf
edded: The Historical Development o the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party PAS: 1951-2003, Malaysian Sociological Research Institute (MSRI), Kuala Lumpur, 2004. His other writings include: Writings on the War on Terror (Globalmedia Press, India, 2006), From Majapahit to Putrajaya: Searching For Another Malaysia (Silverfish Books, Kuala Lumpur, 2005), Islam Progresif: Peluang, Tentangan dan Masa Depannya di Asia Tenggara (SAMHA, Jogjakarta, 2005), Di San Zhi Yan Kan Ma Lai Xi Ya (Sin Chew Jit Poh Press, Petaling Jaya, 2004), The Other Malaysia: Writings on Malaysia’s Subaltern History (Silverfish Books, Kuala Lumpur, 2003); and New Voices of Islam, (International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Leiden, Netherlands, 2002).

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