The Southeast Asia Junction (SEA Junction) is a ‘knowledge venue’, an event space, a hub, a gallery, and a library with the goal of fostering understanding and appreciation of Southeast Asia, from arts and crafts to the economy, politics, and development. As a space, SEA Junction provides knowledge resources and promotes exchanges among students, specialists, and the general public. SEA Junction opened its doors on 15 May 2016 in the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center (BACC) in the Siam area of downtown Bangkok. The BACC holds a strategic location close to major universities and is easily accessible to the general public and visitors. The physical space is an open library or ‘reading room’ for books in English and regional languages; work stations also let visitors use online resources. The space is not all books: arts and crafts from around the region decorate the space and show visitors some of its cultural richness, from papier-máché figures from the Philippines and Burma to the paintings of emerging regional artists.
Making resources available is the first priority of SEA Junction, an ‘intellectual salon’ open to all and free of charge. Anyone can come and have a cup of coffee or tea, take a look at the books, browse art objects, and participate in activities such as lectures and workshops. Staff and volunteers operate the reading room six days a week (from Tuesdays to Sunday). So far, the library features more than 1,300 books, most of which have been catalogued, in addition to a sizeable e-library. SEA Junction maintains an online presence through its website www.seajunction.org, which also provides a space for photographic essays and opinion pieces. Through the website, Facebook, and twitter, SEA Junction gathers and shares information on conferences, courses, and fellowships of interest to academics and practitioners. Underlying SEA Junction is the idea of networking: both for users and for people who share their knowledge and experience through lectures, books or other modes of communication. This is a space for all kinds of people to make personal contacts, whether they are artists, intellectuals or representatives of groups and organizations, from the region itself or from elsewhere.
A great priority of SEA Junction is on events; from photographic exhibitions to panel discussions, to show the richness of the region and also the challenges it faces. SEA Junction is thus neither wholly about arts and culture, nor about development, politics, or economics. Being in Bangkok provides a central location within Southeast Asia for exchanges amongst people from the region and beyond. Music performances and film screenings have profiled emerging artists, intellectuals, and practitioners from the region, while Southeast Asia-related events have featured both ASEAN-wide phenomena, such as migration, medical tourism, human rights, and country-specific events which would normally be difficult to find outside their countries of origin. The larger meeting spaces of the BACC also allow SEA Junction to offer more formal programs, including meetings, seminars, lectures, and large exhibitions.
In the last year alone, SEA Junction has held public lectures, including: ‘In Search of Social Justice along the Myanmar and China Oil and Gas Pipeline’, ‘Chinese Tourism in Southeast Asia: A Blessing for All?’, and ‘LGBT Rights Under Siege in Indonesia’. Photo exhibitions have included ‘Harsh Life on Shore: Migrant Workers in the Thai Fishing Industry’, and ‘Facing Trance in Indonesia’. For music, there were angklung classes and a concert of the Bang Khnai music band. One of the documentary screenings was of ‘Pulau Buru: Tanah Air Beta’ (‘Buru Island: My Homeland’) and involved talks by director Rahung Nasution and producer Whisnu Yonar. Other events included potluck parties, mini book fairs, and book launches, while some such as classes for students fell under the rubric of ‘outreach’. Recently a group from a nursing school in Indonesia came to SEA Junction and gave a class on the impact of regional integration on health. …