A Life Beyond Boundaries


A Life Beyond Boundaries: A Memoir
Benedict Anderson
ISBN: 9781784784560

  1. A Life Beyond Boundaries A Memoir
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  3. Beyond Boundaries Book
  4. A Life Beyond Boundaries A Memoir

Lives Beyond Boundaries is a platform which helps an individual to explore a life which is beyond the confines of a definite & pre-determined life. Here, we believe in the attributes you are born with, and strive to help you realise your true potential. We facilitate this belief through various activities of self-awareness and holistic development. A Life Beyond Boundaries is a refreshing, if ‘wandering’, as Anderson puts it, final chapter in a brilliant academic career. If nothing else Anderson is a joy to read. If nothing else Anderson is a joy to read. A Life Beyond Boundaries: A Memoir Benedict Anderson Verso ISBN: 560. Benedict Anderson, who died in December, was best known for his book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, which redefined the study of nation states, concluding that modern nationalism only belonged to the era of printed material produced in a common language. A Life Beyond Boundaries book. Read 91 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. An intellectual memoir by the author of the acclaimed Imag.

A Life Beyond Boundaries: The Extraordinary Story of Ann Hasseltine Judson In this compelling historical narrative of Ann Hasseltine Judson, the beloved first wife of America’s first Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson, readers may trace her life from childhood through her untimely death.

Benedict Anderson, who died in December, was best known for his book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, which redefined the study of nation states, concluding that modern nationalism only belonged to the era of printed material produced in a common language. It sold over a quarter of a million copies, and like a Velvet Underground record, its influence was exponentially greater than its actual sales.

But prior to Imagined Communities, published in 1983, Anderson, a longtime professor of south-east Asian studies at Cornell University, shaped how outsiders saw the region. He admits, in this memoir, that he was fortunate. His study began as the Indochina wars heated up, leading to a spike in government and private funding for regional studies. But he also mastered three challenging languages and opaque political systems, in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. And he strode into territories, both literal and intellectual, that his peers could not, or would not, enter. During Indonesia’s mass killings of 1965-66, which saw the deaths of at least 500,000 people, he and several Cornell colleagues wrote the seminal account of the atrocities. They began with a national purge of members of the Indonesian Communist party but quickly spread into killings tied to revenge, grudges over money or land, and hysteria in which murder was committed for little or no reason at all. The Cornell report became the essential source on that poorly understood bloodbath, though Indonesia’s dictator, Suharto, quashed public discussion of the killings.
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Foreign observers of Indonesia were wary of discussing the violence, Anderson recalls – they were worried about upsetting a regime supported by the US government, or scared of being barred from the country and losing access to fieldwork. (Anderson himself was banned from Indonesia between 1972 and 1998, when Suharto’s regime collapsed.) But his fearless scholarship there was repeated in other parts of south-east Asia: Anderson, who had close ties with New Left Review (for two decades edited by his brother, Perry) was surprised by how few American or British colleagues were willing to join him in condemning the brutalities of pro-western south-east Asian regimes.

In A Life Beyond Boundaries, Anderson offers precious little of the normal autobiographical meat-and-potatoes. He sketches his early life, which combined globetrotting with his family (his father worked in Britain’s maritime customs service) and schooling at Eton and Cambridge. The insights Anderson apparently gleaned from his childhood do not strike a reader as particularly penetrating, not when compared with the extraordinary depth of his writing on subjects other than himself. Travelling with his family apparently made him open to exploring new places; he believes his life as a (solidly middle class) scholarship boy at Eton, an outsider at a school of lords-to-be, made him sympathetic to the scrappy opponents of south-east Asia’s authoritarian regimes, and helped him embrace his role as observer in his fieldwork. He indulges in none of the score-settling common in memoirs, even though south-east Asian governments and conservative scholars in the west regularly belittled his work as naive and uncritical of leftist politicians. He only touches on the rest of his personal life, briefly mentioning a heart attack he had at 60, two decades ago. This led him to curtail his teaching but also gave him the time to explore unusual side projects – including a study of 19th-century anarchism and a long essay on the Thai art-film director Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Throughout his memoir, Anderson’s writing is gentlemanly, kind, laced with jokes and vignettes of his favourite interviews, like those he conducted with two Indonesian brothers who exemplified the almost incestuous politics in Jakarta – one was the head of army intelligence, the other a member of the politburo of the Communist party of Indonesia. Anderson was always a champion of the informal, approachable, interdisciplinary style of writing, and so his autobiography often makes leaps in time and from location to location. He disdains the idea that “serious” academic writing should avoid asides or personal comments or even jokes, that professors’ work must speak in “prose [that] should reveal immediately the guild to which they belong … a prose style that is often much worse” in readability than the style those same academics used when they were students.

Instead of a full examination of his life, the autobiography mostly serves as a kind of gentle polemic, and one in favour of a rather conservative version of scholarly life. Anderson always disdained the classism (and racism) of his schooling in the 1950s, and yet he celebrates that classical education’s broadness, its lack of professional utility, its dedication to language, its independence from modern technology and its resistance to quantitative analysis. He condemns the narrowness of modern academia, the segregation by discipline and the proliferation of journals whose articles are read by a tiny group of fellow scholars rather than by the general public. He is particularly sceptical of the idea that universities, funded by states and companies, must serve as a kind of professional preparatory school, helping a student get ready for a job. Having government and corporate grants define universities’ agenda is, of course, hardly desirable. Yet treating university education as a pure exercise in intellectual growth is a luxury – one available to people who feel reasonably confident of their financial future.

It may be surprising to read such nostalgia for traditional education from a scholar known for his commitment to leftist politics. Anderson, after all, was a republican horrified by the “authoritarian” trappings of British royal events; he dressed in the style of Indonesian peasants while teaching in Ithaca, New York. Yet he remains immensely relieved not to have grown up in a time when students used university as preparation for the job market. (At least, students at Cambridge did not seem to think about the job market.) The “old philosophy”, a kind of Olympian amateurism of broad and classical intellectual inquiry, was simply better, he concludes.

A Life Beyond Boundaries A Memoir

Anderson also uses his memoir to emphasise the importance of understanding luck in studying politics, culture and history. Scholars, he writes, prefer to talk about social forces, causes, demographic trends or ideologies, but chance plays a critical role in international developments – and in one’s personal choices and scholarship. Sources are stumbled on; important interviews emerge through chance meetings; timing is critical to getting potential interviewees to talk. Anderson’s timing was often impeccable. He managed to complete Life Beyond Boundaries just before he died.

Joshua Kurlantzick’s A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA will be published by Simon and Schuster.

Ahead of our panel event on Benedict Anderson's work, chaired by Tariq Ali on 17 May, here is an extract from Anderson's memoir A Life Beyond Boundaries, completed shortly before his death.

'For a long time, different forms of socialism – anarchist, Leninist, New Leftist, social-democratic – provided a ‘global’ framework in which a progressive, emancipationist nationalism could flourish. Since the fall of ‘communism’ there has been a global vacuum, partially filled by feminism, environmentalism, neo-anarchism and various other ‘isms’, fighting in different and not always cooperative ways against the barrenness of neoliberalism and hypocritical ‘human rights’ interventionism. But a lot of work, over a long period of time, will be needed to fill the vacuum. To explore what can be done and to carry out its findings is a task to which young scholars can make vital contributions.

A life beyond boundaries benedict anderson

When I arrived at Cornell in 1958 I had to learn in a hurry how to type my seminar papers, with four fingers, on a manual typewriter. For distribution to other students, we typed on a kind of green gelatin paper, which allowed us to erase small errors with white paint, and then run off the corrected final text on a simple mimeograph machine. Changing anything was a slow and painful matter, so we had to think carefully before typing. Often we worked from long-hand drafts. Today, working on a computer, we can change anything and move anything in a matter of seconds. The decline in sheer pain is a blessing, but it is worth remembering that the pearl is produced by an oyster in pain, not a happy oyster with a laptop. I am not sure that today’s seminar papers show any stylistic improvement over the products of forty years ago.

In those days libraries were still sacred places. One went into the ‘stacks’, dusted off the old books one needed to read, treasured their covers, sniffed their bindings, and smiled by their sometimes strange, outdated spellings. Then came the best part, randomly lifting out books on the same shelf out of pure curiosity, and finding the most unexpected things. We were informally trained how to think about sources, how to evaluate them, compare them, dismiss them, enjoy them. Chance was built into the learning process. Surprise too.

BeyondA Life Beyond Boundaries

Today, libraries are trying monomaniacally to digitalize everything, perhaps in the expectation that eventually books will become obsolete. Everything will be findable ‘online ’. Randomness is perhaps disappearing, along with luck. Google is an extraordinary ‘research engine ’, says Google, without irony in its use of the word ‘engine ’, which in Old English meant ‘trickery’ (as is reflected in the verb ‘to engineer’) or even ‘an engine of torture ’. Neither Google nor the students who trust it realize that late- nineteenth-century books feel this way in one’s hands, while early-twentieth-century books feel that way. Japanese books are bound one way, Burmese books another. Online, everything is to become a democratically egalitarian ‘entry’. There is no surprise, no affection, no scepticism. The faith students have in Google is almost religious. Critical evaluation of Google? We do not yet teach it. Many students have no idea that even though Google ‘makes everything available ’, it works according to a program.

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Nationalism and globalization do have the tendency to circumscribe our outlook and simplify matters. This is why what is increasingly needed is a sophisticated and serious blending of the emancipatory possibilities of both nationalism and internationalism. Hence, in the spirit of Walt Kelly as well as Karl Marx in a good mood, I suggest the following slogan for young scholars:

Beyond Boundaries Book

Frogs in their fight for emancipation will only lose by crouching in their murky coconut half-shells.Frogs of the world unite!'

Taken from the Afterword to A Life Beyond Boundaries by Benedict Anderson, published by Verso.

A Life Beyond Boundaries A Memoir

Tickets for our Benedict Anderson event are now sold out, but you can see what other cultural events we have coming up here.