November 10, 2012

Story to Share: The Broader Perspective

I had an interesting conversation recently where I was telling someone I was buying Lao books.  As the conversation continued, one of the questions I was asked was "Do you ever buy books about other cultures?".  To which I answered an undeniable yes.  But it got me thinking about a time when I felt that buying anything other than Lao books was blasphemy.  I'll explain...

When I first started trying to find stuff on Laos, ex. books or websites, that's all I wanted.  I was tired of finding books that only mentioned Laos in passing or covered it very briefly, if at all.  I was at a point where I even felt that buying other cultural books were a waste if it wasn't on Laos.

Admittedly this was wrong of me.  Reflecting on this, it's actually really good having books that cover a wide range of other countries as it is a good way to do comparison studies and to appreciate other cultures/countries.  This was something I had to learn to appreciate even though I had the deep desire to find material on Lao culture exclusively.  It's important, when you're studying Lao art/culture/language/history, to study it within a broader Asian context.  This was something I had to realize myself as well.

So even though my personal library here contains tons of Lao books, I also have Thai, Indonesian, Burmese, Indian, and Cambodian art and cultural history books as well as books on Buddhism and other religions.  I mention this because it's important to keep a broader perspective when studying Laos, or any topic for that matter.  So much of Lao history is intertwined with other countries and cultures that you will inevitably do cross-cultural studies whether you intend to or not.

What I've also noticed is that Southeast Asia is not quite covered as much as, for example Chinese and Japanese culture.  And so books that focus on the SE Asian region and especially those on Laos in terms of art and cultural history, and economics are rare and great finds.  And thus can be quite expensive.

Anyhoo, that's my little rant, story and advice to share today.  Hope I didn't bore you... :-P

- Submitted by VM

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