It is with considerable delight—mixed with some trepidation and humility—that I have succeeded to the Directorship of the Asia Research Institute (ARI). ARI is one of the very few advanced research institutes in Asia that undertakes basic, inter-disciplinary and innovative research in the humanistic and social scientific study of Asia. It is not directly committed to policy goals and imperatives; rather we seek to live up to the motto of our parent institution, the National University of Singapore: “A Global University centered in Asia”.
Although we are located in the tower of the verdant Bukit Timah campus, ours is by no means an ivory tower. We like to think of ARI as a thriving hub with internal links to many diverse nodes in the university and outward links to Singapore and the global research community. The ARI research faculty also teach in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and we frequently collaborate with scholars from the Faculty of Law, School of Business, School of Design and Environment, LKY School of Public Policy, the Global Asia Institute (GAI) as well as the area research centers of NUS, such as East Asia Institute, Institute of South Asian Studies and the Middle East Institute.
The vitality and strengths of ARI derive from this nexus of the interior and the exterior. As such our visiting fellows have been selected not only for their academic accomplishments and promise but also with a view to their likely fit with our research clusters. The exchange of materials, ideas, perspectives and frameworks that take place on a daily basis at seminars, workshops and over coffee and lunch—between the long hours of research and writing--is a vital stimulus for pioneering outcomes. In the almost ten years of its life, ARI has produced significant global alumni of Asia scholars. We hope that you will keep in touch and return when possible to deepen our collective project.
As for the study of Asia, my own dictum is Connecting Asia! I see Asia connecting in many different, old and new ways and not only with or within itself. Although our research may focus on a small part of this vast region, we need to be aware of the geographies and pathways across the region that have shaped this small part. The insight that informs my dictum is that our future will be increasingly molded by these connections--and the interdependencies and challenges that they throw up. It is my hope that by the time this becomes everyday reality, ARI will be exploring other new frontiers.