Today the term ‘data mining’ is used in both academic and non-academic circles, though the practice is neither novel nor new. This paper looks at the data collection mission led by John Anderson on behalf of the British East India Company in 1823, and considers if it is possible to collect data in a purely objective, neutral manner. Though John Anderson was careful in his writing, and sought to communicate his findings in a dry, objective fashion, his own subject-position as a functionary working for the East India Company stands out in his account of the mission to Sumatra. This paper argues that the process of data collection is seldom ever a truly neutral enterprise, and that in the framing of the object of analysis, the cultural and socio-economic subject-position of the researcher/analyst is always present, rendering it impossible for there to ever be a truly objective work of research/analysis. In this respect, an appraisal of Anderson’s work today is also relevant for contemporary scholars who may likewise attempt an ‘objective’ approach to their work, and it reminds us that the method often constructs the object under scrutiny.
About the Author
Dr Farish A. Noor is presently Associate Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University; where he is the Coordinator of PhD Programme. 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 Embedded: The Historical Development of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party PAS: 1951-2003 (Malaysian Sociological Research Institute (MSRI), Kuala Lumpur, 2004).
Country and Region Studies / Maritime Security / Southeast Asia and ASEAN / Working Papers
Last updated on 04/09/2014