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Alex West awarded Praemium Erasmianum Dissertation Award 2022

Alex West’s dissertation, "Bujangga Manik or, Java in the Fifteenth Century: An Edition and Study of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS jav. b. 3. (R)" (Leiden, 2021), has been selected for one of the five prestigious Praemium Erasmianum Dissertation Awards 2022.

Prize-winning dissertation

Alex’ dissertation (supervised by Prof.dr. Ben Arps and Dr. Aone van Engelenhoven) focuses on a unique Old Sundanese manuscript written on lontar leaves that is currently kept in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Everything about the text it contains is exceptional: the text dates to a period just before the Islamisation of West Java, before the arrival of European colonial powers on Java, and before the discovery of the New World. It thus opens a window on the history of Java, and Indonesia more generally, on the eve of pervasive cultural, political, economic, and religious change. The dissertation offers a new edition of the text, with an extensive philological and material study of the manuscript. The Old Sundanese poem tells the story of a fictional nobleman from Pakuan, the capital of the kingdom of Sunda, through Java and Bali. Part of the narrative concerns ideals of nobility and spiritual growth, but since the poem is a travel narrative, the poem contains extensive information on material culture and on pre-colonial South East Asia: places, peoples, ship-building technology and seafaring, plants and animals, spices and textiles, types of wood, bark, weapons, perfumes, and mirrors. These show patterns of entanglement and exchange across vast stretches of Asia, in all possible directions.

The awards ceremony will take place on 7 June 2022 from 4 to 5 pm in the Trippenhuis, the seat of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. The LIAS community is very proud of Alex’ accomplishments and very happy to see his work recognized for its outstanding quality.

See the website of the Praemium Erasmianum for more information.

Image above: Folio 24R of the Old Sundanese manuscript studied by Dr Alex West. Source: Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Jav. b. 3 (R): https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/objects/ad204470-7490-4316-a015-1063f1513523/ (under CC-BY-NC 4.0. Image has been rescaled and cropped).

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