In this article, I argue that the ‘mandala’ and other spatialized concepts associated with the ‘cosmic polity’ in Southeast Asia (such as ‘exemplary center’ and ‘sinking status’, ‘galactic polity’, ‘concentric circles’, ‘nested emboxment’, etc.) are key concepts with a similar form that have dominated theories of premodern Southeast Asian political and social structure. I claim that previous approaches to the mandala polity have been defined from the perspective of dominant political groups, and thus are top-down or center-out models. As a result, theorists have inadvertently reified this perspective in a set of analytical concepts that reaffirm existing power structures. As such, they have skewed our understandings of the mandala away from that of a socially enacted set of spatial codes that communicate and index hierarchical status between individuals and groups, both dominant and nondominant.

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