Bilahari Kausikan shares foreign policy insights in first of public lecture series

On 30 Jan 2019, Bilahari Kausikan (Arts & Social Sciences ’76) spoke on the practice of foreign policy at NUS. He situated the fundamental role of national interests in foreign policy and explained why Singapore’s national interests are not better and more widely understood. He examined common errors in thinking about foreign policy, as well as the creation and maintenance of relevance for a small city-state like Singapore.

The inaugural lecture was presided by NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye, Senior Deputy President and Provost Ho Teck Hua and FASS Dean Professor Robbie Goh.

Watch the lecture here.


Mr. Kausikan sharing foreign policy insights with the audience.
Mr. Kausikan responding to questions with Head of Department of Political Science Assoc Prof Soo Yeon Kim.
NUS President Prof Tan Eng Chye presenting a token of appreciation to Mr. Kausikan.


In conjunction with the Faculty of Arts and Social Science’s 90th anniversary, the Department of Political Science is hosting Kausikan’s lectures on the Practice of Foreign Affairs. Full information, topics and dates available here.

Bilahari Kausikan is Chairman of the Middle East Institute, NUS. From 2001 to 2013, he was first the second Permanent Secretary and then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). He was subsequently Ambassador-at-Large until May 2018, having previously served in various MFA appointments, including as the Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and as Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

Established in 1929, the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), one of the earliest and largest faculties is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Whilst witnessing numerous changes, we remain steadfast to our vision to strive forward as a premier faculty of excellence in humanities and social sciences that nurtures tomorrow’s engaged, thoughtful and creative global citizens. To mark this occasion, the Faculty is organising a series of events showcasing the strength and breadth of the Faculty’s research as well as kick start future initiatives that would benefit the generations of students who will come through our halls.

Joint Book Launch – Citizens in Motion: Emigration, Immigration, and Re-migration Across China’s Borders & Marrying for a Future: Transnational Sri Lankan Tamil Marriages in the Shadow of War

A joint book launch celebrating the release of Citizens in Motion: Emigration, Immigration, and Re-migration Across China’s Borders by Associate Professor Elaine Ho (NUS Department of Geography and FASS Research Division) and Marrying for a Future: Transnational Sri Lankan Tamil Marriages in the Shadow of War by Assistant Professor Sidharthan Maunaguru (NUS Department of South Asian Studies and NUS Department of Sociology) will be held at the Pod, NLB on Tuesday, 7th May 2019.
In Citizens in Motion, A/P Ho examines the migration patterns and multifaceted national affiliations of both elaine hoChinese migrants overseas and foreign migrants in China. Through interviews and ethnographic observations conducted in China, Canada, Singapore, and the China-Myanmar border, A/P Ho captures the rich diversity of contemporary Chinese migration processes. By bringing together these various experiences and national contexts, A/P Ho offers an insightful analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing nation-building and cultural diversity management mediated by the influences of migration processes.
marrying for a futureAsst Prof Maunaguru focuses on Sri Lanka in Marrying for a Future, where he argues that the social institution of marriage sidharthan maunaguruserves as a critical means of reuniting dispersed segments of Tamil communities who fled Sri Lanka during the almost 26 year civil war. This is because key agents and elements of marriage such as marriage brokers and transit places help foster connections between these fragmented communities. Importantly, the book offers an interesting take on migration issues by situating transnational marriage within the larger scholarship of forced displacement and refugees.
Together, A/P Ho and Asst Prof Maunaguru contribute unique approaches to studying migration and opens up possibilities for future scholarship to build on these alternative perspectives. If you are interested to hear more from the authors themselves, please RSVP to reserve your seat. The event details are as follows:
Date: Tuesday, 7th May 2019
Time: 6.00–8.30pm
Venue: The Pod, National Library Building
Organizers: Singapore Research Nexus and FASS Migration Cluster, FASS Research Division
Click here for additional details.

FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs: Bilahari Kausikan on Singapore Foreign Policy

Click to enlarge.

In conjunction with FASS’ 90th anniversary, the Department of Political Science is organising a public lecture series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs. The guest lecturer is former Ambassador and currently Chairman of the Middle East Institute, Mr Bilahari Kausikan.

Date: 30 Jan, 20 Feb, 13 Mar, 20 Mar & 3 Apr
Time: 6pm – 8pm
Venue: FASS LT11 (Click for map)

Sign up for the lecture via the following links: (NUS members) (Public members)

The synopses for the lectures are as follows:

Lecture One: How to Think about Foreign Policy?
30 January 2019
The first lecture situates the fundamental role of national interests in foreign policy. Why are Singapore’s national interests not better and more widely understood? The talk examines some common errors in thinking about foreign policy, as well as the creation and maintenance of relevance for a small city-state, and why small countries should not behave like small countries.

Watch the lecture.

Lecture Two: Origins I – Relations with Malaysia and Indonesia
20 February 2019
The second lecture conveys the inevitable complexity of relations with Singapore’s neighbours. It provides an overview of the systemic origins of bilateral tensions with our neighbours, focusing on the uses and abuses of history, and the roles of ‘baggage’ and personality. The talk ends with thoughts on how Singapore could manage complexity and cope with competing nationalisms with our neighbours.

Lecture Three: Origins II – ASEAN: Vital but Limited
13 March 2019
 The third lecture discusses the origins of regionalism in Southeast Asia. It explains the necessity but also the limits of ASEAN. The talk will suggest that ‘it is pointless to criticise a cow for being an imperfect horse’.

Lecture Four: The New Global and Regional Strategic Context
20 March 2019
The fourth lecture looks at the key factors driving change in the global and regional order. Issues to be explored include: the nature of US-China relations, coping with competing influences, the roles of Japan, India, Australia, Russia and the EU. The talk also offers thoughts as to why the future of East Asia will be multi-polar.

Lecture Five: Future Challenges
3 April 2019
The final lecture in the series examines the interaction of foreign policy and domestic politics. It offers thoughts on how to manage uncertainty and emerging systemic vulnerabilities in Singapore.

Professor Ted Hopf’s work wins the 2018 Albie award

Congratulations to Prof Ted Hopf from the Department of Political Science on winning the Albie award from the Washington Post for his journal article, jointly written with Bentley B. Allan and Srdjan Vucetic, entitled “The Distribution of Identity and the Future of International Order: China’s Hegemonic Prospects.”

The Albie award recognises the best work on political economy in 2018. Named after the late, great political economist Albert O. Hirschman, the winning works are curated by Daniel W. Drezner, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a regular contributor at The Washington Post. According to Prof Drezner, “The important thing about an Albie-winning piece of work is that it forces the reader to think about the past, present or future politics of the global economy in a way that can’t be un-thought.”

Here’s what Prof Drezner said about the article:

“There has been so much written about the liberal international order this past year. Its critics are piling on, and even its most enthusiastic cheerleaders have doubts. This article, however, suggests that the current hegemonic order is likely to be far more resilient than the pessimists believe. This is because the core ideas animating the current order — democracy and free markets — have far more popular support across the globe than elites tend to assume. Any Chinese effort to challenge or supplant the current order is therefore unlikely to gain many adherents.”

On winning the award, Prof Hopf said, “It is always most gratifying when one’s academic work becomes part of the broader policy debate, especially when it concerns an issue of such contemporary significance as the rise of China.”

Click here to see the other Albie award winners.

Poorer families use more water to keep cool: Study (21 Dec, Home, Page B2)

The Straits Times

It was reported that a study conducted by Associate Professor Alberto Salvo from the Department of Economics at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has found that lower-income households tend to use more water when the weather is hot, while higher-income households consume more electricity. The study tracked the water and electricity bills of about 130,000 households living in apartments from September 2012 to December 2015. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications on 20 December 2018, can contribute towards improving demand forecasting for water and electricity in water-stressed cities in tropical Asia, where incomes are rising. It can also facilitate better design and allocation of water and electricity grids.

Read the article here.

Mangroves can help countries mitigate their carbon emissions, study

This was a report on a study by researchers from the Department of Geography at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences which found that coastal vegetation such as mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes may be the most effective habitats to mitigate carbon emissions. The results indicate that nations with large coastlines could expand these ecosystems to further counteract their fossil fuel emissions. These findings were published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters on 24 October 2018.

Love And Betrayal In Balingkang (Friday, 16 November 2018, 7:00PM)

The Department of Southeast Asian Studies presents “Love and Betrayal in Balingkang“, The story of King Sri Jayapangus and his Chinese wife, performed by students of SE3230 Seen and Unseen: Explorations in Balinese Theatre.


Prembon was first performed in Bali in 1942 and combines some of the quintessential elements of Bali’s most famous theatrical genres – topeng (masked drama), gambuh (classical drama) and arja (sung opera). Prembon performances narrate stories from Balinese history and include dance, singing, narration, drama and comedy. All Prembon performances are accompanied by a full Balinese gamelan ensemble.

The story is taken from the Babad Bali/Dalem – the chronicles of the Kings of Bali. It tells of King Sri Jaya Pangus (1181-1269), ruler of Pejeng (currently a small town near Ubud) who was from the Warmadewa dynasty. He had fallen in love with Kang Ching Wie, the daughter of the Subandar Cina (Chinese port administrator). Their marriage was opposed by the court priest, Begawan Siwagana who believed that Sri Jaya Pangus was going against the rules of the royal house by marrying a non-Hindu non-Balinese. Angered by Sri Jaya Pangus’ stubborn refusal to call off the marriage, he cursed the kingdom with heavy rain and floods. Sri Jaya Pangus decides to leave Pejeng and establish his own kingdom called Balingkang (named after Bali + Kang, his wife’s family name). Despite having been married for a long time, Kang Ching Wie did not produce children and Sri Jaya Pangus decided to meditate and seek help from the gods so his wife could conceive. He travelled up the slopes of the Mountain Batur. It was here that he met Dewi Danu, the goddess of Lake Batur. Sri Jaya Pangus fell in love with Dewi Danu, never telling her about Kang Ching Wie. Dewi Danu had a son with the king whom they named Mayadenawa. Kang Ching Wie waited patiently for her husband to return but he never did. She eventually decided to search for him on Mount Batur. When she found out that he was with Dewi Danu, Kang Ching Wie was devastated. Dewi Danu was angered at the betrayal she felt as Sri Jaya Pangus had never informed her of his wife. In a fit of anger, she made both Sri Jaya Pangus and Kang Ching Wie disappear from the face of the earth. The residents of Balingkang who loved their king and queen, made two giant puppets (barong landing) to remind themselves of their rulers.

Performers: There will be musicians from Bali and dancers accompanying the NUS students in this 2 hour production.

Tickets: Priced at $15 each at the official booth set up along the Central Library Walkway from 22 Oct – 26 Oct 2018. Tickets can also be purchased directly from A/P Irving Johnson.

Be sure to join us for Singapore’s first ever Prembon performance on Friday 16 November 2018 at 7.00pm at LT13

FASS Bookshare, Fall Semester: Southeast Asian Art, Culture, and Colonial History

The 10th session of FASS Bookshare was held on Thursday, October 11th, 2018, and featured Professor Maurizio Peleggi (NUS Department of History), Assistant Professor Gerard Sasges (NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies), and Associate Professor David Teh (NUS Department of English Language and Literature) speaking about their research experiences and motivations for their recently published books.
Sasges presents his latest book, Imperial IntoxicationThis edition of Bookshare focused on Southeast Asian Art, Culture, and Colonial History, highlighting Prof Peleggi’s Monastery, Monument, Museum: Sites and Artifacts of Thai Cultural Memory (University of Hawai`i Press), Dr Sasges’ Imperial Intoxication: Alcohol and the Making of Colonial Indochina (University of Hawai`i Press), and Dr Teh’s Thai Art: Currencies of the Contemporary (MIT Press).

Emerald Buddha
Emerald Buddha, Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand by Gremel Madolora

After Associate Professor Itty Abraham, Head of the NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies introduced the authors, Prof Peleggi discussed how he bridged cultural history with art theory when writing a cultural history of Thailand using art and artifacts.

Rượu cần
Rượu cần (rice wine) in a shop in Vung Tau, Vietnam by Genghiskhanviet

Next Dr Sasges shared how he was inspired to write a book about Vietnam that does not focus on communism. He explained that one reason Vietnam’s alcohol monopoly came to be is because the state was unresponsive to citizens, but worked closely with industry.

Self portrait of Vasan Sitthiket, Thai painter and performance artist, before a stage performance in Trang province, Thailand.

Lastly Dr Teh talked about how he conceptualized the social,cultural, and institutional currencies that contemporary artists in Thailand circulate. He shared how he as a curator engaged with these artists and their work, and how he characterized their relationships with their homeland.

The event ended with a lively question and answer session, followed by refreshments and informal discussions between the authors and audience members. Stay tuned for the next session of Bookshare, scheduled for Friday, 8 March, 2019!