Launch of Imperial Creatures: Humans and Other Animals in Colonial Singapore, 1819–1942 by Tim Barnard

Imperial Creatures: Humans and Other Animals in Colonial Singapore, 1819–1942


Date & Time:
Wednesday, 12 February 2020, from 6:00 to 8:30 pm
Venue: The Pod, NLB
Organizers: Singapore Research Nexus
RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.sg/e/imperial-creatures-humans-and-other-animals-in-colonial-singapore-181919-registration-77088051437


Programme

6:00 pm Registration/Refreshments/Book Sale
6:30 pm Welcome Remarks by Chair, Associate Professor Maitrii Aung-Thwin (NUS History/Asia Research Institute)
6:35 pm Presentation by Associate Professor Timothy P. Barnard (NUS History)
6:55 pm Presentation by Assistant Professor Anthony Medrano (Yale-NUS)
7:15 pm Presentation by Assistant Professor Darinee Algirisamy (NUS South Asian Studies)
7:35 pm Q and A/Discussion, Moderated by Chair
8:05 pm Book Sale with Autograph Signing


About the Book

Imperial Creatures: Humans and Other Animals in Colonial Singapore, 1819-1942
Timothy P. Barnard
NUS Press

The environmental turn in the humanities and social sciences has meant a new focus on the imperial creatureshistory of animals. This is one of the first books to look across species at animals in a colonial, urban society. If imperialism is a series of power relationships, it involves not only the subjugation of human communities but also animals. What was the relationship between these two processes in colonial Singapore? How did various interactions with animals enable changes in interactions between people, and the expression of power in human terms?
The imposition of imperial power relationships was a process that was often complex and messy, and it led to the creation of new communities throughout the world, including the colonial port city of Singapore. Through a multidisciplinary consideration of fauna, this book weaves together a series of tales to document how animals were cherished, slaughtered, monitored and employed in a colonial society, to provide insight into how imperial rule was imposed on an island in Southeast Asia. Fauna and their histories of interacting with humans, thus, become useful tools for understanding our past, revealing the effects of establishing a colony on the biodiversity of a region, and the institutions that quickly transformed it. All animals, including humans, have been creatures of imperialism in Singapore. Their stories teach us lessons about the structures that upheld such a society and how it developed over time.

Author Bio
Timothy P. Barnard
is an associate professor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore, where he specializes in the environmental and cultural history of island Southeast Asia.

Speaker Bios
Anthony Medrano is a historian of the Asian marine environment who studies the interplay between people and fish, science and society, and technology and nature.

Darinee Algirisamy’s work engages with the history of poverty and social reform in colonial India, with a focus on South India, between the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. The transnational circulation of Indian reform movements in Southeast Asia and the history of the Tamil diaspora are related areas of interest.

Chair Bio
Maitrii Aung-Thwin received his PhD from the University of Michigan (2001) where he studied Burmese and Southeast Asian history. He has lived and conducted research in Southeast Asia for nearly two decades.

 

FASS90 GALA DINNER | Looking Back, Pressing Forward

NUS FASS marked its 90th anniversary, the Dean delivered a strong performance on stage, and Guest of Honour Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, called for further government-academia collaboration on public policy.

From its beginnings in 1929 as part of Raffles College offering three-year diplomas in English, Economics, History and Geography, to its position today as a global top 20 provider of higher education in the Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences & Management, the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) has come a long way.

Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister of Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs, talked about the ways academia can help drive public policy and called for their greater collaboration with the government.Photo Credit: Ministry of Manpower

The Dean of FASS, Professor Robbie Goh, referenced this journey during his opening address at FASS 90th Anniversary Gala Dinner on Friday (15 November 2019) evening. “FASS began life…with the four founding majors of English, History and Geography. Its inaugural intake was 43 students,” said Professor Goh. “Fast forward 90 years…FASS takes in about 1,600 undergraduate students each, has 16 departments offering 20 majors, [and so far can count] among its alumni – a President, a Prime Minister, several Ministers and ambassadors, and other top civil servants of Singapore, along with notable CEOs, entrepreneurs, well-known actors, musicians and others who have contributed much to the world.”

Professor Goh performed for all supporters of FASS’s fundraising efforts.

Professor Goh proceeded to share details of initiatives and programmes already underway at NUS FASS with close to 300 alumni, staff, students and other supporters who packed the Empress Ballroom at Carlton Hotel in downtown Singapore to celebrate the Faculty’s 90th anniversary. These included the launch of: a new major under the Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) programme; joint and double degree programmes with overseas partners (the latest being the University of California, Berkeley); the FASS Social Incubator Programme, which sees to the provision of seed money to students working on innovative solutions to social work issues; and the “Industry Tracks” programme, which seeks to enhance the employability of FASS graduates by giving them the training, guidance and experience they need to succeed in the key industry segments most likely to hire them.

Assembled to cut FASS’s 90th Birthday cake (from left): Professor Goh; Professor Ho; Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo; Mr Archie Ong; Mrs Tan Suan Imm; Mr Soh Yi Da; Ms Zoey Lim, President, NUS Students’ Arts and Social Sciences Club.

Guest of Honour Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister of Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs, a FASS alumnus herself, shared the Government’s current approaches to helping ensure Singapore’s ageing population have sufficient funds to retire comfortably. She cited some of the major contributions the academic community has made to Central Provident Fund (CPF) policy to date, and called for further Government-academia collaboration in specific areas of research and public communications. Among her suggestions are programmes that seek to answer questions such as: How can it be ensured that the Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) of each CPF member is sufficient to cover basic expenses in the future?; How can the Government increase understanding of and promote take-up of schemes meant to enable retirees to supplement their incomes by making use of their HDB apartments?; How can older workers be incentivised to start their payouts later, so they will have higher payouts when they eventually retire?

Professor Ho Teck Hua, Senior Deputy President and Provost, NUS, sealed the FASS Leapfrog Time Capsule.

“We can make our system better through constantly looking over the horizon and planning ahead. In that sense, the CPF must remain a ‘live system’, always evolving and ever-responsive to emerging needs,” Mrs Teo said. “We hope that the academic and social science research community can join us to make it better.”Immediately following a dazzling Malay dance performance by dance group NUS Ilsa Tari, came students Wesley Wang (Year 2 Linguistics Major) and Nediva Singam (Year 4 Geography Major) sharing their experiences and lessons learnt during their respective turns in overseas exchange study programmes. They spoke in support of the launch of the new FASS Student Advancement Fund that extends further financial support for needy students.

NUS Ilsa Tari in perfect form

The proceeds of the Gala Dinner went directly to this fund, and the generosity of all donors so moved Professor Goh that he dedicated his rendition of James Taylor’s classic You’ve Got a Friend and the timeless hymn by John Newton, Amazing Grace to them. The audience returned his gesture not just with heartfelt applause.

Professor Goh, Professor Ho Teck Hua, Senior Deputy President and Provost, NUS, Singapore’s legendary poet Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo, illustrious Singapore educator and alumnus Mrs Tan Suan Imm, and, distinguished alumni Archie Ong and Soh Yi Da, who played key roles on the FASS 90 Gala Dinner Committee, came together to cut FASS’s 90th birthday cake.

Vernon Cornelius (of the Quests from 1960s Singapore) and his band in action

The climax of the event was the sealing of the FASS Leapfrog Time Capsule in commemoration of FASS’s 90th Anniversary. Professors Goh and Ho placed items representing the Deanery, every department, alumni, student body, along with the day’s edition of The Straits Times into the time capsule, which they set to reopen in 2079 on the occasion of FASS’s 150th anniversary. Professor Ho then sealed it by pressing a virtual button on an iPad, setting off confetti and cheers from everyone.

NUS Theatre Studies Joint Book Launch

Title: NUS Theatre Studies Joint Book Launch featuring Bodies and Transformance in Taiwanese Contemporary Theater by Dr Peilin Liang, Theatre-Fiction in Britain from Henry James to Doris Lessing: Writing in the Wings by Dr Graham Wolfe, and Enacting Lecoq: Movement in Theatre, Cognition, and Life by Dr Maiya Murphy

Date: Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Time: 6:30-9:05pm

Venue: The Pod, NLB

Organizers: FASS Research Division

RSVP at Eventbrite.

Description

Three authors will share their new books dealing with the study of theatre:

  1. Bodies and Transformance in Taiwanese Contemporary Theater (Routledge, 2019) by Dr Peilin Liang, Assistant Professor, NUS English Language & Literature

In Bodies and Transformance in Taiwanese Contemporary Theater, Peilin Liang develops a theory of bodily transformation. Proposing the concept of transformance, a conscious and rigorous process of self-cultivation toward a reconceptualized body, Liang shows how theater practitioners of minoritized cultures adopt transformance as a strategy to counteract the embodied practices of ideological and economic hegemony. This book observes key Taiwanese contemporary theater practitioners at work in forging five reconceptualized bodies: the energized, the rhythmic, the ritualized, the joyous, and the (re)productive. By focusing on the development of transformance between the years of 2000–2008, a tumultuous political watershed in Taiwan’s history, the author succeeds in bridging postcolonialism and interculturalism in her conceptual framework. Ideal for scholars of Asian and Postcolonial Theater, Bodies and Transformance in Taiwanese Contemporary Theater shows how transformance, rather than performance, calibrates with far greater precision and acuity the state of the body and the culture that it seeks to create.

2. Theatre-Fiction in Britain from Henry James to Doris Lessing: Writing in the Wings (Routledge, 2019) by Dr Graham Wolfe, Associate Professor, NUS English Language & Literature

Theatre-Fiction in Britain from Henry James to Doris LessingThis volume posits and explores an intermedial genre called theatre-fiction, understood in its broadest sense as referring to novels and stories that engage in concrete and sustained ways with theatre. Though theatre has made star appearances in dozens of literary fictions, including many by modern history’s most influential authors, no full-length study has dedicated itself specifically to theatre-fiction―in fact there has not even been a recognized name for the phenomenon. Focusing on Britain, where most of the world’s theatre-novels have been produced, and commencing in the late-nineteenth century, when theatre increasingly took on major roles in novels, Theatre-Fiction in Britain argues for the benefits of considering these works in relation to each other, to a history of development, and to the theatre of their time. New modes of intermedial analysis are modelled through close studies of Henry James, Somerset Maugham, Virginia Woolf, J. B. Priestley, Ngaio Marsh, Angela Carter, and Doris Lessing, all of whom were deeply involved in the theatre-world as playwrights, directors, reviewers, and theorists. Drawing as much on theatre scholarship as on literary theory, Theatre-Fiction in Britain presents theatre-fiction as one of the past century’s most vital means of exploring, reconsidering, and bringing forth theatre’s potentials.

3. Enacting Lecoq: Movement in Theatre, Cognition, and Life (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) by Dr Maiya Murphy, Assistant Professor, NUS English Language & Literature

This book examines the theatrical movement-based pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq (1921-1999)enacting lecoq through the lens of the cognitive scientific paradigm of enaction. The conversation between these two both uncovers more of the possible cognitive processes at work in Lecoq pedagogy and proposes how Lecoq’s own practical and philosophical approach could have something to offer the development of the enactive paradigm. Understanding Lecoq pedagogy through enaction can shed new light on the ways that movement, key to Lecoq’s own articulation of his pedagogy, might cognitively constitute the development of Lecoq’s ultimate creative figure – the actor-creator. Through an enactive lens, the actor-creator can be understood as not only a creative figure, but also the manifestation of a fundamentally new mode of cognitive selfhood. This book engages with Lecoq pedagogy’s significant practices and principles including the relationship between the instructor and student, identifications, mime, play, mask work, language, improvisation, and movement analysis.

 

Programme

6:30-7:00pm – Registration/Refreshments/Books available for purchase

7:00-7:05pm – Welcome Remarks by Chair, Dr Walter Lim, Associate Professor, NUS English Language & Literature

7:05-7:25pm – Peilin Liang Presentation on Bodies and Transformance in Taiwanese Contemporary Theater

7:25-7:45pm – Graham Wolfe Presentation on Theatre-Fiction in Britain from Henry James to Doris Lessing: Writing in the Wings

7:45-8:05pm – Maiya Murphy Presentation on Enacting Lecoq: Movement in Theatre, Cognition, and Life

8:05-8:35pm – Q and A/Discussion, Moderated by Chair

8:35-9:05pm – Book Sale with Autograph Signing

 

Author Bios

As a researcher, educator, facilitator and translator of theatre and performance, Peilin peilin liangLiang is immensely interested in storytelling through shapeshifting. She received her MA in English from the University of Auckland and her PhD from the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Prior to her appointment at the National University of Singapore, she was a postdoctoral fellow with the Asian Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include (post)colonialism, minor transnationalism, cultural diversity and dynamics of cross-cultural exchange in relation to body training, performance pedagogy, and theatre.

 

graham wolfeGraham Wolfe is an Associate Professor in the Theatre Studies division of the English Language & Literature Department at NUS. He came to Singapore in 2012, having lived for most of his life in Canada. He has also taught at the University of Toronto, where he completed his Masters and PhD in Drama. He also holds a BA (Honours) and B.Ed from Queen’s University, Canada. At NUS, he teaches “Major Playwrights of the 20th Century”, “Theatre and Postmodernism”, and “The Theatre Experience”.

 

maiya murphy Maiya Murphy is a researcher, teacher, deviser, and performer. She began her career as an actor and dancer focused on movement-based training, creation, and performance. Her practical background informs her research on relationships between practice, theory, movement, and the cognitive sciences. She received her BA in Theater Studies from Yale University, trained in Lecoq-based pedagogy at the London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA), and received her Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama from the University of California, San Diego. She also makes theatre with her collective, Autopoetics.

 

 

A Land Imagined – Friday, 30 August 2019

A Land Imagined《幻土》 exposes a side of Singapore that is not commonly known or understood even to Singaporeans, grappling with issues of ethics and identity, and gives audiences a glimpse into the lives of migrant workers, the difficulties they face as well as their hopes and dreams. Touching on the notion of the ‘other’, the film highlights themes of heritage and society, showing migrant workers who are essential to the continual progress of our nation but yet are excluded from our society.

This noir film has won numerous awards, including being the first Singaporean film to win the Golden Leopard prize at the 71st Locarno Film Festival (Switzerland) 2018, as well as the Best Film in the Asian Feature Film Competition at the 29th Singapore International Film Festival – SGIFF 2018.

Free admission with registration:
https://tinyurl.com/emccalandimagined

 

Kent Ridge Alumni Family Day on 17 August 2019

CALLING ALL STUDENTS, STAFF AND ALUMNI!

Kent Ridge Alumni Family Day (KRAFD) on Saturday, 17 August!

Themed Fiesta On the Green, NUS’ biggest homecoming will commemorate Singapore’s Bicentennial, while welcoming home alumni, students, faculty, staff and their families back to the Kent Ridge Campus.

Come be dazzled by the star-studded line-up of celebrity alumni performers including Joanna Dong (Arts & Social Sciences ’04) who came in third in Sing! China 2017.  Other exciting activities include a showcase of autonomous and virtual technologies, hands-on stations at Student Life Fair, and networking at the Faculty booths.  The festivities will culminate in the largest outdoor movie screening on campus of the popular animated film, Smallfoot.

Date:        Saturday, 17 August 2019
Time: 5.00pm – 9.30pm
Venue: NUS University Town
Note: Please note that photography and videography will be carried out throughout the event. The NUS Office of Alumni Relations may use some or all of these images in its print publications, digital platforms and/or marketing channels.  

Book Launch – Hard at Work: Life in Singapore 

Title: Book Launch – Hard at Work: Life in Singapore 

Date: Friday, 1 November 2019

Time: 6:00-8:35 pm

Venue: The Pod, NLB

Organizers: Singapore Research Nexus

RSVP at Eventbrite.

Description

Hard at Work: Life in Singaporehard at work cover

Gerard Sasges & Ng Shi Wen (Editors)
NUS Press

For most of us, work is a basic daily fact of life. But that simple fact encompasses an incredibly wide range of experiences. Hard at Work (2019) takes readers into the day-to-day work experiences of more than fifty working people in Singapore who hold jobs that run from the ordinary to the unusual: from ice cream vendors, baristas, police officers and funeral directors to academic ghostwriters, temple flower sellers, and Thai disco girl agents.

Through first-person narratives based on detailed interviews, vividly augmented with color photographs, Hard at Work reminds us of the everyday labor that continually goes on around us, and that every job can reveal something interesting if we just look closely enough. It shows us too the ways inequalities of status and income are felt and internalized in this highly globalized society.

gerard sasges Gerard Sasges is a historian, educator, and chronicler of everyday life. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. His work explores the relationship between technology and processes of social, political, economic, and environmental change in Southeast Asia.

 

 

 

 

shi wen ngNg Shi Wen is a photographer, educator, and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Photo Rikiki and has taught at the National University of Singapore and at Singapore’s School of the Arts. Using words and light, she seeks to transcribe stories of people finding their way in a constantly changing city.

 

 

 

 

 

Programme

6:00-6:30 pm – Registration/Refreshments/Books available for purchase

6:30-6:35 pm – Welcome Remarks by Chair, Associate Professor Teo You Yenn, Provost’s Chair & Head of Sociology, NTU School of Social Sciences

6:35-7:35 pm – “Work/Life in Singapore” with Gerard Sasges, Ng Shi Wen, Choo Ruizhi, Nathene Chua, Qistina Ahmad, Samuel Devaraj, and Sutrisno Foo

7:35-8:05 pm – Q and A/Discussion, Moderated by Chair

8:05-8:35 pm – Book Sale with Autograph Signing

US-Sino Relations: Complex and Uncertain – Kausikan

Mr Bilahari Kausikan spoke at length about how US-China relations today affect the current global and regional political order on 20 March 2019 at his fourth FASS90 Political Science Lecture on the Practice of Foreign Affairs.

He was keen to emphasise that despite some similarities, Sino-American relations today are fundamentally different from those between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. “The post-Cold War (world) is complex, not binary,” he stated.

Mr. Kausikan (right) responding to questions with Assoc Prof Bilveer Singh (left) from the Department of Political Science

“US-China Relations are Inextricably Entangled in a Way US-Soviet Relations Never Were”

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cold War-era of international political structure that had persisted for more than four decades abruptly came to an end. “Despite its many dangers, the Cold War international order was clear and simple; essentially binary in structure,” said Mr Kausikan.

“You were either on one side or the other. Even if you tried to be or pretended to be non-aligned, you essentially defined your interests in relation to this binary structure. This entrenched a mode of thought: a binary view of the world that is still a powerful albeit usually unconscious, but certainly inappropriate influence on how we understand the trope of China’s rise.”

The biggest difference in today’s US-China relations compared to US-Soviet relations during the Cold War was how interlinked America was with each at the time. The Soviet Union “largely contained itself by pursuing autarky,” Kausikan said. “The US and the Soviet Union interacted only tangentially; their relationship was structured primarily by the need to avoid mutual destruction.”

This is unlike China today, which is inseparably inter-connected with the American economy and that of the world. “Unlike the Soviet Union, China is an irreplaceable node in the global economy, as vital as the American economy,” he stated. “US-China relations are simultaneously inter-dependent in a way that is historically unique between major powers, and simultaneously infused with a deep strategic distrust.” Yet despite this distrust, Kausikan was adamant that Sino-American rivalry was not a zero-sum game as some claim. “China’s rise is not necessarily America’s decline, except in relative terms,” he said, dismissing it as another relic of an outdated Cold War-era mentality.

Bilahari Kausikan discussing US-Sino relations.

America: “Spreading the Burden of Leadership”

Mr Kausikan also noted that despite their vast differences, “both Obama and Trump are iterations of the post-Cold War metamorphosis of American values.” Both have attempted to spread the burden of leadership, particularly defence costs, onto America’s allies; Obama merely did so in a more tactful manner than his successor.

In fact, Kausikan was of the opinion President Trump and his tough stance toward China was not a passing phase but a permanent shift in American policy. “Trump is not an aberration that will pass with the next administration,” he stated. “Key elements of his foreign policy, in particular the tougher approach to China as a strategic competitor enjoy strong bipartisan support across many policy domains.”

“Trump’s successor may speak more prudently and act more predictably, but the probability is that whoever succeeds Trump will represent the same political phenomenon and pursue much the same policies, at least towards China.”

China: Globalisation’s Biggest Winner, Protectionism’s Biggest Loser

This new hostile American stance to both China and globalisation will have serious implications for China, particularly for its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. “China was the main beneficiary of the American-led post-Cold War globalisation. China may well be the main loser if that order should further fray because the US now embraces a narrower concept of leadership,” Mr Kausikan noted.

“Can the Belt and Road Initiative succeed if the world turns protectionist as a result of the trade war? I don’t think so. More to the point, I don’t think the Chinese think so either.”

And despite its undeniable position as an economic superpower, Kausikan was not optimistic that China could be a substitute for American leadership in the global economy. “An open global order cannot be led on the basis of a still-largely closed and mercantilist Chinese model,” he remarked, especially when “Chinese growth rests on that open international order.” As such, he feels that some sort of temporary truce will be called on the ongoing trade war, although it would likely be “a very bad deal, and both sides will have the incentive to get out of it as soon as possible.”

Engagement Still the Main Tone of US-China Relationships

Nevertheless, Mr Kausikan emphasised that despite the rancour of the trade war, the central theme of US-China bilateral ties was that of engagement and communication. “War is highly improbable, nuclear deterrence impels caution, engagement will not cease and the US and China will still cooperate when their interests coincide,” he stated. Given how closely the two countries are tied to each other and the rest of the world economically, a continued policy of engagement would bode well for all sides.

Watch the lecture here.

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About the Speaker
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.

FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs
This five part lecture series is organised by the NUS Political Science Society with support from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and the Department of Political Science. Established in 1929, 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.

Bilahari Kausikan discusses the Art of ASEAN diplomacy

Bilahari Kausikan (Arts & Social Sciences ’76) discussed the Association of South-East Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) historical and current role at his third instalment of the Practice of Foreign Policy Lecture Series at NUS on 13 March 2019.

Founding Purpose – What was Left Unsaid
ASEAN, according to Kausikan, was very much a product of the Cold War. Although the Bangkok Declaration, ASEAN’s founding document, emphasised economic cooperation, “for ASEAN’s first quarter-century, almost nothing was done to advance economic cooperation.” ASEAN’s true purpose at the time was to function as a bulwark against growing communist influence in the region, particularly after Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 with Soviet Union’s support.

“There were more immediate political and security concerns, and irrespective of what the Bangkok Declaration said, these political and security concerns were ASEAN’s real concerns. Whatever our other differences, all the five founding members were anti-communist or non-communist,” he said. “The realisation was that if we did not hang together, we would hang separately.”

Despite ASEAN’s newfound unity and common purpose, it was still out of its weight class when it came to the Cambodian conflict. The Vietnam-Cambodia war was a “Sino-Soviet proxy war, and it was never in ASEAN’s power to resolve. This was a big boys’ game,” stated Kausikan. “ASEAN’s role was to rally international support to prevent a Soviet-backed Vietnamese fait accompli. And this was a limited, but not inconsequential role which we performed very successfully.”

Bilahari Kausikan (right) responding to questions with Asst Prof Deepak Nair (left) from the Department of Political Science.

 

Bilahari Kausikan sharing his insights on ASEAN with the audience.

Post-Cold War: Still Limited but Vital
With the end of the Cold War following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, ASEAN found itself in need of a new purpose. What was ASEAN to do now that communism was no longer a threat?

“The answer to that,” Kausikan said, “was to try and do what we had always said was our purpose: economic cooperation.” In 1992, the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) was set up and the first phase of economic integration was “completed as scheduled by the end of 2015.” That economic integration however, did not come easy, particularly because “it was difficult to muster the will to take the political decisions that economic cooperation required without the existential challenges of the Cold War as a spur.”

Consensus and Non-Interference: Stability, Even at the Cost of Efficiency
Much of this was due to ASEAN’s “most fundamental consideration”, which is “to preserve the organisation, even if it means inaction or consensus only of form.” This meant that unless all member states agreed, ASEAN would choose the safe option and take no action. In a region with such vast differences in government styles and culture coupled with wildly diverging national interests, achieving unanimous consensus can be complicated and difficult even in the best of times.

While Kausikan admitted that consensus-based decision making often produced “sub-optimal outcomes,” he was adamant that “despite their obvious limitations, consensus and non-interference cannot be abandoned as ASEAN’s core operating principles.” Maintaining consensus amongst all ASEAN members remains paramount because “all the differences that have made regionalism so necessary and so hard to achieve have not disappeared, and will never disappear. They therefore have to be managed, if the peace is to be kept.” Using any other mode of decision-making “risks even small differences escalating into serious conflicts.”

ASEAN and the South China Sea Disputes
With four ASEAN member states currently locked in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, questions from the audience naturally gravitated the position ASEAN ought to take. When asked, Kausikan dismissed the idea of ASEAN playing a larger role in collectively engaging China on territorial disputes.

“We (ASEAN) discuss the South China Sea collectively with China, but we can only do that on issues that are actually secondary or tangential to the core issue, which are the competing claims,” he stated. “Territorial disputes can by definition only be settled by the parties to the dispute,” which are primarily bilateral.

In fact, Mr Kausikan contends that “it is beyond ASEAN’s capabilities to resolve the disputes in the South China Sea” since it has become “something of a proxy for the contest between the American and Chinese ideas of regionalism.”

“As with the Cambodian issue in the 1980’s, this is a big boys’ game.”

The best thing ASEAN can do now regarding the South China Sea according to him, is to “make our red lines clear to both sides” and once again play a limited, but vital role in keeping the peace in the region.

Most importantly, he added, “there are things that ASEAN can do very well and we do them, there are things we can only do sub-optimally, and there are things that are simply beyond our powers. And the art of ASEAN diplomacy is to know which is which.”

Watch the lecture here.

The third instalment in the series, Bilahari Kausikan addressing a full house on ASEAN.

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About the Speaker
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.

FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs
This five part lecture series is organised by the NUS Political Science Society with support from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and the Department of Political Science. Established in 1929, 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.

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.

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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.