FASS Research

Showcasing the research of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at NUS


RD Newsletter, September 2017

The Research Division Newsletter for September has been published. Read it here.



Publication of the Month: October 2017

Monastery, Monument, Museum: Sites and Artifacts of Thai Cultural Memory

Maurizio Peleggi
University of Hawaii Press

Ranging across the longue durée of Thailand’s history, Monastery, Monument, Museum is an eminently readable and original contribution to the study of the kingdom’s art and culture. Eschewing issues of dating, style, and iconography, historian Maurizio Peleggi addresses distinct types of artifacts and artworks as both the products and vehicles of cultural memory. From the temples of Chiangmai to the Emerald Buddha, from the National Museum of Bangkok to the prehistoric culture of Northeast Thailand, and from the civic monuments of the 1930s to the political artworks of the late twentieth century, even well-known artworks and monuments reveal new meanings when approached from this perspective.

Part I, “Sacred Topographies,” focuses on the premodern era, when religious credence informed the cultural alteration of landscape, and devotional sites and artifacts, including visual representation of the Buddhist cosmology, were created. Part II, “Antiquities and National History,” covers the 1830s through the 1970s, when antiquarianism, and eventually archaeology, emerged and developed in the kingdom, partly the result of a shift in the elites’ worldview and partly a response to colonial and neocolonial projects of knowledge. Part III, “Discordant Mnemoscapes,” deals with civic monuments and artworks that anchor memory of twentieth-century political events and provide stages for both their commemoration and counter-commemoration by evoking the country’s embattled political present.

Monastery, Monument, Museum shows us how cultural memory represents a kind of palimpsest, the result of multiple inscriptions, reworkings, and manipulations over time. The book will be a rewarding read for historians, art historians, anthropologists, and Buddhism scholars working on Thailand and Southeast Asia generally, as well as for academic and general readers with an interest in memory and material culture.


Peleggi, M. Monastery, Monument, Museum: Sites and Artifacts of Thai Cultural Memory (University of Hawaii Press, 2017).



A/P Khairudin Aljunied becomes Malaysia Chair of Islam in Southeast Asia at Georgetown University

A/P Khairudin Aljunied (Malay Studies Dept), has become Malaysia Chair of Islam in Southeast Asia at the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

Dr. Khairudin Aljunied completed his doctorate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London in 2008. He has studied and conducted research in countries such as Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. His book publications include Colonialism Violence and Muslims in Southeast Asia: The Maria Hertogh Controversy and its Aftermath (Routledge, 2009) and Radicals: Resistance and Protest in Colonial Malaya (Northern Illinois University Press, 2015) which Choice magazine describes as “an incredibly useful resource for scholars working on Southeast Asia, and Malaysia in particular.” His most recent book, Muslim Cosmopolitanism: Southeast Asian Islam in Comparative Perspective (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), investigates the complex ways by which cosmopolitan ideals have been creatively employed and carefully adapted by Muslim individuals, societies and institutions in Southeast Asia to bring about the necessary contexts for mutual tolerance and shared respect between and within different groups, particularly between religious groups in society. Dr Khairudin has completed another monograph on the reformist thought of an Indonesian scholar, Hamka (Haji Abdul Malik bin Abdul Karim Amrullah), which will be published by Cornell University Press in fall 2018.


Publication of the Month: September 2017

Imperial Intoxication: Alcohol and the Making of Colonial Indochina

Gerard Sasges
University of Hawaii Press

Making liquor isn’t rocket science: some raw materials, a stove, and a few jury-rigged pots are all that’s really needed. So when the colonial regime in turn-of-the-century French Indochina banned homemade rice liquor, replacing it with heavily taxed, tasteless alcohol from French-owned factories, widespread clandestine distilling was the inevitable result. The state’s deeply unpopular alcohol monopoly required extensive systems of surveillance and interdiction and the creation of an unwieldy bureaucracy that consumed much of the revenue it was supposed to collect. Yet despite its heavy economic and political costs, this unproductive policy endured for more than four decades, leaving a lasting mark on Indochinese society, economy, and politics.

The alcohol monopoly in Indochina was part of larger economic and political processes unfolding across the globe. New research on fermentation and improved still design drove the capitalization and concentration of the distilling industry worldwide, while modernizing states with increasing capacities to define, tax, and police engaged in a never-ending search for revenue. Indochina’s alcohol regime thus arose from the same convergence of industrial potential and state power that produced everything from Russian vodka to blended Scotch whisky. Yet with rice liquor part of everyday life for millions of Indochinese, young and old, men and women, villagers and city-folk alike, in Indochina these global developments would be indelibly shaped by the colony’s particular geographies, histories, and people.

Imperial Intoxication provides a unique window on Indochina between 1860 and 1939. It illuminates the contradictory mix of modern and archaic, power and impotence, civil bureaucracy and military occupation that characterized colonial rule. It highlights the role Indochinese played in shaping the monopoly, whether as reformers or factory workers, illegal distillers or the agents sent to arrest them. And it links these long-ago stories to global processes that continue to play out today.

Sasges, G. Imperial Intoxication: Alcohol and the Making of Colonial Indochina (University of Hawaii Press, 2017).


Publication of the Month: August 2017

Minds in Motion: Imagining Empiricism in Eighteenth Century British Travel  Literature, 1650-1850
Anne Thell
Bucknell University Press

The central claim of Minds in Motion is that British travel writing of the long eighteenth century functions as an epistemological playing field where authors test empiricist models of engagement with the world while simultaneously seeking out the role of the self and the imagination in producing knowledge. Whether exploring the relationship between the senses and the mind, the narrative viability of experimental detachment, or the literary dynamics of virtual witnessing, eighteenth-century travel authors persistently confront their positionality and raise difficult questions about the nature and value of first-hand experience. In one way or another, they also complicate empiricist ideals by exploring the limits of individual perception and the role of the imagination in generating and relating knowledge. While the genre is often viewed as either numbingly documentary or non-literary and commercial, travel literature actually operates at the front line of the period’s intellectual developments, illustrating both how individual writers grapple with philosophical ideals and how these ideals filter into the lives of ordinary people. Indeed, travel literature directly engages the scientific and philosophical concerns of the period, while it is also widely, avidly read; as such, it offers models for cognitive and rhetorical practices that are evaluated and either embraced or rejected by readers (in a process of identification not unlike that which occurs in early English fiction). Moreover, because eighteenth-century travel literature is so crucial to the development of so many fields—from botany to the novel—it illustrates vividly the divisive energies of discipline and genre formation while also archiving the shared aims and methods of what will become discrete fields of study. Travelogues as diverse as Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World (1666) and Samuel Johnson’s Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775) reveal the epistemological circuitry of the eighteenth century and historicize the absorption of the philosophical tendencies that have come to define modernity.


Thell, A. Minds in Motion: Imagining Empiricism in Eighteenth Century British Travel  Literature, 1650-1850 (Routledge, 2017).


APRU Population Ageing Conference 2017

Here are 3 Reasons why YOU should register for Population Ageing Conference 2017: 1. Renowned researchers and…

Posted by Duke-NUS CARE on Thursday, June 22, 2017


18 August: Strategies for Successful Grant Proposal Writing

Strategies for Successful Grant Proposal Writing
A Panel Discussion with A/P Tim Bunnell, Prof Kenneth Dean, & A/P Soo Yeon Kim

Date & Time: Friday, 18th of August, 2017, from 3 to 4:30pm


2:45-3pm: Registration & Refreshments

3-3:05pm: Opening Remarks & Introduction of Panellists by Chair, Prof Lionel Wee, FASS VDR

3:05-3:20pm: Talk by A/P Tim Bunnell

3:20-3:35pm: Talk by Prof Kenneth Dean

3:35-3:50pm: Talk by A/P Soo Yeon Kim

3:50-4:25pm: Q & A

4:25-4:30: Closing Remarks by Chair

4:30-4:45: Refreshments

About the Discussion

The panellists are all FASS faculty members who have successfully obtained large grant funding (i.e. PIs for Tier 2 grants) from MOE. They will speak candidly about their experiences with the grant process – identifying the topic, putting together the research team, writing the proposal, budgeting, reporting, and complying with the grant rules. The discussion will touch on any problems/issues the PIs have experienced with the process, to what extent these were overcome, the ways in which grant funding for research in the social sciences and humanities could be improved, and advice for colleagues who are considering applying for grants.

About the Panellists

Tim BunnellTim Bunnell is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography. He works primarily on issues of urban transformation in Southeast Asia and connections between that region and other parts of the world. His latest book, From World City to the World in One City: Liverpool through Malay Lives, was published by Wiley in 2016. Tim was Principal Investigator for a comparative urban studies research project on aspirations in Asia that officially ended in July 2016. ‘Aspirations, Urban Governance and the Remaking of Asian Cities’ was funded by the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Academic Research Fund (AcRF Tier 2). The project involved collaboration with Daniel P.S. Goh and Eric C. Thompson (as Co-PIs) and a range of other scholars in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and at the Asia Research Institute.


Kenneth DeanProfessor Kenneth Dean joined the NUS Department of Chinese Studies as Head in 2015. He received his PhD and MA in Chinese from Stanford University and is Lee Chair and James McGill Professor Emeritus of McGill University. Prof Dean is the author of several books on Daoism and Chinese popular religion, and his most recent book is the two volume Chinese Epigraphy in Singapore, 1819-1911 (2017, NUS Press), co-authored by Hue Guan Thye. In addition, he directed Bored in Heaven: a film about ritual sensation (2010), an 80 minute documentary film on ritual celebrations around Chinese New Year in Putian, Fujian, China. He is Principal Investigator on ‘A Singapore Historical GIS Analysis: The transformations of Chinese institutions’ (MOE Tier 2, 2016-2019). The grant’s website can be accessed here.

Soo Yeon KimAssociate Professor Soo Yeon Kim joined the NUS Department of Political Science in July 2011. She holds a PhD in Political Science from Yale University and a BA in Political Science and International Studies from Yonsei University. A/P Kim’s research and teaching areas are International Political Economy, International Political Economy of Asia, and Research Methods, with a specialization in trade politics. She is the author of Power and the Governance of Global Trade (2011, Series in Political Economy, Cornell University Press). Her current research focuses on free trade agreements in Asia and on rising powers in the global economy. She is Principal Investigator on the MOE AcRF Tier 2 Grant, ‘From Emerging Markets to Rising Powers? Power Shift in International Economic Governance,’ (2015-2018). The grant’s website can be accessed here.


As the venue seats 25 only, RSVP your attendance to Rachel at fasrda at nus.edu.sg with your full name and title by Thursday, 17th August.
This event is open to NUS faculty members and research staff only, and aimed at social science and humanities researchers.

Thank you and we hope to see you there!


Publication of the Month: July 2017

Partial Ambiguity

Soo Hong Chew, Bin Miao, Songfa Zhong



We extend Ellsberg’s two‐urn paradox and propose three symmetric forms of partial ambiguity by limiting the possible compositions in a deck of 100 red and black cards in three ways. Interval ambiguity involves a symmetric range of 50- n to 50+n red cards. Complementarily, disjoint ambiguity arises from two nonintersecting intervals of 0 to n and 100 − n to 100 red cards. Two‐point ambiguity involves n or 100 −n red cards. We investigate experimentally attitudes towards partial ambiguity and the corresponding compound lotteries in which the possible compositions are drawn with equal objective probabilities. This yields three key findings: distinct attitudes towards the three forms of partial ambiguity, significant association across attitudes towards partial ambiguity and compound risk, and source preference between two‐point ambiguity and two‐point compound risk. Our findings help discriminate among models of ambiguity in the literature.


Chew S. H., B. Miao, & S. Zhong, “Partial Ambiguity”. Econometrica, (2017). (United States).



RD Newsletter, June 2017

The Research Division Newsletter for June has been published. Read it here.


Publication of the Month: June 2017

Liberalism Disavowed: Communitarianism and State Capitalism in Singapore

Chua Beng Huat

Cornell UP & NUS Press

In Liberalism Disavowed, Beng Huat Chua examines the rejection of Western-style liberalism in Singapore since the nation’s expulsion from Malaysia and formal independence as a republic in 1965. The People’s Action Party, which has ruled Singapore since 1959, has forged an independent non-Western ideology that is evident in various government policies that Chua analyzes, among them multiracialism, public housing, and widespread social distributions to the citizenry.

Singapore is prosperous and peaceful, it’s highly advanced on various metrics of economic development, it has a great deal of regional influence, it is home to sophisticated industries and a large financial service sector, and it features what are by Western standards unusually low levels of social inequality. Paradoxically, however, it is no beacon of political liberalism. Chua sets forth ample evidence that the dominance of the People’s Action Party is based on a combination of economic success and media control, limits on public protests, libel suits against political opponents, and severely curtailed civil liberties.

Chua, B. H. Liberalism Disavowed: Communitarianism and State Capitalism in Singapore (Cornell University Press, 2017).

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