New Publication: Changing Lives in Laos: Society, Politics, and Culture in a Post-Socialist State by Vatthana Pholsena and Vanina Boute (eds.)

Pholsena, Vatthana and Vanina Boute (eds.), Changing Lives in Laos: Society, Politics, and Culture in a Post-Socialist State, Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2017

One of the lesser-studied countries in Southeast Asia, Laos has gone through momentous changes over the last two decades. Social and economic transformations have reshaped the country considerably and been felt both in cities and by the rural households that account for 70% of the population. This multi-disciplinary collection of articles penned by leading scholars on Laos in the fields of anthropology, geography, history, and political science explores key issues critical to our understanding of important dynamics in present-day Laos, including: the historical and sociological dimensions of the political elite; the correlated phenomena of agrarian change and migration; and the emergence of new relational dynamics among peoples of diverse ethnic origins, social backgrounds, cultural affinities, and economic aspirations in an increasingly mobile society.

New Publication: Imperial Intoxication: Alcohol and the Making of Colonial Indochina by Gerard Sasges

Sasges, Gerard, Imperial Intoxication: Alcohol and the Making of Colonial Indochina, Hawaii: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017

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.

Fear and Ambivalence in Singapore: Mapping the Saltwater Crocodile in the Singapore Consciousness (Wed, 13 September 2017)

Speaker: Kate Pocklington (Conservator, NUS Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum)
Date: Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)

Synopsis

In the 1820s, William Farquhar’s dog was eaten by a crocodile on the bank of the Rochor River. The 1849 autobiography Hikayat Abdullah, by Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, stated this was ‘the first time people knew there were crocodiles in Singapore’. By 1996, the IUCN assessed saltwater crocodiles as being ‘regionally extinct’ in Singapore. Yet, over the last few years, Pocklington’s research has uncovered over 380 present and historic records of crocodiles in Singapore showing that whilst they are indeed elusive, they have never left our waters. The alleged realisation of their existence here nearly 200 years ago did not account for the extensive cultural manifestations and equivocal human relationships. Much of the cultural significance has been surrendered in distortions of new perceptions; once considered territorial protectors and reincarnations of warriors, crocodiles have become victim to habitat destruction, governmental incentives for eradication, and a booming international skin trade. For some, crocodiles appear to be nothing more than a dangerous predator, but there is a juncture in which their histories unfold a mapping of conversations, systems of belief and the connection between human and nature. Where do these parallels and collisions of the ‘predator and prey’ dynamic cross the paths of co-existence?

About the speaker

Kate Pocklington is the Conservator at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) at the National University of Singapore. She studied fine art and graphic design, and later Conservation and Restoration at the University of Lincoln in the UK. She began working at LKCNHM in 2012 after her five-year ground work as natural history conservator in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Pocklington focuses her art and research on nature, culture, and societal change of the destructive human-nature parallels. This often creates a connection between her art and her career: preventing degradation, revitalising the past of science and nature, and looking behind and beyond. She is currently active in a collaboration between LKCNHM and NUS Museum with the prep-room project Buaya: The making of a non-myth held at NUS Museum.

Voyage to the Seven Isles (Tue, 5 September 2017)

ALL HANDS ON DECK!  LIFE VESTS ON!  WHY ARE YOU STILL SITTING THERE???!!!

Listen – in less than a fortnight some of us novice seafarers will be reliving our May 2017 STEER voyage on a sailing boat in and around the waters of Riau Islands and Sumatra, Indonesia.

We’ll be storming through our trip ONCE AGAIN with the company of some pictures, films, stories, and syairs from our seasick odyssey.

VOYAGE TO THE SEVEN ISLES

5 September 2017 @ 6:30pm 
Venue: AS1-02-09 (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, NUS)

Admission is free! All welcome!

The sea is calling! See you there!

The “STEER Sail Indonesia Voyage”  was organized by the NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies with support from FASS, IRO and PVO.

SEAS Alumnus Dr Kyle Latinis featured in The Straits Times, Thursday 3 August 2017

How S’pore team hit pay dirt in Angkor Wat, The Straits Times, Thursday 03 August 2017.

An archaeological field school from Singapore which set up a 12-day excavation at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat has helped unearth a rare, late 12th-century statue.

Buried in a pit about 40cm deep, the approximately 2m-tall sandstone statue, sculpted in the image of a guardian, was dug up last Saturday at the ancient Tonle Snguot hospital complex, just two days into a test excavation.

The find has been described by experts the world over as incredible and the most significant in recent years, since most of the site’s valuable items have been looted.

Speaking to The Straits Times, head of the field team, Dr Kyle Latinis from Singapore’s ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute’s Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre (NSC), said: “It is extremely rare to discover something so significant just days into our dig. We were lucky and in the right place. We also had a good sampling strategy.

“You do not expect to find statues with their heads intact at Angkor Wat because looters are rampant in these areas and most of the ancient Cambodian statues are held illegally in the hands of private collectors.”

The field school and excavation are funded by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) at the cost of about $70,000, said NSC head Dr Terence Chong.

This is the field school’s fifth session. It is a three-week archaeological research and training programme held in Cambodia and Singapore. The site was selected by NSC as well as researchers from the Apsara Authority – the Cambodian state agency charged with managing the Unesco World Heritage Site.

The Singapore team scoped the project and sampling area and directed the excavation effort. This was done in consultation with Apsara Authority, the host partner. The aim is to investigate ancient hospital activities, habitation and structures.

The programme is designed to emphasise the history of intra-Asian interactions over the past 2,000 years and to create a regional identity and a community of scholars from East Asia Summit countries.

There are 14 participants this year, four of whom are from Singapore. The others hail from countries such as the Philippines and Cambodia. They are students and young professionals.

While NSC set up the excavation, the statue was recovered by Cambodian archaeologists, among others. It has since been moved to a museum for protection.

Archaeology undergraduate Natalie Khoo, 22, said: “To witness the rituals conducted for removal of the statue and the opportunity to work on this historical hospital site is an exciting and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The statue likely was one of a pair and flanked a temple or shrine area that was part of the hospital complex, said Dr Latinis.

He added that the statue likely collapsed near the original spot it was erected in, along with the temple wall. “Although the statue is broken in a few places, it is near complete. It likely collapsed after the site was abandoned,” he said.

He added that the other two sections of the hospital complex were dedicated to physical treatment and a medicinal plant garden.

About 100 hospitals were built by the 12th-century King Jayavarman VII, who reigned from 1181 to 1218. He was known as the king who had launched the largest and the most construction projects.

The Tonle Snguot site had likely been inhabited by a community before it became a hospital. It is unclear how big the hospital complex was as of now, and more work needs to be done.

Dr Latinis said that a lot of ceramics, statues and structural remnants have been unearthed so far.

“A whole bunch of questions on the architectural history as well as technological information and industry of the time will be answered,” he added.

by Melody Zaccheus, Heritage and Community Correspondent

View the original article.

Celebration for Southeast Asian Studies Graduating Class of 2017

On 10 July 2017, the Department of Southeast Asian Studies hosts a graduation tea party to celebrate and recognize our graduate’s achievements and their transition to an important new phase of life. Members of the faculty and student got together at the AS8 Level 4 Foyer for an al fresco tea reception before their commencement ceremony the same evening.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017!!

Wang Gungwu Medal & Prize

The Department of Southeast Asian Studies is delighted to announce that Mr Goh Aik Sai has been awarded the Wang Gungwu Medal & Prize (AY2016-2017) for the Best Masters thesis in the Social Sciences/Humanities for his thesis entitled ‘Enlightenment on Display: The Rise and Fall of Singapore Buddhist Museums’. (Advisor: Professor John N Miksic.)

Congratulations to Goh Aik Sai!