Graduate Students’ Teaching Award for Semester 1, 2016-2017

The Department of Southeast Asian Studies is delighted to announce that three of our graduate tutors have been awarded the Graduate Student’s Teaching Award in recognition of their excellent teaching in Semester 1, 2016-2017.

Congratulations to the following graduate tutors:

Mr Thow Xin Wei (MA Candidate)

Mr Simon Christian Rowedder (PhD Candidate)

Mr Tan Zi Hao (PhD Candidate)



Urban Heritage on Jakarta’s Riverine Communities – A Seminar by Dr Rita Padawangi (Wed, 5 April 2017)

Speaker: Dr Rita Padawangi (Senior Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute)
Date: Wednesday, 5 April 2017
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)


Riverine settlements are commonly found in cities of Southeast Asian and has experienced transformation along with urban developments. Many cities are located along rivers and water bodies because of the importance of water as sources of livelihoods, trade paths, social spaces, and providers of environmental resources. Given the importance of rivers in the history of cities up to the present time, how are riverine communities located in the urban heritage discourse? In this presentation, I rely on data from ethnographic interviews, field observations and subsequent discussions with residents of old riverine settlements in Jakarta to examine how the meanings of the place relate with perceived historical significance and the impacts of urban development. Building-focused official heritage discourse in the city has long emphasized remnants of colonial influence, and heritage preservation is geared towards making economic gains through renovations as efforts to reconcile development and old building structures. In the meantime, rapid development of cities during post-colonial growth of the economy has transformed social, cultural and political relationships between urban life and rivers. Deteriorated urban rivers with high levels of pollution and dense settlements along the banks with poor infrastructure services have become typical challenges in the 1980s, and in many cases these challenges continue until the present time. Regardless of historical significance, riverine settlements are rarely acknowledged as heritage and are therefore more likely to be displaced rather than preserved. Displacement threats and uncertainties as normalcy in historical riverine communities represent contradictions within the official heritage discourse of the city.

About the speaker

Rita Padawangi is a Senior Research Fellow of the Asian Urbanisms Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Loyola University Chicago where she was a Fulbright Scholar for her M.A. studies. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Parahyangan Catholic University. Her research interests cover the sociology of architecture and participatory urban development. She is the Regional Coordinator of the Southeast Asia Neighborhood Network (SEANNET) program, funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. She is editor of “Cities by and for the People in Asia” (Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming, with Yves Cabannes and Mike Douglass) and “Routledge Handbook of Urbanization in Southeast Asia” (forthcoming). Her paper “Water, Water Everywhere: Toward Participatory Solutions to Chronic Urban Flooding in Jakarta” (authored with Mike Douglass, 2015) won the 14th William J. Holland Prize for Outstanding Paper in Pacific Affairs journal. She is working on her sole-authored book manuscript, titled “Place Power: Civil Societies, Public Spaces, and the Environment in Urban Indonesia.”

Sonic City: Making Rock Music and Urban Life in Singapore – a seminar by A/P Steve Ferzacca (Wed, 22 March 2017)

Speaker: Assoc Prof Steve Ferzacca (Visiting Associate Professor, Yale-NUS College)
Date: Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)


This talk examines the making of rock music in Singapore by a community of amateur and semi-professional musicians, their family, friends, and fans as simultaneously the making of urban life.  This sonic ethnography derived from 5 years of fieldwork with a group of aging Singapore rockers explores the implications of understanding social relations in the resonance and reverberations that musical activity produces. Following Steven Feld (2012), this talk illustrates “a way of knowing” and experiencing urban life through sound. From music shops located in the basements of shopping malls, to practice spaces and jam sessions, and onto live music venues and performance stages, making sound as a “way of knowing the world” deepens. For these aging rockers, once denigrated by the Singaporean regime as purveyors of “yellow culture,” and now celebrated as icons of heritage, making musical life in this sonic city articulates sound and place in shared experience and the creation of subjectivities deeply rooted in this crossroads of the world.

About the speaker

Steve Ferzacca received a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Anthropology in 1996. He is an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Presently, Steve is a Visiting Associate Professor and the Acting Head of Study for the Anthropology Program at Yale-NUS College. For most of his career, Steve’s research was in the field of medical anthropology, focusing attention on urban medicine and chronic disease in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. While appointed as a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute at NUS, he began ethnographic work in Singapore with a group of musicians. Steve’s work appears in Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies of Illness and Medicine, Ethos, Annual Review of Anthropology, Senses and Society, to list a few. His 2001 book, Healing the Modern in a Central Javanese City, is based on his work in Yogya. Steve served as editor of Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Illness and Medicine. He is currently working on a book manuscript, “Sonic City: Making Rock Music and Urban Life in Singapore” for NUS Press.

STEER Sail Indonesia

Join an amazing voyage on a classic sailing ship (like the one in attached picture) through the Riau Archipelago and along Sumatra’s coast, stopping at islands, exploring Indonesian multi-ethnic towns, water villages, ports, tiny fishing communities, a remote uninhabited isle, the Berbak National Park and tiger reserve on Sumatra, and the great Indragiri river. Visit markets, archaeological and cultural sites, and meet locals. On kayaks explore streams and lagoons. Learn about and feel the history, culture, nature, and economic situation of the region – and the many perspectives on its potential and its woes. Critically reflect on modernity and development, speed and slowness. Learn basic Indonesian. Learn about ships and get to know intimately the sea and its importance in this region, today and in centuries past. Experience how it feels to live with fellow sailors in the tiny floating world of the boat; and learn how to sail: work in a team hoisting sails, keeping watch, navigating, reading charts, taking the helm and steering the ship. We will have a captain, but you will be the crew!

Assoc Prof Jan Mrázek, the tour leader, writes and teaches about Indonesia, as well as travel and ships. He has traveled throughout Indonesia, when possible on ships and ferries, and sailed on a container ship from Europe to Singapore.

Open to all NUS students! We have places for only 12 students, so email us soon!
Dates: 13-26 May 2017
Cost: TBA, estimated between $1,200 and $1,600 after subsidy.

If you might be interested and/or have questions, please email Jan Mrázek at . No commitment necessary at this point – we just want to know about your possible interest, so that we can provide more information about cost and deadlines when it becomes available.

 This is a brand new STEER program, a pilot voyage. For info on STEER, see

Organised by the Department of Southeast Asian Studies and the International Relations Office, NUS.

Launch of “From the Ashes – Reviving Myanmar Celadon Ceramics”

The much awaited exhibition “From the Ashes: Reviving Myanmar Ceramics” was officially launched by Assoc Prof Itty Abraham with an opening speech at the NUS Museum on 8 February 2017 as part of the Department of Southeast Asian Studies Silver Jubilee celebrations.

The exhibition consists of about 100 objects, most of which were made at the Twante site approximately 35 kilometers west of Yangon. Many of the Twante items are believed to date from the fifteenth century, when production of ceramics there reached its apogee. From Myanmar, Twante ceramics were traded as far away as Japan, the Philippines, and Julfar on the Arabian Peninsula.

The exhibition catalogue includes a chapter entitled “Twante and the study of Southeast Asian glazed pottery” by Prof John Miksic of the Department of Southeast Asian Studies and a contribution by Southeast Asian Studies alumna Ms Foo Su Ling titled “Curatorial notes: Archaeology and Innovation”.

As part of the launch, Dr Myo Thant Tyn, a Myanmar chemist and head of the Myanmar Ceramic Society, was invited to share his attempts at reviving the ancient art of glazed pottery making. Dr Myo has been trying to revive the pottery-making industry in Twante to take advantage of the new market for old style pottery which is emerging due to a newly-expanded tourist market.

The exhibition will run from 9 February to 30 December 2017 at the NUS Museum Archaeology Library. Admission is free.

Sharing session by Dr Myo Thant Tyn.

New World War II tour will visit 11 S’pore sites

Thursday 2 February 2017, TODAY.

SINGAPORE — In a fast-paced age, it’s easy to lose sight of the past. This is perhaps particularly so in Singapore, with its gleaming buildings and constant search for progress.

But a tour will have visitors viewing familiar roads and places in a new light.

Titled The Last Days Of Empire: Japanese Advance Along Bukit Timah Road, 1942, this tour is organised by the National Heritage Board (NHB) to mark the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore. Although it was launched last year, it was then only available to students. It is the first time that the tour is open to the general public.

Participants can expect to travel “in a straight line” and walk among sites starting from the National University of Singapore University Cultural Centre to Ulu Pandan Road and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, said one of the tour guides, Dr Mohamed Effendy, who is a NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences faculty member.

At Bukit Batok Nature Park along Lorong Sesuai Road, participants will learn of how Japanese soldiers and civilians congregated for special events at Chureito shrine, which was destroyed after the Japanese occupation.

And at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, they’ll picture how a group of Chinese volunteers made their last stand, fighting and dying in the last phase of the battle for Singapore.

The tour, said Dr Effendy, “naturally flows to important battle sites crucial to Singapore history”.

Other sites include Ngee Ann Polytechnic, where Japanese soldiers travelled through on bicycles with wheels made from bamboo as they drew closer and closer to British lines. And it was at NUS University Town where Australian soldiers stood courageously as they faced their impending execution for their involvement with Operation Rimau.

There will be a total of 49 tour runs, featuring some 11 sites and structures in Singapore, including key military installations such as the Alexandra Barracks and Labrador Battery.

Besides these tours, NHB has also worked closely with community partners Museum Roundtable (MR) museums and heritage experts to launch a series of WWII Programmes. These include activities at MR museums such as HistoriaSG which will show rarely-seen Japanese wartime propaganda material, as well as public talks on topics related to the war.

The Last Days tour falls under the larger umbrella of the NHB’s Battle for Singapore 2017 event.

“The various tours and programmes of Battle for Singapore 2017, done in partnership with war veterans, heritage experts, and everyday Singaporeans, celebrates a spirit of togetherness, and the poignant stories of survival and courage,” said Director of the Museum Roundtable division at NHB, Angelita Teo.

These programmes are part of their effort to help Singaporeans understand the importance of resilience and unity that was displayed by our forefathers during the war years. “They are an invaluable part of our intangible heritage, and must be passed down through the generations,” she added.

Tour participants will also be given the chance to check out the Former Ford Factory at National Monument which has re-opened after a year-long-revamp. The new exhibition will feature archival materials and interactive experiences.

“You hear these records, you come to this places, and you visit the battle sites. It becomes an amazing thing to see the sacrifices that have been put in by all these people in defense of Singapore,” Dr Effendy said, adding that he hopes the programmes will inspire visitors to do their own research of the war.

Tours will run from Feb 16 to March 12. Sign-ups for the tours will begin on Feb 6. To make a booking, visit

By Sonia Yeo Sijia for TODAY, .

NHB organises walking tours to mark 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore

Thursday 2 February 2017, The Straits Times.

SINGAPORE – The National Heritage Board (NHB) is organising 11 walking tours around Singapore to mark the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore in 1942 during World War II.

One of the tours, named The Last Days Of Empire, takes participants to memorials from University Town, where the execution of 10 Rimau (“tiger” in Malay) Commandos took place, to the Former Ford Factory, which was an assembly plant of the Ford Motor Factory of Malaya and which became the site of  surrender of Singapore by the British forces to the Japanese army.

British Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival led the British forces to sign surrender documents at the Ford Motor Factory in Upper Bukit Timah Road on Feb 15, 1942, which marked the start of the Japanese Occupation in Singapore. The Japanese Occupation ended only on Sept 12, 1945.

The Operation Rimau was a daring raid undertaken by 23 British and Australian commandos in 1944.

Though many of the memorials are in plain sight, they remain poorly understood by people in Singapore.

Led by Dr Mohamed Effendy from NUS’ department of South-east Asian studies, the tour also takes participants to the strategic area of Bukit Timah which saw one of the fiercest fightings between Allied forces and the Japanese army. This site marks Lt-Gen Percival’s final defence of southern Singapore against the Japanese invaders which entered from the north on Feb 8, 1942.

From Feb 16 to March 12, 2017, members of the public can join in a series of  the guided tours, a public talk, and offerings at the various Museum Roundtable (MR) museums to learn more about the events leading up to the Fall of Singapore, as well as stories of the Japanese Occupation. These events have been organised by the NHB together with community partners, MR museums, and heritage experts.

By Raynold Toh for The Straits Times.

View the original article.