Living amidst explosive remnants of war: Local perceptions and responses to risk in Cambodia and Laos – a seminar by Dr Krisna UK (Wed, 25 September 2013)

Speaker: Dr Krisna UK (Director, Center for Khmer Studies)
Date: Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)
Chairperson & Discussant: Assoc Prof John N. Miksic

In many ethnic minority villages in Cambodia and Laos, which have once been the theatre of violent conflicts, villagers living along the Ho Chi Minh trail have adjusted to the impacts of thirty years of conflicts that have destroyed their man-made and natural environment. In the course of the Americans’ intense bombardment of the region from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, more than three million tons of bombs were dropped on both Cambodia and Lao PDR, which have killed and endangered the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Consequently rural families have had to resume their lives in an environment littered with bombs and cluster ammunitions. However since the end of the conflicts these weapons have also offered local communities a new means of sustaining themselves.

In studying the local knowledge, understanding and attitudes towards risk, this presentation investigates how local creative strategies are at work in domesticating a hostile physical environment. As they are transformed into commodities, alternative forms of currency or objects used in rituals, people attribute new meanings to leftover armaments and continually create new beliefs from their encounter with the dangerous ‘objects’.

About the speaker
Dr. Krisna UK, Director of the Center for Khmer Studies, is a distinguished international scholar, who did her PhD in Social Anthropology at Cambridge University and holds Masters degrees from the University of Oxford and the University of Paris-Sorbonne. Her previous scholarly work has focused on comparative literature and environmental sciences. Her dissertation in social anthropology was on the Cambodian minority Jarai people. Her experience in NGO management includes five years with the Cambodia Trust as well as five years of development work in humanitarian demining, which includes research on the impact of landmine contamination on Southeast Asian communities living in high risk areas.

The “Position” of the Tsinoys in Philippine Society Today: History, Challenges, Future – a seminar by Assoc Prof Richard T. Chu (Wed, 21 August 2013)

Speaker: Assoc Prof Richard T. Chu (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Date: Wednesday, 21 August 2013
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

What does being “Chinese” mean in the Philippine urban society context and over time? How can a micro-historical ethnographic approach such as biographies to the study of ethnic identities help us answer this question? Richard Chu’s lecture focuses on the history of the Chinese in the Philippines and on his research on the Chinese merchant families and community in Manila from the late nineteenth century to the present. More specifically, his lecture examines the different historical factors, actors, and events that constantly shape and reshape what it means to be “Chinese” in the Philippines.

About the speaker
RICHARD T. CHU (A.B. Ateneo de Manila University; M.A. Stanford University; Ph.D. University of Southern California) is Five-College Associate Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His research focuses on the history of the Chinese and Chinese mestizos in the Philippines, centering on issues of ethnicity, gender, and nationalism. His first monograph The Chinese and Chinese Mestizos of Manila: Family, Identity, and Culture 1860s-1930s (E.J. Brill, 2010) examines and analyzes the familial and business practices of Chinese merchant families as they negotiated the attempts of colonial governments to control them. He is currently working on his second major book project that analyses the different newspaper articles and other textual materials that deal with the “Chinaman” question in the Philippines during the American colonial period.

He teaches courses on the Chinese diaspora, Philippines, U.S. empire in the Pacific, and Asian/Pacific/America.

SE6770 & Annual Graduate Seminar 2013


  • Yoshihide Sugimoto (MA Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)
  • Rachel Elizabeth Hand (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)
  • Mary Grace R. Concepcion (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)
  • Kyaw Minn Htin (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)
  • Arunima Datta (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS
  • Budi Irawanto (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS
  • Somrak Chaisingkananont (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS
  • Xin Guangcan (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS
  • Kanami Namiki (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS
  • Chung Ye Sun (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS
  • Natalie Ong Sze Yuen (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)
  • Nguyen Quang Dung (PhD Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)

Date: Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Time: 10:00am – 3:40pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

SE6770 is a Faculty requirement since 2004. The module is intended to encourage scholarly interactions  among the graduate research students. Under a lecturer’s guidance, the students  have engaged with each other during the past months, and now share their thoughts  with the wider community. They hope to attract comments and suggestions for the  further development of their thesis projects. This year’s SE6770 seminar is combined with the department’s annual graduate seminar where all graduate research students at the department share the progress of their thesis.

Seminar Topics

Part One
Chairperson – Assoc Prof Itty Abraham

Yoshihide Sugimoto
The IMS Growth Triangle and Its Impact on the Ferry Transportation in Riau Islands

Rachel Elizabeth Hand
Performing for Generations: Knowledge Acquisition and the Family in Traditional Javanese Performing Arts

Mary Grace R. Concepcion
Memories of Military Rule: A Study of Selected Philippine Martial Law Autobiographies

Kyaw Minn Htin
The Rohingyas of North-west Arakan: Quest for Ethnic Identity and the Roots of Communal Conflict in Western Myanmar

Part Two:
Chairperson – Assoc Prof Jan Mrazek

Arunima Datta
Passion Ties: Agency of Tamil “Coolie” Women on Malayan Rubber Plantations

Budi Irawanto
The Revolution is Being Shot on Digital Camera: The Changing Film Landscape in Indonesia and Malaysia

Somrak Chaisingkananont
Cultural Politics of Promoting Zhuang Identity in the State-sponsored Buluotuo Cultural Festival

Xin Guangcan
Entrepot and End User of Chinese Ceramics in Southeast Asia – A Comparative Study between Singapore and Trowulan of the 14th Century

Kanami Namiki
Contested “Maranao-ness”: Muslim Filipinos Dancing between National, Cultural and Religious Identities

Chung Ye Sun
Transplanted Islam by Indonesian migrant workers in South Korea

Natalie Ong Sze Yuen
Personal Ornamentation and Social Hierarchy: The Narrative Reliefs of Borobudur and Loro Jonggrang, Central Java, 8th-9th C.E.

Nguyen Quang Dung
Double Ethnic Identity as an impact of Language education towards the Ethnic minorities: Case Study of the Lahu, Tak Province, Thailand

Singapore and Section 377A – a seminar by Dr George Radics (Wed, 17 April 2013)

Speaker: Dr George Radics (Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
3:00pm – 4:30pm
AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Last month, the High Court of Singapore heard two cases regarding the constitutionality of Section 377A. Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code, a remnant of British colonial rule, criminalizes sex between mutually consenting adult men. It was a derivative of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860, and can be found in most of Britain’s former colonies. Of Britain’s former colonies, Hong Kong repealed its anti-sodomy laws in 1991, Australia in 1997, and India in 2009.

This presentation analyzes the history and procedure of both cases currently on appeal at the High Court of Singapore and the politics associated with having two similar cases on appeal.

About the speaker
Dr. George Radics received his PhD from the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore. His graduate work focused on the war in Mindanao and the impact of U.S. colonial influence upon the Philippines. After receiving his PhD, Dr. Radics studied law at the University of Washington, where he obtained his law degree with a concentration in Asian law. Dr. Radics served as a research attorney at the Supreme Court of Guam for two years after graduating from law school. His interests are law and development, sociology of the law, sociology of emotions, postcolonial studies and Southeast Asia.

A View of History, State and Society from the Margins – a seminar by Dr Vatthana Pholsena (Wed, 14 March 2013)

Speaker: Dr Vatthana Pholsena (Research Fellow, IRASEC)
Thursday, 14 March 2013
2:00pm – 4:00pm
AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

This presentation focuses on the district of Sepon in central-southern Laos adjacent to the Vietnamese border. I will be looking at the social and political trajectories of this borderland area’s populations – the Phuthai and the Bru – from colonial times to the post-war era. I will argue that variations in their trajectories provide insights into the larger social and political transformations that underlie the historical and social processes of ‘naturalizing’ power relations and forms of rule, and also shed light on the limits of these processes that generate the phenomenon we call ‘the state’.

About the speaker
Dr. Vatthana Pholsena graduated from the Institut d’études Politiques (School of Political Studies) in Grenoble in south-eastern France in 1997, before moving to the U.K. to pursue her Ph.D. at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Hull. She is currently a Research Fellow at the Bangkok-based IRASEC (Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia, jointly funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the CNRS) and a visiting affiliate at the Department of Southeast Asian Studies. Her research interests include the process of state formation in borderlands, the biographical approach to social change and identity formation, and the interaction between the past and personal and collective memories.

Sexuality and Public Culture in Post-Renovation Vietnam – a seminar by Dr Richard Tran (Wed, 13 March 2013)

Speaker: Dr Richard Tran (Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
4:00pm – 5:30pm
AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Queer studies scholars have long held a suspicion towards “coming out” narratives. Insofar as these narratives disclose the most seemingly private details about one’s identity, they are not unlike the religious confessions that these scholars have associated with pastoral power. In revealing the “truth” of one’s sex, these narratives unwittingly accept power-laden assumptions about the self and society, the public and private and, above all, the limits and possibilities of gender and sexual personhood. This suspicion, however, arises out of theorizing about sexual identities in the Western context. This presentation focuses on sex-advice columns published in the public media during Post-Renovation period in Vietnam (1989 and onward) to demonstrate the historical and cultural processes by which global discourses of queer sexuality are translated in the local culture. I suggest that these public columns subvert the prior power divisions in serving as an outlet for intimate disclosure and “coming out” where other conventional locales like the home would be impossible. By attending to the rhetorics of intimacy, the vocabulary and contexts of these disclosures, I propose that a different kind of power dynamic is transpiring, one that opens up spaces of possibility in Vietnam’s public culture in the 1990s.

About the speaker
Dr. Richard Tran received his PhD in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley where he worked on the cultural history of gender in colonial and contemporary Vietnam. Prior to Singapore, he was a visiting scholar at Berkeley’s Program in Critical Theory. His research interrogates the changing relationship between gender “difference” and the formation of socio-historical norms. He draws on interdisciplinary methods and firmly believes that an array of critical tools is vital to understanding the complex object that is “gender” in Southeast Asia. He is the winner of numerous awards and prizes, including the Fulbright and Jacob K. Javits fellowships. His interests encompass the history and theory of gender, theories of race and ethnicity, rhetoric and hermeneutics, critical theory, queer studies, the cultural, social and political history of Indochina and Vietnam.

Buying Time: Ideology, Temporality, and the Tactics of Resisting Eviction in a Bangkok Community – a seminar by Prof Michael Herzfeld (Wed, 23 Jan 2013)

Speaker: Prof Michael Herzfeld (Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University)
Date: Wednesday, 23 January 2013
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Drawing on ten years of fieldwork and repeated visits to the central Bangkok community of Pom Mahakan in the conservation-dominated Rattanakosin Island area, the speaker will ask how and why the residents have succeeded against all odds at remaining on their site for two decades, and what this might imply for community self-sufficiency in Thailand and elsewhere in the years ahead. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which the community leadership uses legal, economic, and social aspects of time to maintain a precarious but precious status quo.

About the speaker
Michael Herzfeld is Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. He served as editor of American Ethnologist during 1994-98. A recipient of the J.I. Staley Prize of the School of American Research on 1994 (for Anthropology through the Looking-Glass, 1987) and of the Rivers Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (London) in the same year, he received an honorary doctorate from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2005. He has conducted research in Greece, Italy, and Thailand on topics that include the social impact and political implications of historic conservation and gentrification, the social dynamics of nationalism and bureaucracy, and the ethnography of knowledge among artisans and intellectuals. Among his ten books are A Place in History: Social and Monumental Time in a Cretan Town (1991), The Body Impolitic: Artisans and Artifice in the Global Hierarchy of Value (2004), and Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome (2009). He also filmed and produced Monti Moments: Men’s Memories in the Heart of Rome (2007).