Spaces of the Living: A Discussion on Bukit Brown

A Public Forum Presented by the Singapore Heritage Society and the NUS Southeast Asian Studies Society with support from the Asian Civilisations Museum

Date and Time: 19 November 2011, 5.00 – 7.30 pm
Venue: Ngee Ann Auditorium, Basement, Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place Singapore 179555

Chew Boon Lay, Gan Eng Seng, Cheang Hong Lim, and Teh Ho Swee – these are names of our roads and MRT stations. They invest these places – and our everyday life – with a deep historical meaning.

Our sense of who we are is continually tested by the tension between heritage and development. On 13 September, the Land Transport Authority announced that part of Bukit Brown Cemetery will be redeveloped to ease traffic congestion. This will affect 5,000 graves, both of well‐known pioneers mentioned above and unsung immigrants who began the task of building Singapore in the 19th century.

Bukit Brown highlights the genuine value of our shared history and its relevance to our future. The resting places of the dead underline our ties as members of a living community.

We invite concerned members of the public to a discussion of the past, present and future of Bukit Brown. A panel of experts will speak on the rich cultural heritage of Bukit Brown and the need to conserve it.


4.40 – 5.00 pm Registration
5.00 – 6.15 pm Discussion by Speakers:

  • Mr Raymond Goh, co‐founder of Asia Paranormal Investigators and heritage guide
  • Dr Irving Chan Johnson, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore (NUS), who launched an online petition for the conservation of Bukit Brown
  • Dr Hui Yew-Foong, Research Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, who led the documentation of Kwong Hou Sua Teochew Cemetery
  • Dr Ho Hua Chew, Exco member of Nature Society (Singapore), who has been at the forefront of conservation projects like Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the Green Corridor
  • Mr Chew Kheng Chuan, great‐grandson of Chew Boon Lay and co‐author of Chew Boon Lay: A Family Traces its History
  • Dr Lai Chee Kien (Chair), Department of Architecture, NUS

6.15 – 6.25 pm Round up by Chair
6.25 – 7.30 pm Q&A and Discussion

Please register your attendance at


Language of the Second Kind: Media and the Social Constitution of Language in Southeast Asia and Beyond – a seminar by Prof. Bernard Arps (Wed, 19 October 2011)

Speaker: Prof. Bernard Arps (Asia Research Institute, NUS & Leiden University, Netherlands)
Date: Wednesday, 19 October 2011
Time: 3:30pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

The claim I make in this presentation is that a distinct kind of language (conceived as a sociocultural formation) is born in the so‐called “situations of utterance” that are enabled by media technologies, productions, and institutions. I will try to show this initially with reference to Osing, spoken in the far eastern corner of Java. Around 1970 a campaign began for recognition of Osing—then considered a rustic patois of Javanese—as the Regional Language of the Regency of Banyuwangi. Radio, print media, public signage, the recording industry, even sound amplification were central to this campaign.

The language‐making process emerged in a particular political and technological constellation, that of the New Order era in Indonesia, with its heritage of Dutch colonial structures and ideas, its economic developmentalism, its growing dominance of Islam, its uneasy multiculturalism and fervent nationalism, its cultural exceptionalism—to mention a few of the factors that influence the state of language in Indonesia. To what extent, then, is what has happened to Osing unique, to what extent is it shared in
Indonesia and beyond?

To answer this question, I will try to demonstrate that media‐related language change in Osing presents inflections of phenomena that are also occurring elsewhere too: in Indonesia, to be sure, but also in languages with geopolitically different statuses. I focus particularly on Lao, which is structurally all but identical to Isan (spoken in northeastern Thailand), and also spoken by first‐ and some second-generation Laotians in diasporic communities in the USA, Canada, Australia, and France.

About the speaker
Bernard Arps is Professor of Indonesian and Javanese Language and Culture at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and currently a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute. His greatest intellectual curiosity concerns social and political processes in which language plays a formative role. In his teaching and research so far he has focused on four fields of this kind: religion, promotion and propaganda, cultural policy, and language itself, in all cases devoting special attention to mediation and performance. Prof. Arps is currently working at the intersection of narrative and religion. His lecture is based on an earlier research project.

Silence of the Wolf: The Perpetrators of the 1976 Massacre in Bangkok, 30 Years Afterward – a seminar by Prof. Thongchai Winichakul (Wed, 12 October 2011)

Speaker: Prof. Thongchai Winichakul (Asia Research Institute, NUS & University of Wisconsin‐Madison, USA)
Date: Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Time: 3:30pm – 5:00pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Thirty years after the massacre in Bangkok on 6 October 1976, the perpetrators who were jubilant after the carnage have now gone silent. The talk explains the reasons for their silence, plus intriguing stories from encounters with former enemies: a possible murderer who forgot his past, the betrayed and disillusioned militia, and a royalist demagogue who stood by what he did.

About the speaker
Thongchai Winichakul is currently a Professor in the Department of History, University of Wisconsin‐Madison, USA, teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses. He obtained his PhD in History from the University of Sydney and was a lecturer at Thammasat University, Bangkok from 1988 to 1991. His research interests are in cultural and intellectual history of early modern and modern Thailand and
Southeast Asia (the nineteenth century to early twentieth century), especially the encounters between Southeast Asian societies and the West. Prof Winichakul’s other subject interests include nationalism, historical geography and cartography, and how societies deal with their troubling past and the transnational flows of knowledge.

Travel Genre and Ecology: Writing the Green Back into Place – a seminar by Dinah Roma Sianturi (Wed, 5 October 2011)

Speaker: Dinah Roma Sianturi (Asia Research Institute, NUS & De La Salle University, Philippines)
Date: Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Time: 3:30pm – 5:00pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Debates in recent travel theory have probed whether the travel genre can transcend its imperial origins. Long used to build knowledge on new geographies, the travel genre was potent in circulating images that constructed an “other” of peoples, places, and cultures. Yet with new research frontiers on environmental ills calling for interdisciplinarity, the travel writing’s resilience to cut across genres and disciplines, and its focus on “place” have been viewed to underlie its potency to be of service to
ecology. Still questions arise: can travel writing, implicated in an intricate and ever expanding profitoriented travel and tourism industry, be environmentally‐responsive? Can it reach discursive maturity despite its being argued as predicated on “difference”? In what form(s) will this maturity manifest? On a larger scale, the controversy revisits an age‐old divide between the arts and sciences. Can they ever achieve consilience? Can it effect change? Looking into the representations of sacred sites in Southeast
Asia, Dinah Roma Sianturi explores the critical relation of ecology, travel, and how sacred sites—as embodiments of awe, mystery, and pilgrimage/journey—may be the quintessential locus where human transactions toward environment converge.

About the speaker
Dinah Roma Sianturi is a poet, researcher and Associate Professor of Literature at the De La Salle University, Manila while affiliated with the NUS Asia Research Institute (Cultural Studies Cluster). While at ARI, she will complete a manuscript on American women’s travel writings on the Philippines from 1900 to 1930s tentatively titled “On the Heels of Glory”. She has recently started another project that extends her interest in contemporary travel theory—particularly, on the relations of ecology, travel, and
representations of sacred sites in Southeast Asia.

How India Became Territorial. International Recognition and Its Political Implications. – a seminar by Assoc Prof Itty Abraham (Mon, 23 May 2011)

Speaker: Assoc Prof Itty Abraham (University of Texas at Austin)
Date: Monday, 23 May 2011
Time: 2:30pm – 4:00pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

This paper explores the structural contradictions of Indian foreign policy at the moment of independence. Although Indians constituted a nation spread all over the globe and India was a contested and fragmented political space, the independent country chose to adopt the model of the territorial nation‐state, as did other Asian postcolonial countries. The adoption of territoriality is explained by the imperative of international recognition, drawing on Frantz Fanon’s discussion of master‐slave relations in colonial societies. The political implications of territoriality include an explanation of the ‘two faces’ of Indian foreign policy, why Pakistan will always be a problem, why the diaspora had to be jettisoned, and the formation of a two‐tier model of citizenship.

About the speaker
Itty Abraham is Associate Professor of Government and Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and former director of the UT South Asia Institute. He has held appointments at the East‐West Center Washington, George Washington University, and, Stanford University. He was program director for South Asia, Southeast Asia, and, Global Security and Cooperation at the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) from 1992‐2005. His areas of expertise include international relations, and, science and technology studies. He is the author of The Making of the Indian Atomic Bomb: Science, Secrecy and the Postcolonial State, editor of the South Asian Cultures of the Bomb: Atomic Publics and the State in India and Pakistan, co‐editor of Illicit Flows and Criminal Things: States, Borders and the other side of Globalization, and, Political Violence in South and Southeast Asia, as well as numerous scholarly articles, book chapters, and, research reports.

“Champion of Justice”: How “Asian” Heroes Saved Japanese Imperialism – a seminar by Assoc Prof Leo Ching (Wed, 20 April 2011)

Speaker: Assoc Prof Leo Ching (Dept. of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University, USA)
Date: Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Time: 3:30pm – 5:00pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Through the analysis of postwar Japanese popular culture, especially those of children’s culture with its heroes and adventures, I argue that postwar Japan maintained a remarkable continuity between the prewar and the postwar in its orientalizing and imperializing of Southeast Asia. Looking specifically at the genre of early “TV movies”, I suggest that postwar Japan and the familiar figures of “Asian” heroes redefined the notion of “justice” that enabled Japan to enjoy the trauma of its imperialist endeavors in Southeast Asia and reconceptualize its new positionality within a U.S.‐dominated postwar postcolonial Asia.

About the speaker
Leo Ching is Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University, USA. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. He is the author of Becoming “Japanese”: Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation (University of California Press, 2001; Chinese and Japanese translations are available from Maitian chuban and Blues Interactions). His writings have appeared in Public Culture, boundary 2, positions: an east asian cultural critique, and several other edited volumes. He is currently completing a book manuscript on anti‐Japanism in postwar postcolonial Asia.

SE6770 Graduate Research Seminar (AY2010/2011)


  • Arunima Datta (PhD Candidate, Southeast Asian Studies Programme)
  • Chung Ye Sun (PhD Candidate, Southeast Asian Studies Programme)
  • Lina Puryanti (PhD Candidate, Southeast Asian Studies Programme)
  • Kanami Namiki (PhD Candidate, Southeast Asian Studies Programme)
  • Hong Sek Chern (PhD Candidate, Southeast Asian Studies Programme)

Date: Wednesday, 13 April 2011
Time: 2:00pm – 4:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

This module, a Faculty requirement since 2004, 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

Seminar Topics

Arunima Datta
Muted Struggle of ‘Sucked Oranges’: the life of the Indian women coolies on Malay plantations

Chung Ye Sun
Transnational Islam in Global Context: Indonesian Muslim Migrant Workers in South Korea

Lina Puryanti
Formation of (Indonesian) National Identity in a Borderland: A Case Study of the Indonesia‐Malaysia Frontier in Sebatik Island

Kanami Namiki
Singkil: Maranao Dance in (Con)fusion of National and Local

Hong Sek Chern
“Motification”: Constructing Southeast Asia by Design

Regulated Sexualities: ‘Unnatural’ Encounters with the Law – a seminar by Tan Beng Hui (Wed, 16 March 2011)

Speaker: Ms Tan Beng Hui (PhD Candidate, Southeast Asian Studies Programme, NUS)
Date: Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Time: 3:30pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Since the mid‐1990s, official discourses on sexual morality in Malaysia have given a distinct impression that deviations from heteronormativity are strictly regarded as unacceptable. Both civil and Syariah legal provisions confirm the state’s intolerance towards those who do not comply, prescribing a range of penalties for behaviours and appearances that are viewed as ‘unnatural’ or ‘indecent’. But while the state appears intent on imposing a narrow definition of sexuality, what is the impact of these laws on
those who are seemingly targeted for regulation? Exactly how important is the project of sexual control to the state? More specifically, how critical is the reigning in of those with dissident sexualities?

This paper will show that rather than resembling a well thought‐out plan of control, the instances in which the state has flexed its muscles on those it perceives as sexual deviants (i.e. gay men, lesbian women and transsexuals) reveal a pattern that is selective and haphazard. Determined by a range of factors that are examined here, such encounters are shown to be more frequent and painful for some
but not for others. Also, even though far more heterosexual transgressions have landed up in the Syariah court, the stigmatisation and demonisation of sexual marginals means that those who have been violated rarely have recourse to justice. Significantly, the paper examines the curious proposal by the Federal government to set up a new Department of Syariah Enforcement and Prosecution—curious
because the enforcement of religious laws has never been viewed as sufficiently important to command the resources required to match the official rhetoric of promoting ‘good’ morality.

About the speaker
Tan Beng Hui is a PhD candidate at the Southeast Asian Studies Programme, National University of Singapore. This paper is part of her thesis about the intensification of efforts to instil ‘good’ morality among sexual marginals in Malaysia from the mid‐1990s onwards.