Understanding the City Production from Inside: A View from Hồ Chí Minh City’s Alleyways Neighbourhoods – a seminar by Dr Marie Gibert (Wed, 11 November 2015)

Speaker: Dr Marie Gibert (Asia Research Institute, NUS)
Date: Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
Pursuing the “art of being global” (Roy and Ong, 2011), Hồ Chí Minh City falls more and more within what can be called an “urbanism of projects”, leading to a rupture with its historic organic urban growth. Once low, dense and organic, the Southern Vietnamese metropolis engaged into a steady pace verticalization process in a functionalist perspective, especially in new urbanized areas flourishing at their edges (Khu đô thị mới). But beyond new iconic urban projects and glittering business districts, the everyday nature of the city production still takes place in the interiority of its specific urban pattern, namely in the back-alley neighbourhoods. These ancient neighbourhoods are characterized by the “smallness” of their plots division and urban forms, and by the very high density of population they foster.

Thus, the goal of the talk is to analyze how the metropolization process affects the inherited urban patterns and the daily life of ordinary residents in Hồ Chí Minh City today. Reading the contemporary production of urban space through this lens provide insights not only on the evolution of an inherited spatial apparatus, but also on the social and political dimensions of the Vietnamese urbanity today.

About the speaker
Marie Gibert received her Ph.D. in urban geography from the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in June 2014. She is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Asia Research Institute (ARI, National University of Singapore) in the Asian Urbanisms Cluster. Her research deals with the dynamics of public and private spaces in the development of Asian cities today, as well as place-making and expressions of the collective realm. She has been conducting fieldwork in Ho Chi Minh City for more than six years, during which time she regularly taught urban planning at the University of Architecture and Urban Planning. Her Ph.d. proposed a transdisciplinary and in-depth ethnographic study of the alleyways network (hẻm) in the urban districts of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Considering the figure of the alleyway both as an urban form and vibrant public space, her work is at the crossroad between urban planning, architecture and social issues.

Absent maps, marine science, and the re-imagination of the South China Sea 1922-1939 – a seminar by Dr Gerard Sasges (Wed, 21 October 2015)

Speaker: Dr Gerard Sasges (Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)
Date: Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
Today, seven nations have maritime or island claims in the disputed South China Sea. This presentation historicizes the claims of one of the dispute’s participants, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It argues that cartographic representations of its territory have their origin in the period of French rule, and locates a key moment in the formation of an Indochinese –and later Vietnamese –space encompassing the South China Sea in a series of four maps that represented research carried out by the colonial Institute of Oceanography. By recreating the biographies of these maps, the presentation reveals their origin in a contingent interplay of multiple factors including global scientific networks, economic development, imperial defense, and personal research agendas. The presentation suggests that attention to the biographies of maps could be an effective means of deconstructing and denaturalizing many of the territorial claims that drive the dispute in the South China Sea today.

About the speaker
Gerard Sasges joined the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at NUS in 2012. He completed a Ph.D. in the Department of History at the University of California at Berkeley in 2006. From 2002 to 2011, he directed the University of California’s Education Abroad Program in Hanoi, Vietnam. His work uses the concept of development to explore the intersection of science and technology, economics, society, politics, and culture in colonial and post-colonial Vietnam. He is the author of the collected volume, It’s a living (NUS Press, 2013) and his articles have appeared in the Journal of Vietnamese Studies, South East Asia Research, the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, and Modern Asian Studies.

Towards a Re-Traditionalization of Security in Southeast Asia – a seminar by Dr Alfred Gerstl (Wed, 30 September 2015)

Speaker: Dr Alfred Gerstl (Department of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna)
Date: Wednesday, 30 September 2015
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
The Asian Financial Crisis of 1997/98 and the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 have demonstrated that non-traditional, i.e. non-military, threats can endanger the citizens more than the governments. Consequently, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has further deepened its notion of security, as it implicitly addressed human security in the ASEAN Charter of 2008.

The main argument of this presentation, though, is that despite a stronger emphasis on non-traditional and even human security in official ASEAN documents, the Southeast Asian governments still primarily view security from a state-and regime-centric perspective. Accordingly, strengthening the political and individual rights dimension of human security could undermine regime security. The underlying reason for this notion of security is that the governments interpret sovereignty, similar to territoriality, in a strict Westphalian-sense. Another strong catalyst for the re-traditionalization of security is China´s rise. Beijing´s increased military power raises fears in East Asia, in particular among the South China Sea claimant nations.

About the speaker
Dr Alfred Gerstl, MIR is an Austrian political scientist, specialized on International Relations in the Asia-Pacific. He is a postdoc researcher at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna. He has taught International Relations and Political Sciences at the Departments of Politics in International Development at University of Vienna from 2001 on. From 2007-2009, he lectured International Security Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney. His research interests combine regional cooperation and the changing notion of security from traditional to human security in East Asia, ASEAN’s integration process, political and economic systems in Southeast Asia, regional and global effects of China’s rise and Australian politics. He can be reached at alfred.gerstl@univie.ac.at.

The Bugis and Their Keris: History, Culture & Society – a joint seminar by NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies, The Bugis Makassar Polo Bessi Club & The Embassy of The Republic of Indonesia in Singapore (Wed, 2 September 2015)

Date: Wednesday, 2 September 2015
Time: 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
The Bugis are a historically significant people in Southeast Asia and their political, economic and military activities since the 18th century have left an indelible mark on the region’s cultural landscape. This seminar will focus primarily on two dimensions of Bugis culture; the community’s historical significance in early Singapore and the fascinating world of Bugis weapons. Papers will include discussions on the art and significance of keris making in Bugis society as well as issues pertinent in the preservation of Bugis traditional culture in modern Indonesia.

Introduction to Bugis and Singapore Historical Connections in the 19th Century
Speaker: Dr. Mohamed Effendy (Lecturer, NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies)

Government Participation in the Preservation of Bugis Cultural Heritage
Speaker: Mr. Syahrul Yasin Limpo (Governer of Southern Sulawesi)

The Art of Keris Making
Speaker: Mr. Andi Mohammad Irvan Zulfikar (Supervisory Chairman, Bugis Makassar Polo Bessi Club)

The Pamor and Spiritual Meanings
Speaker: Dr. Ahmad Ubbe (Researcher on history and culture of the Bugis)

Question & Answer

Bugis_Keris_Seminar

(Cancelled) Loyal Colonial Subjects? Dayak responses to the Japanese During WW2 in Borneo – a seminar by Dr Christine Helliwell (Wed, 22 April 2015)

Updated: 13 April 2015

We regret to announce that this seminar has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Speaker: Dr Christine Helliwell (College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU)
Date: Wednesday, 22 April 2015
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
During WW2 in Borneo many more Dayak (indigenous non-Muslim) groups from throughout the island appear to have sided with the Allies than the Japanese, especially towards the end of the war. Many of the memoirs written by Europeans about the war take for granted the obvious moral superiority of the Allies and their cause vis-à-vis the Japanese, and so find this unsurprising; in addition, the image of the Dayak as loyal colonial subject who ‘hated’ the Japanese pervades – albeit often implicity – much of this literature.  Yet this stereotype overlooks the complex and ambivalent responses that many Dayaks had to both their former colonial masters and the Japanese.  In this paper I explore perceptions of the Japanese occupiers in one Dayak community in southwest Borneo. In this region, while Japanese soldiers were feared and ridiculed, they were also admired and emulated.  Support for the Allies rather than the Japanese can only be understood in terms of how each of these groups was accommodated within local models of relatedness and otherness.

About the speaker
Christine Helliwell is Reader in Anthropology at the Australian National University in Canberra. She has published widely in the area of social/cultural and feminist theory; much of her work is concerned with the inappropriateness of western analytic categories for the study of non-western peoples. She has carried out extensive ethnographic research in Indonesian Borneo; her ethnography of Gerai, ‘Never Stand Alone’: A Study of Borneo Sociality, appeared in 2001. Apart from her work (some with Barry Hindess) on the use of time in academic discourses of otherness, she is currently researching Dayak representations of World War 2, focusing particularly on representations of Allied and Japanese soldiers.

Trashing the Region: Exploitation Films and the Imagination of Southeast Asia – a seminar by Dr Yew Kong Leong (Wed, 11 March 2015)

Speaker: Dr Yew Kong Leong (University Scholars Programme, NUS)
Date: Wednesday, 11 March 2015
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
Secret agents, commandos, prison women, mad scientists, mutant creatures, cyborgs, and overweight clairvoyants: these and many more sensational and flamboyant characters set against the oftentimes anonymized landscapes of Southeast Asia have been the mainstay of the many English language exploitation films produced in the Philippines or by Filipino directors. This occurrence is highly interesting because it represents a convergence of a cinematic form that has its putative origins and largest audience in the West with Asian (or Asianized) industrial aspects and content material. At a glance, such films provide a wealth of cultural material in linking the power relations between dominant/hegemonic genres, forms, viewers, film capitalists and their marginal counterparts. More critically they also are excellent sites to survey the unconscious and postcolonial anxieties that are encoded in the films.

However, the Southeast Asian exploitation cinema still remains largely under-theorized. Before the mid-1990s, exploitation films—from a broader global perspective—were commonly regarded as “cinema detritus”, “trash” or “cult” films, and therefore not received as much scholarly attention as the art film or national cinema, or even the more mainstream blockbusters emerging from Hollywood. While exploitation cinema has since become a more popular object of study, especially from within cultural studies and a film studies academy influenced by critical social theory, the emphasis is still largely on Western targeted films and audiences.

In this talk, I aim to bring some of these Filipino films back into the context of Southeast Asia, and to suggest some possibilities in coming to terms with the eclecticism and apparent lack of coherence and consistency that characterize exploitation films. In particular, I look at filmmakers like Eddie Romero, Gerardo de Leon, and Bobby Suarez as self-confessed profiteers whose works, vacillating between Tagalog art films and cheap made-for-America exploitation films and between different channels of international collaboration, could be critically read as manifestations of postcolonial liminality. In some respects, these films exhibit the mimicry that emerges from colonial subjectivity or the dictates of film capitalism, but in other instances they imbibe the processes of appropriation, localization, and indigenization. In doing so I hope to address underlying tensions of visualizing and conceptualizing the counterpoising positions between Southeast Asia and its other.

About the speaker
Yew Kong Leong is an Assistant Professor in the University Scholars Programme, National University of Singapore where he teaches writing and critical thinking. His research interests include the cultural and social processes that constitute knowledge of Asia, and broadly critical theory and cultural studies.  He is the author of The Disjunctive Empire of International Relations (2003) and Asianism and the Politics of Regional Consciousness in Singapore (2014), and editor of Alterities in Asia (2011).

The Erotics of National Belonging: Fantasies of Race and Place in My South Seas Sleeping Beauty – a seminar by Dr Fiona Lee (Wed, 4 February 2015)

Speaker: Dr Fiona Lee (Asia Research Institute, NUS)
Date: Wednesday, 4 February 2015
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
This talk explores the notion of home embedded in minoritized cultural identity formation in Valerie Jaffee’s translation of the Sinophone Malaysian novel, My South Seas Sleeping Beauty, by Zhang Guixing. Set in postcolonial Sarawak, the novel depicts the existential rootlessness of the ethnic Chinese minority and their relationship with the native Dayaks. The longing for home is figured as erotic desire, with the sexual relations between the Chinese and Dayaks ambivalently construed as being transgressive, even deadly, on the one hand and as giving rise to a utopian sense of family on the other. The erotic desire that motivates the fantastical constructions of race and place, I argue, ought to be understood as the drive to translate, what the psychoanalyst thinker Jean Laplanche identifies as fundamental to the subject formation process. Reflecting on what it means to read the text both in and as translation, I suggest that the novel’s articulation of minoritized cultural identity posits the erotic as a crucial site through which to imagine an ethical framework for relating across difference in postcolonial contexts.

About the speaker
Fiona Lee is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Cultural Studies cluster at the Asia Research Institute, NUS. She earned her PhD in English and Certificate in Women’s Studies at The Graduate Center, City University of New York in 2014. Her current research examines the recurrent feature of translation in literary, cinematic and visual media that deals with national history and identity in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.