Honours Seminar, Semester 1 AY2016-2017

Chairperson: Assoc Prof Goh Beng Lan
Date: Wednesday, 19 October 2016
Time: 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)

 

Of Ports and Starboards: Rethinking Women’s Integration in the Singapore Navy 

Speaker: Audrey Yong Hui Ling

Synopsis
The advocacy for gender equality in the world as well as in Singapore, has seen traditionally male-dominated organisations such as the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), reinventing itself as gender-neutral in order to facilitate the process of injecting women into the current inter-gendered organisation. In reinventing itself as gender-neutral, the RSN has put in place policies that firstly, ensure equal career opportunities for women, and secondly, ensure that the modesty of women are protected. However, while these policies attempt to portray the RSN as gender-neutral, the reality is that underlying gender inequalities continue to exist within the organisation due to the socialisation of gender norms. By examining everyday interactions between men and women in the RSN, gendered division of labour, and the tension women face between their aspirations and their expected gender role in society, this thesis argues that it takes more than just the reinvention of policies to achieve gender equality in the organisation. With that, this thesis also shows the limitations of policy-oriented studies which often engage in a top-down approach, overlooking the realities in practice.

 

Reproduction of Racial Inequality in Singapore 

Speaker: Lok Weng Seng

Synopsis
Discussion of racial relations in Singapore might have just moved beyond the usual discourse of vigilance and fragile harmony to a bolder confrontation of matters. Despite talk of Chinese privilege in Singapore society, some Singaporeans are still in denial that there is a serious problem of racial inequality in Singapore when the issue is all too real for others. The thesis uses the ethnographic approach to analyse how racial inequality is perpetuated at the micro or individual level. With the rich secondary material on how racial inequality is produced at the structural level, the thesis will then examine the link between these levels to provide a clearer understanding of how the contradictions of meritocracy and multi-racialism in Singapore can persist.

Policing with Pictures in Modern Thailand – a seminar by Dr Samson Lim (Wed, 2 November 2016)

Speaker: Dr Samson Lim (Assistant Professor in History, Singapore University of Technology and Design
Date: Wednesday, 2 November 2016
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)

Synopsis

This talk presents a history of the visual culture of policing in modern Thailand. Through an analysis of Thai language primary sources including police training manuals, trial records, and newspaper stories, it argues that in modern criminal investigation, as in the natural sciences, technical considerations for ensuring the objectivity of visual representations used in criminal trials, such as lighting conventions for crime scene photographs and standardized markings on maps, are neither neutral nor natural. Instead, the appearance of visual evidence in the Thai legal system was shaped within a larger network of exchange in objects, practices, and formal conventions. So rather than merely guaranteeing factuality, the rules for producing legal evidence in Thailand are embedded with cultural norms; they are part of an ideological project played out at the level of surface appearances and through new technologies of representation.

About the speaker

Samson Lim is an Assistant Professor in History at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. He received his Ph.D. in History at Cornell University. His research examines the connections between technology, capitalism, and cultural change. His first book, Siam’s New Detectives: Visualizing Crime and Conspiracy in Modern Thailand (University of Hawaii Press, 2016), is a history of the visual culture of policing and conspiracy theories in Thailand in the twentieth century. He is currently working on a new book that studies the visual and material culture of finance in early twentieth century Bangkok. Samson is also one of the principle leads of the Opportunity Lab at SUTD, an interdisciplinary teaching and research center that promotes social change through design and engineering projects throughout Southeast Asia.

Czechs on Ships Present and Past: Traveling and Writing 1867-2016 – a seminar by A/P Jan Mrazek (Wed, 5 October 2016)

Speaker: Assoc Prof Jan Mrazek (Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)
Date: Wednesday, 5 October 2016
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)

Synopsis

The seminar juxtaposes voyages of Czechs to Southeast Asia in colonial times and the speaker’s recent voyage by container ship from Rotterdam to Singapore. More a poetics of ship travel than its history, it explores the movement between, and the interpenetration of, past and present, imagination and physical actuality, writing and traveling, all at once. How can our own journeys help us grasp more intensely the experiences of past travelers, as well as our relationship with them, our nearness and our distance? How can old travelogues today enrich our perception of ships, the sea, the world, our travels? How is the past present, how is it gone? The seminar does not aim to theorize but to perform these questions. It is really just about ships.

About the speaker

Jan Mrázek is Associate Professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies. Related publications include “Czech Tropics” (Archipel, 2013) and “Returns to the Wide World: Errant Bohemian Images of Race and Colonialism,” to appear in Studies in Travel Writing.

 

Straits Settlements’ Flooding: Considering Nature-Induced Disasters in Historic Context – a seminar by Dr Fiona Williamson (Wed, 14 September 2016)

Speaker: Dr Fiona Williamson (Research Fellow, NUS Asia Research Institute)
Date: Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)

Synopsis

This presentation considers the nineteenth century history of flood disasters in colonial Singapore and, to a lesser extent, Kuala Lumpur. It pays close attention to how the British authorities understood and reacted to serious inundations and adapted their policy in accordance. Disaster, and disaster governance shaped the development of both towns, each managed through a combination of local municipal councils, the British government in India, and in London. This was an arrangement that both hindered and advanced flood management. The premise is that flood history can be a window into how knowledge was shaped, shared and developed. It will consider how contemporary governments thought about floods, from cause, to impact, to future mitigation. Moreover, it will contend that long-term context and precedent allows fresh perspectives on urban disaster today. We can learn from patterns of flood frequency, intensity, and geographic impact; assess their correspondence to rainfall and/or ENSO, or human urban environmental impact. We can also learn from past failures and successes in prevention methods and determine not to repeat the same errors. This is important in addressing disasters in todays complex anthropogenic world. Based on primary archival sources relating to governance and urban development in the British Straits Settlements, including colonial records and contemporary newspapers, it takes a multi-disciplinary approach to conventional historical analysis.

About the speaker

Dr Williamson received her PhD in History from the University of East Anglia in 2009. Since then she has been working as a lecturer in the UK and in Asia, as well as working with the UK Meteorological Office on a series of projects relating to historic weather. Her current research focuses on the interconnections between flooding and urban development in Singapore and colonial Malaya. Her published and forthcoming work examines a range of issues connected to flooding, public health, climate, and the history of meteorology. She is especially interested in comprehending how cities developed in response to past floods and exploring how historic events provide critical context for our modern city. The history of science, floods and urban governance provide the framework for better understanding these processes.

 

Dr Williamson has commenced a two-year appointment as a Research Fellow in the Asian Urbanism cluster with effect from 4 July 2016. While at ARI, Dr Williamson will join the Disaster Governance project team, continuing her work on flooding and meteorological history in British Southeast Asia with the expectation of expanding this into a monograph on space, floods, and society in Singapore.

Subjects of Politics: From Disagreement to Dictatorship in Thailand – a seminar by Dr Eli Elinoff (Wed, 13 April 2016)

Speaker: Dr Eli Elinoff (Postdoctoral Fellow, NUS Department of Sociology & Asia Research Institute)
Date: Wednesday, 12 April 2016
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
In May of 2014, the Thai military deposed elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The coup was the 12th successful coup in the nation’s history and the second military coup in less than a decade. Since the takeover, the chief aim of the military government has been to bring order to the country by silencing disagreement. In this paper, I trace the descent from democracy to dictatorship to understand its implications for our understanding of both Thailand and politics, more generally. I do so from the vantage point of urban squatter communities in Northeastern Thailand. By following the pathways of disagreement in these settlements, I show how shifting notions of the legitimate political subject reveals an undecidable tension between two different social hierarchies—one steeped in a complex admixture of Thai nationalism and Theravada Brahmanism, the other of horizontally composed commensurable beings promised by democracy and capitalist consumption. I show how residents’ engagements with projects preceding the coup reveal the mechanisms through which progressive actors employed post-political forms of governance to hold the old hierarchy in place while attempting to slowly rearrange it. I also analyze the complex ways these policies failed to fully gentrify politics, as residents made claims to and through disagreement. I argue then that democratization does not simply rearrange institutions, but more fundamentally the ontological subjects of politics themselves.

About the speaker
Eli Elinoff is currently a joint-postdoctoral fellow in Asian Urbanisms at the National University of Singapore in the Department of Sociology and the Asia Research Institute. He received his PhD in Anthropology in 2013 from the University of California, San Diego. His research has been published in South East Asia History, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, and Contemporary Southeast Asia. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Architects of Citizenship: Politics and City-Making in Northeastern Thailand that examines struggles over citizenship, development, and housing in the city of Khon Kaen. He is also working on a second multi-sited ethnographic research project examining ecologies of concrete and the politics of the urban environment in Bangkok in the wake of the 2011 floods.In July of 2016 he will become a Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington (NZ).

Silence and consent: Continuum of (non)-veiling, Malay femininity, and the new Islamisation in Malaysia – a seminar by Dr Alicia Izharuddin (Wed, 23 March 2016)

Speaker: Dr Alicia Izharuddin (Senior Lecturer, University of Malaya)
Date: Wednesday, 23 March 2016
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
This paper examines the modern history of veiling in Malaysia using the continuum of (non)-veiling as a heuristic device to examine the vicissitudes of Islamisation and Malay femininity. The dichotomy between the unveiled and veiled woman as oppositional and mutually exclusive is a reductive one, masking the shifting subjectivities of women who wish to unveil but cannot, women who remove the veil but choose to eventually re-veil, women who veil part-time, and women who down-veil (transition from niqab/extended hijab to simple hijab). I would like to suggest that the sartorial practices of Muslim-identified women in Malaysia exist on a continuum of subjectivities rather than a simple binary of non-veiled and veiled.

The significance of establishing this continuum would be to illuminate the ethical agency of Muslim-identified women and their negotiation and struggles with faith, culture and politics of the everyday – all of which constitute the micro-politics of (non)-veiling identities. Such a continuum of identities will also be able to reveal the contradictions, respectively, within the community of women who veil and women who do not. Using data collected from a wide range of Malay female respondents who represent this continuum, the theory of intersectionality and social capital, this paper is able to construct veiling as an unsettling metaphor for ethical agency and dispositif in a nation undergoing a new articulation of institutionalised Islamisation.

About the speaker
Alicia Izharuddin is Senior Lecturer in Gender Studies at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. After receiving her PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London in 2014, she returned to Malaysia to take up a teaching post in University of Malaya. She is also a newspaper columnist in the Malay Mail where she writes about gender in Malaysian culture and higher education. She has published in Indonesia and the Malay World, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies and Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific and has an upcoming book entitled ‘Gender and Islam in Indonesian Cinema’ (Palgrave Macmillan).

Flower extract and golden ash for HIV patients in Myanmar: Anthropological study of HIV treating healers at the margins of the formal health system – a seminar by Dr Céline Coderey (Wed, 2 March 2016)

Speaker: Dr Céline Coderey (Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute and Teaching Fellow in Tembusu College, NUS)
Date: Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
Next to Thailand and Cambodia, Myanmar has the highest rate of HIV infection anywhere outside Africa. The only form of treatment formally recognized and allowed by the State is the antiretroviral treatment provided by biomedical services. However, because the government has long been unwilling to acknowledge and handle the problem and even hindered the work of NGOs operating in the sector, the accessibility of the treatment is very low. Besides this authorized treatment, many non-recognized and non-authorized therapies are provided by healers practicing different forms of traditional medicine: herbal medicine (especially in the form of extracts) and even more alchemic medicine. Their practices have been banned as a consequence of the institutionalisation and modernisation of traditional medicine initiated by the government in the post-independence period and the need to comply with international biomedical standards. Nevertheless, controls are lacking and rules are not strictly implemented, contributing to the persistence and popularity of these healers.

On the basis of cases studied collected during fieldwork trips conducted between 2013 and 2015 in different parts of Myanmar this paper will focus on these healers and the way they negotiate the margins between legality and illegality and navigate the space created by the lack of controls thus being able – despite their formal marginal position – to occupy a very central position in the healing arena.

About the speaker
Céline Coderey is a Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute in the Science, Technology, and Society Cluster, and Teaching Fellow in Tembusu College. She received her M.A and PhD in Anthropology from the University of Provence, Aix-Marseille 1 (FR) and a M.A in Psychology at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland). For the last ten years she has been working on medical and healing practices in Myanmar exploring such topics as the obstacles to the accessibility of biomedicine, notably in the field of reproductive health and mental health, the institutionalisation of traditional medicine, and the role of divination and astrology. Before coming to Singapore she was postdoctoral fellow at the Centre Norbert Elias of Marseille with a grant from the Swiss National Fund.

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.