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.

THE SIREN OF CIREBON: A Tenth-Century Trading Vessel Lost in the Java Sea – a seminar by Dr Horst Liebner (Wed, 26 November 2014)

Organised by FASS Environment Research Cluster and Department of Southeast Asian Studies.

Speaker: Dr Horst Liebner
Date: Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS7, Level 6, Research Division Seminar Room (06-42)

Synopsis
Dr. Liebner will discuss the Nanhan / Cirebon wreck, a merchant vessel foundered in the Java Sea around 970 CE, excavated in a quasi-archaeologically manner by a salvage company cooperating with the Indonesian government. The vessel belonged to the so called ‘lashed-lug and doweled’, Western Austronesian (‘Malayo-Indonesian’) tradition of boat-building; the wreck’s position indicates that the ship was on her way to the island of Java. The surviving cargo ranges from Chinese stoneware and Southeast Asian ceramics, to Middle Eastern glassware, to tin and lead from –proposedly– the Malay Archipelago, and a wide variety of smaller finds, most of which can be attributed to the broader area of the western Indian Ocean. The find palpably demonstrates the far-reaching and well-institutionalised trade relations throughout early medieval Asia.

Analysing a shipwreck found in a depth of more than 50m is possible only through “virtual” approaches. Dr. Liebner will present the methodology, explicating the approaches employed in examinations of the (mainly ceramic) cargo and attempts at a reconstruction of the ship and her initial loading pattern. The results will be integrated with present knowledge of tenth-century Southeast Asia and the regions relations to the Celestial Empire. This talk proposes novel insights into the mechanics of the regional, and, ultimately, international economic and political networks which became so imperative in the developments of the ensuing centuries.

About the speaker
Dr. Horst Liebner studies the maritime culture and history of what once was called ‘the Malay Archipelago’. In 1994, his researches on the traditional boatbuilding of Sulawesi obtained an M.A. at the University of Cologne; since then he was employed as research fellow and lecturer at various universities and governmental institutions in Indonesia. On behalf of the Indonesian Government’s Research Agency for Marine Affairs and Fisheries, he in 2004 was appointed as advisor on the Nanhan/Cirebon wreck discovery’s historic background, and recently finished his PhD thesis on the find for the University of Leeds, UK.

Please RSVP with the title “LIEBNER” to fass.environment@nus.edu.sg by 20 November 2014.

The Artist as Curator: Dinh Q. Le’s ‘Light and Belief: Sketches of Life during the Vietnam War’ and the Problematics of History in Vietnamese Contemporary Art – a seminar by Dr Nora Taylor (Wed, 8 October 2014)

Speaker: Dr Nora A. Taylor (School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA)
Date: Wednesday, 8 October 2014
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Synopsis
This talk will look at contemporary Ho Chi Minh City based Vietnamese-American artist Dinh Q. Le’s project for dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany, 2012, an installation of 100 drawings made by artists in the 1960s during the war. The installation was accompanied by a film that contained interviews with the surviving artists and animated reconstructions of some of the sketches. The question that this talk wishes to address is what is the context for historic drawings in a contemporary art installation and what are the repercussions on audiences and art history more generally.

About the speaker
Dr. Nora A. Taylor is the Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her research specialty is Modern and Contemporary Vietnamese Art. She is the author of “Painters in Hanoi: An Ethnography of Vietnamese Art” (Hawaii 2004 and NUS Press 2009) as well as numerous articles on Vietnamese artists and art history. She is currently a visiting professor at NTU’s Art, Design and Media department.

The State of Asian Democracies – a seminar by Prof Kiichi Fujiwara (Fri, 5 September 2014)

Organised by Departments of Japanese Studies, Southeast Asian Studies, and Political Science

Speaker: Professor Kiichi Fujiwara (University of Tokyo, Japan)
Date: Friday, 5 September 2014
Time: 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Venue: AS4, Level 3, JS Meeting Room (03-28)

Synopsis
Democracy, as a form of political regime, has become a part of daily political reality in many East and Southeast Asian nations, placing the old claim of oriental despotism quite obsolete. The trouble here, however, is that institutional democracy opens up a can of political dilemma that challenges the normative basis of democratic governance. In this talk, Professor Fujiwara will focus on three of such dilemmas, namely, democracy and development, democracy and security, and finally, democracy and accountability.

About the speaker
Kiichi Fujiwara is Director of the Security Studies Unit, Policy Alternatives Research Center, and Professor of International Politics at the University of Tokyo. A graduate of the University of Tokyo, Professor Fujiwara studied as a Fulbright student at Yale University before he returned to Japan at the Institute of Social Science (ISS). He has held positions at the University of the Philippines, the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Bristol, and was selected as a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center at Washington D.C. Prof. Fujiwara’s works include Remembering the War, 2001; A Democratic Empire, 2002; Is There Really a Just War? 2003; Peace for Realists, 2004 (winner of the Ishibashi Tanzan award, 2005; revised edition published in 2010); America in Film, 2006; International Politics, 2007; War Unleashed, 2007; That’s a Movie! 2012, Conditions of War, 2013.

Spheres of Passion – Fieldwork, Ethnography and the inter-affective encounter – a seminar by Dr Thomas Stodulka (Wed, 3 September 2014)

Speaker: Dr Thomas Stodulka (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)
Date:
Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Time:
4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue:
AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)
Chairperson:
Dr Julius Bautista

Synopsis
Researchers and their emotions are perceived as an irreconcilable dichotomy. They are considered as nuisances that jeopardize ‘objective’ science. At best, they are regarded as marginal apparitions of limited anecdotic, biographic or artistic interest. Many scientific disciplines have excluded them from their discourse. In contrast, my assumption is that emotions inevitably influence the research process: from the choice of research subjects, the researcher’s positionality and the generation of data, to their interpretation and public representation. We argue that their critical analysis should be part of and not excluded from scientific practice. Instead of obliterating or deeming them as esoteric by-products they should be scrutinized systematically and thus rendered productive for science and the communication of its results to the wider (academic) community.

In particular, fieldwork of anthropologists triggers a range of emotions that impact observation, influence comprehension and guide the formation of theories. Our continued assumption is that fieldwork in its manifold appearances can serve as a paradigm for the researchers’ emotions in general, since only fieldwork creates an extensive corpus of subjective reports (e.g. field diaries, notes, letters) that can be studied exemplarily.

Drawing on examples from my long-term study with street-related adolescents and young adults in the Javanese city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, this talk illustrates that the integration of the ethnographer’s emotions into the analysis, interpretation and representation of ethnographic data can assist in (1) creating a more sensorial and experience-based knowledge on the ‘other’, (2) formulating a more relational anthropological theory and (3) raising emotions to a category of epistemic value.

About the speaker
Dr. Thomas Stodulka’s research focuses on stigma, marginality, and the interplay between culture, emotion, health, and illness. He conducted long-term fieldwork with street-related young men in Yogyakarta, Indonesia between 2001 and 2013, and is currently involved in an interdisciplinary research on cross-cultural perspectives on envy and directs a research project entitled the “The Researchers’ Affects”.

Address correspondence to him at Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Anthropology, Landoltweg 9-11, 14195 Berlin, Germany. E-mail: thomas.stodulka@fu-berlin.de

Personalising the Middle-Income Trap: An Inter-generational Migrant View from Rural Thailand – a seminar by Prof Jonathan Rigg (Wed, 19 March 2014)

Speaker: Prof Jonathan Rigg (Department of Geography, National University of Singapore) 
Date:
 Wednesday, 19 March 2014 
Time:
 4:00pm – 5:30pm 
Venue:
 AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20) 
Chairperson:
 Assoc Prof Itty Abraham

Synopsis 
Using the experiences of first and second generation migrants from three villages in Thailand, this paper ‘personalises’ the middle income trap, seeking to understand how and why migrants with growing levels of education and human capital remain rooted to their natal villages. Agrarian change is such that the village remains the locus of familial belonging and livelihood security, limiting engagement with the knowledge economy, sometimes for good reason given the precarity of much non-farm work . The argument pursued is that the middle-income trap for these villages in Thailand is as much personal as it is institutional and structural.

About the speaker 
Jonathan Rigg is Professor at the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore. He has been working in Thailand and more widely in Southeast Asia since the early 1980s, mainly on issues of agrarian change. He is interested in understanding how individuals and households deal with, contribute to, and are affected by processes of economic and social transformation. His most recent book is Unplanned development: tracking change in South-East Asia (Zed Books 2012), and he has also recently co-edited (with Peter Vandergeest) Revisiting rural places: pathways to poverty and prosperity in Southeast Asia (NUS and Hawaii University Press, 2012), which includes 16 longitudinal studies from across Southeast Asia, five from Thailand.