New theme talks at the FASS OPen House

by Student Blogger Dorothy Tan

We are all familiar with the hit television series “The Little Nyonya”, frustrated at the erratic weather, frightened about the Red Shirt demonstrations in Bangkok and worried about the low fertility rates in Singapore. But come 22 May, be challenged to go beyond feelings and tackle current issues ranging from modern television to climate from a multi-disciplinary perspective. You are definitely in for a treat at this year’s FASS Open House, as the leading lecturers of various departments share invaluable insights and experiences from their area of expertise. Come and discover how the social sciences are relevant in tackling current issues from different perspectives, and explore the endless prospects that await you from the Departments of Sociology, Geography, Southeast Asian Studies and Theatre Studies, just to name a few. 

 Baby Not-so Boomers

Representing the Department of Sociology is A/P Paulin Straughan, who is also FASS’s vice-dean of Undergraduate Studies appointed Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP). You may find her a familiar face, as she appeared on a recent episode of “Singapore Talking”, shedding light on the topic: “Has the role of Mothers changed overtime?” It is no wonder that at FASS Open House, she will be discussing on the low fertility in Asia and the implications it has on Singapore, entitled “Stork and Cupid: Out to Lunch”. A/P Straughan is very excited to share her great interest in the modern family and deep insights as she revealed:

 As you would have noted, there has been a lot of debate raised on the number of foreigners in Singapore. As a result of our chronic low TFR (total fertility rate), we have not been able to grow our population without augmentation from immigration. But that has, as we have seen, resulted in other social problems. For a small nation-state with no resources other than manpower, low fertility and late marriage have serious implications on social stability and economic sustainability. So my talk addresses a very serious social issue facing Singapore. And the topic is of interest to youths as you are the next generation of thought leaders and parents-to-be.”

 Be sure to catch A/P Paulin Straughan, as she tackles the ever-pressing problem of low fertility from a sociological perspective on the 22nd May, Lecture Theatre 11 (LT11) at 1pm!

 Smokin’ Hot

Prof David Higgit will be representing the Geography department, delivering a talk entitled “Climate Change: How will Singapore Survive?” Together with Prof T C Chang, Prof Higgit will be addressing the threat of climate change and its implications for environments and societies around the world. Specifically, it focuses on the effects of climate change on Singapore; Singapore’s contributions to the problem; as well as how the country is coping with and combating this global threat. Prof Higgit stresses that climate change is a serious issue that cannot and should not be ignored:

 It is a hugely important topic that has generated sustained media attention and quite a lot of controversy recently. It seems that many people in Singapore feel that climate change is something that will happen to other people elsewhere. I want to take the opportunity to explore what geographers are contributing to the climate change debate both in terms of environmental science and social science research. This will help to identify some issues that should be of concern to Singapore in the near future.”

 Come and be inspired by the difference that you can make in the environment, but more importantly, discover for yourself the research strengths and teaching capabilities of the Department of Geography at NUS! Prof Higgit will be delivering his talk on 22nd May, Lecture Theatre 13 (LT13) at 11am!

 Not Just a Pretty Face

Ever wondered what would happen if Juxiang from “The Little Nyonya” encountered Emily from “Emily of Emerald Hill”? Dr Paul Rae, from the Department of Theatre Studies, is the author of Theatre & Human Rights (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), and the co-artistic director of spell#7 performance. He will be exploring what wily stage veteran Emily and upstart media darling the Little Nyonya have to say to each other about theatre and television, Peranakan fever, gender politics, and the ‘mandarinisation’ of the past. Dr Rae is looking very forward to deliver his talk entitled “Showdown! Little Nyonya vs Emily of Emerald Hill” because:

 “It is about something many students will be familiar with, while at the same time giving me an opportunity to reflect on a number of broad themes and ideas that we address in Theatre Studies, such as the politics of representation, the role of performance in the shaping of identity, and the unique qualities of different media, be they theatre or television. I think the topic is timely, because there has been so much interest in Peranakan culture recently – or, at least, a rather nostalgic and idealised version of it – and this seems to me to say something about the larger cultural dynamics of Singapore.”

Clearly, theatre studies is not simply just reading off a script, knowing when to enter and exit the stage; this field of study tackles the deeper meanings, issues and implications behind every word and direction the author or playwright pens. You surely do not want to miss this interesting talk by Dr Rae on 22nd May, Lecture Theatre 13 (LT13) at 12pm!

Double, double, Toil and Trouble

Last but not least, representing the Southeast Asian Studies Department are Dr Irving Johnson and Dr Pattana Kitiarsa, who will be presenting on an intriguing topic about the role of supernaturalism in Southeast Asian politics. Even the employment of blood in the recent spate of political riots in Bangkok has a supernatural significance. Entitled “Blood, Magic and Politics in Southeast Asia”, Dr Johnson and Dr Kitiarsa will focus on Thailand and Thai societies both historically and presently, for instance, one good example would be the mass ‘cursing’ of General Suchinda Krapayoon in Bangkok’s main public square some years back. In addition, and historically, the building of ancient capitals was sometimes popularly associated with human sacrifice so as to create ‘city spirits’. In some instances, supernaturalism can be seen as a way to contest the powerful state as well. Through such strong examples, both speakers wish to show:

“Beliefs in supernaturalism are very much a part of everyday life and cannot be divorced from politics (which is also a cultural practice) in Southeast Asia. Politics basically is about how people understand power and control in their societies. For instance, one can think of the ritual ‘cursing’ of political figures by magical practitioners or uses of astrology and divination in the choosing of auspicious days/sites for political activity.”

You definitely do not want to miss this thought provoking and intriguing talk by Dr Johnson and Dr Kitiarsa, and discover what exciting prospects the Department of Southeast Asian Studies has to offer. Be sure to join them on 22nd May, Auditorium at AS7-01-02 at 1pm!

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