London trip for two of FASS’ young Research Assistants

Two of FASS’ Research Assistants from our very own Research Clusters were recently in London on conference leave to attend CAAS 2012. Johan and Amy found a few moments to share with us what they got up to in London and explain how they are learning about the world and academia as junior research faculty at FASS.

What is CAAS about?

CAAS stands for The Consortium for Asian and African Studies. It was formed in 2007 with the aim of pulling together the strength of scholars and experts in the field of Asian and African studies. At present,the consortium consists of 7 member institutions – Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS), Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO), Leiden University, The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), National University of Singapore, Columbia University and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Each year,a member institution would take turn to host a conference on an agreed theme to boost research synergy, reaffirm ties and forge new collaborations. This year, the conference was organized by SOAS and it was held on 16-18 February 2012 at their campus in central London.
[In 2013 it will be at NUS – see here for the call for papers: ]

Registration for participants of CAAS 2012

 What were your motivations for submitting an abstract?

We are both relatively familiar with the topic of singles in Singapore as we were either involved in primary research work on singles in Singapore in the past and/or had first hand knowledge of how singles here are represented in the media. So looking at the theme of this year’s conference – Making a Difference: Representing/Constructing the Other in Asian/African Media, Cinema and Languages – we realized it would be a good idea to combine our knowledge on the social realities and state portrayal of singlehood to write a joint paper on the ‘othering’ of singles in Singapore. 

Getting ready for the first parallel session in the Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London.

How was your experience in presenting the paper?

At first we were slightly apprehensive about the presentation as we felt that the approach and topic of our paper did not seem to fit with that of most other papers,which were grounded in the field of media studies, linguistics and discourse analysis. To our pleasant surprise, the turnout exceeded our expectations and we entertained interesting questions about our research data, as well as on Singapore society in general from an attentive audience. We also appreciated that there wasn’t a distinction between senior academics, junior researchers,and graduate students, in terms of how the presentations were scheduled. We felt this created a rather ‘egalitarian’ setting where discussions and points of criticisms were raised more freely.

What are some other highlights of your trip to SOAS?

Both of us were very intrigued by the “free meal” service just outside the SOAS campus, two English gentlemen were serving hot stewed potato, rice, cake and fruits off a push cart – for free. They were very generous and indiscriminating in handing out the food too. Something like this does not exist in Singapore (or not that we know of), so we were really curious. 

Men serving free meals to students and passers-by outside SOAS campus

We eventually tried the food because it looked so good – hot food in the cold is always inviting! We later found out that they were part of the Hare Krishna “Food for Life” project to distribute vegetarian meals throughout the world. It is amazing that London society is essentially diverse and inclusive.

Amy getting a taste of the Hare Krishna “Food for Life” meal

As a junior researcher,how did you benefit from the entire experience?

Another highlight of the trip was the conference dinner held on the second night of the programme. Having been to quite a few conference dinners before, we felt that this dinner had a stronger atmosphere of camaraderie; probably since the conference was an annual meeting between member institutions. Everyone was especially warm to each other and there was this sense of ‘familiarity’ amongst participants, which ultimately made it an extremely conducive and fruitful networking experience for us!

Johan outside the Brunei Gallery Suite – where the conference dinner was held.

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