SASP Celebrates! Deepavali 2013 with ISAS

In the foreground, MA and PhD students: Ms Shin Sojin, Ms Priscilla Ann Vincent, Mr Himanshu Jha and Mr Irfan Waheed Usmani

For the second year running, South Asian Studies Programme (SASP) celebrated Deepavali with Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS). On 6 November 2013, a total of 50 staff and students got together to enjoy good food and company. The event kicked off with A/P Vineeta Sinha, Head of SASP, welcoming everyone to the tea and thanking them for coming. She was pleased that we were able to hold this event again and hoped it would be a tradition between SASP and ISAS. Prof Tan Tai Yong, Director of ISAS, echoed her sentiments and mentioned that it was certainly a good and auspicious way of continuing SASP-ISAS collaboration.

History Student Wins EUC-FASS Creative Essay Competition

Congratulations to Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Year 4 history student) for winning in the EUC-FASS Creative Writing Essay Competition! Her submission came in the form of a letter to the EU written by a long tailed shrike! She will be receiving her prize from EU Ambassador to Singapore Dr Michael Pulch, who will also be holding an informal dialogue session at UTown Stephen Riady Centre, 4.30pm-6pm, 6 December. To read Vina’s essay (very creative indeed!) and register for the event, please visit:

FASS Alumni Dinner – 24 October 2013

Over 50 alumni members and staff from the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences gathered for the FASS Alumni Dinner on Thursday, 24 October 2013. Hosted by Vice Dean Associate Professor T.C. Chang at Sapore Italiano at NUS University Town, the biannual dinner allows alumni to keep in touch with the Faculty and also get to know one another.

Prior to dinner, the alumni were taken on a walking tour of UTown including its residential and teaching spaces. On being introduced to its myriad of amenities, alumnus Soo Hui Wah (Class of 1986, History and Political Science) Director of Education at the Singapore Discovery Centre, commented that she was “very impressed and proud of how far NUS had come in terms of its extensive offerings, such as its student-centric and all-rounded education programmes which are supported by up-to-date infrastructure and facilities”.

Over dinner, guests were entertained by a magician, FASS alumnus Alexander Yuen (Class of 2012, Psychology). Political Science and Law graduate Cynthia Elizabeth Tang (Class of 2003) said that it was great fun reconnecting with fellow alumni and her former professors. Likewise, Azmi Suhaimi, Managing Director/Head of Social Media at HotelQuickly (Class of 2010, Communications & New Media) enjoyed reminiscing his time as an undergraduate while discussing future plans with fellow alumni over dinner.

Vice Dean T.C. Chang and guests
Working his magic on a table of guests
All smiles as alumni guests listen attentively to Vice Dean T.C. Chang’s welcome speech

Nov’13 Event Highlights : U@live, Feature Flicks

Join us for an evening with Madam Halimah Yacob! – 27 November 7.30pm

Poverty in Singapore sounds like a disconnect- with our reputation as a financial hub, a shoppers’ haunt and a food haven.  Yet, the poor exist – The 70-year-old cleaner who can barely make ends meet, the primary school boy who wears the same torn uniform every day. These are silent sufferers, voiceless individuals.

Join Speaker of Parliament, Madam Halimah Yacob as she shares how each of us can be that `somebody’ and how the choices we make today can change the lives of individuals and generations to come.

Details of the event are as follows:

A unique feature of U@live is that not only will it be viewed by a live audience, it will be streamed live through a dedicated website ( The event will also incorporate a new interactive application that allows users to post questions and vote for their favourite questions in real time. The event will consist of a 10-minute talk by the speaker followed by a 20-minute interview conducted by Mr Viswa Sadasivan and a 30-minute Q&A session open to the live and online audience.

Date: 27 November 2013 (Wednesday)
Time: 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
(Registration at 6:45pm, Seated at 7:15pm, Cocktail reception after event)
Location: Auditorium (2nd Storey), Shaw Foundation Alumni House, 11 Kent Ridge Drive, Singapore 119244

We sincerely hope that you will be able to join us for this event.

Click HERE to register

2nd NUS Economics Alumni Trishaw Fundraiser

The sky looked threatening and it did rain in the morning but by 5 pm, the skies cleared and at 7 pm, NUS Economics Alumni was off to its 2nd trishaw fund-raising event on Friday, 1 November 2013.  The Guest of Honour, Assoc Prof Zeng Jinli, represented the Head of Department in riding off in the first trishaw, accompanied by the president of NUS Economics Alumni, Mr. Daniel Lo.  Other Economics staff were there to support:  Dr Connie Chung, Dr Lee Soo Ann and Mr Chan Kok Hoe, who took the photos while running alongside the trishaws! Sponsors paid for the 30 trishaws rented for the event, and each trishaw raised $500 for the NUS Economics Alumni Bursary Fund, netting over $15,000 in all.  Seven undergraduates turned up, including some who were bursary recipients.  This Fund awards 3 bursaries worth $2000 each for three years of undergraduate study, based largely on need but also on merit.

Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia reflections by Felicia Choo

When I first saw that NUS was offering a module on human trafficking, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Human trafficking was something that I had only read about in the newspapers on seen on TV; I wanted to learn more about it so I could help to combat trafficking in the future. Specifically, I was most interested in sex trafficking, since I feel strongly about women’s causes.

Going on the fieldtrip to Cambodia and Thailand and having dialogues as a class with various anti-trafficking and sex workers’ rights organisations was an eye-opener. By the end of the module, I realised that the problem of trafficking was even bigger than I thought and it remained open to debate whether local government or foreign intervention is more effective. Yet in my mind, there was still one issue that remained unresolved:

Is prostitution inherently wrong and degrading?

Somaly Mam, famed survivor of sex trafficking, and who currently runs several anti-sex trafficking organisations, would have you think so. I certainly agreed, before I met with The Women’s Network for Unity and Empower Foundation. These two organisations champion sex workers’ rights, a contentious issue in their home countries of Cambodia and Thailand, respectively. They provide support – monetary and emotional – to female and transgendered sex workers. Some of these people had been victims of sex trafficking.

It was impossible not to be affected as I listened to sex workers talk about how the money they earned from their profession provided them, and sometimes their families, with a living. Or when one transgendered sex worker (from The Women’s Network for Unity) spoke of transgendered people commonly being ostracized by society, and how she herself had been cast out from her family and chose prostitution to survive.

While sex workers acknowledged that sex work would not have been their first choice of job, they insisted on wanting to be respected. Empower’s sex workers manage and work in their own bar, called the Can Do Bar. From a sociology student’s point of view, I thought it was great that in a profession where women are commonly seen to be the exploited, submissive victims of men, men’s power had been subverted and these women were now in charge of their work, and to a greater extent, their lives.

I still think that prostitution should be discouraged, especially forced prostitution. But I have definitely come to respect these sex workers for their will to survive and succeed on their own terms.

Lecturer Dr Kevin McGahan (centre, in white shirt) and his class on the fieldtrip. Felicia stands beside him on his right.


The Prince Meets the Lion

The NUS FASS Graduate Studies Division hosted academics and graduate students from the Prince of Songkla University (PSU) last Wednesday, 23 October 2013. Associate Professor Shirlena Huang, Vice Dean (Graduate Studies) and Associate Professor Bruce Lockhart, Assistant Dean (Graduate Studies) warmly welcomed the delegation which hailed from PSU’s Pattani Campus, Thailand. The faculty members and students from PSU were largely from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

A/P Huang and A/P Lockhart greeted the visitors and went on to give an overview on the FASS Graduate Studies Programme, with the latter conversing in both English and Thai. The presentation was followed by a question-and-answer session between A/P Huang and A/P Lockhart and the Thai guests. A group of NUS graduate students from the Departments of Geography, History and Southeast Asian Studies whose theses were related to Thailand (and could speak Thai, too!) joined soon after, to mingle with the Thai visitors. While the PSU students were shy and did not raise many questions during the question-and-answer session previously, they were chatty and excited to interact with the NUS students.

At the end of the two-hour session, an academic representative from PSU presented a token of appreciation to A/P Huang. The meeting was rounded up by a flurry of warm goodbyes and an onslaught of digital and handphone cameras flashing everywhere, as both PSU and NUS representatives attempted to capture the precious new memories that were created together.

 Students from NUS and PSU interacting over tea

Students from NUS and PSU interacting over tea

A/P Huang receiving a token of appreciation from a PSU representative

A group photo for remembrance!