FASS Global Research Forum Aug 23-25 2021 – The Fruition and Challenges of Computational Social Science

NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences presents ‘Global Research Forum 2021: The Fruition and Challenges of Computational Social Science’

Dates and Times: 23 August 9am – 5.30pm, 24 August 9.30am – 8.30pm, and 25 August 9.30am – 9pm (Singapore Standard Time).

Register via Zoom: https://bit.ly/3xE0Abb

After registration, you will receive through email a Zoom link that will allow access to all three sessions. Feel free to attend the sessions that are of your interest. If you do not receive the confirmation email within two working days, please email fassresearchevents@nus.edu.sg.

Programme available here.

For more information, please refer to the website. We look forward to your registration.

fass global research forum

Singapore Research Networking Event with FASS Research Clusters & SRN on 17 May 2019

Find out more about what FASS researchers are studying about Singapore through our research networking event on Friday, 17 May 2019—unearth potential research directions and identify new research partners! This event is a joint initiative between the Singapore Research Nexus and the FASS Research Clusters.

Date & Time: 17 May, 8:45am-1:45pm

Venue: Room 1-01, AS7 Shaw Foundation Building, 5 Arts Link

Registration: Register here.

Programme: Right click the poster below to view and download the programme.

Bilahari Kausikan: Importance of educating the public on foreign policy

From February to April 2019, Mr Bilahari Kausikan (Arts and Social Sciences ’76) delivered five lectures as part of the FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs. He introduced more than a thousand attendees to statecraft, sharing insights on the current state of international relations in South-East Asia and the world.

Foreign policy and diplomacy are inherently complex and nuanced. His first four lectures broadly focussed on foreign policy: how it is enacted between sovereign states; how Singapore manages bilateral relations with its neighbours; the Association of South-East Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) role in the region; as well as the role external powers such as the United States and China play in South-East Asia. His final lecture addressed the way forward for Singapore. Kausikan summarised its future challenges in three distinct lessons:

  • Why it is important to have more than a superficial understanding of foreign affairs?
  • The need for red lines in interstate relations and why governments need to enforce them?
  • The importance of maintaining communication with other states at all times, even during periods of hostility.

Complexity of Foreign Affairs and the Dangers of Oversimplifying

The central theme of his fourth lecture on US-China relations was how international diplomacy is an intricate affair. A recurring message through Mr Kausikan’s lectures was how foreign policy usually does not conform to easily understood summaries and narratives. He was particularly keen to dispel the notion that contemporary US-China relations are similar to that of US-Soviet relations during the Cold War.

Gone are the days of a bipolar world where every state “defines their interest in relation to this binary structure,” he emphasised during his global superpowers lecture. The United States and China are far more intertwined than the United States and the Soviet Union ever were. By far, there are far more significant regional players and factors on the global stage to be considered. In particular, he dismissed the idea that America and China were locked in a zero-sum game, where any advance made by China entailed a corresponding decline in American influence.

He expressed how over-simplified narratives like this could hinder a country’s foreign policy plan. If the general public only had a superficial understanding of foreign affairs, they would be far more likely to pressure their governments to revise policies in a manner which may cause harm as they simply did not know any better. During his final lecture, Mr Kausikan strongly advocated for a ‘foreign affairs literate’ population to prevent this from happening in Singapore.

Mr Kausikan speaking to the audience about foreign policy and diplomatic relations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Red Lines and Enforcing Them

Another recurring theme was that Singapore must not be afraid to act if its core national interests are threatened, even if it means standing firm and holding ground against larger states. Mr Kausikan said Singapore, or any sovereign state requires two steps to convey this. The first is to establish clear ‘red lines’, uncrossable boundaries which if violated, have clear, known consequences. He shared numerous examples of these uncrossable red lines. In his second lecture, he discussed the possibility of Malaysia removing its water supply to Singapore, or Taiwan declaring independence from China with America’s support in his fourth lecture.

The second is ensuring the state has the means and political will to enforce these red lines, should they be crossed. A violation of either example could result in drastic measures including military action. Follow through is paramount, Mr Kausikan emphasised on multiple occasions throughout the series; effective deterrence is impossible if the other party senses you are unwilling to back your stand. Failing to support these red lines with action would significantly damage the state’s credibility and prestige, making red lines harder to establish and enforce in future.

Maintaining Open Dialogue Between States

Whilst red lines are important, Mr Kausikan was quick to emphasise continued communication and cooperation between states was crucial to upkeep good relations, especially during periods of hostility. More significantly, states had to be able to set aside differences and work together when their interests coincided. As an example, he highlighted continued cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia to address cross-border terrorism, even during periods of frosty relations between nations.

Singapore and the Future

With that, Mr Kausikan ended his series, nobly contributing to the cause by educating the Singaporean population on foreign policy and diplomatic relations. Through intellectual debate and rigour he ensured the public understood the need for red lines and its potential enforcement, as well as, the importance of quality communications in bilateral relations. In an increasingly complex and unpredictable global climate, Singaporeans should strive to remain united and informed if it wants to continue prospering. Most importantly Mr Kausikan said, we cannot be afraid to take risks as, “Sometimes, trying to avoid risk is the riskiest option of all.”

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Synopsis, lecture posts and videocast available via the links below:

Lecture One: How to Think about Foreign Policy?
30 January 2019
The first lecture situates the fundamental role of national interests in foreign policy. Why are Singapore’s national interests not better and more widely understood? The talk examines some common errors in thinking about foreign policy, as well as the creation and maintenance of relevance for a small city-state, and why small countries should not behave like small countries.

Watch the lecture.

Lecture Two: Origins I – Relations with Malaysia and Indonesia
20 February 2019
The second lecture conveys the inevitable complexity of relations with Singapore’s neighbours. It provides an overview of the systemic origins of bilateral tensions with our neighbours, focusing on the uses and abuses of history, and the roles of ‘baggage’ and personality. The talk ends with thoughts on how Singapore could manage complexity and cope with competing nationalisms with our neighbours.

Watch the lecture.

Lecture Three: Origins II – ASEAN: Vital but Limited
13 March 2019
 The third lecture discusses the origins of regionalism in Southeast Asia. It explains the necessity but also the limits of ASEAN. The talk will suggest that ‘it is pointless to criticise a cow for being an imperfect horse’.

Watch the lecture.

Lecture Four: The New Global and Regional Strategic Context
20 March 2019
The fourth lecture looks at the key factors driving change in the global and regional order. Issues to be explored include: the nature of US-China relations, coping with competing influences, the roles of Japan, India, Australia, Russia and the EU. The talk also offers thoughts as to why the future of East Asia will be multi-polar.

Watch the lecture.

Lecture Five: Future Challenges
3 April 2019
The final lecture in the series examines the interaction of foreign policy and domestic politics. It offers thoughts on how to manage uncertainty and emerging systemic vulnerabilities in Singapore.

Watch the lecture.

About the Speaker
Bilahari Kausikan is Chairman of the Middle East Institute, NUS. From 2001 to 2013, he was first the second Permanent Secretary and then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). He was subsequently Ambassador-at-Large until May 2018, having previously served in various MFA appointments, including as the Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and as Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs
This five part lecture series is organised by the NUS Political Science Society with support from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and the Department of Political Science. Established in 1929, FASS, one of the earliest and largest faculties is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Whilst witnessing numerous changes, we remain steadfast to our vision to strive forward as a premier faculty of excellence in humanities and social sciences that nurtures tomorrow’s engaged, thoughtful and creative global citizens. To mark this occasion, the Faculty is organising a series of events showcasing the strength and breadth of the Faculty’s research as well as kick start future initiatives that would benefit the generations of students who will come through our halls.

 

Kausikan discusses Singapore’s Foreign Policy future

On 3 April 2019, Mr Bilahari Kausikan discussed Singapore’s future foreign policy challenges as well as the nation’s best path forward at his fifth and final FASS90 Political Science Lecture on the Practice of Foreign Affairs.

A Foreign Policy Literate Populace

Foreign affairs and diplomacy are inherently nuanced – subtle endeavours that do not always lend themselves easily to the masses. “Most people in every country take only a cursory interest in foreign affairs, and thus find superficial narratives possible,” said Mr Kausikan. Combined with the fact that the effects of foreign policy are less visible on the home front, the general population will either be completely unaware of Singapore’s diplomatic actions or worse, come away with an inaccurate and superficial understanding.

Quoting the late Dr Goh Keng Swee, he cited the mistaken belief that statecraft can be performed in the same way as business negotiations.

“Our businessmen, in the ordinary course of work, have numerous dealings with government officials of these countries. They have to obtain licenses, concessions, contracts and permits. Thus, the Singapore businessman, in the eyes of these governments, performs the role of supplicant for favours. And as our businessmen often compete in their supplications, the image that this creates of Singapore can well be imagined…. Unfortunately, they do not understand, and I am afraid cannot understand, that in the nature of things, relations between independent sovereign states cannot be conducted on the basis of supplicant and overlord. The methods they found so successful in business are not available to us as a government.”

Both Dr Goh and Mr Kausikan emphasized a healthy relationship between two countries involves treating each other as fellow sovereign states first and foremost, regardless of any disparity in size, population or economy.

Mr. Kausikan responding to questions with Deputy Head of Department of Political Science Assoc Prof Ian Chong.

“Small States Cannot Behave Like Small States”

While undeniably succinct and memorable, Mr Kausikan would probably agree that a more complete statement would be that small states cannot behave in a manner proportionate to their size, especially when dealing with larger states. Singapore may be dwarfed by global superpowers like the United States and China, but it must not succumb to staying out of the way and “surrendering ourselves to our fates” especially when national interests are at stake.

“The pragmatic realism of our first-generation leaders recognises that even small countries are never without agency, and were willing to take risks when the interests at stake were important enough,” said Mr Kausikan, referring to instances such as Singapore’s rejection of Chinese demarches to support its position on the South China Sea disputes in ASEAN forums. His warning was clear: if Singapore did not stand up for itself and exercise its agency as a sovereign state to defend core national interests, it would soon find that agency taken away from it.

“Small states should not behave like small states, not if they want to remain states anyway.”

Singapore’s Foreign Policy and What the Future Holds

When discussing the way forward for Singapore’s foreign policy, Mr Kausikan reiterated from his first lecture: “Sometimes, trying to avoid risk is the riskiest option.” He cautioned against defaulting to the safest option available, “particularly at a time greater than usual international flux.” In particular, he was worried about the civil service becoming unnecessarily risk adverse when it came to international relations, especially since foreign policy inherently entails “more risk than in other domains.”

“Dealing with slices of problems rather than their broader implications, being narrowly transactional in relationships and blurring clarity by overly hedging assessments,” he cautioned.

Guarding against complacency in Singapore was a key point Mr Kausikan drove home. When asked by an audience member on Singapore’s next step given it acquired First World status some time ago and is no longer trying to simply survive from day to day, his reply was blunt: “You can never come to the conclusion that ‘Okay! We have done it, we are developed now, we are alright, we can relax.’ That is the way to destroy yourself.”

“In fact, the greatest challenge to Singapore is internalizing the sense that ‘we have arrived.’ We are never going to ‘arrive’; it is always going to be a journey, it is never going to end,” he said. “We have far more capabilities than we did several decades ago. But this is still a dangerous world… The goal is always the same: create a better life for your people given the changing circumstances and the higher expectations (of Singapore’s citizens), and to survive in a complicated world… as best we can.”

Watch the lecture here.

Mr Kausikan discussing future foreign policy considerations for Singapore.

About the Speaker
Bilahari Kausikan is Chairman of the Middle East Institute, NUS. From 2001 to 2013, he was first the second Permanent Secretary and then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). He was subsequently Ambassador-at-Large until May 2018, having previously served in various MFA appointments, including as the Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and as Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

FASS90 Political Science Lecture Series on the Practice of Foreign Affairs
This five part lecture series is organised by the NUS Political Science Society with support from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and the Department of Political Science. Established in 1929, FASS, one of the earliest and largest faculties is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Whilst witnessing numerous changes, we remain steadfast to our vision to strive forward as a premier faculty of excellence in humanities and social sciences that nurtures tomorrow’s engaged, thoughtful and creative global citizens. To mark this occasion, the Faculty is organising a series of events showcasing the strength and breadth of the Faculty’s research as well as kick start future initiatives that would benefit the generations of students who will come through our halls.

FASS Lecture – Education for a World that Works by Prof Elizabeth Minnich | 11 April 2019 (Thursday)

You are cordially invited to a FASS lecture Education for a World that Worksby Professor Elizabeth Minnich.

Professor Elizabeth Minnich is a Distinguished Fellow with the Association of American Colleges & Universities and Professor of Moral Philosophy at Queens University. Previously, she served as Dean and Core Professor at the Graduate School of the Union Institute and University.  Her special appointments have included Visiting Scholar, Scholars & Seminars Program at The Getty Research Institute for the History of Art & The Humanities; the Hartley Burr Alexander Chair in Public Philosophy at Scripps College; the Daniel Evans Chair at Evergreen State College; the Whichard Visiting Distinguished Professorship of Humanities and Women’s Studies at East Carolina University; Visiting Distinguished Professor at the University of Hartford; the Carol Zicklin Visiting Scholar in Interdisciplinary Studies at Brooklyn College.  Earlier in her career, she was Associate Dean of Faculty at Barnard College/Columbia University after teaching and serving in various administrative positions at Sarah Lawrence and Hollins Colleges.

The lecture will be moderated by Professor Robbie Goh, Dean Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Date: 11 Apr 2019 (Thursday)

Time: 3pm (Tea Reception followed by Lecture)

Venue: Blk AS8, Level 4, Seminar Room #04-04, 10 Kent Ridge Campus (Next to Central Library) (Click here for Map)

For catering purposes, kindly register via http://bit.ly/fass-education by 5 April 2019 (Friday).

NUS Philosophy alum wins big at 71st Locarno International Film Festival

We are pleased to report that filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua, an alumnus from the Department of Philosophy, has won the Golden Leopard for his film A Land Imagined at the 71st Locarno International Film Festival back in August 2018.

Mr Yeo is the first Singaporean to win the coveted top prize in this European film festival. According to a local pundit, “Winning at Locarno is a massive achievement for the avant-garde auteur. The first edition was held in 1946, making it the first international film festival to take place after World War II.”

The film follows a lonely construction worker from China who goes missing in Singapore after forming a virtual friendship with a mysterious online gamer and a police investigator who uncovers much more than he bargained for in order to find him.

A Land Imagined is released in Singapore theatres from 21 February 2019.

A/P Chris McMorran’s new podcast – This little dot we call home

Associate Professor Chris McMorran from the Department of Japanese Studies, together with a team of students, recently produced a podcast series called “Home on the Dot” and the project was featured in NUS News.

The podcast consists of 10 episodes, each revolving around a particular aspect of Singapore related to the idea of home, such as public housing and hawker centres.

The podcast is available at the Home on the Dot blog or via iTunes by searching for “Home on the Dot”. Six episodes, each about 20 to 25 minutes in length, have been posted, with another four to be shared in the weeks to come.

 

An Invitation to OSA Dean’s Dialogue – NUS’s New Education Model

Given that we are living in a rapidly changing world, lifelong learning is the key to ensuring that we stay professionally relevant.

Prof Ho Teck Hua, Senior Deputy President and Provost, will share details about the NUS Lifelong Learners (NUS L³) programme. All NUS graduates are automatically eligible to join the programme, for up to 20 years from the time they are admitted to NUS.

Join us for an interactive dialogue on how you can maximise your learning journey at NUS.

Read more about Prof Ho here, and RSVP for the event here.