Seminars

Year:

Title Date & Time
Christianity and Duterte's War on Drugs in the Philippines
Dr Jayeel Cornelio

Abstract:

During his campaign, Rodrigo Duterte set himself apart from other presidential candidates by focusing on criminality and illegal drugs in the Philippines. Almost two years since he was elected, the War on Drugs remains to be the centerpiece of his presidency. To date more than 2500 have been killed during operations conducted by law-enforcement agencies. Although the War on Drugs remains generally accepted by the public, some sectors including human rights activists and church groups have initiated campaigns against it. This talk will present some initial findings from an on-going research on religious responses to the War on Drugs. It presents the spectrum of theological and practical responses by different Christian groups in Payatas, an urban poor community where at least 37 have been killed. The spectrum is broad, with some churches like the community's Catholic parish actively documenting and supporting left-behind families. Other churches have veered away from any direct engagement, opting to simply 'pray for the community'. At least one Protestant leader has suggested that the War on Drugs is God's means of administering justice and 'teaching the country a lesson'. These religious responses point to the different ways in which Christian groups understand their role as public institutions with spiritual, social, and political consequences.

 

Short bio:

Jayeel Cornelio is a visiting professor at the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is on leave from the Ateneo de Manila University where he is the Director of the Development Studies Program. A sociologist of religion, he is the author of Being Catholic in the Contemporary Philippines: Young People Reinterpreting Religions (2016) and the associate editor of the journal Social Sciences and Missions (Brill).

Please click here for youtube video of the seminar.

23 Apr 2018 (Mon)
Six Southeast Asian Artists & Śāntiniketan, ca 1921–51
Dr Yin Ker

Abstract:

Between ca 1921 and 1951, foremost artists from Southeast Asia were active at the art school of the Viśva-Bharati University in Śāntiniketan in West Bengal. Founded by the Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, it was the hub of intellectuals and artists from all over the world. They were Sutan Harahap, Rusli, Affandi and his daughter Kartika from Indonesia, Fua Haribhitak from Thailand and Bagyi Aung Soe from Myanmar. Harahap was the first and Aung Soe was the last in the year that the University was taken over by the Indian government. Of Affandi, Haribhitak and Aung Soe whose stature in their respective countries remains unparalleled, the latter two recognised the impact of their studies there as far-reaching. While these artists’ use of expressive brushstrokes, geometrically fragmented forms and non-descriptive colours may appear to be no more than derivative of Western modernism, an appraisal of Śāntiniketan’s anti-imperialist credo and the art school’s pedagogical program suggests otherwise. Tagore’s speeches and writings on the autonomy of thought and action only corroborate the complex aspirations underlying these artists’ practice. By juxtaposing the lenses of an art history conditioned by Euramerican tastes with the teachings to which the six artists were exposed at Śāntiniketan, and tracing their careers via lost mural paintings, prints and illustrations in magazines, original works in private and public collections as well as published and unpublished writings, Six Southeast Asian Artists & Śāntiniketan, ca 1921–51 proposes a reflection on a parallel approach to seeing and thinking about modern art in Southeast Asia through bearings that reside in thought systems closer to home.

 

Short bio:

Yin KER's research interests include “art” and “art history” as variable constructs, ancient and modern methods of knowledge- and image-making, "art" and matrices of power and authority, and ways of telling (hi)stories of "art". In parallel with theoretical research within and beyond the discipline of art history, she explores image-making through drawing and painting. She teaches, curates and has been exploring the potential of digital art historical methods through AungSoeillustrations.org, an open-access online database of illustrations by Bagyi Aung Soe (1923–90, Myanmar). 

 

Please click here for youtube video of the seminar.

16 Apr 2018 (Mon)
Singing While Filipino: Reflections on Authenticity and Musical Labour
Dr Anjeline de Dios

Abstract:

Long admired and derided for her fluent mimicry of Western musics, the singing Filipino is emblematic of both the postcolonial reckoning with hybridity, and the neoliberal transformation of cultural production into precarious work. But might there be other ways to make sense of Philippine vocal performance beyond valorisations of and injunctions to cultural distinctiveness and individual virtuosity? In this paper-performance, I meditate on the intimate practices of singing and listening "while Filipino," and propose that vocal performance serves as a unique and important site of reckoning with multiple subjectivities. 

I present two instances of critical reflection. In the first I consider the findings of my research on migrant Filipino musicians, whose singing, valued for the imitative and affective capacities of entertainment, is framed by larger infrastructures of labour migration and colonial cultural history. In the second, I share/sing insights as a performer and facilitator of improvised chant with Manila-based artists in contemporary dance and music. 

I propose that the musical labour of song ambivalently positions the Filipino to be for herself and yet always for others. Such ambivalence becomes clear in transnational contexts where, firstly, music as entertainment has become one in a cadre of migrant service jobs where Filipinoness is racially coded as high-quality but subordinate labour; and music as art from the global South has discursively mark(et)ed the aesthetic and cosmopolitan value of Filipino culture in the global imaginary. In both instances, I focus on listening as a key dynamic through which these tensions are both incompletely resolved. I argue that it is through singing/listening that we can make new sense of authenticity's role in contemporary Philippine subjectivities, generating anxieties and aspirations in different contexts of performance and/as labour, and revealing these cultural subjectivities as multi-sited, polyvalent, contradictory, and vital.

 

Short bio:

From Manila, Philippines, Anjeline de Dios is a cultural geographer and singer/chant performer with an interest in geographies of music, migration/mobility, and cultural/creative labour. She is currently Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong.

Please click here for youtube video of the seminar.

9 Apr 2018 (Mon)
The Indonesian Way. ASEAN, Europeanization, and Foreign Policy Debates in a New Democracy
Prof Dr Jürgen Rüland

Abstract:

The presentation examines the construction of ideas on regionalism in Indonesia, the largest member country of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Theoretically, it draws from Acharya’s concept of “constitutive localization” which it develops further. It offers an alternative explanation to studies which argue that as a result of mimetic behavior, social learning, and cost-benefit calculations, regional organizations across the world become increasingly similar. While this may be the case in terms of rhetoric and organizational structure, it is not necessarily the case at a normative level. The Indonesian case shows that even though foreign policy stakeholders have increasingly championed European ideas of regional integration after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997/1998, they have skilfully amalgamated them with older local worldviews through framing, grafting, and pruning. European ideas of regional integration thereby served to modernize and relegitimize a foreign policy agenda which seeks to establish Indonesia as a regional leader with ambitions to play a major role in global politics.

 

Short bio:

Dr Jürgen Rüland is professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and the speaker of the university’s Southeast Asia Program. His research interests include (inter)regionalism, ASEAN, the democratization of international organizations, global governance and international relations in the Asia-Pacific region. He is the author of “The Indonesian Way. ASEAN, Europeanization, and Foreign Policy Debates in a New Democracy,” Stanford University Press and “ASEAN as an Actor in International For a. Reality, Potential and Constraints,” Cambridge University Press (with Paruedee Nguitragool).

Please click here for youtube video of the seminar.

19 Mar 2018 (Mon)
Land Governance in the Mekong Region: Revisiting Contexts and Rethinking Concepts
Prof Philip Hirsch

Abstract:

Scholarship and political mobilisation around agrarian change in mainland Southeast Asia has long placed land at the centre of analysis and advocacy. From the 1960s to 1980s, scholarship on land worked within a framework of agrarian political economy in which class relations associated with control over land, labour and capital were central. Revolutionary and reform programs galvanised around “land to the tiller” campaigns. After a period of decline in such concerns and political language , in part explicable by the changed context of critical scholarship and political action in a post-Cold War world (and its manifestation in mainland Southeast Asia), and in part by a shifte in interest toward deagrarianisation, urbanisation and industrialisation, there has been a return to interest in land issues. However, contexts have changed, as have the conceptual tools employed to study and the language to advocate for agrarian justice. This presentation explores the revived interest in land and the contexts in which such interest is generated. Agendas are often framed in terms of “governance”, and scholarly work employs analyses based around themes such as access and exclusion, land grabbing, customary tenure and responsible agricultural investment.

Short bio:

Philip Hirsch is Emeritus Professor of Human Geography at the University of Sydney and is a research affiliate at Chiang Mai University. He has published extensively on environment, development and agrarian change in Southeast Asia and has carried out rural fieldwork in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia over a period of more than three decades. His recent books include (with Derek Hall and Tania Li) Powers of Exclusion: Land dilemmas in Southeast Asia (Singapore University Press 2011); (with Ben Boer, Fleur Johns, Ben Saul and Natalia Scurrah) The Mekong: A socio-legal approach to river basin development (Earthscan/Routledge 2016); and the Routledge Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia (Routledge 2017).

Please click here for youtube video of the seminar.

 

5 Mar 2018 (Mon)
Retrograde and Sophisticated Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia
Dr Lee Morgenbesser

Abstract:

To account for a perceived change in the quality of modern authoritarian rule, this paper introduces the theory of “retrograde” and “sophisticated” authoritarianism. The overarching goal of contemporary dictators and dominant parties is to continuously exemplify the virtues of democracy, be it accountability, contestation, participation and representation, without actually succumbing to democratization. This occurs across five newly conceived features: institutional configuration, control mechanism, governing model, information management and international engagement. Using this theoretical framework, which currently encapsulates 116 behavioral choices, this paper indexes all continuous regimes in Southeast Asia on a scale from retrograde dictatorship to sophisticated authoritarianism. The findings are pertinent to ongoing debates within the fields of comparative authoritarianism, comparative democratization and Southeast Asia politics.

Short bio:

Lee Morgenbesser is a lecturer with the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University and recipient of a Discovery Early Career Research Award from the Australian Research Council (2018-2020). His most recent book is Behind the Façade: Elections under Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia (New York: SUNY Press, 2016) and his forthcoming book is The Rise of Sophisticated Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019). In addition, he has published articles in Asian Studies Review, Contemporary Politics, Democratization, European Journal of East Asia Studies, Political Studies and The Pacific Review. His research areas are authoritarianism, dictators, democratization, flawed elections and Southeast Asian politics.

Please click here for youtube video of the seminar.

15 Jan 2018 (Mon)
How do we compare Global Slaveries? War Captives and Cultural Exchange in Southeast Asia
Dr Bryce Beemer

Abstract:

Systems of slavery and captivity differed widely across cultures and time, and the comparative study of slavery can reveal surprising histories of cultural transformation and exchange. Unlike American slavery, in many parts of the world systems of slavery were more “open”, containing means by which slaves could be incorporated into the society of their captors. In these more “open” systems, slavery was an important conduit for the exchange of culture between two societies. Southeast Asia was one such region. My talk will explore the ways that foreign war captives taken to upper Burma from Thailand and Manipur in the 18th-19th c. introduced new artistic, theatrical, and religious traditions to that kingdom.

Short bio:

Bryce Beemer has a PhD in Southeast Asian History from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa where he also studied World History and comparative slavery. He is currently an SSRC Transregional Research Fellow for InterAsian Contexts and Connections. Professor Beemer held previous positions as the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Comparative World History at Colby College, and as a Research Professor at Sogang University where he edited TRaNS, a journal devoted to transnational research on the Southeast Asia region.

His research is on the transcultural ramifications of slave gathering warfare in mainland Southeast Asia and Northeast India with a special focus on enslaved artisans, religious rituals, and processes of creolization and cultural exchange. The Fulbright-Hays (DDRA) and a Watumull Foundation grant for research in South Asia funded his research which was conducted in three countries—Thailand, Burma, and Manipur (India)—over a two-year period. His Ph.D. was awarded the 2014 Best Dissertation Prize by the World History Association (WHA). His publication “Southeast Asian Slavery and Slave-Gathering Warfare as a Vector for Cultural Transmission: The Case of Burma and Thailand” received several academic awards for its innovative research methods.

Please click here for youtube video of the seminar.

23 Oct 2017 (Mon)
The Politics of Flooding in Bangkok
Dr. Danny Marks

Abstract:

This presentation challenges the dominant approach to examining flooding through a case study of the 2011 Bangkok floods, the fourth‐costliest disaster ever and which led to over 800 deaths. The alternative approach developed here views floods not only as outcomes of biophysical processes but also as products of political decisions, economic interests, and power relations. This approach illustrates how vulnerability to floods in Bangkok, which is a combination of exposure to floods and capacity to cope with them, and the extent to which floods are a disaster, are uneven at multiple scales across geographical and social landscapes. 

Short bio:

Dr. Danny Marks is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at the Department of Asian and International Studies of City University of Hong Kong. Prior to this position, he was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs of the University of Toronto. Dr. Marks has spent a number of years conducting research and working in Southeast Asia, particularly in the fields of climate change adaptation and environmental governance. He completed his PhD dissertation, An Urban Political Ecology of the 2011 Bangkok Floods, at the University of Sydney. His research interests are disaster governance, climate justice, and Thai domestic politics.

Please click here for the Youtube video of the seminar.

9 Oct 2017 (Mon)
Political killings and the ‘war on drugs’ in the post-Marcos Philippines
Mr. Danilo Andres Reyes

Abstract

The Philippines has been characterized by persistent political killings since the end of Marcos's authoritarian rule in 1986. Today, the target in President Duterte's ‘war on drugs' might be new – drug dealers and users – but the phenomenon of extrajudicial killings is not.

Thousands have been killed in the ‘war on drugs’ since Duterte became president. Under his, and past administrations, there have been numerous killings of leaders and followers of the political left, including many operating legally, due to the persistence of an anti-communist ideology.

After Duterte withdrew from the peace talks with the communists in July 2017, killings of leftist leaders and followers have once again increased. This is similar to the Aquino (1986-1992) and Arroyo (2001-2010) administrations in which killings of leftists increased after the peace talks collapsed.

This workshop examines this enduring pattern of political killings across the six administrations after Marcos. It seeks to answer this question: Why do political killings persist, and why are they carried out with impunity?

The presentation will argue that there is a political utility for both the killings and the impunity. This analysis is drawn from the findings of extensive research that examined individual cases of such killings.

Short bio

Danilo Andres Reyes is a PhD candidate at the Department of Asian and International Studies (AIS), City University of Hong Kong (CityU). He completed his Master of Laws in Human Rights (LLM-HR) at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). He is a recipient of Li Po Chun Charitable Trust Fund Scholarship (for postgraduate students) 2016/17, Outstanding Academic Performance Award (CityU), 2016/17 and 2017 Asian Graduate Student Fellowship (NUS). His recent academic paper on killings under Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ was published in Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs (JCSAA).

Please click here for the Youtube video of the seminar.

24 Sep 2017 (Sun)
Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia
Dr. Michael Vatikiotis

Abstract

• How will the deepening religious divisions in Indonesia and Malaysia affect the world?

• What is China's growing influence in the region?

• Why is Malaysia riddled with corruption?

• Why do Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines harbour unresolved violent insurgencies?

‘The gun is never far removed from the political arena in Southeast Asia,’ writes Michael Vatikiotis in his part memoir and part political study of the dynamics of modern Southeast Asia, a frontline of two of the most important global conflicts: the struggle between a declining West and a rising China, and that between religious tolerance and extremism. Southeast Asia accounts for sizeable chunks of global investment and manufacturing capacity; it straddles essential lines of trade and communication. Whether it is mobile phone parts or clothing and accessories, Southeast Asia is a vital link in the global supply chain. Yet peering beyond brand new shopping malls and the shiny glass towers of Bangkok and Jakarta, Blood and Silk highlights why it is one of the most perennially unstable regions of the world and reveals the true struggle of people’s lives, the brinkmanship played by its leaders, vivid portraits of the personalities who pull the strings and the many issues that have a global impact from the Islamic jihadist groups of Central Java to the right-wing Buddhist nationalists of Rakhine State in Myanmar. From negotiating with deadly Thai Muslim insurgents, mediating between warring clans in the Southern Philippines to consoling the victims of political violence in Indonesia, Michael has first-hand, hair-raising experience of the endemic violence in these countries and interweaves this in to the narrative of this many-layered portrait of the region.

Short bio

Michael Vatikiotis is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and gained his doctorate from the University of Oxford. He is a member of the Asia Society's International Council and has a decade of experience working as a private diplomat and conflict mediator for the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. He is a former BBC journalist who has worked in Asia for over thirty years, living in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong. He now lives in Singapore and is the author of two previous books on the politics of Southeast Asia. @jagowriter

Please click here for the Youtube video the seminar.

4 Sep 2017 (Mon)