Malaysia and Singapore (not forgetting Brunei) feature prominently at the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) Conference. New Mandala readers attending these panels are welcomed to provide updates and snippets of their presentations here.
New Media and Malaysia’s 2013 Election
Scheduled Time: Fri Mar 28 2014, 10:45 to 12:45pm Building/Room: Philadelphia Marriott, Level 3 – Room 302/303
Session Organizer: Ross Tapsell (Australian National University)
Tweet to the Street: Social Media and Chinese Malaysian Youth in the Bersih Movement
*Merlyna Lim (Arizona State University)
Did David Slay Goliath? A Comparison of Political Bias in the Online and Print Media during the 2013 Malaysian General Election
*Jason P. Abbott (University of Louisville)
Is the ‘Fifth Estate’ Creating a ‘Fourth Estate’? The Media and Malaysia’s 2013 General Election
*Ross Tapsell (Australian National University)
Online and social media activism has transformed the media landscape in Malaysia, allowing for a greater range of ideas and mobilisations to occur in a country where the mainstream media has been muzzled. In particular, this panel will examine how ethnic minorities (Chinese Malaysians and Indian Malaysians) have formed collective identities and affected political change through social media. It will then proceed to examine the consequences of social media and online activism as internet penetration in Malaysia increased from 1,718,500 people in 2008 to 5,839,600 in 2012. Malaysia currently has 13 million Facebook users and 2 million Twitter users in a population of 29 million. The consequences are varied and contested, but this panel will argue the importance of exploring Malaysian politics, the state, nationalism and liberalisation in the context of online and social media movements. The final two papers will explore the impact of online and social media with reference to Malaysia’s 2013 General Elections. Are online news portals displacing the influence of government controlled print media? Has the rise of online and social media led to a freer and more independent mainstream media? This panel will ultimately explore whether Malaysia is indeed moving toward broader political change and greater media freedom, powered in part by these dynamic and innovative virtual spaces and social media movements.
Queer Southeast Asia: States, Markets, and Media – Sponsored by Southeast Asia Council (SEAC)
Scheduled Time: Fri Mar 28 2014, 10:45 to 12:45pm Building/Room: Philadelphia Marriott, Level 3 – Liberty Salon A – Headhouse Tower
Session Organizer: Peter Anthony Jackson (Australian National University)
First Lesbian Voices from Thailand: Print Capitalism and the Emergence of Nation-Level Thai Queer Cultures and Identities
*Peter Anthony Jackson (Australian National University)
Queer Singapore: Notes towards a Transqueer Frontier
*Audrey Yue (University of Melbourne)
Transgender Performance in the Ruins of Dictatorship Architecture
*Bobby Benedicto (McGill University)
The Asianification of Thai Queer Beauty Aesthetics: “White Asians,” Popular Culture, and the Re-Fashioning of Gay, Kathoey, Tom, and Sissies
*Dredge Byung’chu Kang (Emory University)
Chair: Evelyn Blackwood (Purdue University)
Discussant: Evelyn Blackwood (Purdue University)
It is a longstanding truism of Southeast Asian studies that the region is a zone of intense cultural intersection and diversity. This is as true today as in the past for the region’s dynamic and increasingly prominent queer cultures and communities, which are home to diverse transgender, transsexual and female and male homosexual identities. This panel will bring together scholars working on societies across the region to explore how queer communities are negotiating the continuing influence of regimes of legal and institutional heteronormative power. The panel will also trace how Southeast Asian gay, lesbian and trans communities are taking advantage of opportunities provided by the non-state domains of new media and the market to confront, evade, and also reproduce state power in increasingly successful strategies to carve out spaces of queer autonomy and queer complicity. The panelists will investigate the importance of cross-border inter-Asian and Asia-West connections and flows in transformations of Southeast Asia’s sexual and gender cultures.
Practicing Politics in Malaysia and Singapore – Sponsored by Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Study Group (MSB)
Scheduled Time: Fri Mar 28 2014, 3:15 to 5:15pm Building/Room: Philadelphia Marriott, Level 5 – Grand Ballroom Salon A
Session Organizer: Eric C. Thompson (National University of Singapore)
Malaysia’s GE13: Any Closer To Democracy?
*William Case (City University of Hong Kong)
Malaysia’s GE13: Assessing the Electoral Impact of the Uneven Playing Field
*Bridget Welsh (Singapore Management University)
Meeting the People: Socialization and Everyday Performance in Authoritarian Singapore
*Elvin Jiayun Ong (Emory University)
Rural Difference Redux and Malaysia’s GE13
*Eric C. Thompson (National University of Singapore)
Chair: Eric C. Thompson (National University of Singapore)
In recent years, important and closely-watched general elections have been held in both Malaysia (2008, 2013) and Singapore (2011). These elections have led to much discussion about democratic opening in both countries. Papers in this panel assess the state of political practice in the light of these elections. They argue that longstanding practices in both Malaysia and Singapore that restrict reform and change continue to influence politics on the ground. Papers by Case and Welsh address the most recent 13th General Election (GE13) in Malaysia, with attention to anticipated but unsuccessful opposition bid to fundamentally change the electoral map. Focusing on the results and electoral dynamics, Case argues that in sharp contrast to prior, shocking 12th General Election (GE12) in 2008, GE13 represents a step backwards toward more deeply entrenched communal politics. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews conducted during the GE13, Welsh examines the intensification of electoral irregularities and calls for electoral reform. Papers by Ong and Thompson speak to broader issues shaping political practice in the two countries. Ong analyses the everyday politics of Meet-the-People sessions, arguing that they are an ordinary yet essential mechanism for reproducing People’s Action Party (PAP) hegemony in the city-state. Thompson critiques the rhetoric of the rural-urban divide among Malaysian voters, arguing that pragmatic politics rather than rural-urban difference better accounts for rural Malaysia coming through as a bastion of ruling party support. As a whole, the papers present timely research and analysis that speak to recent democratic developments and setbacks in Southeast Asia.
Migration, ‘Illegality’, and Citizenship in Contemporary Malaysia
Scheduled Time: Sat Mar 29 2014, 8:30 to 10:30am Building/Room: Philadelphia Marriott, Level 3 – Room 305
Session Organizer: Catherine Allerton (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Chair: Catherine Allerton (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Temporary Circular Migration Policy, Irregular Migration Flows and Border Management in Malaysia
*Amarjit Kaur (University of New England)
The Intimate Homo Sacer: Criminalizing Indonesian Maids in Malaysia and Their Escape to Illegality
*En-Chieh Chao (Academia Sinica)
The Political Dimension of Malay Identity: Migration, Voting Blocs, and the Malleability of Identity
*Kai Ostwald (University of California-San Diego)
Family Life, Illegality, and the Vagaries of Documents in Sabah, East Malaysia
*Catherine Allerton (London School of Economics and Political Science)
‘Official nationalism’ in multicultural Malaysia, with its focus on privileges for ‘bumiputera’ (‘sons of the soil’), has long raised questions about differential citizenship, indigeneity and belonging. In the contemporary context, such questions have been further complicated by the presence of large numbers of migrants (both documented and undocumented) from neighbouring countries. This panel will explore the dynamics of migration and citizenship in contemporary Malaysia, with a particular focus on the construction and experience of ‘illegality’. It has been argued that illegality is fundamentally inseparable from citizenship and should be researched and analysed as a specific socio-political condition, produced under specific historical circumstances. This panel, involving scholars from a range of disciplines, aims to highlight the legal frameworks that produce ‘illegality’ in Malaysia, the negative media representations of those considered to be ‘illegal’, and the subjective, everyday consequences of an undocumented status. How is the construction of ‘illegality’ in Malaysia entangled with domestic politics (racial or otherwise), regional history and gendered labour roles? In a context of ‘crackdowns’, detention and deportation, why might there nevertheless be advantages – for both workers and employers – to illegality? The panel will explore the connections between Malaysian discourses on and policies towards illegal migrants, and societal attitudes towards refugees, asylum seekers and stateless children. It will also explore the specificities of ‘illegality’ by paying attention to different attitudes towards, as well as different experiences of, particular ethnic groups, including those from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar.
The ‘Losers’ of Southeast Asia – Histories, Societies, and States outside the Center
Scheduled Time: Sat Mar 29 2014, 8:30 to 10:30am Building/Room: Philadelphia Marriott, Level 3 – Room 304
Session Organizer: Taylor Matthew Easum (New York University)
Chair: George Dutton (University of California, Los Angeles)
Peripheral History? Royal Javanese Exiles in Colonial Ceylon
*Ronit Ricci (Australian National University)
Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em: Elite Responses to Integration in Late Nineteenth- to Early Twentieth-Century Lanna
*Taylor Matthew Easum (New York University)
Memories of Glory and Defeat: Periodizing Patani’s History
*Francis Bradley (Pratt Institute)
Campa Asalam: Localization and Ta’rikh Islamic History along the Vietnamese Coast, 1651-1969
*William B. Noseworthy (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
Southeast Asian history is full of ‘losers’–peoples, societies, and states that have been conquered, displaced, or otherwise left behind in the teleological race to modernity and global relevance. This panel asks the simple question: What does Southeast Asian history look like from the perspective of the losers? In part, this panel is inspired by a critical look at Lieberman’s magnum opus (2003), which chronicled the consolidation and integration of mainland Southeast Asia. As large, successful states ‘won’ by forming strong, centralized polities, many smaller kingdoms, city-states, and cultures became ‘losers’ in one way or another. Once the ‘loss’ occurs, however, the historical narrative shifts to the center, leaving the losing side behind. While others have addressed the histories of so-called ‘losers’ (e.g. Scott 2009, Christie 1996), this panel addresses not only the histories of groups that have been on the losing end of Southeast Asian history, but also how a history written from the perspective of these integrated, conquered, or displaced peoples changes our understanding of larger historical issues and debates.
Bradley and Noseworthy address the social and cultural influence of Islam in defeated societies. Bradley argues that Patani became a center of Islam only after Siamese conquest in 1786; similarly, Noseworthy argues that the importance of Islam as a vessel for Cham identity increased after the loss of the Cham empire. Easum and Ricci discuss the varied strategies of royal elites coping with the challenges–and opportunities–of colonial and semi-colonial Southeast Asia.
Global City’s Dharma: Buddhism and Modernity in Singapore
Scheduled Time: Sat Mar 29 2014, 5:00 to 7:00pm Building/Room: Philadelphia Marriott, Level 5 – Grand Ballroom Salon L
Session Organizer: Jack Meng-Tat Chia (Cornell University)
Defending the Dharma: Buddhist Activism in a Global City-State
*Jack Meng-Tat Chia (Cornell University)
A Double-Edged Sword: Buddhist Evangelism Strategies in Present-Day Singapore
*Guan Thye Hue (Nanyang Technological University)
The Breaking Down of Sacred Ties: The Buddhicization of the Great Way of Former Heaven (Xiantiandao) in Contemporary Singapore
*Chang-hui Chi (National Quemoy University)
Transmitting Chinese Culture: Buddha’s Light Association As Cultural NGO in Singapore
*Wenxue Zhang (Tsinghua University)
Chair: Zhiru Ng (Pomona College)
Discussant: Zhiru Ng (Pomona College)
In Singapore, Buddhism makes up 33.3% of the population and is the majority religion in the country. The changing socio-political and economic environment in post-independence Singapore has forced Buddhism to change and cater to the modern needs of the Buddhists, the society, and the state. Since the 1970s, a modernizing movement towards Reformist Buddhism within the Singaporean population has resulted in the process of “Buddhicization” of Chinese religious syncretism whereby 65% of the Buddhists began to consider themselves as Reformist Buddhists (Kuah 2003). The papers in this panel explore how the reformist Buddhist movement has transformed the religious landscape of Singapore society. Jack Meng-Tat Chia examines the role of Singapore Buddhist Federation in the promotion of religious activism to advocate for canonical fundamentalism and preservation of doctrinal orthodoxy. Guan Thye Hue discusses the three-pronged Buddhist evangelism strategies in Singapore, and argues that such evangelism approaches are a double-edged sword in fostering the public image of Buddhism. Chang-hui Chi investigates how the reformist Buddhist movement has led to the Buddhicization of the Great Way of Former Heaven temples in Singapore. Wenxue Zhang uses the case of Buddha’s Light Association (Singapore) to analyse the role of Buddhist NGOs in the transmission of Chinese culture to Singaporean Chinese. Zhiru Ng will comment on these papers in the light of her current research on Buddhist modernity.
This panel is dedicated to the memory of Pattana Kitiarsa, whose work on Thai Buddhism in Singapore continues to be an inspiration to many.
ROUNDTABLE: Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy in Southeast Asia: Implications for Regional Order
Scheduled Time: Sun Mar 30 2014, 10:15 to 12:15pm Building/Room: Philadelphia Marriott, Level 3 – Room 302/303
Session Organizer: Ann Marie Murphy (Seton Hall University)
Discussant: Zachary Abuza (Simmons College)
Discussant: Priscilla Clapp (Asia Society)
Discussant: Amy Freedman (Long Island University)
Discussant: Nelson Cainghog (University of the Philippines)
Chair: Ann Marie Murphy (Seton Hall University)
Discussant: Donald E. Weatherbee (University of South Carolina)
Foreign policy in Southeast Asia has traditionally been made by state elites insulated from public pressure, but recent years have witnessed a dramatic opening of the policy process across the region. This roundtable explores the diverse ways in which domestic politics is increasingly influencing foreign policy in Southeast Asia and assesses the implications for two key aspects of regional order: levels of cooperation and conflict with fellow ASEAN partners and policy toward great powers, particularly the U.S. and China.
Political transitions in Burma, Indonesia and Thailand have triggered sharp shifts in foreign policy. Pricilla Clapp examines how Burma’s transition has altered its ties with its ASEAN partners, improved relations with the U.S., and perhaps most significantly changed the balance of power in its Sino-Burmese relations. Ann Marie Murphy argues that by providing opportunities for civil society actors to demand greater protection of migrant workers, an increased attention to Islamic issues, and greater economic nationalism, Indonesia’s transition to democracy has significantly changed the country’s foreign policy in a way that often causes frictions with its ASEAN partners as well as the U.S. and China. In Thailand, Pavin Chachavalpongpun argues that since the 2006 coup, Thai foreign policy has become increasingly politicized, resulting in armed classes with Cambodia over competing claims to the Preah Vihear temple, posing significantly threats to regional stability.
Domestic politics is also increasingly influencing foreign policy in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Vietnam is a one party state but Zachary Abuza argues that a new generation of younger leaders, an increasingly independent legislature, vocal business interests and rising nationalism are playing greater roles in foreign policy, especially toward maritime disputes with China. Nelson Cainghog examines how public opinion, political culture, political institutions, and pressure groups are exerting greater influence on the three traditional pillars of Philippine foreign policy: security, economic diplomacy and the protection of migrant workers. Finally, Amy Freedman argues that Malaysian foreign policy, particularly toward China, is strongly influenced by ethnic politics at home.
Sharia Dynamics: Everyday Life and Sociopolitical Conflict
Scheduled Time: Sun Mar 30 2014, 10:15 to 12:15pm Building/Room: Philadelphia Marriott, Level 3 – Liberty Salon B – Headhouse Tower
Session Organizer: Timothy Patrick Daniels (Hofstra University)
Chair: Patricia Hardwick (Yale University)
Shariah As an Academic Discipline: Islamic Higher Education in Indonesian Muslim Debates
*Ronald Lukens-Bull (University of North Florida)
Sharia Law in Malaysia and Gender Equality–Is It a Myth?
*Norhafsah Hamid (Nadi Annissa Muslim Women Organization)
Shar─л╩┐a in China
*James Frankel (University of Hawai‘i at M─Бnoa)
Be Just; That is Closer to Piety: The Social Justice Discourses among Islamic Political Parties in Southeast Asia
*Ermin Sinanovic (International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT))
Discussant: Timothy Patrick Daniels (Hofstra University)
This panel will explore the role interpretations of sharia play in everyday life and sociopolitical conflicts in Asia. Sharia or Islamic laws and norms, as a complex conceptual framework and ethical system, provide meaning and direction to everyday life. It is embodied in personal and congregational worship and morally inflected social and economic activities. Yet, as a core framework and code, it is a powerful resource for those engaged in sociopolitical struggles, as well as a contested component of structures of inequality, such as ethnic, religious, and gender minorities. As the sociopolitical conflicts raging across North Africa and the Middle East demonstrate, interpretations of sharia as a key component of political Islamic movements often play a crucial role in ideological divisions and sociopolitical dynamics. The aim of this panel is to explore these dynamics in Asian contexts, including the Muslim majority societies of Indonesia and Malaysia, and Muslim minorities in China. Scholars, from a variety of disciplines and utilizing various methodologies, will illuminate sharia dynamics in historical and contemporary Asian contexts. These papers describe and analyse interpretations of sharia by various social actors, within a variety of institutions, and their articulation with sociopolitical tensions. They will also explore the impact of various approaches to sharia–such as objective-oriented maqasid al-sharia, formalist, classical, and accommodating–on civil society, politics, and the lives of minorities in the Muslim-majority societies of Malaysia and Indonesia and Muslim minorities under various secular states in China.