Skip to main content

Speakers and Abstracts

For your convenience, all the panels are listed on the conference schedule here and on this page, along with all of the links to register for each event. If you require assistance locating the Zoom links during the conference, please contact us at 

Panel: SEA and the Indian Ocean: flows of ideas, goods, and labour

Sat. March 20, 9:00-11:00am EDT

Click here to register.

Discussant: Anne Blackburn

Moderator: Darren Wan

Speaker: Kelvin Ng, Yale University

Kelvin Ng is a PhD student in the Yale History Department. His work focuses on transoceanic connections between South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His research interests include intellectual history, politicaleconomy, and labor history, with a focus on internationalist modalities of political thought and praxis (e.g. anti-colonial, Marxist and pan-Islamist intellectual movements).

Talk Title: Currents of Radicalism: Tamil Printing in a Transoceanic Setting, c. 1920–1940.

Abstract: The twentieth-century oceanic expansion of Tamil vernacular print networks, following waves of colonial labor migration between South India and Southeast Asia, enabled new historical actors to expand, publicize, and exchange their intellectual interests, and to assert novel political claims around caste, religion, labor, and sovereignty. Adi-Dravida intellectuals in Madras advanced “Dravidianism” as a political imaginary defined by anti-caste consciousness, paralleling Tamil social reformers in Malaya who drew on the language of caste abolitionism to challenge the Brahmin dominance of the Indian public sphere; concurrently, Tamil Muslims in India and Malaya attempted to conceptualize the contours of a global umma. These knowledge networks frequently intersected and overlapped; the contributions of subscribers in Rangoon, Penang, and Singapore evince the Indian Ocean constituency of the Dar ul-Islam, a Madras-based periodical founded by Daud Shah, just as “Periyar” E.V. Ramasamy’s Self-Respect Movement and its publication Kuṭi Aracu enraptured the Malayan Tamil community, Hindu and Muslim alike, prompting the establishment of reform associations in Penang and Singapore. Reading across archival materials in Tamil, Urdu, Malay and Arabic, this article situates the intellectual history of these developments within the political and sociocultural context of transoceanic exchanges, elucidating the global and regional coordinates of apparently discrete local formations. Drawing on Koselleck’s notion of “futures past” animated by improvisational “horizons of expectation,” it explores the contingent and conjunctural conceptions of the historically possible as encoded within the critical intellectual traditions of Dravidian self-respect, Islamic modernism, and anti-caste radicalism, indexing collective aspirations and imaginary futures beyond the frames of empire, diaspora, minority, or nation.

Speaker: Zardas Lee,  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Zardas Shuk-man Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Broadly, they are interested in global history of colonialism and anti-colonialism, inter-Asian relations, and circulation of political ideas. Based on materials from 11 archives in 6 countries, their current research examines how political activists from Malaya contributed to the transnational political movements based in Asia and Europe from the 1940s to the early 1960s. Prior to this project, Lee has published a chapter and a monograph that explore the history of film censorship in British Hong Kong.

Talk Title: Chalo Delhi: Manufacturing Indian Nationalism in Southeast Asia in the Second World War.

Abstract: “They cut the Chinese’s heads, put the heads at all the junctions, and I could see the blood dripping,” an Indian Independence League (IIL) member recalled the Japanese army’s atrocities in Kuala Lumpur in early 1942. Reporting similar horror in Singapore, another IIL member added, “we did not have much faith in the Japanese.” In the Second World War, the Axis Powers sponsored anticolonial movements against Euro-American empires. In Asia, Japan helped form the IIL in Bangkok and its military wing, the Indian National Army (INA). Subsequently, the IIL attempted to unify and mobilize Indian communities in Asia, particularly British Malaya, Burma, Thailand, French Indochina, and the Dutch East Indies, to fight against the Allies, so as to liberate India from British colonial rule. This paper analyzes how the IIL cultivated Indian nationalism in Southeast Asia and how it contained the tension between Japan’s aggressive Pan-Asianism and Indian nationalism. By examining an understudied archival material—a series of Indian history lectures published in Singapore in 1943 by the IIL—I will demonstrate how the IIL interpreted the past of the Indian subcontinent by blending nationalism with communism, located the origins of Pan-Asianism in ancient India, and critiqued British imperialism. In doing so, I argue that the history of the IIL and the INA should not be confined to the study of military battles or several prominent revolutionaries. Rather, the IIL was a main agent of spreading anticolonial ideas in Southeast Asia and across South and Southeast Asia.

Speaker: Sagarika Naik, University of Delhi

Sagarika Naikis a M. Phil, Scholar and a research fellow at University of Delhi. She has previously worked as a research assistant at Confluence Media Pvt Ltd, with the project title “Integration of Indian Princely State”. Currently, she is working as a research associate for National Archive of Trinidad and Tobago, where she has constantly working with the archival records including Census Report, Immigration and Emigration Files, Famine Reports, Gazetteers and Annual Administrative Reports. In addition to that, she presented and participated in different national and international conferences, seminar, colloquial and workshop, including The Rise of Asia in Global History and Perspective, La MonteeDe L’Asie En Historie et Perspective Globales, France, North American Labor History Conference(NALHC) at Wayne State University, Detroit , Michigan University , University of East London, University of Oxford, and University of Colorado Boulder etc. Her research interest focuses on Global history, Labour History, Migration Studies, Gender and Sexuality, Human Trafficking, South Asian and Southeast Asian Studies. Apart from that, recently her research explores the Rohingya refugee crisis, particularly she examines the diverse issues containing with the practice of belongingness, place-attachment and mobility, refugee crisis and sex trafficking. 

Talk Title: Gender and Empire: A Comparative Analysis on Colonial Inter-Asian Labour Migration.

Abstract: In the recent years, scholars frequently points out that, how Asian labour has played a foundational role in building the modern world of global capitalism. On the other hand, the impeccable scholarly engagement advocates that in many ways Indian Ocean rim was characterized as a specialized flow of labour and capital, at the same time the Inter-Asian (South/South-east Asian, north-east Asian) labour migration networks not only expanded the empire’s territorial construction but also played an essential role in the foundation of global capitalism around the world. While the Inter-Asian labour mobility has emerged as a vital part of the development of the global economy, the existing literature slow to register the gendered dimension of the migration. Using the trans-epochal perspectives, I have elucidated that, the global migration system created spaces that have neglected the gendered character of the migration process. By using these formulations this paper is an outcome of three interrelated propositions. In the first place this paper challenging the predominant discourse in migration studies which are ‘gender-blind’ or, perhaps it even worse, have assumed perceptions like ‘men migrate and women stay behind’. Second, it aims to re-visit the abstract nature of colonial labour migration networks and their experiences using gendered lenses of investigation. It also trying to revealing connections between genders, colonial policies relating to labour migration, the importance of various ‘spaces’ within migrant labour communities, and the construction of insidious stereotypes regarding migrant labour communities. At the last, it creates a dialogue between colonial pasts shared by Asian societies and investigates how colonial legacies continue to influence contemporary trends of labour mobility and labour experiences.

Speaker: Can Thi Van, Nanyang Technological University

Cao Thi Van is currently pursuing doctoral studies in History at the School of Humanities, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. Her research focuses on the Cochin-china trade in the pre-modern period and its historical migration. She has completed her BA (Hons) and MA in history from Hanoi National University of Education. Prior to the start of her Ph.D. at NTU, she has worked as a university lecturer for five years in Hanoi. She has attended as a presenter at some conferences in Singapore, United States, Japan, China, and Vietnam.

Talk Title: The History of Nguyen Vietnam-Singapore Trade, 1820-1847

Abstract: This thesis breaks away from the Sino-centric ideas in terms of politics and commerce to see Vietnam as a dynamic partner of Singapore’s trade. While the outbreak of the first Opium War created, to some degree, fractures in Sino-Vietnam trade in the mid-nineteenth century, the opening of Singapore in 1819 attracted merchants from Vietnam, and a considerable number of Vietnam-based junks and boats of large and small sizes visited this settlement for business. Nguyen Vietnam’s overseas trade with the Nanyang sea area in the pre-colonial period, nevertheless, has received little attention from scholars, which leaves a feeling that Vietnam’s commerce with the other Southeast Asian countries was insignificant. This study aims to provide a picture of a dynamic trade in pre-colonial Vietnam through a quantitative and qualitative analysis on the Nguyen Vietnam-Singapore trade from 1820 to 1847.This thesis attempts to explore the possibility that there was a new era of Vietnam’s commercial history: while eighteenth-and early-nineteenth-century Vietnam witnessed a dependence on Chinese junk trade, the second quarter of the nineteenth century showed a dynamic participation of the local Vietnamese crafts in overseas trade. Vietnam’s maritime history shifted from passive to positive. This character was created by three commercial elements: the Vietnamese King’s ship trade, the local Vietnamese tope trade and the Chinese settler junk trade. However, the lack of commercial data in the late 1830s and 1840s poses a question on the people who drove the Nguyen Vietnam-Singapore trade in the context of Vietnamese government’s trading limitation.A quantitative assessment on what degree the King’s ships contributed to the trade will be adopted here to suggest that Singapore became the main supplier of Western products, especially British cotton pieces goods and woollens, replacing China before 1819. Meanwhile, opium was the most important article of import by merchants from Nguyen Vietnam. Following to the rise of local Vietnamese tope trade in the Malay Peninsula, the study investigates the commercial participation of the natives and the Chinese settlers, showing how the latter gradually escaped the royal prohibitions, and sought for their trading opportunities through the operation of the Nguyen’s Tao van (漕運).

Panel: Migrated Culture: politics of diaspora across generation

Sat. March 20, 1:00-3:00pm EDT

Click here to register.

Discussant: Christine Balance

Moderator: Sarah Meiners

Speaker: Jonathan Johnson, University of Chicago

Jonathan Johnson is master’s student at the University of Chicago focused on sociopolitical understandings of intergenerational trauma, dissonance, healing, and belonging among 2ndCambodian-Americanyouth. Despite originally being a first-generation college student from a small town in Florida, his professional activities and research are international and comparative in scope.Professionally, he has worked in international development, political campaigns, public policy, and communications focused on youth issues. His research interests are in the anthropology of youth, transitional justice, human rights, and political and legalanthropology focused primarily on youth development and child labor in Southeast Asia. Currently, he is a research assistant for a project on development, urban identity, and migration in Cambodia at the University of Chicago and will be a Boren fellow in Cambodia.

Talk Title: Becoming Cambodian: Sociopolitical Understandings of Intergenerational Dissonance, Trauma, and Identity.

Abstract: This thesis explores how 2nd generation Cambodian-Americans interpret their upbringing and Cambodian culture to better understand how intergenerational dissonance and trauma stem from the impact of social fields and moral projects on which conceptions of care, healing, and identity each generation embraces. Through ethnographic work in the Cambodian-American community in Chicago and in-depth interviews with 2nd generation youth nationwide, I show that intergenerational trauma and dissonance among Cambodians does not derive from problematic parent-child relationships or the inherited legacy of the genocide, the oft given explanations, but through a fusion of sociopolitical influences, existential concerns, and historical factors. By focusing on the 2nd generation’s social fields and moral projects, I also show that the 1st generation’s centering of Cambodian identity around Buddhism is being adapted to fit Western paradigms of religion, the self, and healing, in the process, creating a new conception of Cambodian identity centered around resiliency.

Speaker: Michael Menor Salgarolo, New York University

Michael Salgarolois a PhD candidate in History at New York University and a Doctoral Fellow at the NYU Center for the Humanities. His research focuses on race, migration, and empire in the late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century United States. His dissertation project, "Manila Bayou: Race, Property and Empire in Filipino Louisiana," uses the history of New Orleans Filipino communities to reinterpret the imperial historyof the United States.

Talk Title: “Los Hispano Filipinos de Nueva Orleans: Filipino Political Traditions in Nineteenth-Century Louisiana”.

Abstract: Histories of nineteenth-century Filipino anticolonial movements have long focused on millenarian peasant revolts in the Philippine lowlands and the revolutionary activities of European-based ilustrado nationalists. This paper offers a new perspective on these anticolonial histories from an unlikely source: communities of Filipino sailors that deserted and settled in the bayous of lower Louisiana, in the southeastern United States. Beginning in the 1830s, Western merchant vessels began to hire Filipino sailors (known as “Manilamen” in the Anglophone world) to work on oceanic voyages, often resorting to impressment or other forms of coercion to secure their labor. As a result, many of these sailors deserted in ports such as New Orleans, where Filipinos founded a settlement called St. Malo in the mid-nineteenth century. The paper examines St. Malo and its residents as political actors, asking how their tactics of resistance and solidarity were informed by Philippine folk ideologies and how they, mirroring the ilustrados, attempted to assert themselves as equals within New Orleans’ Hispanophone public sphere. The paper also asks how the St. Malo Filipinos’ political consciousness was shaped by or against the African American freedom struggle in the United States. The paper contributes to our understandings of the diasporic roots of Filipino nationalism and recontextualizes the revolutionary traditions of Filipino peasants within a broader history of working-class resistance to dispossession under capitalism.

Speaker: Bao Xiong, University of Wisconsin-Madison

As a Hmong woman who grows up in the United States and a current Master’s Student in the Southeast Asian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I am committed to a career in academia with the goal of understanding the Hmong diaspora around the world, specifically focusing on the transnational context of marriage within the Hmong communities and how globalization may have influences these relationships over time. These interests stemmed from my master’s research and my curiosity to learn more about my own culture. Growing up in the U.S., I got the chance to learn about cultures that are different from my own and started questioning my positionality as a Hmong woman. I will have the chance to gain a deeper understanding of transnational marriage between Hmong American and Hmong Thai/Lao as an incoming PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  

Talk Title: Transnational Marriage: Hmong American Men and Hmong Southeast Asian Women 

Abstract: The Hmong society, patrilineal and polygamous, widely regards the female gender as the inferior one and as such infidelities committed by men are commonplace. I built my master’s research on this issue, namely the polygamous practices of Hmong men. My Master’s thesis filled a knowledge gap—transnational marriage in the Hmong population. Although my original plan prior to the pandemic was to travel to Thailand and Laos to conduct field research to understand Hmong Thai and Hmong Lao women about their reasons for marrying Hmong American men, I have to shift the focus of my master’s research and conducted in-depth interviews with two Hmong women: Ka, who lives in Minnesota, and Mai, who lives in Wisconsin. Ka and Mai (pseudonyms) were originally from Thailand and married Hmong American men. Through these interviews, my preliminary findings revealed that both women expressed different reasons for choosing to marry their husbands: business opportunities and love. These findings also highlighted that transnational marriages in the Hmong population are not transcultural, that is, Hmong women are marrying within the same culture (i.e., Hmong). Anecdotally, there are several young Hmong men from Thailand and Lao marrying older divorced Hmong American women from the United States. This phenomenon warrants further investigation but to the pandemic, I am unable to obtain a large sample size for my thesis.

Panel: Politics and gender of religion: entangled text and image

Sat. March 20, 4:00-6:00pm EDT

Click here to register.

Discussant: Anthony Irwin

Moderator: Bruno Shirley

Speaker: Catherine Ries, University of California, Santa Cruz

Catherine Ries is a Ph.D. student and a Eugene Cota-Robles fellow in the Visual Studies
program in the History of Art & Visual Culture department at the University of California, Santa
Cruz. Her current research focuses on Islamic art, material culture, performing arts, and feminine
identity in Indonesia. She is preparing for field research that will lead to a dissertation on female
representations in the Islamic courts of Java. She recently co-authored an “Interview with Boreth
Ly on Her New Book Traces of Trauma” with fellow graduate students Michelle Yee and
Christina Ayson-Plank, published in Refract: An Open Access Visual Studies Journal. Ries has a
forthcoming essay, “Dressing for History in Wayang Golek Cepak: Outward Appearance and
Inward Soul,” co-authored with Professor Kathy Foley, published by The Museum of
Anthropology in their edited volume tentatively titled, Bodies of Enchantment.

Talk Title: From Sanggul to Veil: The Javanese Bride as Embodiment of Indonesian Islamic Ideals. 

Abstract: Javanese bridal hairstyles were traditionally elaborate buns called sanggul. Along with the diminishing use of Javanese ceremonial components that are perceived as “un-Islamic,” the changing religious climate has resulted in more women forgoing traditional hairstyles like the sanggul and opting for covering their hair with veils on their wedding day. The growth of Islam has brought about changes in Javanese ideology that have influenced the role of women. Women in Java participate more actively in politics and mosque-culture than in many other Islamic nations. Still, this freedom is threatened due to efforts to “purify” or represent “true” Islamic values and doctrine by imitating Saudi forms of conservative Islam such as Wahhabism. For example, there is an increased effort by some Muslims to segregate spaces by gender. Gender segregation may find expression as well in visual terms, as in the veiling of women. While veiling is an optional choice, the practice is becoming more common among Javanese Muslim women in both their daily lives and wedding ceremonies. I argue that the role of Javanese women as brides supports the national project and the modernist agenda of Indonesian organizations, like Muhammadiyah, and that bridal hairstyles reflect contemporary notions of femininity as well as constructions of religious and ethnic identities. Furthermore, these changes are discernible through Javanese visual culture and art. Lastly, I argue that wearing a veil does not necessarily signify a regression in feminine agency but points more to a rejection of traditions and a shifting in the Javanese cultural current.

Speaker: Mary Kate Long, Cornell University

MK Long is a PhD candidate in the Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University. Her research focuses on the institutional histories and textual production of Buddhist monastic women in Myanmar known asthilashin, andis more broadly concerned with the sexual politics and relational networks of Buddhist institutions and shifting constructions of authority in religious frontiers. MK works with Burmese and Pali literature and has been involved in ethnographic fieldwork in and around Myanmar nunneries since 2015.

Talk Title: Buddhist Biographies of Belonging in Contemporary Myanmar

Abstract: Across Buddhist traditions, ordination within a monastic lineage is the primary means of access to and command of the economic resources and symbolic capital through which normative religious practice is shaped and devotional innovations are authorized or contested. In Myanmar, where women are officially barred from ordination and affiliation within monastic lineage, how have Buddhist monastic women known as thilashin unsettled and reshaped the country’s landscape of religious institutions? To answer this question, this paper takes up two biographical texts written about thilashin institutional founders and published during a critical upheaval of Myanmar Buddhist monastic institutions: General Ne Win’s formation of the State Sanghamahānāyaka Committee (MaHaNa) from 1979-1982. I analyze the ways that these biographies maximize this fraught moment of reorganization to record evidence of social and material networks of belonging that enable women’s access to and command of religious property such as nunnery complexes, pagodas, and other infrastructures of devotion and practice. Whereas male and female Buddhist monastic cultures are typically analyzed separately, I argue that tracing the intimate relationships of interest, support, and protection that crisscross male and female monastic and lay domains is vital to understanding the mutual and recursive constitution of property and authority within Myanmar’s religious landscape. 

Speaker: Napakadol Kittisenee, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Napakadol Kittisenee is a PhD student in history at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was formerly trained in anthropology that enabled him to engage with monastic networks and grounded works in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand for the last ten years. His current research focuses on Buddhist response to wars and atrocities in the mid-twentieth century Thailand and Cambodia.

Talk Title: Buddhist Diplomacy amidst 1893 Franco-Siamese War. 

Abstract: 1893 marks a controversial incident of Franco-Siamese War, known in local sources as the Pak Nam Crisis or the Crisis of Ratanakosin Sok (R.S.112). Historians both in homeland and abroad pay a heavy attention on the causality of dispute and its ripple effects, which in turn concluded with Siamese offer the French the west bank of Mekong as well as Battambang, Siem Reap and Sisophon of Cambodia. Few, however, accounts for another crucial cultural incident of Siamese dissemination to the world—the first of its kind—a printing version of Tipitaka (Buddhist Sacred Text) donated to hundreds of leading university libraries at the time, through the assistance of embassies and consulates around the globe. This paper will illustrate how this Buddhist diplomacy can be read and interpreted at the intersected forces of war, colonialism, empire, tributary state and modern nation building at the turn of 20th century.        

Panel: Memory: in poetics, battles, and camps

Sat. March 20, 8:00-10:00pm EDT

Click here to register.

Discussant: Kelsey Utne

Moderator: Brian Sengdala

Speaker: Elgin Glenn R. Salomon, University of the Philippines Visayas/University of the Philippines Diliman

Elgin Glenn R. Salomon is Instructor at the Division of Social Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, University of the Philippines Visayas in Miagao, Iloilo. He is also a student of the MA Philippine Studies (Socio-cultural Studies) program at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman. He specializes in visual methodology, colonial urban planning, Martial Law in Mindanao, and subaltern studies. His recent article on the City Beautiful Plan of Iloilo City, Philippines was published at the Philippine Sociological Review (Volume 67).  

Talk Title: The Testimonial Narratives of the Tausug Survivors During the 1974 Battle of Jolo: Counter-History and Identities

Abstract: On February 7, 1974, an ongoing conflict between the forces of the Philippine State and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) secessionists left the town of Jolo, Sulu in ruin and displaced around 18,000 individuals.  Despite that it is considered a major clash that worsens the relationship between the Philippine State and the Muslim Filipinos; it is relatively unknown and forgotten in the annals of Philippine history. Much worse, the personal experiences of the civilians who were directly affected by the said conflict remained displaced and silent. In this paper, I explore the use of testimonial narrative or testimonios of the Tausug survivors as a counter-history (Foucault, 1976) to the dominant, monochromatic, and polarizing historiography of Martial Law that espouses anti-Marcos sentiments. But as mediated by their national (Bangsamoro/Filipino), ethnic (Tausug) and religious (Muslim) identities, the official history regarding this battle ignored the complexity of survivors’ experiences. After analyzing the historiography of the battle, the testimonial narratives of the Tausug survivors were collected orally through semi-structured interviews. This paper focuses on the silenced narratives and memories of violence, war, and displacement against the Tausug survivors, and their reflections and discernments about the battle. The survivors’ narratives serve as an alternative source of knowledge about the marginalization of Mindanao in Southern Philippines during the repressive years of Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law. Most importantly, uncovering their testimonios would hopefully contribute in social actions to demand justice against the atrocities of the Marcos regime.

Speaker: Ian Harvey A. Claros, Ateneo de Manila University

IAN HARVEY CLAROS  is a graduate of AB/BSE Literature at the Philippine Normal University-Manila. Currently, he teaches Philippine literature and writing at the Ateneo de Manila University where he also pursues his Master of Arts in Literary and Cultural Studies. He also serves as culture editor of Squeeze PH, an emerging local media outfit. Since 2017, Ian has presented his research at Imperial College London and University of London, Birkbeck. His research work revolves around Philippine literature, postcolonial theory, memory studies, and Samar and Leyte studies. Presently, he is writing his thesis on the literary and filmic remembering of the Balangiga encounter of 1901 with respect to their aesthetics and ethics. However, to fully rethink the notion of memory, he offers a vernacular alternative to resist and engage with its western construction.  

Talk Title: Politics of Forgetting: The Subject of Balangiga in Early Modern Waray Poetry. 

Abstract: This study surveys the poetry of early modern Waray poets who emerged during the advent of American colonialism in the Philippines. Most of them were active and founding members of the Sanghiran san Binisaya, a prestigious Samar and Leyte-based circle of writers and intellectuals that aims to promote Waray language and culture. Evidently, this vernacular intelligentsia did not memorialize, remember, or bear witness to the Balangiga encounter of 1901, a townsfolk-initiated attack against the American military which eventually led to a severe retaliatory response in the entire island. The historic event is crucial not only because it builds the premise of the American imperialist project in Southeast Asia but also because it prompted an anti-colonial rebellion from below against a major military power. While the Sanghiran’s poems do not explicitly mention the incident, they articulate themes of longing, mourning, and nationalism – modes of thinking and feeling which possibly foreground the aftermath of the catastrophic event. Further, I posit that their collective silence can be best examined through a genealogy of forgetting based on its Western, Austronesian, and local constructions. This traversal establishes a rapport where literary texts tangentially contract the valences of the traumatic phenomenon which, in effect, invites us to rethink the disparity between remembering (dumdum) and forgetting (limot). By and large, it also permits an evaluation of their resistance against or collaboration with the American empire – a critical procedure which can only be possible by eliciting the synergies circulating around memory, forgetting, political subjectivity, and literary production.

Speaker: Scott Pribble, San Francisco State University

Scott Pribble holds a master’s degree in history from San Francisco State University. His academic focus has been on Cambodia, primarily specializing in the history of the second half of the twentieth century. His research examines the experiences of Cambodians in the labor camps of Democratic Kampuchea in the 1970s and their struggle for survival in one of the bleakest episodes in modern history. Over the past two years he has given presentations at several Southeast Asian conferences in the United States and Canada on topics ranging from the revolutionary music of the Khmer Rouge labor camps to the evolution of the prosthetic industry in Cambodia. He is also interested in studying the influence of the Chinese Communist Party and the Cultural Revolution on Khmer Rouge policy and strategy. He plans to apply to PhD programs in Southeast Asian history in 2021. 

Talk Title: The Barter Economy of Democratic Kampuchea.

Abstract: When the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975, the fanatical communist regime abolished all currencies and markets under the assumption that the “vestiges of capitalism (and inequality) would not survive without money in circulation.” (Chandler, 1992) Anyone that traded currency for food or supplies would be beaten or executed for a single violation of the new edict. Nevertheless, many Cambodians flouted these laws and created underground markets in labor camps all over the country using substitute currencies. Rural peasants, given preferential treatment from the communists, traded their surplus rice with starving Cambodians from the cities, who bartered their gold and jewelry. Men, women, and children of every class and ethnic group traded in these underground exchanges. In fact, anyone with coveted goods and a willingness to risk their lives could participate. As labor camp rations decreased during periods of drought, the underground markets became vital to the survival of many camp residents, as hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were dying from malnutrition. Using the memoirs of survivors of the Khmer Rouge era as primary sources, this research examines the role of the barter economy in Cambodia from 1975-1979 and its impact on the population.

Panel: Educating modernity, teaching nationalism

Sun. March 21, 9:00-11:00am EDT

Click here to register.

Discussant: Thomas Pepinsky

Moderator: Tinakrit Sireerat

Speaker: Jennifer Otting, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jennifer Otting is a Ph.D. candidate in Education Policy Studies with a concentration in Comparative & International Education. Her dissertation research examines how the discourse of fragility shapes understandings of democracy and the relationship between democracy and education within Burma. This project builds on her master’s research which studies the implementation of citizenship education in Kosovo where she argues that curriculum is rendered technical producing the unintended consequence of perpetuating conditions that have justified Kosovo’s categorization as a fragile state. Her research projects have been supported by the Luce Foundation, University of Wisconsin Southeast Asia Program, University of Wisconsin Global Education Center and the University of Wisconsin Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia Program. In addition to her research, Jennifer lectures in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, teaching classes in International Education Development, Democracy and Education and Globalization and Education. 

Talk Title: Pathway to Democracy? The Fragile State and the Promises of Myanmar’s Higher Education Reform. 

Abstract: Historically, schooling has been positioned as a site to strengthen Western notions of liberal democracy, and in places labeled as ‘fragile’, education reforms are implemented to develop an active democratic citizenry. One pedagogical practice to produce the modern, civilized individual who contributes to the transitional process is critical thinking. My research draws on discourse analysis and ethnographic data to trace how the discourse of the fragile state traverses through the critical thinking policies being implemented in Myanmar’s public and private universities.  My presentation will focus on how the pathologizing discourse of fragility is internalized through critical thinking policies. The fears of state abnormality and hopes of an imagined democratic future are embedded in the reform acting as governing mechanism to identify populations who are threats to the imagined democratic future. This research shows that while critical thinking-a component to democratizing education policies- is often understood to be a set of skills needed for a democracy, critical thinking embodies a cultural thesis restricting notions of belonging and equality- components attached to democracy. This research implores policy makers to think about the ways the logics of reform are incapsulated in discourses that conserve the problems they seek to change. 

Speaker: Stephanie du Chatellier, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Stephanie du Chatellier is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Originally from the U.S., her upbringing in Thailand amongst coups inspired her research exploring the role of identity politics and “Thainess” in Thailand’s political unrest. Her dissertation focuses on cultural hegemony and how the state uses education and history as structures of power to maintain political dominance.

Talk Title: The Power of Education: National Curriculum and the Transformation of Political Stability in Thailand. 

Abstract: What does it mean to be Thai? In Thailand, cultural citizenship largely determines political participation in national elections. Since the 1932 revolution that transformed Thailand's absolute monarchy into a constitutional one, twelve successful coups have followed. Central to these coups have been questions of who has the right to participate in the political administration of the country, with lines being drawn along class, ethnicity, religion, geographic region, and loyalty to the crown. My dissertation explores these identity politics through the lens of the national curriculum, and how it is used by the state to shape an “ideal” model of Thai national identity. Through ethnographic fieldwork, interviewing, and archival research, I examine the design and dissemination of Thai history and civic education curricula in two elite secondary schools, illustrating how the normalization of social stratification within Thailand is formed. I argue that the national curriculum can be used as a political indicator for the stability of a nation. Like the GDP, public health, or the existence of a free press, education provides a lens to not only assess stark inequalities that lead to social unrest, but even more significantly, reveals how systems of inequality are created and maintained.  

Speaker: Yue Chang, Peking University

Ailsa Yue Chang is a first-year graduate student of Peking University, majoring in Culture and History of Vietnamese and IR. Her research area of interest is Colonial history and International Relations of Vietnam including colonial education, colonial art, nationalism of Vietnamese and relation between China and Vietnam.She was the project member of STUDY ON DEEP INTENTION INTO “BELT AND ROAD” AND ENHANCING THE LEVEL OF OPENING-UP IN INNER MONGOLIA which has been published by China Development Press. And she was the co-writer of JOINT DECLARATION OF THE DELEGATES OF THE EAST ASIA SUMMIT (10+8) ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE EAST ASIA YOUTH REGIONAL THINK TANK PROGRAM, 2018. In addition, she also participated in many other research/projects which are related to Linguistics, culture and history of Vietnam.

Talk Title: The construction of independence and nationalism of Vietnam during 1937-1945, from the view of Vietnamese modern Laquer painting.

Abstract: Laquer painting of colonial-era Vietnam was born at L’École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine in 1920s, and had been dominated by narratives that privilege revolutionary nationalism, especially from 1937-1945. Modern Vietnamese laquer paintings was totally initiate for both Vietnam and France. For Vietnam, modern Vietnamese Laquer painting absorbed and inherited techniques and concepts of French oil painting. For France, this new form of art admited Vietnamese local material which is Sơn Ta. During the France colonial in Vietnam, Vietnam had been bound to France which leads to the process of modernization and colonization that promoted the birth of local identity and modern laquer art appeared correspondingly. This article aims at building a comprehensive understanding of construction of nationalism and independence of Vietnam during the procession of modernization and colonization from 1937 to 1945 through the view of Vietnamese modern Laquer paintings. Specifically, painting techniques, subjects, aesthetic conception will be analyzed and compared in order to inspect how Vietnamese adopting Western modern culture and constructing their own identity and nationality. Accordingly, modern laquer paintings of colonial-era Vietnam which has been treated as a brand-new form of art vividly showed and explained society of colonial-era Vietnam and construction of Vietnamese nationality under the French colonial.

Panel: State-Making and Resistance

Sun. March 21, 12:00-2:00pm EDT

Click here to register.

Discussant: Magnus Fiskesjö

Moderator: Michael Miller

Speaker: Justin Weinstock, University of California - Berkeley

Justin Weinstock is a PhD student of Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of California - Berkeley. His doctoral dissertation research explores how an indigenous (Orang Asli) group's engagements in wildlife conservation reconstitute life in the Thai-Malaysian borderland. Prior to his graduate studies, Justin conducted ethnographic fieldwork as a Fulbright Student Fellow in Malaysia. This project, also supported by a National Geographic Early Career Grant, examined a related Orang Asli group’s attunement to captive animal life and processes of enclosure through their employment as mahouts (elephant caretakers) at a government facility. Justin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and Asian Studies from Cornell University. In a former life, he lived in Indonesia where he also did research and was a visiting lecturer at Universitas Padjadjaran in Bandung. 

Talk Title: Pointing out the Elephant in the Room: New Animations of State Power in the Malaysian-Thai Borderland.

Abstract: This paper explores the historical links and fractures present in the art of governing, and of (not) being governed in a Southeast Asian frontier zone since the emergence of the modern territorial nation state. To do so, I examine recent reports made by the Jahai – an Orang Asli (aboriginal) community living in Malaysia’s densely forested borderland with Thailand – of being terrorized by gajah kerajaan (the “government’s elephants” in Malay). I interpret these complaints of wildlife attacks as both a political claim and an incisive critique made by the Jahai that renders visible certain veiled forms of violence that the state enacts under the cover of nature. Implicitly, Jahai imputations link this unseen mode of state power embedded in the elephant’s contemporary protected status to the historical figuration of the captive elephant as the paramount display of sovereign power and military might in Southeast Asia. Moreover, the Jahai claim points to how the government’s reconfiguration of life in spaces it designates as protected habitat sets wild elephants in motion in particular ways on its behalf – to unsettle the Jahai from the forest, their customary land, and guard the border in a region that has historically been an ungovernable haven for insurgents. In the process, these contemporary animations of state power officially disqualify complaints of human-elephant conflict as a categorical impossibility in a protected area, racializing Jahai being and dwelling in the forest as subhuman and practically invisible.

Speaker: Yvonne Tan, Goethe University Frankfurt

Yvonne Tan’s research interests include indigenous struggles and warfare within the Southeast Asia region. Her published works include 509: The People Have Spoken(Strategic Information and Research Development Centre 2018) which has been translated into three languages and Race and Colonial Wars in the 19th centuryedited by Farish Noor and Peter Carey (Amsterdam University Press 2021).

Talk Title: Piractical Headhunters yang semacam Melayu dan Cina: Creating the Abject Other Natives in the Mat Salleh Rebellions (1894-1905).

Abstract: This paper looks at how the Mat Salleh Rebellion, led by a datu with ties to the Sulu Sultanate royalty, challenged the British North Borneo Company and the manner in which the indigenous resistance was conceptualised when establishing its jurisdiction. Borrowing heavily from the British East India Company’s racial categorisation in Peninsula Malaysia, the chapter argues that despite the involvement of diverse tribes and communities in the rebellion, there was a clear demarcation of those who were ‘in the like of a Malay’ or ‘in the like of a Chinese’, Mohammedian or Pagan, coastal or inland, pirates or headhunters which continues to take hold until today. Hence, Mat Salleh’s influence which was initially framed as outlawed Bajao and Suluk pirates grew to quickly defy these rigid labels where among those who joined him were thought of as successfully subdued headhunters turned ‘peace-loving’ Dusuns and the ‘martial races’ that made up the Company’s Constabulary — Dyaks exiled from the ‘war on piracy’ in Sarawak, Sikhs and Pathans. Despite the unreliability of the Company’s racial logic, the paper analyses how the Company continued to frame the rebellion through this lens and informed their decisions in responding to the rebellion, particularly examplared by the Company’s massacre of only Bajaos by towards the end. Despite the efforts of Mat Salleh and the people he led, this binary took hold in the national rhetoric of three races — Malay, Chinese and Indian — where the unacknowledged

Speaker: Kathrin Reed, University of Delaware

Kathrin Reed is a Ph.D.candidate in Political Science at the University of Delaware. Her dissertation seeks to understand bilateral conflict management in mainland Southeast Asia, in particular examining the influence of the pre-colonial mandala systems on contemporary state behavior. Having spent four years atan international organizationin Genevaand Phnom Penh working on projects related to security sector governance in Southeast Asia, her research interests also include the influence of externally-imposed good governance reforms ondemocratization. Originally from Germany, shereceived an International Affairs from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and International Relations and French from the College of Wooster. She has studied Mandarin for the past four years.

Talk Title: The Double-Edged Sword of Neoliberal Reforms in Cambodia.

Abstract: Since the 1990s, the international community has touted neoliberal reforms in Cambodia as a path towards both economic development and liberal democracy. Importantly, such reforms were purported to eradicate corruption and patrimonialism. The fact that Cambodia remains one of the poorest and most socio-economically unequal states in Southeast Asia thus tends to be explained as a failure to adequately implement neoliberal reforms. Since this conclusion depends on the assumption that neoliberalism has uniform effects regardless of historical and geographic context, the scholarship focuses on how the Cambodian political elite have manipulated externally-imposed neoliberal reforms to advance their political and economic powers. Yet, as Harvey points out, neoliberalism can be considered as successful precisely when it has re-instated the power of the ruling elite. This paper therefore questions the assumption that neoliberalism is conducive to liberal democracy. It examines neoliberal reforms as a double-edged sword that has created new fractures between the Cambodian People’s Party and the population, as well as new links amongst ordinary Cambodian. Through analyzing the effects of neoliberal reforms initiated by the World Bank and the United Nations in the 1990s and 2000s, it demonstrates that the subsequent pillaging of Cambodia’s natural resources and dispossession of the masses through land reforms contributed to the establishment of societal and political movements challenging the ruling elite. It is argued that escalating opposition to the unequal effects of neoliberal reforms threatened the power of the ruling elite, which played an instrumental part in Cambodia’s reversion to full authoritarianism in 2017.