Speakers and Abstracts
View all of this information in the conference packet here.
Panel 1: Connections Beyond
From Yunnan to Thailand: Bai Zhizhang and his Tai Communist Comrades
Cui Feng, National University of Singapore, Comparative Asian Studies Program
Abstract: Following the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, China had begun to prepare for a possible future war against the United States with Southeast Asia as the frontier. Some of the ethnic minorities which had close kinship with Southeast Asian people were trained as cadres of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). This article focuses on a group of Tai veterans of the PLA whom China confidentially dispatched to join the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) in 1971 because of their ethnic similarity with Southeast Asians. Combined with these Tai comrades’ personal experiences, this research reveals that China provided substantial assistance to the Thai revolution, including the intervention of military personnel. However, China was also trying cautiously to avoid violating the principle of peaceful coexistence. All soldiers' Chinese nationality was revoked before they entered Thailand. These previous Tai PLA soldiers significantly strengthened the fighting capacity of the CPT. However, when the CCP hoped these Tai cadres to assist the CPT permanently in taking advantage of ethnic similarities, most eventually returned to China after a few years because of their strong identification with the Chinese nation and the changing domestic and internal situation.
Visualising the Pre-Islamic Past: Autochthonous Agency and Inter-ocularity in "Noor Islam" and "Isi Neraka"
Herman Lim Bin Adam Lim, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Department of Asian Studies; Graduate Degree Fellow, East-West Center
Abstract: Described in newspapers as the first Malay-language films to deal with religion, ‘Noor Islam’ and ‘Isi Neraka’ (1960) reinterpret the cultural memory of Malay conversion into Islam for the silver screen. This paper explores how the pre-Islamic past was reimagined in these films, at a time of intense decolonisation and the continued negotiations over identity and ‘race’ in Malaya and Singapore. What visual ‘metonyms’ were used to connote Muslimness, as opposed to non-Muslimness? Where might these visual vocabularies be coming from? Taking an art historical approach, I use the concept of ‘inter-ocularity’ to show how these films were embedded within a web of visual vocabularies from across the Indian Ocean, drawing from circulating ephemeral art, theatrical traditions, and the films of India and Egypt. These various visual media draw from one another, simultaneously reinforcing the longevity of image tropes. Replicating Orientalist tropes of the ‘dangerous Hindu’, Malayan film makers actively adapted such images to portray the pre-Islamic past as a time of demonic deities and virgin sacrifices, in contrast to Islam’s role as an illuminating force for good. I therefore emphasise how images perpetuate enduring ideas about identity, challenging the privileging of texts in present analyses of Southeast Asian histories.
The Limits of Empire: Relationship between the Ming dynasty and the Lān Xāng Kingdom (1402-1613)
Zhang Chen, University of Macau, Department of History
Abstract: Lān Xāng (lit. “millions of elephants”, 1353-1707) was a Lao kingdom located in the middle basin of Mekong River. After conquering Yunnan in 1382, the Ming dynasty applied a native chieftain system inherited from the Yuan dynasty to “rule” the local polities in southern Yunnan. In 1402, Lān Xāng sent a tributary delegation to the Ming dynasty for the first time and the ruler of Lān Xāng was invested as the Pacification Superintendent (rank 3b, the highest rank of native chieftains) in 1404. During the late sixteenth century, the Ming dynasty lost its political influence over Lān Xāng and other neighboring polities. While previous studies accredited it to the rise of Burma, this paper argues that the decline of the native chieftain system on one hand was caused by Ming China’s reduction of economic and military resources devoted to the Southwestern frontier, on the other hand was challenged by state-building of Lān Xāng and other neighboring polities. As early as the late fifteenth century, a Buddhist kingship had been broadly constructed through employing the concept of Chakkavatti in this region and native chieftains in this region began to be re-organized into this newly centralized kingdom. As such, Beijing’s influence became far and feeble.
Turning the Wheel of What? Sovereigns and Sangha Across the Premodern Indian Ocean
Bruno Shirley, Cornell University, Department of Asian Studies
Abstract: A number of scholarly paradigms—Cœdès’ “Indianised States,” the post-Cold War division of regional area studies, Pollock’s “cosmopolis”—maintain boundaries between translocal language-cultures and the “vernaculars” of premodern Southeast Asia and southern South Asia. These boundaries unduly privileged flows of knowledge eastwards and southwards, from Sanskrit and Pali into vernacular knowledge-systems. But as Thompson, Lammerts, Akepiyapornchai, and others have more recently shown, it was often innovations in these “vernacular” languages that influenced the supposedly dominant languages of knowledge and power.
In this paper, I trace claims to cakravartinship, particularly in relation to the notion of a distinct “wheel of command,” to reveal not a reliance on theoretical models espoused by Sanskrit or Pali texts, but an interconnected community of shared political practice stretching across the premodern Indian Ocean region. Crucially, I argue that innovative cakravartin claims occurred more frequently in and between vernaculars—particularly Khmer, Sinhala, and Tamil—and were only retroactively incorporated into translocal bodies of knowledge. To study the history of political thought in premodern Southern Asia, this suggests, necessitates abandoning existing boundaries—between the South and the Southeast, between the cosmopolitan and the vernacular—to more clearly see the connections sustained in all directions.
Panel 2: Movement(s)
Back through a Box: A Peek Inside Filipino Balikbayan Boxes as a Reflection of Filipino Philosophy and Transnational Communication Strategy
Lady Aileen Orsal, Northern Illinois University, Department of Communication
Abstract: Dissecting various aspects of loob in relation to Filipino philosophy, Leonardo Mercado provided a theoretical explanation on how a Filipino upholds what is good and important in understanding selfhood (Mancenido, 2010). This Filipino identity remains even as they become Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Aside from money remittances, balikbayan boxes has been a ritual of gift giving (Alburo, 2005) with balik (return) and bayan (country) showing the desire to return to the Philippines through the boxes they send. This transnational communication can be explained as a deliberation, a ritual, or a strategy (Bruggemann & Wessler, 2015). With this, the study was conducted to explain how balikbayan boxes represent the OFWs’ communicative intent and strategy to reconnect to their families. Specifically, it applied important elements of Mercado’s concept of loob and explained the OFWs’ transnational communication strategy reflected in such action. Aside from a review of Mercado’s published works, this also includes answers from ten OFWs situated in Illinois and an emic perspective to further explain the thought process in sending a balikbayan box. Results reveal how both the products and the process associated to balikbayan boxes reflect elements of Filipino philosophy and transnational communication to sustain connection across borders.
Hybrid Movement, Digital Technology and the Rise of Far-Right Islamist Protest Mobilization in Indonesia
Aqida Salma, Goethe University Frankfurt, Telkom University, Southeast Asian Studies and Communication
Abstract: What explains the rise of the far-right Islamist movement in contemporary Indonesia? As far-right Islamist mobilization has been regular since the fall of the authoritarian regime, its impact on electoral politics has always been limited. After decades on the social and political margins, the far-right are gaining ground and even claiming a role in mainstream local and national politics. I maintain that the emergence of the far-right is dependent on hybridity and digital technology. There is now strong consensus that organizations with hybrid identities may mobilize people more effectively than non-hybrid movement organizations. Meanwhile, the use of digital technology was helpful in channeling their aspirations and discourses on social media into public protests. However, research on social movements has generally paid little attention to far-right mobilisation, while research on the far-right provides only a limited - that is, 'electoralist' - understanding of one of our time's most serious political issues. In this study, I bridge previous research to expand our knowledge of how the far-right as a social movement mobilises protest action through digitally mediated communication while simultaneously performing and sustaining their hybridity. This research uses a textual analysis of social media posts, as well as mass media descriptions of movement and secondary data from my recent fieldwork in Indonesia.
Guerilla Labor: Freedom, Fugitivity, and Escape Amidst Drugs and War in Highland Burma
Joshua Mitchell, Cornell University, Department of Anthropology
Abstract: Early work in Southeast Asian and Black Studies examines freedom as a concept that maps onto particular geographies of escape. While plantations and lowlands are characterized as spaces of slavery and capture, swamps and highlands are characterized as spaces of emancipation and escape. Scholars of Southeast Asia have turned away from escape as an analytic. Yet scholarship in Black Studies continues to argue for the emancipating potential of escape, albeit in a mode that emerges less through one particular space than through ongoing movement that eludes capture: fugitivity. This paper turns to fieldwork conducted with (ex)addicts and (ex)soldiers in Christian drug rehabilitation centers in highland Burma to investigate the emancipatory potential of fugitivity. Examining practices and imaginations of escape in this community, I suggest that while ongoing movement can be emancipating it can also be exhausting, even violent. In fact, the always-pressing-forward of speed can often have much in common with more predatory forms of control. Generalizing from this case study, I argue that emancipation emerges dialectically in tension with speed, as guerillas labor through starts and stops, accelerations and decelerations, of their own and others creation—what I call guerilla labor.
Panel 3: Media & Gender
Karma Dressed in a School Uniform” Girl From Nowhere’s Nanno and the Disruptive School Girl Femininity
Anna Naiyapatana, Cornell University, Department of Asian Studies
Abstract: In each episode of the Thai Netflix series Girl from Nowhere (Dek Mai), a mysterious girl named Nanno transfers to a new school to expose the problems and deliver retribution to the wrongdoers. This paper examines the character Nanno to understand how school girl femininity acts as a disruptive force against institutionalized sexual control in Thai schools. It first examines the character Nanno by comparing her to Thailand’s national ghost, Nang Nak, to articulate how the two films present the desire to address the historical oppression of women as haunting and revenge fantasy respectively. It then focuses on four episodes from the show that directly deal with the anxiety surrounding teenage pregnancy to argue that even though the show posits to be subversive of curriculum-enforced gender roles, it still presents teenage pregnancy and abortion as taboo and immoral. Moreover, it discusses how the series influenced and is influenced by the student-led protest movements in 2020 in Thailand. Finally, considering the Thailand film industry’s prominent role in Southeast Asian entertainment, it elaborates why Nanno’s school girl femininity is not only domestically but also regionally and internationally resonant.
Gendering Digital Business: Representations of Cross-Border Burmese Women Jadeite Traders on China's Douyin
Anqi Yan, Yale University, Center for East Asian Studies
Abstract: Myanmar is the world’s primary source of top-grade jadeite, and there is a black market in which individual jadeite traders take raw stones directly from the mines in the Kachin State and smuggle them across the border to China. Cross-border networks have been created and used by people of different nationalities and ethnicities alongside the political economy of the borderlands. Women as traders and smugglers had long been essential. However, they are understudied economic agents in the jadeite trade whose participation recently has been translated into popular short videos on a video-focused social media application, Douyin. These scripted popular short videos show the bargains and negotiations between Chinese businessmen and Burmese women jadeite traders and highlight Burmese women’s sexuality, physicality, and romantic availability.
The video content unveils the critical intersection of sexuality, masculinity, and nationalism. In order to understand Burmese women jadeite traders' representations in these short videos, this paper adopts digital ethnography and captures the cultural expectations of these jadeite traders in China. This paper contends that these videos, tailored to Chinese male audience, (re)produced gendered expectations of these traders by amplifying their sexuality, physicality, romantic availability, and the perceptions of “Third World subjects.”
Digital Nomads and Settler Viscosity: The Kristen Grey Deportation Case
Teraya Paramehta, University of Southern California, American Studies and Ethnicity
Abstract: Bali, Indonesia, is a hypervisible site that shapes the Western imagination of “paradise”. Although Bali’s tourism industry benefits from this imagination, it perpetuates the erasure of the global network of violence from public discourse. Focusing on the case of Kristen Gray, an African American, queer digital nomad in Bali who was deported in January 2021 for promoting Bali as “queer-friendly” on Twitter, this working paper explores the phenomenon of “digital nomads” as a possible new racial/settler category in the 21st century. Gray’s viral twitter thread stirred backlash, which resulted in a heated, multifaceted debate on foreigner privileges in Bali, gentrification, race, and being queer in Indonesia. Digital nomads—people whose lifestyle blurs the boundaries of leisurely and work travel by working remotely—are not immediately included in the settler colonial category despite the possibility that they may make their stay permanent at the end of their nomadic lives. Nonetheless, tourist infrastructures in Bali are built to cater to this phenomenon. Hence, even when the different bodies come and go—as tourists, expatriates, or digital nomads—the infrastructure built for them is more likely permanent. Engaging with (post)colonial theories, settler-colonial theories, and Arun Saldanha’s “viscosity of race,” the paper analyzes public discourses found in online and local news to think about settler colonialism as viscous/flexible rather than a fixed category. Moreover, by tracing permanent infrastructures in Bali, Indonesia, that were developed to cater to “flexible” digital nomads, the paper is a reflection on power and flexibility when defining what constitutes mobility. In conclusion, a turn to flexibility and infrastructure advances our understanding of settler colonialism. This paper is part of a larger dissertation project that explores the production and construction of how Bali became the idyllic “paradise” for Western consumption, and how activists’ and residents’ responses disrupted and remade that imagined paradise.
Panel 4: Environmental Politics
New Sanctuaries Required: Tropical Forestry and Property Regimes in Colonial Burma
Michael Mandelkorn, Princeton University, Department of History
Abstract: The ‘Sayar San Rebellion’ – colonial Southeast Asia’s largest peasant uprising and serious challenge to twentieth century British rule in Burma – has been well analyzed from the perspective of the deltaic rice frontier and its corresponding stories of economic discontent via the racialization of lowland labor and capital. But while economic and labor conditions in the delta clearly played core roles in stoking the uprising, the question of the uprising’s connection to Burma’s forests and upland yoma still begs more scholarly attention. The first victims of the uprising were neither colonial police officers nor deltaic moneylenders, but village headmen and a Deputy Ranger of Forests. Colonial government reports written in the uprising’s aftermath noted that while state police and military causalities were remarkably few, the same could not be said for ‘men of the Forest Department.’ Over the course of the nearly eighteen-month uprising, the ‘rebels’ made ample use of Burma’s dense jungles and forests to hide their encampments. But was their targeting of forest guards simply strategic, or was colonial forestry itself another primary motivator of rebellion? This case study, rooted in a global historiography of tropical forestry and colonial property regimes, reviews the rebellion from new spatial perspectives.
Reimagining National Boundaries: Anthropological Perspectives on Indonesia's Waste Trade and Recycling Industry
Jiwon Kim, Johns Hopkins University, Department of Anthropology
Abstract: Classic anthropological inquiries on the circulation of goods have largely attended to socially recognized valuables, whether heirlooms, foods, gifts, or commodities. Yet, waste is moving to a greater extent and length than ever, creating unforeseen tensions and shifts in boundaries and connections. Global waste trade emerged on the international agenda as a transgression of toxic pollution upon national borders. At the same time, with the growth of recycling industries, the economic incentives of global waste trade also have bound together otherwise unrelated entities and given rise to a new form of sociality. In Indonesia, such pathways and the value of waste are uniquely shaped by various forces, including rapid urbanization, a high waste mismanagement rate, increasing industrial demands for raw materials, and China’s waste import ban in 2018. This paper examines contemporary environmental politics in and beyond Indonesia, drawing on the preliminary ethnographic research on waste-importing factories and waste banks in Gresik and Depok in Java in 2022.
Spaceships and Farmers: The Environmental Politics of Authoritarian Technocracy in Gregorio Brillantes’s “The Apollo Centennial” and Han May’s Star Sapphire
Jamie Uy, English, Nanyang Technological University, School of Humanities
Abstract: During the technology race of the Cold War, Southeast Asian autocrats like Ferdinand Marcos and Lee Kuan Yew legitimized their power by building technocracies. While Marcos’s “New Society” and Lee’s economic modernization policies have been examined by social scientists, how these official discourses were reflected in national literature, especially local science fiction imagining new worlds and the ramifications of technological advancements, is lesser known. Analyzing Philippine and Singapore science fiction along with the government narratives of progress from the 1980’s can reveal much about the “structures of feeling” that sustained the technocratic imagination in these two countries. Drawing from ecocriticism and inter-Asia cultural studies, this paper compares technocratic environmental regimes in Gregorio Brillantes’s “The Apollo Centennial” (1980), one of the earliest successful Philippine science fiction short stories, with Han May’s Star Sapphire (1985), Singapore’s first English-language science fiction novel. Both works won national acclaim, sharing tropes such as space exploration, oppressive governments, and agrarian societies; however, while Brillantes’ story critiques unfulfilled economic and ecological visions of the Marcos regime, Han’s novel celebrates Lee’s prosperous Garden City mission. This paper shows how national science fiction traditions provide generative archives for analyzing and potentially rethinking the state’s developmental narratives.
Panel 5: Discourses and Spaces of Gender
Clothing, Nudity and the Boundaries of the Nation: The Sartorial Politics of Bare Skin in the Heart of Singapore
Xinyu Guan, Cornell University, Department of Anthropology
Abstract:Eighty percent of Singapore’s population lives in state-constructed housing estates, popularly known as the “heartlands” of Singapore. My presentation explores how the politics of clothing and nudity shape the “heartlands” as a site for negotiating the geopolitical and sexual boundaries of the nation. I examine ethnographically the everyday sartorial practices of housing estate residents; many residents characterize the “heartlands” as spaces of “dressing down,” of wearing breezy clothing in a tropical, “Asian” atmospherics, as opposed to “dressing up” in the middle-class, “Westernized” spaces in downtown Singapore. I explore the complex relationship between the notion of “dressing down” and the criminalization of nudity in the housing estates, where it is illegal to be naked in one’s own apartment if one can be seen by the neighbors. Drawing from archival materials, I detail how both the state and everyday residents surveil and discipline clothed and naked bodies in the housing estates. I consider how nudity, clothing and the boundaries of the nation became objects of contestation since the 1990s, as Singapore remade itself as a regional economic and cultural hub. I situate the sartorial politics of clothing and nudity in the debates surrounding geopolitics, sexuality and “Asian values” in neoliberalizing Singapore.
The “Great Wall” in the Philippines: Discourse Regarding Interracial Marriage Between Ethnic Chinese and Filipinos
Edward Joseph Ofilada, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of History
Abstract: Among the ethnic Chinese in the Philippines, there is a well-documented taboo against interracial marriage, most notably with Filipinos. Since at least the 1950s, this has been discussed and depicted in scholarship, journalism, and fiction. Recently, the metaphor of the “Great Wall” has even emerged to describe it. Reading what has been written concerning the taboo, however, one finds a mess of contradicting claims, outdated frameworks, and obvious exaggerations. This paper critically examines these sources and situates them in the broader context of Chinese-Filipino history. It begins by looking into the coinage of the “Great Wall” metaphor in the 2000s and elaborating on key aspects of the comparison being made. It also discusses the rhetorical meaning of interracial marriage in discourse regarding the place of the ethnic Chinese in the Philippines. Using historical, anthropological, and journalistic accounts, it then identifies shifts in how interracial marriage has been described and explained from the 1950s to the present. The paper argues that the emergence of the “Great Wall” metaphor represents one such shift: whereas ethnic Chinese have been judged based on their perceived willingness to Filipinize, it is now Filipino suitors who are being advised to Sinicize to improve their chances.
Constructing Gender and Class from the Chinese Entertainment Tabloids in Singapore, 1927-1934
Lijun Zhang, Cornell University, Department of History
Abstract: In the late 1920s, nearly a hundred commercialized Chinese entertainment tabloids emerged in Singapore. Unlike the elite Chinese newspapers that focused on politics and revolutions, these tabloids created a new public sphere for lower-middle-class men to express their desires and preoccupations through gossip, jokes, and obscene stories. Gender, sex, and intimacy often formed the core of the tabloid content, as editors extensively published stories about local singing girls and gossip about sexual promiscuity. While many scholars have dismissed these tabloids as not worthy of academic attention, this paper asserts that they can offer a new understanding of the gender and class of overseas Chinese in Singapore. By examining the Chinese entertainment tabloids’ portrayal of Chinese singing girls (琵琶仔) and modern girls (摩登小姐) during the years of economic and political instabilities between 1927 and 1934, this paper argues that, the prevalent tensions in the tabloids’ portrayal of these women ultimately revealed the lower-middle-class Chinese men’s desires for consuming female intimacy and anxieties about their own manhood at a time of economic downturn and shifting gender relations.
Living the American Dream: The Filipina Mestiza and the Modern Home (1954-1964)
Kimberly Gultia, McGill University, Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture
Abstract: After the establishment of the Philippine Republic in 1946 and before a state-led campaign to promote national identity in the 1970s, cultural identity, specifically Christian, urban, and middle-class Filipina identity, remained entwined with American ways of being. This paper examines the ideal Filipina and the model home at this crucial postcolonial moment, where I observe tensions in the expressions of perfect Filipina womanhood--identity, appearance, lifestyle, and especially the model home. Using women's and architectural magazines, I argue that Filipino women and houses attempted to imitate their white American counterparts. A closer look, however, reveals local adaptations that express hybridity. Partial imitation was, therefore, used to gain leverage in a society that valued Western and American ideals. Through hybridity, Filipinos could keep some of their ways of living while progressing in what was then understood as the current and modern ethos. Through this reading of negotiation, I hope to add to the larger discourse of transnational cultural influences and consider the underlying links between postcolonial gender and architectural identities, a connection that has not been much explored in Philippine studies.
Panel 6: Constructing Southeast Asian Studies
Cold War’s Accidental Agencies: American Filipinists and the production of Philippine Post-war Historiography
Veronica Sison, University of the Philippines Diliman, Department of History
Abstract: The influx of American Filipinists into Philippine Studies in the 60s and 70s is well known. However, the precise contours of their influence has gone largely unstudied. This paper builds on the works of Ileto’s Golden Age of Southeast Asian Studies (2003) Veric’s Children of the Postcolony (2020) and Nadal’s Cold War Remittance Economy (2021) to highlight the Cold War as a political force that shaped post-war Philippine knowledge production. I examine a Vietnam generation of American Southeast Asianists whose often contingent involvement in Philippine Studies was shaped by post-war decolonization and the American projection of soft power into Southeast Asia. These young scholars were mentored primarily by David Steinberg (Michigan), J.R.W. Smail (Wisconsin) and Harry Benda (Yale). They used new and non-traditional sources primarily drawn from “New Social History”—an approach that often clashed with Philippine scholars with nationalist and post-colonial priorities. In this paper, I step back from these priorities held by the existing literature. Through interviews with this generation’s surviving members and informed by a survey of their key publications, I ask: How did the American beneficiaries of the Cold War’s largesse challenge the boundaries of “Philippine Studies”?How have they shaped the way Filipinos see their past?
The Southeast Asianist Political Theory of Benedict Anderson and James Scott
Thanh Nguyen, Yale University, Department of History
Abstract: Alongside anthropologist Clifford Geertz, Benedict Anderson and James Scott are considered the most successful exporters of theories from Southeast Asian studies. Their works on nationalism, revolution, everyday resistance, and the state were self-conscious pieces of political theory that transformed social scientific debates. This paper puts the intellectual trajectories of Anderson and Scott in comparative perspective, returning to two sources for their ideas: their engagement with Southeast Asian politics in the 1960s and 1970s and with contemporaneous developments in the concept of culture. At a time when both liberal and Marxist social science seemed inadequate to grasp politics in the postcolonial world, Anderson and Scott turned to culture and ethnography, developing what anthropologist John Bowen calls a “historical anthropology of politics.” Anderson’s cultural theory of nationalism and Scott’s interpretation of everyday resistance emerged as the American academy took a cultural turn and politics in Southeast Asia took a counterrevolutionary turn. They converged on a critique of the state, but their scholarship otherwise diverges theoretically and politically. As contemporary scholars call for a decolonial turn in Southeast Asian studies, revisiting the careers of these consummate comparativists highlights the twists and turns of studying Southeast Asian politics in the wake of decolonization.
The Development of Transnational Academic Mobility in Southeast Asia: Case study of Indonesian Scholars in Malaysia
Betti Rosita Sari, University of Indonesia, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences
Abstract: This paper examines the pattern of transnational academic mobility of Indonesian scholars in Malaysia from the 1970s (Orde Baru) to the present. Transnational academic mobility is academic travel across the borders of states and is one aspect of the new internationalization of higher education. At present, much of the literature focuses on international academics working in advanced economies, and little emphasis has been placed on emerging non-Western destinations, particularly in Southeast Asian higher education. Our analysis was based on Kim and Locke's (2010) paradigm, which examines the patterns of transnational academic mobility in relation to the formation and development of higher education systems. This study is based on literature reviews and semi-structured interviews with fifteen Indonesian scholars in Malaysia. This paper offers insight that the historical background of Indonesia-Malaysia relations, the existence of academic networks, and the perception of national and foreign higher education systems among academicians all play a significant role in determining the patterns of Indonesian academic mobility in Malaysia.
Panel 7: Triangulating Institutions
Limiting the Post-Conflict Democratic Imaginary: A Review of Impunity after Transitional Justice Mechanisms in Cambodia and Timor-Leste
Alexandra Scrivner, Syracuse University, Social Science
Abstract: The region of South and Southeast Asia are not unfamiliar with intrastate and interstate conflict, and henceforth, versant in reforming a national narrative and reconstituting everyday life after protracted conflict. Nonetheless, a significant amount of transitional justice literature highlights primarily African, Eastern European, and Central American nation-states. By assessing the limitations and subsequent movements which secede legal mechanisms, such as international and ad-hoc tribunals, as well as socio-political mechanisms, such as truth commissions and reports, this research will investigate how and to what degree these mechanisms have impacted participation in state reconstruction and/or became irrelevant in the face of impunity in Cambodia and Timor-Leste. This paper focuses on how civil society members did or did not further ambitions of these justice mechanisms and incorporates how national level and international level political will has potentially suppressed these local initiatives over time. The word choice ‘democratic imaginary’ is used here to ultimately relate the findings from this research into works of critical democratic inquiry, arguing that the popular formation of justice claims remains critical to establishing a ‘stable’ democratic nation-state.
Political Founding after Anticolonialism: Rural Development and Self-Reliance in 1960s Malaya
Yi Ning Chang, Harvard University, Department of Governmen
Abstract: This paper uses 1960s Malaya to offer political theory a novel account of decolonization as counterrevolutionary political founding. Focusing on Malaya in 1960–65, it reads the Malayan political elite Abdul Razak bin Hussein’s (1922–1976) policymaking on rural development as a project of political founding. It first reconstructs the world Razak presented in his speeches, recasting his conceptualizations of rural development as confrontations with problems central and universal to founding. It then argues that in Razak’s political practices we see a kind of founding that suppressed its own democratic possibilities, which the paper terms counterrevolutionary founding. The paper theorizes Malayan founding, showing that it as underwritten by a politics of racial anticommunism, that it served to close the space for democratic contestation in independent Malaya, and that it deployed a certain conception of “self-reliance” to protect the state from the people’s demands. The paper demonstrates one approach to developing a political theory of and for Southeast Asia, while also contributing to political theory’s studies of decolonization and postcolonialism, founding, and democracy.
Clientelism, Coercion and Competition: The Politics of Public Financial Resource Distribution in Decentralised Indonesia
Fakhridho Susrahadiansyah Bagus Pratama Susilo, The Australian National University & Yale University, Crawford School of Public Policy, Macmillan Center for International and Area Studies
Abstract: Various studies have documented the prevalence of clientelism in Indonesia’s local politics following the institution of democratic decentralisation in 1999. Yet, few have systematically analysed how the different political dynamics across sub-national settings govern clientelistic outcomes, particularly when it pertains to public resources. This paper asks: how does within-country variation, as evident in the differing modes of political control exercised by local regimes in their respective localities, shape the clientelistic distribution of public resources? Using comparative case study and multi-method research, this paper explores the extent to which coercion (or the absence thereof) as mode of local political control affects clientelistic allocation of public financial resources along with the mechanisms undergirding it. It looks at the patterns of the distribution of grants (hibah) and social assistance (bansos), two budget expenditures commonly regarded to be allocated in a clientelistic manner but which have received less scholarly attention to date. Focusing on the role and agency of political brokers as the intermediating link between politician and voters in the distributive game of state resources, this study finds that coercion affects clientelistic resource allocation by structuring the incentives and agency of brokers as crucial linkage in voters-politician clientelistic relations.