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Friday Forum Fall Semester 2013 - 14

September 6, 2013 - Ian Coxhead (Professor of Agricultural Economics, UW-Madison)
Southeast Asian Economic Growth in International Perspective: From Malthusian Trap to Middle Income—and Beyond
     Southeast Asia's 600m people have lived through a remarkable transition from widespread poverty to comparative wealth. The region's long-run GDP growth rate is second only to that of East Asia, far ahead of average rates for other developing regions. This differential has been sustained in spite of internal shocks and global volatility. Tens of millions have been lifted out of poverty as a result.
     This impressive record contradicts pessimistic predictions from many global growth models. Is Southeast Asia different, and if so in what ways?
     In the 21st century the region is undergoing broad and deep regional and global integration with relatively stable macroeconomic conditions. Nevertheless, numerous old problems remain, and new issues have arisen. Sustaining growth and reducing vulnerability to shocks remains a daunting challenge for the future.

September 13, 2013 - Pamela Nguyen Corey (Doctoral Candidate, History of Art and Visual Studies, Cornell University)
Cities Compared: Contemporary Art and Artistic Subjects in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia
     Within the framework of comparative analysis, the notion of contemporaneity underscores two important aspects of contemporary art. First, it indicates a particular conceptual artistic outlook towards certain practices and ways of responding to and interpreting current conditions. Secondly, as a state of temporality, contemporaneity serves as a useful lens through which to approach regional and transnational studies within the larger context of the globalized art world. This talk looks at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as urban nodes within a micro-region, examining the two cities’ respective trajectories of contemporary art history. Several turning points in histories of nation and city reveal parallel instances of cultural development in the twentieth century, with shared historical foundations for the visual arts, orienting contemporary Vietnamese and Cambodian artists in convergent and divergent ways through the present. Contemporary artists in the two cities express concerns with the discursive nature of contemporary art, and the urgency of artistic intervention in response to the impacts of wartime legacies, late or post-Socialist ideologies of development, and the processes of neoliberal globalization. I suggest that the scale of the city is a productive starting point for examining the formation of contemporary artistic subjectivity, as these are individuals shaped by myriad forces of social determination that find convergence in urban centers. For many artists, mapping the city is akin to mapping the self.

September 20, 2013 - Micah Morton (Doctoral Candidate, Department of Anthropology, UW-Madison)
From Blood to Fruit: Akha ancestral burdens and the pursuit of a modern authenticity in mainland Southeast Asia and Southwest China
     This talk focuses on the efforts of certain members of the Akha transnational minority to promote a pan-Akha sense of belonging of a profoundly religious nature. Some 700,000 Akha reside in the mountainous borderlands of North Thailand, East Myanmar (Burma), Southwest China, Northwest Laos and Northwest Vietnam. This region is being transformed from the battlefields of the Cold War to an international market for labor, natural resources and tourism. Akha are being integrated into their respective nation-states and an emerging regional economy on unprecedented scales.
     In response to these pressures, a growing number of Akha are converting to Christianity, others are incorporating Buddhist practices, and yet others are seeking to promote a pan-Akha identity by ‘modernizing’ traditional ancestor worship. Through a highly creative and often contentious process of religious synergism, the latter group is transforming Akha ancestor worship into a form of monotheism as a means of both promoting the very survival of ‘Akha’ as a distinct people and solidifying a regional pan-Akha identity. Following a general introduction to contemporary Akha identity politics, the talk then explores the ways in which Akha religiosity is being transformed by the latter group of ethnic entrepreneurs. It concludes with discussion of the implications of these findings for dominant conceptions of religious syncretism, “return conversion” movements, and the religious and secular aspects of social life.

September 27, 2013 - Mary Grow (Anthropology, Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture)
Reflections on a Column Raising Ceremony: Revitalizing the Wooden House in Cambodia
     Many architects working in countries recovering from the devastation of civil war or international conflict are dedicated to revitalizing the built environment. Efforts in new construction, as well as historic preservation, attempt to provide communities with shelter and a sense of place that is connected to cultural identity, local knowledge, and historical memory. How this takes place is a valuable inquiry, and the focus of this field report that describes the work of Hok Sokol, an architect in Cambodia, who is building and restoring Khmer wooden houses. It explores how the ritual practices of an age-old column raising ceremony are integrated into design and construction, thereby reconstituting a worldview and cultural inheritance that were threatened severely during the brutal years (1975-1979) of the Khmer Rouge regime.

October 4, 2013 - Donald K. Emmerson (PhD, Director, Southeast Asia Forum (SEAF), Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University)
The Panda's Long Paw: China, ASEAN, and the South China Sea
     Tensions over the South China Sea (SCS) implicate multiple issues and actors: sovereignty, access, resources, regionalism, domestic politics, international law, ASEAN, ITLOS, UNCLOS, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United States, and Vietnam, including differences between agencies inside some of these countries. Questions on this vortex worth raising in a talk co-sponsored by CSEAS and Political Science include: What do these tensions mean for East Asian regionalism and the claimed “centrality” of ASEAN? What do they imply for relations between ASEAN, China, and the United States? And, most broadly: Is the SCS becoming a “Thucydides trap” that will ensure major Sino-American conflict between rising and ruling powers and thereby confirm the “offensive realist” position among analysts of international relations?
     Time permitting, points of reference in the talk may include prospects for a “code of conduct” in the SCS; Beijing’s “ten-dash line”; Washington’s “freedom of navigation”; Jakarta’s “dynamic equilibrium”; Manila’s suit against Beijing under UNCLOS, Xi Jinping’s “new type of great power relations”; and Obama’s “pivot/rebalance” toward Asia. Reference may also be made to Obama’s planned 6-12 October 2013 trip to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines, including his expected attendance at the AELM and the East Asia Summit—two other vortexes (Assad’s Syria and the Tea Party’s House) also permitting.
     Note: AELM = the APEC [Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation] Economic Leaders’ Meeting; ASEAN = the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; ITLOS = the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea; UNCLOS = the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

October 11, 2013 - Santikaro
Contemplating Dhamma, Nature, & Society
     This talk will share insights on the Buddhist monk Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (1906-1993), known for his teachings on transcendent aspects of Buddhism. It will discuss how Buddhadasa's reflections on Nature, based in his Buddhist study & practice, were also responses to current social & political circumstances. Finally, it will address other aspects of his teaching, including the significance of the fact that he never separated Wat from Baan (temple from village & society).
Other themes:
Nature as essentially cooperative
Dhammic Socialism Streams of dependent co-arising
Politics as a branch of ethics (sila)
Natural truth rather than Ideologies

     Santikaro was ordained as a Theravada monk in 1985 and soon after began practicing under the tutelage of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu at Suan Mokkh in Southern Thailand. He served as Buddhadasa Bhikku’s primary English translator for many years. In 2001, he returned to the United States and retired from formal monastic life in 2004. He continues to teach and study Buddhism with an emphasis on early Pali sources. He is the founder of Liberation Park in Norwalk, Wisconsin.

October 18, 2013 - Tharaphi Than (Assistant Professor Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Northern Illinois University)
Juggling between Religion and Modernity: The World of Burmese Women Writers
     Burmese women writers often attempt to balance religion — Buddhism — and modernity: but this is frequently a real struggle. Change is often challenged by a determination to protect Buddhism and tradition, and women writers, though highly educated, struggle to reconcile these two powerful forces. One of the most prominent writers, Ma Ma Lay, wanted to disseminate Buddhist teachings in her stories, yet one of her characters broke the fundamental Buddhist precept—not to kill. Khin Myo Chit was inspired to become a writer by the religious writings of Ledi Pandida U Maung Gyi. Moe Moe (Inya)’s characters—who often found themselves trapped in an unhappy marriage—often seek refuge in religion. But as one of her stories suggest, women have started to find courage to break taboos of divorce. Contemporary women writers are also trying to find a different path; some of them seem to have found courage to break taboos of divorce, and they attempt to send a message that religion is often not an answer but daring to ask for a divorce. It is likely that more women writers would speak more freely about divorces and not offer religion as a refuge but breaking abusive and troublesome marriages as a pathway to women’s liberation and happiness.

October 25, 2013 - James C. Scott (Sterling Professor of Political Science, Professor of Anthropology, and Director of the Agrarian Studies Program, Yale University)
ROOM CHANGE - 12:00PM, Room 19 Ingraham Hall
Some Histories of State Evasion in Southeast Asia and Elsewhere
     “Zomia”—the designation invented by Willen van Schendel for that portion of upland Southeast Asia that has, until recently, evaded incorporation into nation states and empires—could be, metaphorically, extended to other areas of the world that have become zones of state evasion. My talk explores some of those zones in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Though Zomia is mountainous, wetlands, swamps, marshes, and deltas have also served historically as refugia for state-fleeing populations. The principles of geography, subsistence practices, mobility, and social structure that abet both state avoidance and state-prevention are examined.

November 1, 2013 - Eli Elinoff (Postdoctoral Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore)
‘A House is More than a House’: On the Architectural Aesthetics of Being and Belonging
     In this talk, Dr. Elinoff explores the way that architecture and the architectural production of the home have become a site for contestations over models of citizenship in the slum and squatter communities in the Northeastern Thai city of Khon Kaen. He argues that the home and its form—both real and imagined—offer a critical window into contemporary disagreements over notions of national belonging and questions of what it means to live a good life in contemporary Thailand. He demonstrates this argument by describing how the home becomes a site of intervention for both state planners and NGOs who use the house as a pedagogical tool to transform the values and lifestyles of poor residents along the tracks. He also describes the aesthetic choices made by residents as they attempt to enact their ideal sense of citizenship by transforming their homes to reference multiple, often contradictory, projects of belonging. These houses (and their ideal forms reflected in architectural plans, models, and day dreams) simultaneously evoke political equality, capitalist consumer success, modernity, sufficiency, sustainability, and collectivity. These contradictory visions bind together multiple pressures experienced by residents who see the home as both a site to demonstrate their good citizenship and a space in which to live a good life. These competing and contradictory pressures evoke not only the trials of being seen as a legitimate resident of the city and member of the nation, but also broader questions about what it means to live a good life in late-capitalist Thailand.

November 8, 2013 - Duncan McCargo (Professor of Southeast Asian Politics, University of Leeds)
Dispensing Justice? The Work of Thai Police Investigators
     This paper will draw on extensive fieldwork conducted in Thailand during 2012, including participant observation and interviews with police investigators. It examines the paradox that solving crime does not apparently constitute a priority for the Thai police. Police investigators do little actual investigation, but expend much of their efforts attempting to dispense justice and to appear benevolent. Image building and courting media coverage play important roles in shaping their priorities.

November 15, 2013 - Christian Lentz (Assistant Professor of Geography, University of North Carolina)
Cultivating Subjects: Opium Monopolies from Colony to Nation in Vietnam
     In this talk, Dr. Lentz taps a rich vein of archival sources to trace opium’s course through the transition from colonial to national rule in 1950s Vietnam. Ever since the People’s Army defeated the French Expeditionary Forces at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, the Vietnamese government has celebrated 1954 as the year of national liberation and made the once-obscure town central to its revolutionary mythology. Yet fetishizing rupture belies how the celebrated battlefield was and remained a hub for an opium regime spanning a post/colonial divide.
     Exploring resonances where officials have talked of rupture, the talk traces the remaking of rule and the making of national subjects from the embers of colonialism. French and Vietnamese tax records, official reports, and market studies show remarkable continuities governing agrarian relations of land, labor, and capital. Following colonial precedent, the national state encouraged smallholder opium production and instituted a monopoly on the crop’s purchase, trade, and tax. Just as before, buying and taxing opium upstream and then channeling it downstream into state coffers and morphine manufactories was no simple task. Undercut by smuggling into and out of China and Laos, the Democratic Republic’s monopoly spawned official corruption and resulted in fraught negotiations with growers ultimately backed by force. National opium politics combined relations of production and rule into a potent mix, contributing towards a millenarian movement that peaked in 1957. Cultivating subjects threw issues of citizenship and property into sharp relief by querying the terms of nation-hood, offering alternatives, and provoking an armed response.

November 22, 2013 - Dacil Quang Keo (PhD candidate, Department of Political Science, UW-Madison)
Non-violence during Genocide: Everyday Forms of Compliance
     In contrast to the common narrative of ubiquitous violence throughout the reign of the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), there were places where violence was uncommon and officially discouraged. Region 3, located in northwestern Cambodia in present-day Battambang province, was known by its neighbors as an administrative area in which local leaders rarely used force to govern. In this talk I examine one particular commune in Region 3. Headed by a dedicated communist ideologue, life in Satenpeap commune was difficult but decent. Policies were less strict and implemented more pragmatically by its array of local leaders (paramilitary chief, village chiefs, and unit chiefs) than in neighboring communes located just across the railroad track in Region 4. The contrast was so stark that over 1,000 people risked their lives to flee to Satenpeap commune. This talk explores the factors that made Satenpeap commune a refuge to escapees, and in general an area of low-level violence under the Khmer Rouge regime. One factor highlighted will be extent of compliance by the local population towards their local leaders, and compliance by the local leaders towards their administrative superiors.

November 29, 2013 - No Friday Forum, Thanksgiving

December 6, 2013 - Alexander R. Arifianto (Ph.D. Postdoctoral Research Fellow Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies University of Notre Dame)
Faith, Moral Authority, and Politics: The Making of Progressive Islam in Indonesia
     Several Islamic organizations in the world, including in Indonesia have experienced major changes in their theological frames and political identities away from fundamentalist/revivalist political theology to one that embraces a “progressive” Islamic theology that supports democracy, human rights, and religious tolerance, and is based on both classical Islamic thought and Western political philosophy. What are the factors that help lead these groups to pursue these theological changes? Who are the actors that promoted these changes? What cultural and institutional factors help to make these changes happen?
     Using constructivist international relations theory, I argue that Islamic groups are able to change their theological frames and political identities if the changes are promoted by religious leaders with 'moral authority' status who are using both ideational and instrumental strategies to reconstruct the theological frames of their organizations. In addition to charismatic ‘moral authority’ leaders, other influential variables that also affect the likelihood of a theological change within Islamic groups are the institutional culture of the organization, the lack of a strong theological opposition within the group, and the relationship between the Islamic group and the state.

 

 

 

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Center for Southeast Asian Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison
207 Ingraham Hall
1155 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1397
phone: (608) 263-1755
fax: (608) 263-3735
e-mail: seasia@intl-institute.wisc.edu