Friday Forum Fall Semester 2009 - 10

September 11, 2009 - Shawn McHale (Director, Sigur Center for Asian Studies and Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, George Washington University)
Vietnam, Cambodia, and Kampuchea Krom: Ethnic Violence in an 'Invisible' Land, 1945-50.
This talk arises out of an accident of research -- stumbling across accounts of Khmer massacres of Vietnamese in a region stretching from Phnom Penh down through the lower Mekong delta from 1945 to 1949. This fortuitous "accident" has led me, of course, to try to fathom why these killings occurred. But it also opens a window on the overlooked place of the lower Mekong delta and Khmer Krom struggles in scholarly accounts of modern Vietnamese and Cambodian history. Last but not least, I would like to suggest that these killings shed light on an enduring feature of Cambodian and lower Mekong delta life: the Khmer antagonism to the Vietnamese that has shaped post-1945 Cambodian history, including the Khmer Rouge period.

September 18, 2009 - Francis Bradley (Dissertator, Department of History, UW-Madison)
Islam after Apocalypse: The Rise of the Patani Shaykhs and the Transformation of Southeast Asian Islam, 1786-1869.
In this talk I discuss the rise of the Patani shaykhs and the role they played in the development of Islamic scholarly communities around the Indian Ocean rim. At its furthest extent, the Patani scholarly network reached from Mecca to the Malay-Thai Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, Cambodia, and the South African Cape, and its participants spread texts, teachings, and schools throughout those regions.

September 25, 2009 - Kenneth M. George (Professor, Department of Anthropology, UW-Madison)
Ethics, Iconoclasm, and Qur'anic Art in Indonesia
This talk throws light on some of the ethical and ideological energies that have animated today’s Muslim art publics by looking at the anxiety and outcry in Indonesia’s art world over the use of Qur’anic script in fashion and in painting. By looking at problems that have befallen designer Karl Lagerfeld, painter A. D. Pirous, and other Indonesian artists, I suggest how a custodial ethics for handling Qur’anic Arabic has played into the hands of Muslim religious conservatives as they extend their authority into national and transnational art worlds, and more generally how Qur’anic art has become a space of struggle over the scope of secularism, religion, and culture.

October 2, 2009 - Kristy Kelly (Educational Policy Studies, UW-Madison)
Whatever happened to "comrade"? Learning to Mainstream Gender in Vietnam's Development Policy
Kristy's research examines transnational spaces, places and processes that inform how national and local-level policy-actors engage with global development projects, in ways that often contradict their framers' intents. In this presentation, Kristy examines the role that education and training plays in how a key development policy called gender mainstreaming, is understood and implemented in a variety of local contexts in one country - Vietnam - where the state claims a long history of promoting women's equality vis-a-vis men. Through a contextualization of how gender mainstreaming is accepted, resisted, ignored and/or transformed through the process of training, Kristy presents a new framework for theorizing the transnational as an important site of struggle and engagement between global and local understandings of "equality," "rights" and "development."

October 9, 2009 - No Friday Forum

October 16, 2009 - Benny Widyono (Department of Economics, University of Connecticut)
The International Dimensions of the Cambodian Tragedy
The speaker will focus his talk on the basic premise of his recent book:  that Cambodia had, during the cold war, due to its geopolitical location, experienced enormous chaos, turmoil, civil war and deep despair in the ongoing power struggle for hegemony in Southeast Asia. Thus, when the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime was ousted by Vietnamese troops on January 7 1979, diplomatic maneuverings in the United Nations in New York continued to recognize the Khmer Rouge regime as the legitimate government of Cambodia for another 11 years culminating in Paris Peace Agreements which were themselves flawed.  These past unjust decisions continued to haunt Cambodia long after the Khmer Rouge was ousted and sent to the jungles near Thailand.

October 23, 2009 - Tony Day (Visiting Professor, Department of History, Wesleyan University)
ROOM CHANGE - 12:00PM, Room 336 Ingraham Hall
Time and Freedom in Asian Film
Since the 1980s, but particularly in the last ten years or so, films have become the vehicles for powerful artistic statements about the struggle for freedom in Asian societies. In my talk I want to focus on the representation of time and freedom in four rather different movies that received wide acclaim either domestically or internationally: Sepet (“Slant-Eye,” 2004, Malaysia);  Mùa Hè Chiều Thằng Đứng (“summer solstice,” The Vertical Ray of the Sun, 2000, France/Vietnam); Sud Pralad (Tropical Malady, 2004, Thailand); and Hao Nan Hao Nu (
好男好女, Good Men, Good Women, 1995, Taiwan). My talk will suggest variations but also common themes in the experience and perception of time, history, and human freedom in four different Asian societies.

October 30, 2009 - Parsit Leepreechaa (Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, UW-Madison and Professor, Social Research Institute, Chiang Mai University) 
Reconstructing Ethnicity: The Role of Media Technology in Reproducing Hmong Ethnic Identity
While the Hmong scattered in different parts of the world have had their ethnic identities gradually eroded by nationalism and globalization, they are using media technologies to reproduce and reconstruct their Hmong-ness. Hmong ethnic identity, as defined by shared memory and common sentiment, is being reproduced and reconstructed by media technologies and disseminated through kinship, business, church, and internet networks. This presentation is based on ethnographic fieldwork primarily carried out in Hmong communities in Southeast Asia and the United States.

November 6, 2009 - Leslie Woodhouse (Professor, Department of History, University of California-Berkeley) 
A ‘Foreign’ Woman in the Siamese Harem: Princess Dara Rasami and the Politics of Performing Ethnic Difference during Siam's Fifth Reign
This talk will shed new light on Siam's famous Fifth Reign, which is typically known as Thailand's era of "self-modernization" under King Chulalongkorn. At the same moment Siam began to undertake becoming "siwilai" (civilized), the practice of royal polygamy was reaching its apex, with over 150 consorts in King Chulalongkorn's palace. Leslie's talk will focus on one royal consort who was not herself ethnically Siamese: Princess Dara Rasami. Dara played an important political role by cementing the loyalties of her home kingdom, Lan Na, and Siam -- but ultimately it was her role in shaping the Siamese perception of the people of Lan Na (now northern Thailand) which may have had a greater impact.

November 13, 2009 - Ayehlaphyu MayOo Mutraw (Ph.D Candidate, Maurer School of Law, Indiana University)
Burma: A Struggle for [Democratic] Change
I will discuss how the different versions of the nation’s history continue to shape the structure and dynamics of the [pro-democracy] movement for change.  And, I will then put forward an additional cause of the current crisis: the competing nationalisms and the conflicting narratives to which each ethnic group subscribes.  I argue that in order for a relatively successful transition to a democratic Burma to be accomplished, the military regime, as well as the non-ethnic democracy movement, must devise a system that can accommodate the nation's rich diversity both structurally and politically.

November 20, 2009 - Patrick Pranke (Professor, Department of Humanities, University of Louisville) 
"Nibbāna Now or Never?" Vipassanā and the Weikza-lam: Two Competing Soteriologies in Contemporary Burmese Buddhism
Vipassana “insight meditation” and the weikza-lam “path of esoteric knowledge” are two competing soteriologies in contemporary Burmese Buddhism. As is well known, vipassana holds out the promise of freedom from sa?sara, the cycle of birth and death, in nibbana as an arahant. In sharp contrast the weikza-lam promises not the termination of sa?saric life in nibbana but rather its indefinite prolongation through the attainment of virtual immortality as a weikza-do or Buddhist wizard. In this presentation I will compare these two paths to Buddhist salvation in contemporary Burmese Buddhism and discuss the contested religious claims they make. As part of this discussion I will review what is known of the modern evolution of these traditions in Burma noting their possible historical antecedents.

December 4, 2009 - Rosalie Hall (Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Department of Political Science, Loyola University in Chicago
Associate Professor of Political Science, University of the Philippines Visayas)
From Rebels to Soldiers: Interrogating the Integration of Moro National Liberation Front and Falintil Combatants into the Philippine and East Timorese Armed Forces
The lecture compares the political contexts, scope and processes of the rebel integration projects in Philippines and East Timor. It examines how integree identities (based on religion, ethnicity, region and gender) are re-negotiated or re-defined as they move from non-state to state spaces. The lessons from and implications of the integration policy to the future prospects for peace in both countries are explored.

December 11, 2009 - Nicola Tannenbaum (Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Lehigh University)
Flying His Soul to Heaven: The Funeral for the Abbot of the Naaplaatsaat Temple in Maehongson Thailand
The abbot of the Naaplaatsaat temple passed away in March of 2008, the funeral was held in February 2009. When I visited in the summer of 2008, I saw the preparations for funeral, including a sketch of the giant bird that would hold the coffin. Although I could not be there, I draw on videos, photographs, and discussions with various participants to provide this account of the funeral.The Naaplaatsaat monk's funeral was the most elaborate one I know about.