Friday Forum Fall Semester 2011 - 12

September 9, 2011 - Eunsook Jung (Assistant Professor, Department of Politics, Fairfield University) 
Moderate Parties and Immoderate Outcomes: The Case of Indonesia
     Under what circumstances do Islamist political parties pursue moderation in a democratic state? And will such moderation on the part of an Islamist party serve to temper politics in a Muslim majority nation? This presentation will explore a question with global  implications by examining the impact of growing moderation by the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) upon politics in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation. In this case, competition between secular and Islamist parties sustains a political climate of intolerance, blunting the impact of moves toward greater temperance by this major Muslim party.

September 16, 2011 - Phan Van Do (Project Coordinator for Madison Quakers, Inc. Humanitarian Projects in Vietnam)
Reflections on Healing in Post-war Vietnam
     Vietnamese activist Phan Van Do is a founder of the My Lai Peace Park Project and the driving force behind Madison Quaker Inc.’s humanitarian projects in Vietnam. Mr. Do will speak on the success of these projects, described by American veteran Mike Boehm as “putting bricks together in the context of evil”—notably, the construction of schools for children and ‘compassion houses’ for victims of Agent Orange, and the empowerment of women through microloans. As someone who lost many members of his own family during the Vietnam War, Phan Van Do will also tell his story of putting hatred aside to devote his life to peace and to bridging divides caused by war and atrocity. Finally, as part of this story, he describes the establishment of the My Lai Peace Park that has transformed the iconic event of the My Lai Massacre—the slaughter by US soldiers of over 400 members of one village, primarily women and children—from a symbol of horror to a means of reconciliation, and now serves as an inspiration and model for others, whether nations or individuals, seeking to overcome traumatic pasts. 

September 23, 2011 - Wasan Panyagaew (Head of Centre for Research and Academic Services, Chiang Mai University)
Remembering with Respect: Tracing a cross border journey of one charismatic Lue monk 
     For two decades now, people’s mobility in the borderlands of the upper Mekong region has accelerated and been regulated by development projects and regional cooperation in trade and investment between China and mainland Southeast Asia, resulting in massive flows of cultures, commodities, capital and information across the relevant borders. In this talk, I will trace the cross-border journeys of one charismatic Lue monk, Khruba Khuen, or Phra Khru Veruwanpitak (1929-2005), the second Abbot of Wat Phra Buddha Bath Tak Pha in Pa Sang district, Lamphun Province in northern Thailand, which took place during such historical moments over two decades from the early 1980s to the beginning of the 21st century. The journeys and religious activities he conducted played a significant part in cultural revivalism in the region, both in his hometown in northern Thailand, and in other Tai communities in the eastern Shan state of Burma and Sipsong Panna in southern Yunnan, China. Ethnographically, I will show how Khruba Khuen’s transnational practices played a significant part in the revitalisation of Theravada Buddhism and the transportation of cultures across the borders in the borderlands of the upper Mekong.

September 30, 2011 - Gerald Fry (Distingished International Professor, Professor of International/Intercultural Education)
'Inscrutable' Thailand: Thai Exceptionalism, Myth or Reality?
     Multiple theoretical and conceptual approaches provide the basic framework for this exploratory study. Those include perspectives from Said, Chomsky, Foucault, L.T. Smith, Myrdal, Deming, and Steet/Lutz/Collins. It is argued that the four areas in which Westerners are most likely to distort Thailand are politics, the monarchy, gender, and religion. Another complex issue discussed is the controversy surrounding “Thai exceptionalism”and distortions involved in this debate. The presentation concludes with a discussion of strategies for transcending misunderstanding, distortion, and misrepresentation of Thai culture and society and improving the quality of “outsider” research on Thailand.Multiple theoretical and conceptual approaches provide the basic framework for this exploratory study. Those include perspectives from Said, Chomsky, Foucault, L.T. Smith, Myrdal, Deming, and Steet/Lutz/Collins. It is argued that the four areas in which Westerners are most likely to distort Thailand are politics, the monarchy, gender, and religion. Another complex issue discussed is the controversy surrounding “Thai exceptionalism”and distortions involved in this debate. The presentation concludes with a discussion of strategies for transcending misunderstanding, distortion, and misrepresentation of Thai culture and society and improving the quality of “outsider” research on Thailand.

October 7, 2011 - Susan Darlington (Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies, Hampshire College)
Mainstreaming Ritual: The Evolution of the Thai Buddhist Environmental Movement
     The tree ordination is the quintessential symbol of the Thai Buddhist environmental movement. Since the late 1980s a small number of monks have performed these rituals in which they consecrate a tree and the surrounding forest to bring attention to environmental problems, especially concerning the forests and water, that make life difficult for Thai villagers, and by implication, for the nation as a whole. The “ordained tree” has gone through different manifestations that represent change in the forms, meanings, and control of the Buddhist environmental movement. They illustrate a general progression from an understated belief in spirits and honoring of the Buddha to ritual and symbolic invocation of the Buddha’s teachings to protect the forest and the humans who depend on its resources, often in a manner that criticizes the direction of state-led economic development. The ritual eventually became associated with the King and the state, and even incorporated within popular culture. Behind these manifestations lies a set of interrelated and contested discourses: of how Buddhism can and should be used in the modern, social world; of the goals of environmentalism and the relationship between humans and the natural world; of the meaning of “development,” and the related tensions between material growth and spiritual progress as measures of improving the lives of Thai citizens; of concepts of power and knowledge, and the construction and appropriation of new forms of knowledge, including interpretations of Buddhism itself.

October 14, 2011 - Nam Kim (Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, UW-Madison)
Legend, History, and Archaeology: Co Loa and Emergent Statehood in Ancient Vietnam
     Millennia after original construction, the earthen ramparts of the Co Loa site located in northern Vietnam still remain standing today, a silent reminder of a powerful society. Believed by many to be an ancient capital of proto-Vietnamese civilization, Co Loa was purportedly founded during the closing centuries BC. Scholarship regarding its establishment as a seat of power has been based conventionally on a blend of oral traditions, folklore, and historical accounts. In recent years, archaeological investigations have helped to enhance our understanding of the site and of the florescence of social complexity and centralized authority in the region. Findings from recent archaeological fieldwork suggest that an early, state-level polity was responsible for Co Loa’s monumental system of earthen ramparts. Excavations focused on the site’s fortification features indicate significant political consolidation was necessary for construction. These findings have broad implications for both Vietnamese history as well as cross-cultural theories pertaining to the formation of ancient states.

October 21, 2011 - Nancy Buenger (Visiting Assistant Professor, Legal Studies, College of Letters and Science, and Fellow, Institute for Legal Studies, Law School, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Looking Beyond the Law's Letter: The Philippines and U.S. Statecraft, 1900 - 1920
     The US occupation of the Philippines is often analyzed in the context of constitutional law, particularly the failure of the Bill of Rights to follow the American flag. But US Philippine lawmakers relied on a jurisprudence that lay beyond the law’s letter: equity. A Roman canonical heritage, Thomas Aquinas described equity as the virtue of setting aside the fixed letter of the law to expediently secure substantive justice and the common good. In summary, juryless equity proceedings, courts can craft discretionary remedies from the dictates of conscience and alternative legal traditions—such as foreign precedent, natural law, ecclesiastical decrees, or public policy—rather than the law’s letter. Spanish and Anglo American courts have long invoked equity/equidad when administering semi-sovereign populations, at home and abroad. This presentation will consider how equity fostered transnational exchange as well as US expansion. American jurists described Manila as an intercontinental hub for streams of legal ideas. Insular litigation, observed a US colonial advisor, would promote greater attention to equity on the mainland, impressing the United States with “a more liberal conception of our duties as a nation.”

Note Date, Time and Location Change! 
Tuesday, November 1, 2011. 7:00 pm, 206 Ingraham Hall 

Pavin Chachavalpongpun (Fellow, Regional Strategic and Political Studies (RSPS), ASEAN Studies Centre (ASC), Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore)
Thailand's July 2011 Election: The Re-Thaksinisation of Politics?
     Five years ago, on 19 September 2006, the military staged a coup which overthrew the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra. Tanks rolled on the streets of Bangkok. Some Thais were seen offering flowers to the so-called patriotic soldiers. They accused Thaksin of triggering the worst crisis in the country’s history. But little did they know that the coup that was supposed to kill the “Thaksin disease” was indeed another kind of disease that was to severely demoralise Thai democracy. The traditional elite thought that they were successful in deracinating Thaksin’s political influence by launching an unlawful coup. But five years on, in 2011, Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, came to power through the legitimate electoral process. Not only did they fail to eliminate Thaksin, the military and the old establishment together have further intensified the crisis. Violent confrontations have become a feature of Thai politics.
     The July election witnessed the homecoming of the Shinawatras. While new Prime Minister Yingluck has been overly careful not to upset her enemies in high places, she is clearly pushing her own political agenda at the behest of her brother. A series of populist programmes à la Thaksin have resumed. She has gradually appointed a number of red shirt members in her cabinet. She has also been determined to mend Thailand’s ties with Cambodia, damaged by the Thai nationalists who also declared themselves royalists. Yingluck might be Thaksin’s puppet, but she has played her own game of leadership. The latest polls reveal that Yingluck is more popular than both Prime Ministers Thaksin and Abhisit. Since the Pheu Thai Party won a landslide election in July 2011, Thailand has witnessed the re-Thaksinisation of politics. Yet, the return of the “Thaksin’s disease” is likely to outrage the traditional elite. Pavin’s talk will focus on a myriad of obstacles for the Yingluck administration which arrive with the re-Thaksinisation of politics, including the renewed attempts of the military to intervene in politics, the politicisation of the monarchy, and the exploitation of lèse-majesté law which has emerged as a weapon to undermine political opponents.

November 4, 2011 - Jeff Samuels (Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Western Kentucky University)
Seeking Unity, Seeking Legitimacy: Buddhism as an Alternative Source of Citizenship in Malay-Muslim Malaysia
     Leading up to and following the birth of the modern nation state of Malaysia, policies were enacted to ensure the preeminence of Malay Muslims over other ethnic communities.  Such policies were tolerated at first; however, they were soon challenged by non-Malay communities seeking equal treatment with regard to the economy, education, and religion.  Given certain “security-related” restrictions that were subsequently enacted to prevent challenges to the state and state policies, ethnic minority communities in Malaysia had to turn elsewhere to seek a sense of belonging.
     This paper examines the role that Buddhism plays among Chinese communities seeking legitimacy in Malaysia.  I explore the role that Buddhism, as a world religion, plays in drawing together disparate Chinese communities in Malaysia and linking them to wider transnational networks.   Turning to the more recent proliferation of pan-Buddhist societies and religious ecumenical organizations, I discuss how Buddhism provides minority communities with a more flexible sense of citizenship that enables them to coexist with and/or challenge the Malaysian ethnocracy and Islamization.

November 11, 2011 - Kathryn Robinsin (Anthropology and RSPAS at Australian National University)
Modalities of propagation of Islam in the Sulawesi interior: lessons for understanding Islamisation in eastern Indonesia?
     The people of the mountainous interior of Sulawesi (Indonesia), at the confluence of the contemporary borders of South, Southest and Central Sulawesi, were connected by trade in jungle products, as well as iron ore and weapons, to coastal sultanates that embraced Islam from the 15th century (Ternate) to the 17the century (Luwu). However, they retained distinctive local identities and did not embrace Islam until the region came under Dutch control in the early twentieth century. Anthony Johns wrote in 1975 that there was little written about the modality of spread of Islam in the Indonesian archipelago. Scholarship since then has filled some of this the gap in knowledge, but has revealed diversity in the modalities of the propagation of Islam and its social and political effects. Accounts of the (relatively late) spread of Islam in South Sulawesi, in Bugis and Makassarese communities, have focused on the role of trade as well as political elites, Islamic institutions and also textual traditions. This paper explores the manner of Islamic conversion in the villages on the shores of Lake Matano at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the intensification of piety linked to the Darul Islam rebellion post-Indonesian independence. How does this local history of Islam, and the forms of everyday religious practice that have emerged relate to the current response in these communities to the national move to intensification of everyday religiosity? The paper draws on fieldwork in the mining town of Sorowako, South Sulawesi from 1976 to the present, as well as historical sources. It will bring a comparative perspective from the emerging research findings of an Australian research Council –funded project ‘Being Muslim in eastern Indonesia’ in progress at the Australian National University, on which Robinson is Chief Investigator.

November 18, 2011 - Tomas Ryska (Fulbright fellow, Anthropology. University of California, Berkeley)
Learning to be a Chao Khao: Ethnography of Akha education through Christian Children's Home in contemporary Thailand
     Christian-based development organizations dramatically increased their activities in Northern Thailand from the mid-1990s on. Over the past 15 years, dozens of Christian children’s homes have been founded, enabling Akha children and other mountain ethnic minority groups to obtain education at urban state schools. However a high percentage of young mountain dwellers living in these development institutions do not complete their education and drop out of school prematurely. Drawing on Bourdieu's concepts of cultural capital, symbolic violence and habitus in conjunction with Appadurai's concept of imagined worlds, this talk describes the three worlds that generate the dispositions of Akha children, which help us better understand the resistance students from Christian Homes employ: the Akha parents and village, the Christian children’s home, and the state as represented by the school system.

December 2, 2011 - Ian Baird (Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
The Monks and the Hmong: The Special Relationship between the Chao Fa and the Tham Krabok Buddhist Temple in Saraburi Province, Thailand
     The Tham Krabok temple in Saraburi Province, central Thailand is the home of an unusual Buddhist order, one that was founded by a female, Mian Parnchand, a self-professed Bhikkhuni commonly known as ‘Luang Por Yai,’ and was led by her nephew, an undercover Thai policeman-turned-monk, Luang Por Chamroon Parnchand, and his younger brother, Charoen Parnchand. The temple is best known for treating large numbers of drug addicts over more than half a century, and for being the home for large numbers of Hmong people from Laos during the 1980s and 1990s, until the majority were accepted as political refugees in the USA and elsewhere in 2004. Although Wat Tham Krabok (WTK) is well-known for supporting the Hmong, most observers have little understanding about the special relationship between the Hmong—particularly those led by Chao Fa leader Pa Kao Her—and WTK. In this presentation I explain the circumstances that led to the development of this relationship between two unorthodox religious movements, including the history of WTK and how Hmong political refugees from Laos came to become closely linked to the temple through anti-communist militant resistance and violence while the monks there maintained strict Buddhist practices, including not using any form of transportation other than walking.

December 9, 2011 - Kobayashi Satoru (Assistant Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University)
Sima and Barami: Rethinking Cambodian Syncretism through Buddhist Institutions
     The ancient people of Cambodia are believed to have created a distinctive culture in the Southeast Asian monsoon zone, receiving the great Indian traditions of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. After most of the population came to believe Theravada Buddhism in by the 13th century, Buddhist culture then experienced French colonial rule and the process of modern nation-state building. More recently, Cambodian Buddhism suffered complete cessation under the totalitarian rule of Democratic Kampuchea during 1975-79. However, Cambodian people restarted their Buddhist activities just after the fall of DK regime. The distinguishing characteristics of the cultural substratum that had formed within its unique natural and historical environments can be observed in diverse ways at present. In this talk, I examine processes of establishing various Buddhist institutions in contemporary rural Cambodia, and explore how the local usage of Buddhist concepts – sima and barami (boundary and benevolent power)– reflect their trans-boundary imagination of their own religious tradition.