Friday Forum Spring Semester 2010 - 11

January 28, 2011 - Paul Hutchcroft (Professor of Political and Social Change and Founding Director of the School of International, Political and Strategic Change, Australian National University) 
Linking Capital and Countryside: Patronage and Clientelism in Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines
     Through a comparison of Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines–three Asian polities with well-developed systems of patronage politics--this presentation will examine the degree to which patronage structures provide a critical “political cement” between national and local levels. The relative importance of patronage as a territorial glue, I argue, relates to the nature of the broader institutional context, most importantly linkages between national bureaucracies and local government units as well as linkages that can be provided by coherent and well-institutionalized national political parties.

February 4, 2011 - Jennifer S. Esperanza (Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Beloit College) 
Carving Culture, Carving the Cosmopolitan in Bali, Indonesia
     In recent decades, Bali has served as an important source for international wholesalers and retailers in search of inexpensive, mass-produced handicrafts. Taking advantage of this new economic opportunity, some woodcarvers have diversified their repertoire to produce the ethnic arts of foreign cultures. This presentation will examine the impact the ethnic arts industry has had on the village of Tegallalalang, where African masks, Native American totem poles and Australian dijeridu are a few of the popular ethnic objects produced and sold for export. Using ethnographic data, I will argue that the export handicrafts industry serves as a platform from which Balinese can assert cosmopolitan, global and modern identities for themselves, in ways that the tourism industry has not accomplished.

February 11, 2011 - Ian Coxhead (Professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics) 
Baby Tigers on Steroids: Indonesia, Vietnam and the Global Economy
     Indonesia and Vietnam have grown robustly through the global financial crisis, even as their regional neighbors slipped into recession. This continues a long run of GDP expansion that has seen Vietnam join, and Indonesia consolidate its position in, the ranks of the middle-income economies. These are tremendous achievements, but what is the basis of this growth and can it be maintained into the future? Each country has its own story, but in each case there are reasons to believe that the momentum of growth will be hard to sustain without significant changes in economic policy and development strategy.

February 18, 2011 - Kevin Woods (Ph.D. Student of Environmental Science, Management and Policy (ESPM), Society and Environment Division, UC Berkeley) 
Modernizing’ Land Politics: Emerging Agribusiness Trends in Post-Election Burma
     Since post-Nargis reconstruction efforts and the recent national election, land and agriculture in Burma are becoming redefined by fantasies of modernization and mechanization, pushed by the regime leaders and spearheaded by the military’s preferred Burmese businessmen. Following previous socialist peasant crop campaigns, the government has liberalized their approach to reach export quotas and meet domestic demand by dispossessing peasants of their swidden land in order to carve out large-scale agricultural concessions to Burmese business/political elite, backed by illicit revenue streams and transnational investment. This newest wave of enclosure reflects racial and geo-political histories, with marked differences in agricultural development trajectories for Burman Burmese in the heartland versus restive ethnic populations along the frontiers. While businessmen explore contract farming arrangements for Burman Burmese in the Delta, military commanders confiscate Kachin and Shan mountains and villages in northern Burma who then hire Burman Burmese migrant laborers. The power of these constructed industrial landscapes is in the material politics they paint, which is exactly what the country’s post-election political façade tries to erase from view.

February 25, 2011 - No Friday Forum

March 4, 2011 - Leif Jonsson (Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University) 
Wartime Identities and National Scholarly Frameworks:  Northern Laos and the Long 1970s
     Research with US-based refugee immigrants from Laos is faced with multiple legacies of war. One of them is ethnographic; characterizations of the Iu Mien or the Hmong are entangled in national frameworks and debates - American, Japanese, French, German, Thai, etc. The recent characterization of mainland Southeast Asia's highland peoples as freedom-loving Zomians suggests a paradigm rooted in the current wars in Burma. Laying out the main features of this analytical complex as OMG - Our Moral Geographies - I ask if area scholarship and anthropology can do better. Anthropology may be the worst enemy of the people we draw on for our descriptive and analytical kicks, and only a serious consideration of the ethics, politics, and pleasures of representation can change this situation.

March 11, 2011 - No Friday Forum: Spring Break Eve

March 25, 2011 - Jeremy Menchik (Dissertator of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison) 
Tolerance Without Liberalism: Islam, Violence and Coexistence in Twentieth Century Indonesia
     Indonesia is frequently lauded as a model of peaceful coexistence among diverse religious communities. Yet, as in other nations, this pluralism has at times broken down resulting in persecution, mass riots and even genocide. What is the basis for tolerance in Indonesia, and why does it sometimes break down? Drawing on three types of variation, I suggest that rather than being rooted in theology or ideology, tolerance is a negotiated outcome of political struggle. This argument is based on two years of field research including archival work, interviews, and survey data of 1000 cabang leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhammadiyah, and Persatuan Islam.

April 1, 2011 - No Friday Forum: AAS Meeting

April 8, 2011 - Ara Wilson (Associate Professor of Women's Studies and Cultural Anthropology and Director of Sexuality Studies, Duke University)
Medical tourism in Southeast Asia
     Over the 2000s, foreigner consumption of health care in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines has grown markedly through the emergence of a "medical tourist" sector. Medical tourism in the region is the result of deliberate government and business strategies to reconsolidate the national economy in the aftermath of the 1997 economic crisis and "natural" crises (the 2005 tsunami, SARS, Avian Flu). This talk focuses on the outsourcing of medical care to Thailand, where more than a million foreigners from Asia, the Middle East, and first world countries receive medical treatment. It analyzes this phenomenon in relation to reformulated social scales, including transnational, regional, national, public, private, and bodily registers.

April 15, 2011 - Jim Hoesterey (Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Islamic Studies, Lake Forest College) 
Shaming the State: Pop Preachers, Islamic Psychology, and the Anti-Pornography Campaign in Indonesia
     The anti-pornography bill – eventually passed into law in 2008 – was one of the most divisive pieces of legislation in post-authoritarian Indonesia. Opponents of the bill bemoaned the Islamization of Indonesia, whereas those in favor lamented the degradation of national morality. From his public pulpit, celebrity TV preacher cum pop psychologist Abdullah Gymnastiar admonished politicians for not having any shame. During television programs, congressional testimonies, and public rallies to support the anti-pornography legislation, Gymnastiar summoned government officials to heal the Indonesian state through an Islamic Psychology – or Psikologi Islami -- that depends on shame as a productive social and moral force. In this paper I explore how the burgeoning industry of Psikologi Islami invokes a politics of affect that redefines the moral and religious commitments of state officials and citizen-believers.

April 22, 2011 - Erik Davis (Instructor of Religious Studies, Macalester College) 
Khmer Spirits, Chinese Bodies: Spirit Possession in Contemporary Sino-Khmer Communities in Cambodia
     "Khmer spirits, Chinese bodies" explores two Neak Ta spirit possession rituals, performed by reconstituting and ascendant ethnic Chinese and Sino-Khmer community organizations and business groups throughout Cambodia. Neak Ta are ancestral place spirits conceived of as 'ancestral spirits.' This presentation examines the underlying Khmer beliefs and practices relating to Neak Ta cults, and focuses on the practices of spirit possession among Chinese Cambodians in these cults. The two examples discussed challenge a current typology of spirit possession and diasporic religion, opening up the possibility of diasporic practice that is localizing without assimilating.

April 29, 2011 - Mike Dwyer (PhD Candidate of the Energy and Resources Group, UC-Berkeley) 
The territorial fix? Chinese investment in Laos and its implications for the global land grab
ROOM CHANGE - 12:00-1:30pm, 336 Ingraham Hall
     As global food prices climb for the second time in the last half decade, transnational land deals involving Third World governments and “sovereign” wealth and are once again a topic of growing interest. China in particular has been at the center of debates as about a new “global land grab”, and has helped turn northern Laos into a case study of global significance. As a major investor in foreign resource development who recently announced that it will “stay home” when it comes to food staples, China is a quirky development partner. What should we make of this distinction between food and non-food crops? And what of the apparent tension between China’s economic expansionism and this apparent geopolitical caution? With these questions in mind, my talk will focus on the political-economic landscape of northwestern Laos, which has been home to Chinese agricultural investment boom since the mid-to-late 2000s, and which continues to attract commercial investment in special zones along the border. Examining the different geographies of these “special” and “normal” commercial landscapes, my talk will follow a third question increasingly posed by the media: Is northern Laos turning into Chinese territory? Focusing on the rubber planting boom that has apparently staked out a foothold for Chinese capital for at least the next few decades, I will argue that economic expansionism needs to be distinguished from the sovereign dimensions of territory, even as the two articulate with one another in unexpected and productive ways. Suggesting that this “territorial” question is in some sense the wrong one to be asking (or at least only the beginning), I will outline what I take to be a more practically adequate approach to the study of transnational farmland access.