Friday Forum Spring Semester 2012 - 13

January 25, 2013 - R. Anderson Sutton (Professor of Ethnomusicology, University of Wisconsin-Madison) 
Centripetal and Centrifugal Musical Fusions in Indonesia: Dwiki Dharmawan's Cosmopolitan Regionalism
     In 1975 Guruh Soekarnoputra, son of Indonesia’s first president, stunned Indonesia’s young elite with a cassette album that seemingly looked forward and backward, outward and inward at the same time, celebrating Indonesia’s age-old regional musical traditions while mixing them with Western-style pop, jazz, and art music. Taking Guruh’s lead and moving from his sensational start as a jazz keyboardist, Dwiki Dharmawan, in a variety of musical endeavors, has, Professor Sutton contends, done more to constitute a range of “Indonesian” musical practices than Guruh or any other of his compatriots. This talk outlines Dwiki’s diverse musical output in light of the verbal discourses around his music. The music ranges from his long-standing ethno-jazz-pop fusion group Krakatau (consisting of jazz musicians from his earlier jazz-fusion group), collaborations with Islamic pop musicians (Hadad Alwi and Rafli), and a highly fluid music project he calls “The Soul of Indonesia” (which has included rock musicians Dewa Budjana and Indra in a 2009 touring version, and a large Western orchestra and Balinese gamelan performing in Indonesia in 2008). The verbal discourses include album liner notes, print and digital commentary, and the multiple conversations Professor Sutton has been having with Dwiki and his colleagues since 1999. What emerges--and what challenges us to rethink the standard notion of neat pockets of local gamelan and other styles, securely wedded to their places of origi--is a newly complex view of how musicians in Indonesia are interacting with one another, and how they engage the cosmopolitan world, both within Indonesia and beyond.

February 1, 2013 - Peter Vandergeest (Geography, York University, Toronto) 
A Cultural Politics of Agrarian Conservation in Thailand
     This talk takes up the cultural politics of collaboration between NGOs and farmers active in the Thai alternative agriculture movement on one hand, and some government agencies on the other hand. Influential cultural conservatives in government positions have found in the work of the alternative agriculture movement common cause in preserving rural communities, increasing farmer self-sufficiency, and moderating desires for addictive consumer good and chemical inputs. Some of the key projects around which they have collaborated include the promotion of organic agriculture, and the conservation of traditional rice varieties. The broader interest in conservation also helps to explain why improved traditional varieties have remained dominant in Thailand, as opposed to modern or hybrid varieties that dominate elsewhere, and related unique characteristics Thailand’s agrarian sector. However, the collaborations among conservatives and NGOs have also led to tension and seemingly contradictory politics as will be discussed in the presentation.

February 8, 2013 - Dr. Michael Cullinane (Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison) 
Kinsa si Juan Diyong? The 1814-15 Uprising in Cebu: Rural Uprising or First Salvo in the Augustinian-Chinese Mestizo Conflict, 1820-1850?
     This talk focuses on an uprising presumably against the Spanish authorities in Cebu in 1814-15, led by an obscure native, Juan Diyong. The causes of the uprising, even the targets of the discontent, are concealed in local legends, hagiographic accounts of missionaries, and Spanish investigations conducted shortly after the upheaval. The presentation attempts to unravel these narratives and, in so doing, argues that this seemingly anti-Spanish uprising was in fact the first salvo in an intense struggle (1820-1850) between a resurgent Augustinian missionary project based at the Convento de Santo Niño in Cebu City and the leaders of the wealthy and powerful Chinese mestizo community of the city’s Parian. All these events will be interpreted within the larger context of a significant decline in Spanish hegemony in the central Visayas and northern Mindanao in the second half of the 18th century (la retirada) and a reassertion of Spanish dominance in this region at the start of the 19th century (la reconquista).

February 15, 2013 - Joshua Gedacht (Doctoral Candidate, History Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Islamic-Imperial Encounters: Colonial Warfare, Coercive Cosmopolitanism, and Religious Reform in Southeast Asia-1801-1901
     These conflicting pressures beg the question: why did Islamic cosmopolitanism take root in some Southeast Asian locations, but not others? My dissertation argues that colonial violence, and specifically, variations in the degree, intensity, and duration of that violence, played a determinative role in orienting religious ethics toward either the global umma or ethnic particularism. Drawing from documents collected during fieldwork across three continents, this presentation will focus on a comparison of two colonial wars of conquest against Muslims: the Padri War in West Sumatra (1801-1839) and the Dutch-Aceh War (1873-1901) in Aceh. Specifically, I examine how advancements in technology, variations in local political dynamics, and shifts in colonial objectives structured not only the conduct of war itself, but also the subsequent development of outward-looking religious reform movements. In West Sumatra, colonial military weakness and a pre-imperial mindset allowed Dutch officials to reach out to potential Muslim allies, in the process providing the space necessary for the development of a vibrant, autonomous Islamic reform movement. Fifty years later, paradoxically, the illusion of martial supremacy and mounting imperial bellicosity drove the Dutch to forsake potential Acehnese Muslim allies in favor of destructive total warfare, in the process suffocating nascent reform movements. In sum, this presentation will contribute to our understanding of how the complex and multifarious nature of colonial conquest impacted Islamic reform movements in Sumatra during the nineteenth century.

February 22, 2013 - Noah Theriault (Doctoral Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison) 
The Dreams of Others: Palawan Ethics and the Fantasies of Environmental Government
     How do invisible beings in the forested hinterlands complicate the work of bureaucrats in the capital? What do dreams and the beings who visit them have to do with state power? Questions such as these remain marginal to the study of statecraft and state-minority relations. They should, however, be taken seriously, especially as an increasing number of states seek to “co-manage” frontier landscapes in cooperation with indigenous and minority groups. Observers of this trend are well acquainted with the “unruly subjects” who complicate the plans of neoliberal government, but we are only beginning to ponder how extra-human forms of agency, such as invisible forest people, might do the same. In this talk, Mr. Theriault advocates a more ontologically diversified understanding of how governmental authority is (dis)assembled in contexts of difference. His argument arises from ethnographic fieldwork on Palawan Island in the Philippines, where post-authoritarian reforms have made indigenous rights a central concern in environmental regulation. Officials there have sought to employ the indigenous Palawan ethic of restraint as a conduit for biodiversity conservation. Their ethic, however, is based on relations with invisible beings who, acting through dreams and other mediums, often defy the expectations of bureaucratic regulation. What results is better described as misunderstanding or distrust than as a tidy population of eco-subjects or an empowering devolution of authority. To better understand the operation of neoliberal government—and to hold it accountable to its goal of local empowerment—we should, the talk argues, attend more carefully to the ontological diversity of forces that shape social and ecological processes.

March 1, 2013 - Tania Li (Professor of Anthropology, University of Toronto) 
Involution's Dynamic Other: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier
     Many scholars have debated Geertz's characterization of Java as a site of social and economic involution, in which impoverished peasants worked ever harder to achieve static results. Fewer have taken up his characterization of Indonesia's Outer Islands as a zone of extremes - islands of export production surrounded by "a broad sea of essentially unchanging swidden making." The image, shared by the contemporary indigenous rights movement, suggests that change arrives among indigenous people living in remote areas from an alien source (e.g. globalization, corporate investment). Drawing on her ethnographic research in Sulawesi and comparative material from across the Southeast Asian region, Tania Li examines the emergence of capitalist relations among indigenous people in frontier areas, and explains why these zones have a more dynamic character than has been recognized thus far.

March 8, 2013 - Nancy Smith-Hefner (Professor of Anthropology, Boston University) 
The Gender Paradox: KAMMI Women and the Appeal of Conservative Islam
     Like many other Muslim-majority countries, Indonesia has in recent years witnessed the relative decline of ulama authority in the defining of gender roles. More generally, the country has witnessed the pluralization and individualization of gender models, not least of all with regard to women’s education, romance, sexuality, and family relations. A core ideal, however, has continued to influence public discussions of these gender matters. The ideal is that, however much Muslims accommodate new models of gender and the individual, these models must still be legitimated with reference to a putatively authentic Islam. In this presentation, Professor Smith-Hefner examines this ethical tension by way of the lives and experience of young Indonesian women affiliated with the Muslim-Brotherhood-influenced, moderate Islamist group known as KAMMI. The critical dependency of social and ethical ideals on legitimation with reference to an authentic Islam has guaranteed that the new and individualizing currents in gender culture as in other aspects of Islamic ethical culture have been regularly subjected to argument and challenge. The challenge is by no means just a matter of explosive public argument and political campaigns, but has reached into the most intimate and personal domains of everyday life.

March 15, 2013 - Pavin Chachavalpongpun (Associate Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University) 
Après Moi, le Déluge: The Monarchy and Thai Politics Since the 2006 Coup
     The military staged a coup in 2006 overthrowing the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra. This was the 18th coup since Thailand abolished the absolute monarchy in 1932. Although the military’s intervention in politics is not uncommon in Thailand, the 2006 coup has generated a different impact. The coup that was meant to protect the political interests of the military and to safeguard the royal prerogatives gave birth to an anti-establishment movement whose members identify themselves in red shirts. That coup, initially staged to solidify the monarchy’s position in politics, also stirred up an anti-monarchy reaction among many Thais. They became aware of the extent to which the monarchy had long been actively involved in politics, with the backing of the army, despite its confined role under the constitution. 
     While many Thais tend to concentrate on Thaksin’s authoritarian behaviour and his corrupt policies as the root causes of the Thai crisis, Professor Chachavalpongpun argues that, based on the above context, the monarchical institution has played a large part in instigating and deepening the political conflict and that blaming Thaksin alone would be immeasurably misleading. Not just Thaksin, but the Thai monarch is an equally divisive figure. The monarchy has increasingly become estranged with the ongoing democratisation. In fact, it has acted as an obstacle to the country’s democratic development. The military, in the meantime, has continued to take advantage of the crisis it created, and at times has exploited the monarchy, in order to ensure its position in politics, with the support of the royalists. The brutal crackdowns on the red shirts at Rachaprasong from April-May 2010 which produced up to 100 deaths and the multiplying cases of lèse-majesté demonstrated the extent to which violence and law have become important instruments in the elimination of those threatening the interests of the establishment.
     Professor Chachavalpongpun will discuss Thailand’s political developments since the military coup of 2006 with a special emphasis on the role of the monarchy in the current crisis.

March 22, 2013 - No Friday Forum, AAS Meetings

March 29, 2013 - No Friday Forum, Spring Break

April 5, 2013 - Kikue Hamayotsu (Assistant Professor of Political Science, Northern Illinois University) 
Testing Religious Intolerance and Quality of Democracy in Indonesia: Comparative Cases from West Java
     The growing incidence of violence and intolerance against religious minorities in Indonesia, both Muslim and non-Muslim, poses a serious threat to the constitutional rights of freedom and quality of democracy in the country. What explains the growing incidence of violence against religious minorities in Indonesia in recent years? Conventional explanations broadly fall under the following two categories: (1) weak and corrupt state security apparatuses and their close relations with Islamic hardliners; and (2) the political use of religion by opportunistic political elites in the context of decentralized elections.
     Based on fieldwork and comparative case studies conducted in various localities in West Java, I test those contending claims. The case study of anti-Ahmadiyah violence in the province of West Java shows that these two factors are not sufficient in explaining significant variation in anti-minority violence across regions. Instead, this paper finds that the varying outcomes of anti-minority violence in the region are shaped by decentralized religious authority and institutions, as well as competition among various religious organizations over religious authority and political power.

April 12, 2013 - Ian Baird (Assistant Professor of Geography, UW-Madison)
Presenting a Sensitive History: Different Representations of Hmong Involvement in the Communist Party of Thailand
     Between the late 1960s and the 1980s, large numbers of Hmong joined the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) and fought against the Royal Thai Army. Despite the importance of Hmong involvement in the CPT in northern Thailand, surprisingly little has been written about their crucial role in the CPT. In the early years after the CPT disintegrated as a result of battlefield defeats, internal conflicts, discontinuation of support from China, and the general amnesty in 1981, a lack of reporting about the role of the Hmong in the CPT might be explained by continued political sensitivities. Recently, however, the Hmong people become more interested in telling their story, and to advocate for land rights based on past CPT involvement. 
     Here, I compare information collected from former Hmong CPT members in Thailand in 2012 with two filmic representations of Hmong involvement with the CPT. The first is a 2010 Hmong language documentary, Hmoob Thaib Keeb Kwm: Kob Rog 1968-1987. The second is a 2012 full-length historical fiction movie in Thai and Hmong (with Thai sub-titles) called Blood for Freedom. Through considering different representations of Hmong involvement in the CPT, one can see how history is much more than simply clarifying and presenting facts. Rather, I argue that Hmong involvement in the CPT is being represented in quite different ways depending on the presenters, the political context, and the intended audience. Indeed, history is never neutral or apolitical.

April 19, 2013 - Yves Goudineau, Director of EFEO (Ecol Francaise d'Extreme-Orient)
Note Time and Room Change: 11:00AM Pyle Center!! 
The Invention of a Multiethnic Heritage in Laos
     The multiethnic nature of the nation has long been part of the official discourse in Laos. However, when referring to a national culture, it seemed until recently as if Lao historical heritage had to be its only foundation. Prior to the organization by Unesco in 1996 of an international conference in Vientiane aimed at underlining the importance of the local cultures and of the different ethnic minority heritages in Laos, this issue was generally ignored and not discussed. Local folklore was showcased, mostly songs and dances, but many aspects of village social organization and belief were regarded as backward and superstitious. By contrast, Lao PDR nowadays declares the importance of “the fine cultures and traditions of all ethnic groups.” Several provincial museums devoted to local popular culture have been recently created and about five-hundred villages across the country have been awarded the status of “cultural villages.” Still, one can wonder, what is the local or multiethnic cultural heritage that is supposed to be preserved. In the last two decades, economic and social constraints, administrative pressures and resettlement processes with the grouping of different ethnic minorities together have deeply undermined the former ways of village life, with considerable losses in terms of specific social dynamics and ritual practices. As a result, most of the so-called local cultures tend to be a negotiated mix between the villagers’ self-presentation (some ethnic groups being better prepared for that than others) and the borrowing of Lao cultural norms strongly encouraged by provincial officials. If ethnography can provide relevant comparison with ancient village cultural patterns, history must help to put the issue of ethnic and multiethnic heritage into perspective.

April 26, 2013 - Michael Laffan (Professor of History, Princeton University) 
At Sea with Sayyid `Alawi: The Life and Times of a Yemeni Mystic in Java and South Africa
     This presentation seeks to unite the Javanese and and South African experiences of an itinerant Arab teacher of the 18th century, the opaquely named Sayyid Alawi, questioning the nature of his teachings and influence as well as exploring the ways in which his memory has been successively used by the Muslims of Cape Town after manumission in the early 19th century.

May 3, 2013 - Christopher Sneddon (Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, Dartmouth)
From the ‘Mekong Spirit’ to ‘Our Mekong’: Identity, Geopolitics and Technical Knowledge in the Making of a River Basin
     In what sense is a river basin constructed through both ideological and material processes? Dr. Sneddon explores this question by tracing the genealogy of two "basin narratives" in the Mekong River system from early interventions by water resource experts in the 1950s to more recent efforts by grassroots and regional advocacy networks to re-imagine a Mekong-based identity. He draws on maps and other kinds of "inscriptions" to show how the scalar configuration that eventually became the “Mekong basin” was forged within a very specific set of geopolitical and developmental agendas—in oftentimes contradictory ways—that only partially reflect the complex socio-ecological networks encompassing livelihoods, biophysical dynamics and the interrelations between the two in large river systems. He also considers the possibilities of a radical scalar politics in the basin that incorporates a "Mekong identity" into the complex interactions among present-day geopolitics, development agendas and scalar representations of the basin. In the hopes of provoking further discussion of what is a neglected dimension of the intriguing and growing work on water and scale, he explores whether or not a scalar categorization originally defined by developmental agendas can be re-scaled and re-articulated as an emancipatory political project.