Friday Forum Spring Semester 2014 - 15
January 23, 2015 - Billy Noseworthy (Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, UW-Madison)
Po Romé [r. 1627-1651]: Champa’s First Highland Sovereign as a Watershed Moment in Cham History
This presentation begins with the argument that Po Romé’s reign was a watershed moment in the history of the Cham. For the first time, a member of the Churu highland servant class intermarried with a Bini-Islamic influenced religious minority-Cham princess and became the ruler of the last Champa negara polity, Panduranga. He established a peace between the warring Cham Balamon Shaivite Hindu influenced majority and Bini Islamic influenced minority. His reign also established the Cham script Akhar Thrah, still used by both Eastern and Western Cham speakers today – although variants of Arabic [Al-Arabiyyah] script also became popular. Third, Po Romé’s reign established the luni-solar sakawi calendar that is used to bring Hindu oriented and Islamic oriented elements of Cham society together through calendar rituals and life-cycle oriented events, which always occur during ‘auspicious times’ according to the sakawi calendar. Finally, Po Romé’s reign is credited with the re-solidification of the Cham philosophy of awal and ahier. Awal and ahier are Arabic root loan words meaning ‘first’ and ‘last.’ In Cham philosophical conceptions, awal represents the moon, femininity and Islamic oriented elements of the universe. Meanwhile, ahier represents the sun, masculinity and Indic oriented elements of the universe. The inherent co-dependent relationship between awal and ahier is thought to be the key to understanding Cham culture and the universe. The chapter concludes that the narratives presented in Cham manuscripts connected to Po Romé establish a uniquely Cham understanding of history as sakarai.
January 30, 2015 - Li-Ching Ho (Assistant Professor of Social Studies Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, UW-Madison)
Sorting Citizens: Differentiated Citizenship Education in Singapore
Using Singapore as a case study, this paper examines how the discourses of democratic elitism and meritocracy help allocate different citizen roles to students and define the nature of the social studies citizenship education programmes for different educational tracks. While the Singapore education system is not unique in its stratification of students into distinct educational tracks with diverse educational outcomes, it is one of the very few countries with explicitly differentiated formal national citizenship curricula for students from different educational tracks. Students are formally allocated different citizenship roles and responsibilities according to the hierarchy defined by the state. Three distinct roles can be identified: (1) elite cosmopolitan leaders; (2) globally-oriented but locally-rooted mid-level executives and workers; and (3) local ‘heartlander’ followers. To cater to these different citizen roles, the three programmes encompass significantly different curricular goals, content, modes of assessment, civic skills, and values. The findings indicate that only the elite students have access to citizenship education that promotes democratic enlightenment and political engagement. The social studies curriculum for students in the vocational track, in contrast, focuses almost exclusively on imparting a pre-determined body of knowledge and set of values deemed necessary for academically low-achieving students.
February 6, 2015 - Fritz Schenker (Doctoral Candidate, Department of Ethnomusicology, UW-Madison)
Filipino Musical Mobilities: The Rise of the Asian Professional Jazz Musician in 1920s Colonial Asia
In the decade after World War I, jazz quickly became ubiquitous across Asian port cities from Mumbai to Yokohama. The premier performers of this U.S.-based dance music were not Americans, however, but Filipinos. Hundreds of musicians left the Philippines throughout the 1920s to answer the demand for dance bands in hotels, cabarets, and cruise ships along the Asia littoral.
Filipino musicians have commonly been dismissed as mere mimics in histories of music and Southeast Asia, yet their proliferation suggests that these narratives of mimicry distort the ways an emerging global popular music was experienced and became meaningful in different contexts. In this presentation, I explore how Filipino musicians and composers grappled with the changing demands for popular music throughout western colonized parts of Asia. In particular, I focus on the complex interworking between imperial racial hierarchies and the growing global market for dance music. As colonized subjects of the U.S., Filipino jazz musicians performed music heard to signify western modernity even though they themselves were considered racially inferior “natural” musicians, unable to demand the wages of white performers. Filipinos sought to capitalize on the demand for cheap musical labor by seeking employment abroad and by imagining themselves part of an empire of musical labor.
February 13, 2015 - Gerald Sim (Associate Professor of Film Studies, Florida Atlantic University)
Postcolonial Cinema Aesthetics in the Era of Global Capital
Situated astride Malaysian and global film culture, the late director Yasmin Ahmad’s fresh model of postcolonial poetics is both a departure from traditional hybridity tropes and an indicator of the nation’s postcolonial-global duality. Set in globalized social and cultural milieus, Ahmad stages interethnic squabbles between speakers of different languages. First, using imperfect or absent subtitles, Ahmad steers attention away from dialogue’s linguistic meaning, toward the purely acoustic pleasures of dueling cultural phonemes or prosody – what language simply sounds like. The resultant national soundscape harbors an aesthetic that transcends the hybridity paradigm associated with postcolonial culture. Ahmad’s second predilection, for highlighting characters who speak ethnically incongruent languages, does not require audience comprehension either. It offers a cinematic experience that is thoroughly aural, spatially marginalized, and yet seductively immersive. Through French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy’s Listening, and his eponymous writing vis-à-vis globalization in The Sense of the World and The Creation of the World or Globalization, we find that the films evoke a phenomenology that speaks to Malaysia’s geopolitical “sense of the world."
February 20, 2015 - Alfred W. McCoy (Professor of History, UW-Madison)
Policing the Imperial Periphery: The Philippine-American War and the Rise of the U.S. Surveillance State
In 2009, Alfred McCoy published a monograph titled, Policing America’s Empire, about the rise of America’s “first information regime in the colonial Philippines," getting a few nice reviews and even winning a prize. But he soon realized that the book had completely overlooked an obvious question: If that was the “first American information regime,” then was there a second, or even a third? Plunged into three Asian crucibles of counterinsurgency during the past century, America’s information infrastructure has advanced through three distinct technological regimes: first, the manual regime (during the Philippine War, 1898-1907); next, the computerized (in the Vietnam War, 1963-75); and, most recently, the robotic (in Afghanistan and Iraq, from 2001 to perhaps 2014 or beyond). During each of these attempts to subjugate a dense Asian rural society, the U.S. military has been pushed to the breaking point and responded by drawing together all extant information resources, fusing them into an infrastructure of unprecedented power, and producing a new regime for data management. Reviewing this succession of information regimes over the span of a century leads to an ambiguous prognosis about the future of U.S. global power.
February 27, 2015 - Ben Tausig (Department of Ethnomusicology, School of Music, SUNY Stony Brook)
A Division of Listening: The Sonic Broadcasts of the Thai Military at Bangkok Political Protests
The Thai military's psychological operations unit (PJW) has consistently been at the front lines in recent military operations against protesters and in support of the ruling junta. Among PJW's strategies is to use live and recorded music, comedy, and soothing speech to manipulate crowds on behalf of the military. This talk narrates and contextualizes PJW’s fifty-year history, which has not been critically represented in any language. But more urgently, I advance an argument about PJW’s role in the past fifty years of Thai governance and citizenship. I claim that PJW’s musical practices typify a Cold War-era instrumentalization of culture in Southeast Asia that has been sustained through a series of historical contortions and revived fervently in the present. In the past five years, PJW’s musical performances reveal above all the ascendency of class politics, even as such politics remain discursively forbidden in Thailand at literal gunpoint. Class division in Thailand is apparent wherever Thais listen to PJW these days. I examine these listening practices, and demonstrate their relationship to what I regards as a class-based political fissure in Thailand that is growing ever-wider.
March 6, 2015 - Ian Coxhead (Professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Do export booms discourage schooling? Evidence from Southeast Asia
Economic growth is strongly associated with increased education, yet export booms in low-income countries often seem to spark an opposite trend. Rapid growth of jobs in low-skill occupations may reduce overall returns to schooling and raise dropout rates, especially among teens from relatively poor origins. We explore this idea and examine the links between changing job market opportunities and educational outcomes in some emerging regional economies, with particular emphasis on the case of Indonesia.
March 13, 2015 - Lorraine Paterson (Research Fellow, University of Oxford, UK)
Life Writing and Colonial Southeast Asia: New Perspectives on Biography, Archival Traces and Ethnographic Texts
Dr. Paterson's recent research has interwoven extensive archival research, ethnographic accounts, oral histories and literary texts in order to map trans-colonial cultural flows and connections from French Indochina to the wider French empire centering on the lives of Vietnamese and Cambodians deported to other parts of the French empire. By looking at Vietnamese and Cambodians living in different cities in Algeria in the 1890s, we can trace some fascinating lives lived in another part of the French empire and the constraints, but also the possibilities, of new lives made through social displacement. In such a way, we can examine the complexities of a historical and ethnographic picture of identity, agency and contingent possibilities within a trans-global colonial context. Doing so can also lead to some new approaches to life–writing about Southeast Asia in a broader colonial context in order to try and understand circulations of ideas, mobility of individuals, and the lived experience of empire.
March 20, 2015 - Oona Paredes (Mindanao, Phillipines) (National University of Singapore)
"Preserving 'Tradition': Discourses of Governmentality and Identity Among the Higaunon of Mindanao"
What does ‘indigeneity’ mean for Indigenous Peoples (IP’s), when there are often quite divergent conceptions and objectives in play when the term ‘Indigenous’ is employed in practice? This paper examines the practical consequences for IP’s in the Philippines of state-driven discourse regarding indigeneity and ‘tradition.’ Drawing on preliminary data from an ongoing field research project, I discuss the case of the Higaunon Lumad people northern Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, which is comparable to the experience of many other Lumad groups on the island. Local trends in participatory development and democratization over the years have required the increased engagement of IP leaders with broader Filipino civil society, national state bureaucracies, and in the local government unit (LGU) system. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1987 has also added an Indigenous-centered bureaucracy that is supposed to respond directly to the special needs of IP’s, including the preservation of cultural traditions and securing title to ancestral lands. While laudatory and promising on the surface, in practice these developments have only added more layers of bureaucracy for IP’s, and many of these bureaucracies impose their own stereotyped expectations of how an IP, especially a “chieftain,” is supposed to behave. This in turn forces IP’s to perform these roles in order to deal successfully with (multiple) agencies and powerbrokers, just to get on with the business of being Indigenous in the modern Philippines. While such bureaucracies are already opaque and inherently corrupt in the Philippines, IP’s face additional challenges due to their marginalization. In response to this dynamic, two distinct types of indigenous leader or datu have emerged among the Higaunon Lumad in northern Mindanao: the “cultural datu” and the “government datu.” Each competes for authority, power (political/supernatural), and cultural legitimacy vis-à-vis contradictory expectations of how a “proper” datu – as “culture bearer” of the Higaunons – ought to behave and perform. At the heart of this tension is a larger and more profound internal, cross-generational debate regarding the nature and essence of Higaunon tradition, how it can and should be ‘preserved,’ and what it actually means to be a ‘Higaunon,’ and what it means to be an IP, in the context of modern Philippine society.
March 27, 2015 - No Friday Forum, AAS Meetings
April 3, 2015 - No Friday Forum, Spring Break
April 10, 2015 - Ward Keeler (Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Texas)
NOTE ROOM CHANGE! Room 1920 Van Hise. 12:00 pm.
Masculinity, Autonomy and Attachment in Buddhist Burma
Taking religious discourse and practices as commentary (witting or unwitting) as well as instances of social relations, I see in the institution of the monkhood in Burma an idealized rendering of how people, and especially males, should enter into relations with others. Specifically, Burmese males should seek to maximize their autonomy. So whereas in many societies, masculinity implies sexual athleticism and the exercise of power, in Buddhist Burma withdrawing from attachments wins individuals special prestige. Monks, for whom both sexual activity and overt intervention in worldly affairs are forbidden, instantiate this idealized pattern particularly dramatically.
April 17, 2015 - Dr. Kanokwan Manorom (Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at the Ubon Ratchathani University in Thailand)
Neo-liberalism and Land Uses along the Isan Frontier in the Context of Mekong Transformation
This presentation is based on research conducted for the project, “Land Use Changes, Land Control and Land Ownership along Isan’s Borders” supported by the Thailand Research Fund. My main argument is that land uses along Isan’s frontiers have been heavily impacted by neoliberalism. Three issues are discussed. First, Isan’s frontiers are no longer peripheral, remote or backward; rather they are at the heart of the economic integration of the Mekong region. In particular, land along Isan’s borders with neighboring countries has been greatly expropriated, controlled, used, seized and exchanged at high prices over the past 20 years, and these changes have resulted from neoliberal economic agendas. Second, there is a conflict between nature conservation and national security and a shift of modes of agriculture and natural resource use and management to promote Mekong rapid economic interdependence. This has resulted in the transformation of natural areas and national security zones into agricultural frontiers where forest has been encroached upon to grow cash crops, or has been transformed into commercial areas. Finally, peri-urban areas along Isan’s borders have been transformed, resulting in rural land being converted into houses, factories, border facilities, highways, wholesale or retail shops, hotels, resorts, etc. Thus, it can be said that neoliberalism has greatly influenced and is rapidly changing the border region of Isan.
April 24, 2015 - Capt. Dick Diller (Delta Air Lines and author of Firefly: A Skyraider’s Story About America’s Secret War Over Laos)
Air Operations Over Laos, 1969, 1970
Captain Diller is the author of Firefly, A Skyraider’s Story About America’s Secret War Over Laos, the only book written about night flying over Laos during the Vietnam War. Capt. Diller flew 203 missions over Laos, mostly at night, during USAF operations that were a major part of the U.S. government's secret war in Laos conducted as part of the war effort. In this talk, he tells of three missions, the difficulties of finding a target at night, and the two major areas of flight operations. In an account that tells of the rescue of one pilot of Boxer 22 and the loss of the other, he explains the search and rescue mission and the main reason why A-1s were still being used in the war, and also tells of the losses, including 7 out of 20 in his squadron while he was there, and 104 out of approximately 700 who flew the airplane for the air force during the war. He further describes different types of missions in northern Laos and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and explains why we supported one side of what was essentially a civil war.
May 1, 2015 - David Brown (Writer, retired US diplomat)
Looking for Đổi Mới II, or Vietnam Today: a Political-Economic Tour
2015 is shaping up as a momentously political year in Vietnam. Factionalized and more reactionary than revolutionary, the Vietnamese Communist Party is preparing to convene its 12th Party Congress in January 2016. The 87 million Vietnamese who are not Party members are watching hopefully. Leaving aside a vocal but quite small bunch of dissidents,they're not restive. The average Vietnamese feels that Vietnam had quite enough chaos in the last century. He'd like to believe that the all-powerful Party will agree on policies needed to liberate new energies and ensure a stable path to a prosperous future. The reforms that are needed are obvious; what's not so clear is whether the Party can get its act together.