Friday Forum Lecture Archive


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Spring 2015


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


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.


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.

Spring 2014


Associate Professor, Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Recent Indonesian Islamic Fatwas on the Environment”
This presentation explains how Muslims expect norms of Islamic law to mobilize religious response to environmental crisis. It surveys attempts since the 1990s to develop “environmental fiqh” (Muslim jurisprudence) in Indonesia. Many Indonesians expect Islamic ecological rulings to fill a critical gap in global persuasion, and to be successful when other (non-religious) environmental messages fail. Considering several key fatwas (non-binding legal opinions given in answer to a question) from the local level to the national in Indonesia, this paper explains how law and “outreach” (Ind. dakwah) come together to cast Islamic law of the environment in terms of foundational causes and ultimate effects. These religious norms coexist with and complement other globalized constructions (such as those of the nation-state and NGOs) that they increasingly incorporate.


Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Victoria, Canada

“Illegal Evictions? Overwriting Possession and Orality with Law’s Violence in Cambodia”
The unfolding of a juridico-cadastral system in present-day Cambodia is at odds with local understandings of landholding, which are entrenched in notions of community consensus and existing occupation. The discrepancy between such orally recognized antecedents and the written word of law have been at the heart of the recent wave of dispossessions that have swept across the country. Contra the standard critique that corruption has set the tone, this paper argues that evictions in Cambodia are often literally underwritten by the articles of law. Whereas ‘possession’ is a well-understood and accepted concept in Cambodia, a cultural basis rooted in what James C. Scott refers to as ‘orality’, coupled with a long history of subsistence agriculture, semi-nomadic lifestyles, barter economies, and–until recently–widespread land availability have all ensured that notions of ‘property’ are vague among the country’s majority rural poor. In drawing a firm distinction between possessions and property, where the former is premised upon actual use and the latter is embedded in exploitation, this article examines how proprietorship is inextricably bound to the violence of law.


Lecturer, State Islamic University, Jakarta, and Visiting Fulbright Scholar, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“The Politics of Anti-Human Trafficking: Indonesia, Thailand, and the United States in Comparative Perspective”
Indonesia, Thailand, and the United States in Comparative Perspective Human trafficking, universally described as modern-day slavery, has become a major concern over the past two decades. With growing recognition of the complexities regarding the trafficking phenomenon, many works have been undertaken to deal with the problem. In this paper, I attempt to examine the significance of political institutions that constrain and support efforts to fight against human trafficking. The main objective of my study is to analyze robust intersections between state interventions to combat human trafficking and anti-trafficking movements in Indonesia, Thailand, and the United States. In doing so, I explore different configurations of contention between the state and society in anti-trafficking policies across these three countries. The argument underlying this study is that democratic governments with open political systems and strong anti-trafficking movements are variables in explaining variations of counter-trafficking policies. Different patterns of political organizations and state structures have led to varied opportunities that inhibit or encourage anti-trafficking efforts, thus resulting in different outcomes.


Associate Professor of Political Science at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada

“Land Commodification and Decommodification in Southeast Asia”
Commodification is one of the most important dynamics of the neoliberal era in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. It is also a complicated process to analyse, and these complexities are nowhere more evident than in land relations. This talk investigates the forms that land commodification is taking in rural and periurban Southeast Asia, the dynamics driving commodification, and the forces that push against it. I examine market demand and state-backed land titling and formalization programs as key sources of pressure towards commodification, and then take up state, smallholder, and NGO efforts to restrict commodification. I argue that the state plays a complex and often contradictory role with respect to land commodification, that land commodifications “from below” are extremely important, and that there is little reason to expect that all land in Southeast Asia will end up commodified.


Doctoral candidate, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Thai Black Tigers in Laos: Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit and CIA’s Secret War”
The CIA’s secret war in Laos is no longer a secret but the involvement of the Thailand’s Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit (PARU) remains little known and understudied. Based on archival research and on interviews with the former PARU members, this presentation will discuss an important aspect of the so-called secret war in Laos, the role of this CIA-military organization based in Thailand. After explaining the formation of the PARU in the early 1950s, the talk will interrogate the historical and political context of the CIA’s mobilization of PARU in its secret missions and how this impacted the conduct of the war in Laos. By tracing PARU’s activities from Thailand to Laos at the height of the Vietnam Wars, this presentation will also illuminate the indigenization of the Cold War by local elites, some of whom were able to re-deploy the CIA’s secret soldiers to serve their own initiatives.


Consul General, Indonesian Consulate General of Chicago

“Contemporary Indonesia: Domestic Resilience, Bilateral Partnership and a Growing Global Role”


University of Wisconsin-Superior

“The National Anthem: Contested and Volatile Symbol of Post-Colonial Malaysia, 1957-1969”
In this talk, Dr. Gan examines the discourse surrounding the disrespect shown to the National Anthem in Malaysia during the first decade of independence. Initially, those who refused to stand silently when the Anthem was played were characterized as rude and/or ignorant of the new responsibilities of citizenship. However, the discourse was eventually submerged into the wider and continuing contestation over the meaning of this newly independent nation, and those showing disrespect for the Anthem racialized and accused of disloyalty to their nation. Gan argues that while a national anthem might be a symbol that resonates most with a citizenry due to music’s ability as a vessel of emotional (and national) expression, it is precisely an anthem’s performative nature that makes it an unstable and malleable symbol of national identity, vulnerable to varying interpretations of the meaning of the nation.





Time and Location To Be Announced




Nation Institute Fellow and author of Kill Anything That Moves

“The Real American War in Vietnam”
Dr. Turse’s presentation will be based on research for his latest book.

Based on classified documents and first-person interviews, a startling history of the American war on Vietnamese civilians Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by “a few bad apples.” But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese noncombatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of orders to “kill anything that moves.”

Drawing on more than a decade of research in secret Pentagon files and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals for the first time how official policies resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and wounded. In shocking detail, he lays out the workings of a military machine that made crimes in almost every major American combat unit all but inevitable. Kill Anything That Moves takes us from archives filled with Washington’s long-suppressed war crime investigations to the rural Vietnamese hamlets that bore the brunt of the war; from boot camps where young American soldiers learned to hate all Vietnamese to bloodthirsty campaigns like Operation Speedy Express, in which a general obsessed with body counts led soldiers to commit what one participant called “a My Lai a month.”

Thousands of Vietnam books later, Kill Anything That Moves, devastating and definitive, finally brings us face-to-face with the truth of a war that haunts Americans to this day.


NOTE ROOM CHANGE! Room B19 Ingraham Hall. 12:00 pm.
Conversation with Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick
UW-Madison Professor Alfred McCoy will lead a conversation with film director Oliver Stone and American University Professor Peter Kuznick on their collaborative work on their recent film, The Untold History of the United States, and on Mr. Stone’s previous films and other projects.


University of Adelaide

Spring 2013


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


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.


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.

Spring 2012


Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, UW-Madison

“Rebuilding a devastated population: mortality and fertility in post-tsunami Indonesia”
On the morning of December 26, 2004, a 9.3 earthquake ripped along the Andaman-Sumatra fault 40 kilometers off of the coast of Indonesia. The quake, devastating in its own right, displaced over a trillion tons of water that slammed onto the Indonesian shoreline. In total, over half a million persons were displaced and over 130 thousand were killed. The event has undoubtedly shaped many aspects of life in Indonesia. In the past seven years, scientific analysis of the events’ costs and the communities’ recovery progress has slowly emerged. To date, most studies have focused on the reconstruction of natural and economic resources, including land, housing, and the area’s major industries. This project examines the progress of a different form of recovery – the repopulation of devastated families and destroyed communities through fertility. We examine fertility at both the individual and population level using data from STAR, a multi-level, longitudinal study of over 40,000 individuals fielded in Indonesia before and after the disaster.


Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

“Democratic Careening: Indonesia and Thailand, Among Others”
In Southeast Asia as elsewhere in the postcolonial world, democracies seem less often to be collapsing or consolidating than careening. This presentation aims to offer new conceptual coherence to this apparent chaos, arguing that this careening most often occurs between populist and oligarchic modes of politics. Such dynamics have been especially evident in the Philippines and Thailand, but Indonesia has been far from immune. By focusing our attentions on the dynamics of particular types of democratic accountability rather than overall “levels of democracy,” Southeast Asianists might better apprehend recent tumultuous events as well as near-term prospects for forging a more inclusive and institutionalized democratic politics.


Director of Teater Garasi Indonesian theater troupe

“Theater as Cultural Activism in Post-1998 Indonesia: Opportunities and Challenges”
How do the social and political changes shape the form and the aesthetics of theater in Post-98 Indonesia? The talk will track the answer by examining Teater Garasi trajectory in the field of theatre/cultural activism in Indonesia.


Assistant Professor of International Development and Social Change, Clark University

“Digital Patriots: Hacking in Defense of the Vietnamese Nation”
The talk explores the emergence of “digital patriots,” who use their computer skills to hack Vietnamese-language websites that raise critical questions about government policies, expose high-level corruption, or call for democratic reforms. The focus of this talk is on a highly sensitive issue: Sino-Vietnamese relations. The details, drawn from recent attacks on prominent websites (e.g. VietnamNet, Ðàn Chim Vi?t Online, and the arrest of more than a dozen bloggers, shed light on the cultural and technical processes that shape contemporary efforts to limit freedom of expression online.


Graduate Fellow, UW-Madison

“‘Write it Down and the Chicken Dies’: Regulating Life in Vietnamese Avian Flu Management”
Outbreaks of SARS, swine flu, and avian influenza are prompting a burgeoning global effort to control diseases transmitted between species. Using a series of ethnographic examples, this presentation explores how individuals negotiate avian flu interventions in Vietnam’s poultry producing sector. It reveals that pandemic strategies confront heterogeneous moral codes, in which animals play a dynamic role in Vietnamese knowledge hierarchies, village economies, and estimations of individual worth. This research suggests that avian flu both circumscribes and expands possibilities for regulating and valuing lives in communities of humans coexisting with animals.


Doctoral Candidate, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Humboldt-University of Berlin

“The Politics of P(a)lace: Royal Space in Downtown Bangkok”
Since the geographer Edward Soja (1989) first coined the term “spatial turn” in a brief section of an extended critique of historicist thought, the humanities and other social sciences have increasingly come to acknowledge that places and spaces have a role to play in the understanding of the human condition. The production of space is always socially and culturally contingent and it is here where area studies can contribute to the debate. In Thailand, space has long been conceived of as related places (Thongchai 1994), not as an absolute container space as in the dominant stream of Western thought. Among these related places, royal space has long stood at the center of the spatial hierarchy. This is especially true in today’s Thailand where a “network monarchy” (McCargo 2005) around the reigning King Bhumibol Adulyadej has put strong limitations on what can be said and thought. Downtown Bangkok, namely the urban space that stretches from the Skytrain interchange “Siam” to the intersection “Ratchaprasong”, spatially reflects – and helps sustaining – this hegemonic royal discourse. It is also the site of a violent military crackdown on anti-government protests in May 2010. A close reading of Siam/Ratchaprasong helps to shed light on the sociopolitical structures that underlie the ongoing crisis of the Thai state in general and the role of the Thai monarchy in particular.


Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago

“Drinker, Trader, Warrior, Spy: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives on the Social Dynamics of Trade in 10th-16th Century Maritime Trading Chiefdoms of the Philippines”
Dr. Junker will be speaking on the porcelain trade in the Philippines and how it engages lowland chiefs, their retinue of warriors, tribal peoples and foragers on the periphery of these chiefdoms (who, along with the lowland chiefdoms, use porcelain primarily to feast and drink and use trade to collect intelligence on military capacities of their trading partners).



Arthur Lynn Andrews Distinguished Visiting Professor in Asian Studies, University of Hawaii

“The Spaces of Southeast Asian Studies: The Philippine Perspective”
In locating the center of gravity of Southeast Asian Studies within the region itself, we need to trace the history and shape of regional studies by Southeast Asians. The lecture takes up the emergence of malayismo, the interest in “Malayness” and the “Malay civilization,” among nineteenth-century Filipino intellectuals. Scholars like Jose Rizal, Pedro Paterno, and Trinidad Pardo de Tavera did studies on the Malay world, networked with scholars in Europe, mined the advantages of “home” location, published in the Philippines and abroad, and tried to gain visibility in the “world” at the same time that they sought to create the space for a “national” scholarship. The lecture reflects on the trajectories taken by this interest in the decades that followed, and what these tell us not only about regional studies in the Philippines but the dynamics of “area studies.”


Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawaii

“Rice on the run: Agricultural interruptions and upland farming during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia”
A series of upheavals in the late 1960s and 1970s transformed the lives of Jarai ethnic minority farmers living along Cambodia’s northeast border with Vietnam. The Jarai experienced massive aerial bombardment by American aircraft during the American-Vietnam War. Shortly thereafter, Khmer Rouge soldiers forcibly relocated upland villagers to a series of agricultural collectives (sahakor) along the floodplain of the Sesan River, where they were made to cultivate lowland “wet” rice. The dislocations of the war lasted for years: early reports suggested that some villages were unable to practice traditional agriculture for ten years or longer. And yet, highlanders living along the Cambodia-Vietnam border today have returned to their original village sites and now actively practice agro-ecologically diverse forms of swidden agriculture. How did Jarai agriculturalists reconstitute their swidden system following years of interruption? How did the many crop varieties that the swidden system relies on find their way back to highland farms? And what does this agricultural history tell us about the historical transformation of social relations in the highlands over the past several decades? This paper seeks to answer these questions by providing a detailed, ethnographically rich account of agricultural interruption and transformation in Cambodia’s northeast hills



Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia

“The Drums of Development: War and Uneven Industrial Transformation in South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines”
The foundations of economic growth and industrial transformation in East Asia, as well as the proclaimed role of developmental states in this process, remain inadequately theorized. This talk argues that the Vietnam War was crucial to the dynamics and forms of this transformation, making geopolitics central to the political economy of East Asian regional growth. Adequate theorization of regional dynamics thus requires a geopolitical economic approach, one that highlights interconnections between militaries and markets. In particular, the incorporation of South Korean military forces and industrial firms into the US military-industrial complex (MIC) during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and their aftermath illustrates how militaries and markets not only mutually constitute one another but produce much of the transnational geopolitical economic space associated with capitalist globalization. Moreover, differences in the growth dynamics and state projects of different US Vietnam War allies—South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines—can be explained in part by the differential terms of their incorporation into the US MIC.


Founder, We Help War Victims, Inc.

“Laos and explosive remnants of war: evolving strategies for clearing land, saving lives, and fostering economic development”
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic holds the distinction of being, per capita, the most heavily bombed country in the world. During the Vietnam War the United States flew more than 500,000 sorties over Laos, dropping four million general-purpose bombs and at least 280 million cluster munitions. Approximately 10 to 30% of those munitions failed to detonate on impact. It’s estimated that approximately 75 million cluster bomblets still litter the Lao countryside. Since war’s end Laos has experienced over 20,000 civilian casualties to old ordnance.

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions is a legally binding international treaty that comprehensively prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, requires destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years, and clearance of contaminated land within ten years. While the United States is not a party to the convention, it never-the-less is the largest donor to Laos and this year will provide over 9 million dollars to assist in the removal of cluster bombs and other explosive remnants of war. Recently, other nations, mostly State Parties, have also increased their assistance to Laos.

Since 2006 Jim Harris, founder of We Help War Victims, Inc., has been the sole American in Laos working hands-on, in the field, destroying UXO. He has just returned to Wisconsin, having successfully completed dry season clearance of expansion agriculture sites in Sekong province. Harris will discuss the need to integrate UXO clearance with development efforts and will describe how strategies for accomplishing clearance are evolving.


Professor, University of Wisconsin Law School

“Donors, constitutional debate, and legal reform in Vietnam: Some informal observations”
The foundations of economic growth and industrial transformation in East Asia, as well as the proclaimed role of developmental states in this process, remain inadequately theorized. I argue that the Vietnam War was crucial to the dynamics and forms of this transformation, making geopolitics central to the political economy of East Asian regional growth. Adequate theorization of regional dynamics thus requires a geopolitical economic approach, one that highlights interconnections between militaries and markets. In particular, the incorporation of South Korean military forces and industrial firms into the US military-industrial complex (MIC) during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and their aftermath illustrates how militaries and markets not only mutually constitute one another but produce much of the transnational geopolitical economic space associated with capitalist globalization. Moreover, differences in the growth dynamics and state projects of different US Vietnam War allies—South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines—can be explained in part by the differential terms of their incorporation into the US MIC.

MAY 4, 2012 – YANG DAO

Retired, University of Minnesota
Note Room Change! 8417, Social Science

“How did the Hmong people get involved in the Secret War of Laos (1961-1975)?”
After the Geneva Conference in 1954, Laos became an independent country from French Indochina. However, in 1959-1960, a Lao civil war, between royalists, neutralists and communists, started with interference from great powers such as China, the Soviet Union and the United States of America.

In August 1960, Captain Kong Le, a military officer of the Royal Lao Army, staged a coup d’Etat in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and proclaimed his political neutrality. This situation led to the attack of General Phoumi Nosavanh’s troops, which forced Captain Kong Le’s neutralist army to retreat toward the northwestern part of Laos. On December 31, 1960, reinforced with communist support, the neutralist troops forced the Royal Lao Army, under the command of Colonel Kham Hou and Lt. Colonel Vang Pao, to evacuate the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khouang Province. On January 6, 1961, responding to a desperate call for help from Lt. Colonel Vang Pao, General Phoumi Nosavanh sent Colonel Bill Lair, a C.I.A. officer, to meet with the Hmong military leader in Thathom-Thavieng, who promised to be loyal to the Royal Lao Government. In Feburary 1961, General Adaholt, who was an officer of the U.S. Air Force, representatives of the C.I.A., and the Royal Lao Army held a historic meeting with Lt. Colonel Vang Pao in Padong, south of the Plain of Jars. They came out with a military strategic plan to fight against the communist expansion in Lao territory. Thus the Secret War of Laos began. It would end in May 1975 as a consequence of the disaster of the Vietnam War. This presentation explains how the Hmong became involved in the Secret War in Laos, including rectifying some of the mistaken understandings related to this period.

Spring 2011


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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”
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.


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Fall 2015


Professor of Sino-Vietnamese History, Harvard University

“The Contested Afterlives of Ho Chi Minh”
(the first annual “Judith Ladinsky Lecture”—made possible through support from the Judith L. Ladinsky Memorial Fund)
This talk concerns the Religion of Uncle Ho whose central figure is Ho Chi Minh. Ho, who is considered the father of the modern Vietnamese nation-state, has become an object of commemoration, worship, and contestation on the part of the Communist Party and ordinary Vietnamese who claim to be his devotees.The contention involves who speaks for and through Ho: the Party which has compiled his collected works and constantly invokes his writings and sayings in support of often contradictory policies or the devotees who claim to be able to channel him? Other areas of contention involve control of space and of time. Space is understood as both the world in which we live, but also the Other World of the dead, of gods and goddesses and of unseen but powerful forces. Time is not only commemorative time but also the past and the future, both of which are being re-interpreted in the light of new postwar circumstances. At the center of this re-interpretation is Ho Chi Minh, the mythical figure created by the Party over which it is losing control.


Correspondent for Asia Times and RFA (Radio Free Asia), former radio broadcaster and NGO activist in Laos

“Modern Laos and The Term “Human Rights”
This talk focuses on the small, single-party country of Laos that has been under the rule of the Lao People’ Revolutionary Party since 1975. Laos has promoted an “open policy” since 1986 and the government has declared that it will upgrade itself from poverty status in 2020. As this talk explains, to do this, the Lao government is promoting the following types of development:
            Turning Laos into the battery of Asia
            Turning lands into capital
            Turning Laos from a landlocked to a landlinked country
In its rush to make the country modern, the Lao government often proceeds without adequately considering the social and environmental impact of development efforts and the consequences faced by local people, including land grabbing. These circumstances are also linked to the detention of some Lao people in relation to land conflicts with investors, and the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a leader of Lao civil society, on December 15, 2012. In this presentation, Mr. Souksavanh explains the present situation in Laos, including the way the term “human rights” is used in the country, and how it relates to development efforts.


Associate Professor of Anthropology and of Southeast Asia Studies, Yale University

“Rights Gone Wrong on the City’s Edge: Evidence from Ho Chi Minh City”
This talk will discuss the story of Ho Chi Minh City residents who have been evicted from their homes in order to make way for a new master-planned urban development called the Thu Thiem New Urban Zone. Facing eviction, residents mobilized a strong and unambiguous language of “rights” to support their cause. On one level, their example is an inspiring story of bravery and resistance that clearly shows how an emerging “rights consciousness” can inspire new forms of agency and collective action. But on another level, I also describe the ways in which this emergent rights consciousness has also come to operate as something of a fetish. By focusing on property value, legal documents, petitions, and other artefacts central to the expression of bureaucratic rights, residents have participated in the proliferation of abstract rights that are not in fact realized in practice. After the dust settled and the bulldozers finally retreated, these residents found themselves dispossessed from house and home. Their evictions were made final at precisely the moment that they had so forcefully managed to understand themselves as rights-bearing subjects. This suggests that the new conception of rights emerging on the edges of Vietnamese cities cannot be disentangled from the very processes fueling dispossession.


Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of California-Los Angeles

“Highland Responses to Spanish Colonialism: Economic and Political Transformations in Ifugao, Philippines”
This presentation focuses on the economic and political transformations that happened after AD 1600 in Ifugao, Philippines. The investigation reported here is part of the Ifugao Archaeological Project, a collaborative research program that investigates the political and economic impacts of Spanish colonialism in highland Philippines, particularly, in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ifugao, Philippines, where the most extensive rice terraces in the world are located. Previous models suggest that the rice terraces are at least 2,000 years old. Recent archaeological information, however, indicates that the agricultural marvels were constructed after the arrival of the Spanish in the northern Philippines at c. AD 1600. In addition, rapid social and environmental change occurred in the region shortly after the appearance of the Spanish in the Magat and Cagayan Valleys.

Recent findings of the Ifugao Archaeological Project indicate that landscape modification (terraced wet-rice cultivation) intensified between c. AD 1600 and AD 1800, suggesting increased demand for food, which could also indicate population growth. This period also shows increased social differentiation and apparent elite manipulation to maintain their position in the society. It is argued that, although the Spanish colonial government never controlled the interior of the Philippine Cordillera, the economic and political transformations in the region was drastic and this was likely due to the Spanish presence in the lowlands. Excavations from the Old Kiyyangan Village (Kiangan, Ifugao) also imply that the settlement had continuous contact/interaction with lowland groups and other highland groups between c. AD 1600 and late AD 1800, refuting the idea of isolation.panish Colonialism: Economic and Political Transformations in Ifugao, Philippines


Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

“Banners, Palaces, and the Art of Navigating Liminality in Northern Thai Funerals”
The creation of beautiful, often elaborate works of art, including funeral banners and cremation structures, for the purpose of their complete destruction is one of the most fascinating characteristics of Northern Thai funeral arts. Their presence functions as a physical embodiment of impermanence, echoing the overall theme of the ceremony itself. Only after these objects are decimated by fire are surviving family and friends able to put to ease concerns about the successful transition of the deceased from one existence to the next. In this presentation I examine how funeral arts give form to the immaterial, help to guide the spirit of the deceased, and have the power to affect observers’ attitudes towards the dynamics of life and death.


Senior Analyst of Focus on the Global South and Professor of Sociology at the University of the Philippines

“Promise and Performance: The Politics of ‘Good Governance’ in the Philippines under Aquino III”
Dr. Walden Bello is a senior analyst of Focus on the Global South and professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines. He is one of the leading critics of the current model of economic globalization, combining the roles of intellectual and activist. As a human rights and peace campaigner, academic, environmentalist and journalist, and through a combination of courage as a dissident, with an extraordinary breadth of published output and personal charisma, he has made a major contribution to the international case against corporate-driven globalization. During the fall 2015 semester, Dr. Bello is an Activist-in-Residence Writing Fellow with the Havens Center.


Walker Family Endowed Professor of History, University of Washington

“Critical Spirituality and a Critical Path in Ayu Utami’s Indonesian Novels”
Ayu Utami is one of Indonesia’s most acclaimed writers. Her first two novels were written in the very late New Order and soon after its fall. The first one, Saman, won prizes. The second one, Larung, was a difficult read. Hardly anyone in Indonesia or outside of it could understand the text outside of her intellectual circle. Having established her reputation as a serious writer, Utami’s next work is a tale of three friends and their adventures as they pursue critical spirituality and a critical path. Known for her liberal use of sexuality in her novels, this third book, The Fu Numeral, is no different, and the three friends pair up sexually in different ways in their journeys in the novel. This third 500-page but more accessible novel has also spawned what Utami promises will be 12 more novels drawing on themes from the first one. Three have been written so far, and it’s clear Utami now wants a bigger audience. This talk will explore Utami’s notions of critical spirituality and a critical path, her use of the Oedipus complex, and why these novels are important for historians.


Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies, University of Minnesota

“Back to Zomia: Hmong-French Relations During the Colonial Era”
This talk will examine how French appointment of a paramount leader led to internal competitions between Hmong leaders, complicating French power at the margins of empire.


George W. Ball Adjunct Professor, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs Fall 2015, and Indonesian Minister of Trade, 2004-2011

“Indonesia and the East Asian Region in the Global Economic Crisis”
The world is still filled with uncertainties after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Although there are some signs of recovery in the US, the world economy remains in a slow growth trajectory, and most worrying is the new normal for China. Indonesia and East Asia have gone from the East Asian Miracle of the 1980s-1990s to the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 and East Asia Rebound, while showing different degrees of resilience during the recent crisis. How should countries like Indonesia navigate the “new normal” of slow external growth and volatility? Where should the new sources of growth, productivity and innovation come from? How can governments ensure sustainable development and safeguard vulnerable groups? Is there a role for regional cooperation through groups such as ASEAN?


Research Fellow in Anthropology, Australian National University

“Fetal Personhood in the Christian Philippines: The View from a Visayan Island”
While issues of fetal personhood have been controversial in the Philippines in the context of reproductive health debates, little is understood about how ordinary Filipinos actually construct fetal and early infant personhood in the context of their everyday lives. This paper draws on ethnographic research on Siquijor, an island in the Central Visayas region with a devout Catholic population. Based on conversations about pregnancy, miscarriage and mortuary rituals, I show that unlike the notions promoted by elites of the Catholic Church which see personhood as fixed to the moment of conception, Siquijodnon see the acquisition of personhood as a gradual process. Significantly, while ensoulment is thought to occur at conception, this is not sufficient to produce a person. I conclude with reflections on broader implications and avenues for future research.


Cyber Warfare and Security Expert, Command Social Scientist for the Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC) at Whitney, Bradley and Brown

“Exploring the Digital Age and Local Conflict: Kalimantan’s Dayaks versus the FPI”
In February 2012, Central Kalimantan’s Dayaks refused to allow the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defender’s Front, FPI) to land at an airport in Palangka Raya. Hundreds of ethnic Dayaks swarmed the runway until the airline diverted the plane. Subsequently, the FPI also tried to increase its foothold in West Kalimantan. Faced with protests, its efforts were hindered, though the organization managed to retain some standing in the province. From that point, the FPI committed itself to expanding across the island and over the past three years, have encountered continued resistance but nonetheless renewed its efforts to gain traction. During the 2012 protests, online news outlets such as the Jakarta Post wrote that SMS, social networking applications, and social media helped to combat the FPI. At the same time, rumors spreading across these networks caused schools to close in West Kalimantan and, allegedly, deepened the Dayak-FPI conflict in Kalimantan. If this statement is true, it leads to the question: what can online and social media tell us about local conflicts? Can they deepen our understanding? Or do they just add layers of complexity to our analyses? Revolving around the Dayaks’ sporadic conflict with the FPI, this talk will provide an overview of the Internet in Indonesia, cover several Dayak-FPI incidents, and explore some of the ways in which the digital age can both influence and limit our understanding of local conflicts.


Associate Professor, Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University

“Neo-Royalism Ideology and the Future of the Vajoralongkorn Reign”
Video Link
This event was free and open to the public.



La Follette School of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison, formerly Senior Economist at the World Bank.

“Building Consensus on Poverty & Inequality Challenges in Myanmar”
Myanmar launched into a “triple transition” in early 2011–from a military system to (emerging) democratic governance; from a centrally-directed, closed economy to a market-oriented one; and from 60 years of conflict in its border states to peace. Myanmar’s level of development was at one point on par with strong performers such as Thailand and Malaysia. However, it is now one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, due to its long history of isolation, conflict, and mismanagement linked to extensive military control of economic and political life. 37.5 percent of its 51 million residents live below a parsimonious poverty line, life expectancy is among the lowest in ASEAN countries, and infant and child mortality rates among the highest. Less than a third of households are connected to the main electricity grid, road density remains low, and—until very recently—cell phone and internet penetration was also low. Moreover national averages mask extensive heterogeneity across regions: access to infrastructure and basic services is much lower in Myanmar’s ethnic minority border states.

Early on, the new administration expressed interest in addressing the needs of the poor and promoting a more equitable development path. International agencies have re-engaged in Myanmar and are keen to support the government in these efforts. However the data base on poverty and living conditions in Myanmar is weak and widely contested—internally as well as by international researchers and partners. As input for its re-engagement in Myanmar and to support country programming, the World Bank launched new analytic work in 2012 to (1) assess the reliability of existing data on poverty and vulnerability and (2) to work with government and other stakeholders in Myanmar to construct updated measures of poverty and inequality that better reflect the reality of living conditions in Myanmar as well as global good practice.

The exercise aimed for greater openness and transparency in data and methods, with the aim of building consensus on the extent and nature of poverty and inequality in Myanmar, and supporting an informed discussion about priority measures to address them. The work met with mixed success: although it was successful at raising awareness and resolving technical issues, it was much less effective on the political front.

Fall 2014


Professor Emeritus of Geography and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Feeding the Mega-City in Wartime: Manila 1944-45: Starvation and Flight”
The coming of the Japanese invasion in 1941-42 was not unexpected and the Philippine Commonwealth government took a number of extraordinary steps concerning food supply. As the war and occupation wore on, urban provisioning quickly lost all those items that were typically imported: flour, preserved milk products, foreign citrus and apples, hams, etc., bringing substantial change to local diets. As the Japanese military took more and more of the declining rice harvest, there was less and less to be distributed through the neighborhood rationing scheme. For many in the formerly comfortable middle class, this meant selling off their household goods in order to eat. And what they were able to eat steadily declined in nutrition and appeal. There was almost no work for most manual workers that paid enough to keep up with the roaring inflation in food costs–and their babies and young children died in great numbers. Finally trucks were needed to remove the dead from the sidewalks everyday. A disaster of biblical proportions.



Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan

“Musical Dialogues with the Homeland
The social aspects of music making and reception have received much attention from ethnomusicologists, as performance settings provide intriguing opportunities for people to negotiate interpersonal dynamics and play with modes of identity representation in ways that differ from every day interactions. In this talk I will analyze the performance practices of a Filipino American rondalla on a recent musical tour in the Philippines and the various messages about diaspora, tradition, and hybridity communicated between musicians and Filipino audiences. Semantically unanchored, the music of the group successfully opened up a wide interpretive space for Filipino audiences. At the same time, the ensemble struggled to adapt to a startling range of performance contexts and local expectations.


Assistant Professor of Law at National University of Singapore

“Negotiating In/visibility: The Political Economy of Lesbian Activism in Singapore, Myanmar, and China”
This talk draws from qualitative fieldwork to examine how lesbian activists in Singapore and Myanmar, as well as China, negotiate their political, legal, and economic conditions. Despite the challenges that render them at times politically and economically less “visible” than their gay counterparts, these lesbian activists manage to negotiate their restrictive conditions in ways that help to advance gay and lesbian rights advocacy more broadly in their respective countries.


Professor of Geography, Kent State University

“Hydraulic Engineering under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979: A Geographical Analysis”
Between 1975 and 1979 approximately two million men, women, and children died in what has become known as the Cambodian ‘genocide’. Of these deaths, approximately half were directly murder through torture and execution; the remained perished from a combination of indirect causes–starvation, exhaustion, and lack of medical care. In their totality, these deaths are the consequence of a series of political-economic decisions that produced the conditions of widespread mortality. Most salient was the Khmer Rouge’s attempt to increase agricultural productivity. The attainment of this objective however required a monumental effort to rapidly expand irrigation projects (i.e. dams, dikes, canals, and reservoirs) throughout Democratic Kampuchea. To date, little sustained research has theoretically or empirically attempted to document the hydraulic engineering projects of the Khmer Rouge. This paper constitutes one component of a larger, on-going project that seeks to fill this gap in our understanding of the Cambodian ‘genocide’.


Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UW-Madison, and Asst Professor of Anthropology Thammasat University

“The Linguistic Politics of Ethnic Minorities in Vietnam: The Case of the Black Tai”


Professor of Ethnic Studies, Chaing Mai University

“Displaced Persons, Repatriation and Political Uncertainty at Thai-Burma Border”


Trustee, The Cambodia Trust, New director of CKS

“Resuming Life after the Bombing: Remembrance and Consolation in a Jorai Village of Cambodia”
This talk examines the ways in which the inhabitants of a Jorai village in northeastern Cambodia have adjusted to the impacts of thirty years of conflicts that have destroyed their man-made and natural environment. It explores how a subsistence farming village has rebuilt life following the Americans’ intense bombardment of the region from the mid-1960s to 1973. This paper deals with post-conflict continuity and changes in relation to life and death. It discusses the ways in which traditional rituals adapt to the disruption of war and how the war-injured are physically and morally re-incorporated into the social body of the community. Its central focus is how long drawn-out conflicts have interrupted and influenced funerals and propitiatory ceremonies, with a succession of wars producing new causes of bad death and postponing – if not taking away – the time to grieve.


PhD Candidate, History, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Profiling Colonial Manila: The Cuerpo de Vigilancia’s Surveillance Network as Agent of Control”
This paper will analyze one of the reactionary forces that strongly depended on native engagement in intelligence gathering at the twilight of Spanish rule in the Philippines. Mired in political and social turmoil in the metropole and its remaining colonies, Spain extended its surveillance system overseas as part of its effort to retain what was left of its dwindling colonial possessions. The creation of the Cuerpo de Vigilancia de Manila in March 1895 expanded the existing native spy network within and without Manila as the colonial state intensified its campaigns against perceived enemies of Spain. However, this study focuses not on this colonial apparatus but rather the native involvement to ensure continuation of Spanish rule. By examining the urban surveillance network, it allows us to re-evaluate our understanding of Manila’s colonial society on the eve of revolution, and provides us with clues about the motivations of urban residents who favored the status quo or represented those at odds with conspirators of rebellion.


Chulalongkorn University

“Dams, Rivers and Rights: Winners and Losers in the New Political Economy of Hydropower in Southeast Asia”
Within mainland Southeast Asia, an extensive program of large hydropower dam construction is in progress in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar to meet domestic demand and for power export to neighboring Thailand and Vietnam. Shaped by ongoing processes of regional economic integration and (partial-)liberalization, these projects are mostly joint endeavors between state agencies and transnational private sector developers and financiers. This lecture will explore the implications of the growing number of projects for inter-government cooperation on trans-boundary rivers and for communities affected by them, and identifies novel arenas of justice that are emerging as civil society grapples with the new political economy of hydropower in the region.


Research Fellow, Department of Political & Social Change in the School of International, Political & Strategic Studies ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

“Who Can Be Killed and Who Cannot Be Impugned: Limits of the Legal and the Human in Thailand”
Who can be killed with impunity and who cannot be impugned in Thailand? During the crackdown on red shirt protestors by Thai state security forces in April-May 2010, at least 92 people were killed and over 2000 injured. Following investigations by several state and independent agencies, and marking a sharp departure from the past, in December 2013, the former prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, and the former deputy prime minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, were indicted for their role in orchestrating the crackdown. Yet in late July, the case against them was dismissed with a court decision based on a logic that departed significantly from the letter of the law. In contrast to the difficulty of holding perpetrators of the April-May 2010 killings to account, those deemed to speak, write, or otherwise act in a manner than insults the institution of the monarchy have been swiftly punished. SMS messages, off-hand comments inside the home, and bathroom graffiti have all been treated as grave crimes against the crown and state. There has been a sharp increase in prosecution of cases of alleged violation of Article 112 since the 19 September 2006 coup, and an even sharper intensification since the 22 May 2014 coup. In many cases, the identification of crimes and the reasoning deployed to justify a ruling of either guilty or innocent also departs significantly from the letter of the law. This paper takes these departures as neither accidental nor unrelated, but rather foundational and reflective of a logic informing social and political relations in the Thai polity. Through a comparison of the legal logics surrounding the proceedings related to the April-May 2010 crackdown and several Article 112 cases, this talk offers a specific set of answers to the question of who can be killed with impunity and who cannot be impugned and considers what this means about law and who can be human in late-reign Rama IX, coup era Thailand.


Professor of Buddhist Studies & Chair of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania

“Making Buddhism Asian”
Any student of Buddhism or traveler to Asia will tell you that Buddhism is a religion without a center. Until very recently, there have been very few pan-Asian Buddhist institutions, universally recognized Buddhist symbols, holidays, or flags, and no mutually agreed upon center of devotion nor standard canon/liturgy. Aesthetically, politically, doctrinally, and ritually Buddhists from Korea to Tibet to Burma to Java to Japan have little in common. Buddhist history has been characterized and built by independent and eccentric travelers, translators, and artisans instead of powerful transnational/transregional institutions radiating from a mutually-accepted Buddhist Vatican-like center. However, recently, several architects and intellectuals have attempted to create pan-Asian Buddhist ecumenical spaces in an effort to make an “Asian Buddhism.” This talk focuses on the work of three architects of Buddhist public and leisure spaces in Nepal, Singapore, Japan, and Thailand and is designed to start a discussion about the very idea of Buddhist ecumenical space in modern Asia.

November 28, 2014 – No Friday Forum, Thanksgiving


PhD, Co-director of Social Transformations to End Exploitation and Trafficking for Sex (STREETS) in UW-Madison’s new institute, 4W: Women Well-Being Wisconsin and the World Institute.

Trafficking, Statelessness and the Rights of the Child in S.E. Asia The STREETS Project

Social Transformations to End Exploitation and Trafficking for Sex, works to end human trafficking in the US and around the world. Activities include anti-trafficking and survivor support projects with partners in Madison, WI and across Asia, a service learning program in Spain, and a global policy initiative. The project also will be exploring how technology may be used in innovative ways to identify and support women and girls affected by trafficking or other forms of gender-based violence.
In addition to her involvement with UW-Madison’s STREETS project, Dr. Geran is a Senior Fellow at Sagamore Institute and founded a social enterprise called Each Inc. to provide technology support to child care practitioners globally. She helped establish a think tank in London through work on human trafficking issues and child protection.She served as the Director for Democracy and Human Rights on the National Security Council and as Advisor on United Nations Reform. Her academic work focused on social networks in Asia, Africa and Latin America and she taught as an adjunct professor at George Washington University. She was a 2007 recipient of the UW Distinguished Young Alumni Award.

Fall 2013


Professor of Agricultural Economics, UW-Madison

“Southeast Asian Economic Growth in International Perspective: From Malthusian Trap to Middle Income—and Beyond”
Southeast Asia’s 600m people have lived through a remarkable transition from widespread poverty to comparative wealth. The region’s long-run GDP growth rate is second only to that of East Asia, far ahead of average rates for other developing regions. This differential has been sustained in spite of internal shocks and global volatility. Tens of millions have been lifted out of poverty as a result.

This impressive record contradicts pessimistic predictions from many global growth models. Is Southeast Asia different, and if so in what ways? In the 21st century the region is undergoing broad and deep regional and global integration with relatively stable macroeconomic conditions. Nevertheless, numerous old problems remain, and new issues have arisen. Sustaining growth and reducing vulnerability to shocks remains a daunting challenge for the future.


Doctoral Candidate, History of Art and Visual Studies, Cornell University

“Cities Compared: Contemporary Art and Artistic Subjects in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia”
Within the framework of comparative analysis, the notion of contemporaneity underscores two important aspects of contemporary art. First, it indicates a particular conceptual artistic outlook towards certain practices and ways of responding to and interpreting current conditions. Secondly, as a state of temporality, contemporaneity serves as a useful lens through which to approach regional and transnational studies within the larger context of the globalized art world. This talk looks at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as urban nodes within a micro-region, examining the two cities’ respective trajectories of contemporary art history. Several turning points in histories of nation and city reveal parallel instances of cultural development in the twentieth century, with shared historical foundations for the visual arts, orienting contemporary Vietnamese and Cambodian artists in convergent and divergent ways through the present. Contemporary artists in the two cities express concerns with the discursive nature of contemporary art, and the urgency of artistic intervention in response to the impacts of wartime legacies, late or post-Socialist ideologies of development, and the processes of neoliberal globalization. I suggest that the scale of the city is a productive starting point for examining the formation of contemporary artistic subjectivity, as these are individuals shaped by myriad forces of social determination that find convergence in urban centers. For many artists, mapping the city is akin to mapping the self.


Doctoral Candidate, Department of Anthropology, UW-Madison

“From Blood to Fruit: Akha ancestral burdens and the pursuit of a modern authenticity in mainland Southeast Asia and Southwest China
This talk focuses on the efforts of certain members of the Akha transnational minority to promote a pan-Akha sense of belonging of a profoundly religious nature. Some 700,000 Akha reside in the mountainous borderlands of North Thailand, East Myanmar (Burma), Southwest China, Northwest Laos and Northwest Vietnam. This region is being transformed from the battlefields of the Cold War to an international market for labor, natural resources and tourism. Akha are being integrated into their respective nation-states and an emerging regional economy on unprecedented scales.

In response to these pressures, a growing number of Akha are converting to Christianity, others are incorporating Buddhist practices, and yet others are seeking to promote a pan-Akha identity by ‘modernizing’ traditional ancestor worship. Through a highly creative and often contentious process of religious synergism, the latter group is transforming Akha ancestor worship into a form of monotheism as a means of both promoting the very survival of ‘Akha’ as a distinct people and solidifying a regional pan-Akha identity. Following a general introduction to contemporary Akha identity politics, the talk then explores the ways in which Akha religiosity is being transformed by the latter group of ethnic entrepreneurs. It concludes with discussion of the implications of these findings for dominant conceptions of religious syncretism, “return conversion” movements, and the religious and secular aspects of social life.


Anthropology, Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture

“Reflections on a Column Raising Ceremony: Revitalizing the Wooden House in Cambodia”
Many architects working in countries recovering from the devastation of civil war or international conflict are dedicated to revitalizing the built environment. Efforts in new construction, as well as historic preservation, attempt to provide communities with shelter and a sense of place that is connected to cultural identity, local knowledge, and historical memory. How this takes place is a valuable inquiry, and the focus of this field report that describes the work of Hok Sokol, an architect in Cambodia, who is building and restoring Khmer wooden houses. It explores how the ritual practices of an age-old column raising ceremony are integrated into design and construction, thereby reconstituting a worldview and cultural inheritance that were threatened severely during the brutal years (1975-1979) of the Khmer Rouge regime.


PhD, Director, Southeast Asia Forum (SEAF), Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University

“The Panda’s Long Paw: China, ASEAN, and the South China Sea”
Tensions over the South China Sea (SCS) implicate multiple issues and actors: sovereignty, access, resources, regionalism, domestic politics, international law, ASEAN, ITLOS, UNCLOS, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United States, and Vietnam, including differences between agencies inside some of these countries. Questions on this vortex worth raising in a talk co-sponsored by CSEAS and Political Science include: What do these tensions mean for East Asian regionalism and the claimed “centrality” of ASEAN? What do they imply for relations between ASEAN, China, and the United States? And, most broadly: Is the SCS becoming a “Thucydides trap” that will ensure major Sino-American conflict between rising and ruling powers and thereby confirm the “offensive realist” position among analysts of international relations?

Time permitting, points of reference in the talk may include prospects for a “code of conduct” in the SCS; Beijing’s “ten-dash line”; Washington’s “freedom of navigation”; Jakarta’s “dynamic equilibrium”; Manila’s suit against Beijing under UNCLOS, Xi Jinping’s “new type of great power relations”; and Obama’s “pivot/rebalance” toward Asia. Reference may also be made to Obama’s planned 6-12 October 2013 trip to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines, including his expected attendance at the AELM and the East Asia Summit—two other vortexes (Assad’s Syria and the Tea Party’s House) also permitting.

Note: AELM = the APEC [Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation] Economic Leaders’ Meeting; ASEAN = the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; ITLOS = the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea; UNCLOS = the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.


“Contemplating Dhamma, Nature, & Society”
This talk will share insights on the Buddhist monk Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (1906-1993), known for his teachings on transcendent aspects of Buddhism. It will discuss how Buddhadasa’s reflections on Nature, based in his Buddhist study & practice, were also responses to current social & political circumstances. Finally, it will address other aspects of his teaching, including the significance of the fact that he never separated Wat from Baan (temple from village & society).
Other themes:
Nature as essentially cooperative
Dhammic Socialism Streams of dependent co-arising
Politics as a branch of ethics (sila)
Natural truth rather than Ideologies

Santikaro was ordained as a Theravada monk in 1985 and soon after began practicing under the tutelage of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu at Suan Mokkh in Southern Thailand. He served as Buddhadasa Bhikku’s primary English translator for many years. In 2001, he returned to the United States and retired from formal monastic life in 2004. He continues to teach and study Buddhism with an emphasis on early Pali sources. He is the founder of Liberation Park in Norwalk, Wisconsin.


Assistant Professor Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Northern Illinois University

“Juggling between Religion and Modernity: The World of Burmese Women Writers”
Burmese women writers often attempt to balance religion — Buddhism — and modernity: but this is frequently a real struggle. Change is often challenged by a determination to protect Buddhism and tradition, and women writers, though highly educated, struggle to reconcile these two powerful forces. One of the most prominent writers, Ma Ma Lay, wanted to disseminate Buddhist teachings in her stories, yet one of her characters broke the fundamental Buddhist precept—not to kill. Khin Myo Chit was inspired to become a writer by the religious writings of Ledi Pandida U Maung Gyi. Moe Moe (Inya)’s characters—who often found themselves trapped in an unhappy marriage—often seek refuge in religion. But as one of her stories suggest, women have started to find courage to break taboos of divorce. Contemporary women writers are also trying to find a different path; some of them seem to have found courage to break taboos of divorce, and they attempt to send a message that religion is often not an answer but daring to ask for a divorce. It is likely that more women writers would speak more freely about divorces and not offer religion as a refuge but breaking abusive and troublesome marriages as a pathway to women’s liberation and happiness.


Professor of Political Science, Yale University

“Some Histories of State Evasion in Southeast Asia and Elsewhere”


PhD Candidate Department of Anthropology, University of California-San Diego

“‘A House is More than a House’: On the Architectural Aesthetics of Being and Belonging”
In this talk, Dr. Elinoff explores the way that architecture and the architectural production of the home have become a site for contestations over models of citizenship in the slum and squatter communities in the Northeastern Thai city of Khon Kaen. He argues that the home and its form—both real and imagined—offer a critical window into contemporary disagreements over notions of national belonging and questions of what it means to live a good life in contemporary Thailand. He demonstrates this argument by describing how the home becomes a site of intervention for both state planners and NGOs who use the house as a pedagogical tool to transform the values and lifestyles of poor residents along the tracks. He also describes the aesthetic choices made by residents as they attempt to enact their ideal sense of citizenship by transforming their homes to reference multiple, often contradictory, projects of belonging. These houses (and their ideal forms reflected in architectural plans, models, and day dreams) simultaneously evoke political equality, capitalist consumer success, modernity, sufficiency, sustainability, and collectivity. These contradictory visions bind together multiple pressures experienced by residents who see the home as both a site to demonstrate their good citizenship and a space in which to live a good life. These competing and contradictory pressures evoke not only the trials of being seen as a legitimate resident of the city and member of the nation, but also broader questions about what it means to live a good life in late-capitalist Thailand.


Professor of Southeast Asian Politics, University of Leeds

“Dispensing Justice? The Work of Thai Police Investigators”


Assistant Professor of Geography, University of North Carolina

“Cultivating Subjects: Opium Monopolies from Colony to Nation in Vietnam”
In this talk, Dr. Lentz taps a rich vein of archival sources to trace opium’s course through the transition from colonial to national rule in 1950s Vietnam. Ever since the People’s Army defeated the French Expeditionary Forces at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, the Vietnamese government has celebrated 1954 as the year of national liberation and made the once-obscure town central to its revolutionary mythology. Yet fetishizing rupture belies how the celebrated battlefield was and remained a hub for an opium regime spanning a post/colonial divide.

Exploring resonances where officials have talked of rupture, the talk traces the remaking of rule and the making of national subjects from the embers of colonialism. French and Vietnamese tax records, official reports, and market studies show remarkable continuities governing agrarian relations of land, labor, and capital. Following colonial precedent, the national state encouraged smallholder opium production and instituted a monopoly on the crop’s purchase, trade, and tax. Just as before, buying and taxing opium upstream and then channeling it downstream into state coffers and morphine manufactories was no simple task. Undercut by smuggling into and out of China and Laos, the Democratic Republic’s monopoly spawned official corruption and resulted in fraught negotiations with growers ultimately backed by force. National opium politics combined relations of production and rule into a potent mix, contributing towards a millenarian movement that peaked in 1957. Cultivating subjects threw issues of citizenship and property into sharp relief by querying the terms of nation-hood, offering alternatives, and provoking an armed response.


PhD candidate, Department of Political Science, UW-Madison

Title To Be Announced

November 29, 2013 – No Friday Forum, Thanksgiving


Ph.D. Postdoctoral Research Fellow Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies University of Notre Dame

“Faith, Moral Authority, and Politics: The Making of Progressive Islam in Indonesia”
Several Islamic organizations in the world, including in Indonesia have experienced major changes in their theological frames and political identities away from fundamentalist/revivalist political theology to one that embraces a “progressive” Islamic theology that supports democracy, human rights, and religious tolerance, and is based on both classical Islamic thought and Western political philosophy. What are the factors that help lead these groups to pursue these theological changes? Who are the actors that promoted these changes? What cultural and institutional factors help to make these changes happen?

Using constructivist international relations theory, I argue that Islamic groups are able to change their theological frames and political identities if the changes are promoted by religious leaders with ‘moral authority’ status who are using both ideational and instrumental strategies to reconstruct the theological frames of their organizations. In addition to charismatic ‘moral authority’ leaders, other influential variables that also affect the likelihood of a theological change within Islamic groups are the institutional culture of the organization, the lack of a strong theological opposition within the group, and the relationship between the Islamic group and the state.

Fall 2012


Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison

“Christian Missions, Comparative Religions, and Buddhist Superiority in Siam, 1850s-1950s”
The formulation of Buddhist superiority in Siam was achieved through 1) debates/reactions against the attacks on Buddhism by Christian, especially Catholic, missions, and 2) the developing discourse (eventually a formal study) of comparative religions. The photo (on the flyer) is the cover of a highly infamous and controversial book in Siam by a Catholic archbishop of Siam. First written in the late 1840s, it became the prototype of the vicious slander/criticism on Buddhism. There were 4-5 rounds of attacks across 100+ years.


Associate Professor of Anthropology, Michigan State University

“Fatal Knowledges: The Legacies of Collaboration and Betrayal in East Timor”
Violence in East Timor, which was occupied by Indonesia between 1975 and 1999, has been examined and narrated by a range of tribunals and commissions, but its legacies continue to challenge legal accountability, the legitimacy of post-conflict institutions, the writing of public histories, and the rebuilding of the social fabric in both Indonesia and independent Timor Leste. Analysis of surreal short fiction by Indonesian author Seno Gumira Ajidarma suggests how particular kinds of knowledge, even when acknowledged, may haunt post conflict landscapes becoming fatal to individuals, institutions and social trust in the aftermath of transitional justice processes.


Professor, Center for Asian and African Studies, Colegio de Mexico

“The Construction of a New Relic Stupa in Cambodia ”
This talk describes the massive celebrations which took place in Cambodia in 1957, the year 2500 in the Buddhist calendar, considered the half-way point in the current Buddhist era. The occasion included the bringing of Buddha relics from Sri Lanka to be installed in a new stupa in front of the Phnom Penh railway station. The talk will discuss how the celebrations relate to prophecy and, at the same time, to emerging national identity soon after French colonialism ended in Cambodia.


Professor of Anthropology, Boston University

“Whatever Happened to Civil Islam? Democracy and Violence in Contemporary Indonesia”
In the mid-to-late 1990s Indonesia witnessed one of the largest and most intellectually sophisticated movements for democratic reform ever seen in the Muslim-majority world. Yet since the early 2000s, this Southeast Asian country has been plagued by social violence, the most recent form of which has involved attacks on religious minorities and non-conformist Muslims. Reflecting on the promise and pitfalls of Indonesian democratization over the past 15 years, this paper asks, What happened to Indonesia’s civic-pluralist Islamic tradition? And why has democratization in Indonesia continued to be afflicted by violence in the name of religion?


Associate Professor, Political Science Department, University of Massachusetts

“Coping with Daily Life in Myanmar [Burma]: Strategies and Implications”
This talk will examine various widespread and regularized adaptive strategies adopted by individuals, households, and communities in Myanmar, and will demonstrate that not all locally initiated strategies for daily survival and for addressing individual and collective needs lead to the promotion of trust, autonomy, collective welfare, or democratic culture. Most of these efforts are responses by individuals, households, communities, and organizations to manage, evade, or take advantage of constraints and opportunities that are often specific to local areas and may have long-term detrimental effects on society, polity, and the economy. This research highlights the utility of applying interdisciplinary and holistic lenses to assess political implications, and recommends context-specific policies that are more sensitive to the needs of targeted populations.


Professor of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University

“Civil Society and the Conflicts of Peacebuilding in Northern Mindanao”
Despite cheery pronouncements put forward for the media, the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are essentially stalled since the collapse of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in August 2008. This talk compares the different goals and strategies of ‘cultural empowerment’ among Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples’ grassroots peacebuilding efforts in northern Mindanao. These efforts by NGOs and peoples’ organizations have revived ancient practices of establishing ritualized peace pacts and kinship ties between communities in conflict.


Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University

“A Miniature Polity: Heritage and the Search for Social Justice in a Bangkok Community”
The Pom Mahakan community (Rattanakosin Island, Bangkok) has now been fighting for two decades against a constant threat of collective eviction. They have exhausted their legal resources but the authorities have hesitated to move decisively against them, in part because of internal divisions within the bureaucratic structures of state and municipality; moreover, they have reworked official heritage discourse to advance their cause. In this talk, I suggest that both local and international concepts of social justice would be best served by a resolution that recognizes the broad land-sharing plan advocated by the residents.


Professor of Asian History, Complutense University of Madrid

“Francoists Against Franco: An Alternative History of the Spanish Civil War As Fought in the Philippines”
The Spanish Civil War of the 1930s reverberated strongly within the Philippine Commonwealth, which was a transitional regime on a ten-year path to independence from U.S. colonial rule. Not only did Manila’s powerful Spanish community suffer a marked loss of political influence (due in part to the new fascist party, the Falange, which challenged the old oligarchy’s power), but Hispanism as a cultural option for a future Philippine Republic lost legitimacy–in part because Manila’s Spanish mestizos embraced Franco’s fascism and its allies in the right-wing of the Catholic church. The impact of the Spanish War in the Philippines, then, is a case study that allows us to better understand, first, the role of the Spanish global diaspora in supporting Franco’s revolt against the Spanish Republic and second, the overwhelming influence of Washington in the Philippines after independence, since Hispanism lost its previous role as a potent cultural counterweight to the Americans and their ‘Anglo-Saxon’ culture.


Visiting Professor, Cornell University

“Cambodia-Thailand Relations: The Questions of the Preah Vihear Temple and a Clash of Two Nationalisms”
This talk will briefly explore conflicts between Thailand and Cambodia, clashes between their brands of nationalism, and the question of war and peace. Citing the example of the July 2008 registration by UNESCO of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site belonging to Cambodia, Prof. Charnvit argues that history has been distorted for Thailand’s domestic politics. The second proposal to set up an ASEAN Eco-Cultural Trans-Boundary World Heritage site was designed to foster close cooperation and collaboration at the Temple site, with the administration done by ASEAN.


New Faculty Fellow, Languages and Cultures of Asia, UW-Madison

“Sanskrit and Ethnicity in Angkorian Cambodia”
Historians of early South and Southeast Asia have tended to treat the region’s Sanskrit political culture as incompatible with the politics of ethnicity. Where universal kingship was the only ideal and loyalties of patron-client, sect, and family were the only political reality, there was no room for ethnicity, or what Sheldon Pollock calls “the political salience of fictive kin group sentiment.” Angkorian Cambodia (9th-14th centuries CE)—one of the most recognizable beneficiaries of Sanskrit culture and one of the few that never developed a vernacular literary tradition—has been held up as the standard of the universalist and ethnic-blind state. Through a close reading of the Sanskrit and Old Khmer inscriptions, this talk will address the advantages and limitations of the universalist model when trying to understand the political identity of early Cambodia/Kambujadeśa: “the land of the descendants of Kambu.”


Fulbright doctoral student Interdisciplinary Studies of Religion, Graduate Theological Union, University of California-Berkeley

“Kapata: The Role of Folksong in Malukan Indigenous Peacebuilding Process”
This lecture will examine the embodiment of social memory in folksong that bridges Christian and Muslim communities in Maluku, Indonesia. Drawing on concepts developed by memory studies, the talk will explore the narrative of Malukan folksong as a mnemonic device which works to create common place, topos, for social solidarity in Maluku. Malukans have shared communal narratives known through the idea of Nunusaku, the invisible mountain (Bartels, 1977) from which the original Malukans are believed to have come. These narratives continue to serve as a site for a collective memory, which plays an enormous role in preserving Maluku’s communal narrative and transmitting it from one generation to the next. The way the narrative remains in the heart of society is through the singing of kapata, or folksongs,  that serve as a  mnemonic of unity. Through kapata, Malukans articulate themselves as members of a single community with the spirit of the ancestors and with God. Hence, kapata covers the twofold world of the Malukans: the visible and invisible.

The cultural narrative of peace has currently come to dominate the discourse on Christian-Muslim relationships in Maluku. From 1999 to 2002, Malukans experienced violent outbreaks of conflict between Christians and Muslims. These conflicts were resolved by recollecting the communal consciousness through renewing the memory of Nunusaku as a point of common origin. Despite the differences between Christians and Muslims, it is this narrative that has helped to reunite the people.

The story of common origin and the way in which it is narrated appeals to deep inner feelings (rasa). Remembrance comes from rasa in the folksongs as the vehicle of local narrative toward peacebuilding in Maluku. So, the songs lead memory to Nunusaku as the common place, a topos of togetherness, which creates the common rasa to reinforce a strong community feeling. In short, if the identity of a community is in fact imagined, then oral collective memory founded on rasa is the spirit of Malukan identity. It is here that the engagement between Christian and Muslim finds solid ground.



Assistant Professor of Anthropology, SUNY College at Brockport

“Indigeneity in Asia: The case of the Kuy peoples in northern Cambodia”
Indigeneity is an emergent form of transnational human rights-driven collective human identity that in the last three decades has gone global. It first emerged in the course of settler-state colonization, particularly in the Anglo-colonizations of Canada and New Zealand, finding public expression during the 1920s when Iroquois and Maori activists attempted to engage with the League of Nations with requests for recognition of their peoples as sovereign states, and for the League to intervene on their collective behalf against what they saw as unjust aggressor alien states. While these particular attempts were unsuccessful, they nevertheless mark the emergence of Indigeneity discourse, which took hold not only within the subject populations of the discourse, but also within the North Atlantic imaginations of what Shiv Visvanathan dubs “the other colonialists;” those who viewed the terrains of colonized peoples not as sites for domination and control of the other, but as possibilities for liberation and a “theatre of alternative knowledge,” and places to try out sociological experiments that had failed in the West, such as pluricultural states based on human rights. Indigeneity discourse remained largely dormant for the next 50 years, only to regain transnational traction in the 1970s, again led by peoples within settler states. Then in the 1980s and 1990s it began to travel to postcolonial Africa and Asia, and it has continued to move around the world since then. It began to take hold in Cambodia around the turn of the 21st century, although here as elsewhere its existence is highly contested. Today there are approximately 70 states within which groups claiming Indigenous identity are situated. Although there is significant variation, in none of these states does Indigeneity go uncontested.

Indigeneity poses considerable challenges to the hegemonic international system of states precisely because it calls into question the basis of what is most important to states: the maintenance of political unity and territorial integrity. While not an overtly secessionist movement, Indigeneity nevertheless implies this possibility through its basic assertions of collective rights to self-determination and to traditional lands, territories, and resources. This ontological radicality aside, Indigeneity discourse more explicitly aims at reformulations of power structures within states, and in this sense is arguably much more reformist than it is radical. Both immediately before and since the UN’s 2007 adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigeneity discourse increasingly moved into the mainstream of the international system, including UNESCO, the World Bank, the OHCHR, the ILO, INGOs, and many other transnational agencies.

In Cambodia, Indigeneity has emerged in the form of a nascent movement, that is mobilized in part by national legislation, and part by transnational actors who appear on the scene starting in the 1990s, in addition to its subject groups. However, the Cambodian state’s recognition of Indigeneity remains highly ambivalent, as it does among many Cambodian scholars, NGOs, and even Indigenous peoples themselves. In the anxieties over the identification of just who Indigenous peoples are, what often gets silenced is the question of defining the state, which is no less theoretically and historically ambivalent than a peoples. The explanation of Cambodian Indigeneity and its received ambivalence requires more than an account of the actors involved on the ground. It also requires an account of what are the historical and structural conditions of possibility of Indigeneity in the first place, and why it is happening in Cambodia now. Given that Indigeneity has historically emerged in parallel with modernist development and economic globalization, to what degree and on what scales are Indigeneity and neo-liberalism imbricated with each other? By focusing these questions through the long history of the Kuy peoples, one of the more prominent groups in the contemporary Indigenous rights movement in Cambodia, it becomes possible to map out these imbrications.


University of Quebec-Montreal

“Plural Vietnam? From Singularity to Plurality”
The History of Vietnam remains a prisoner of its past. Thirty years of war, much of it civil, made history a contested phenomenon for Vietnamese at odds over the present, to say nothing of the foreign powers who used history to justify their armed interventions in this country. At the same time, those writing on Vietnam in the West tend to accept that the Vietnam we see on the map today is the one that was always there or that was certainly destined to be, with the major difference being over whom should run the country.

This paper tries to suggest that it is time to step back and think about the history of this country in different ways. At the heart of this paper is the simple caveat that there has never been one Vietnam, but several remarkably varied ones, none of which was necessarily destined to “be”. Rather than focusing on the “singularity” of Vietnam’s past, this paper will investigate the plurality of Vietnam’s pasts, providing a number of examples and thoughts for how it might be able to write a different, more complicated account of this country and its peoples. After all, Vietnam has only existed in its present national form for about 82 years – never before 1802, for forty-three years in the 19th century, six months in 1945, and (as of 2012) for thirty-seven years since 1975.

Fall 2011


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.


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.


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.


Distinguished 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.


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.


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.”


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.



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.


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, Southeast 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.


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.


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.


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.