Spring 2021

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ANDREW ALAN JOHNSON - The River Grew Tired of Us: Spectral flows of potency along the Mekong River - JANUARY 29

The River Grew Tired of Us:
Spectral flows of potency along the Mekong River

 

Dr. Andrew Alan Johnson

Visiting Scholar, Center for Southeast Asian Studies
University of California – Berkeley

NOON – 1:30 P.M.

Watch the video of the talk here.
Online presentation followed by Q&A

 

Along the Mekong, where it creates the border between Thailand and Laos, hydropower projects have triggered a transformation. Strange floods and ebbs disrupt fish migrations, undercut riverbanks, and sweep away nets. Facing this new landscape, fishermen on the Mekong seek out new, hidden sources of potency that have revealed themselves at the same time as other powers fade in importance. Via an ethnographic study of Mekong ‘river beings,’ this talk addresses a reconfiguration of sources of power on the river away from the proximate and material, and towards the inaccessible, distant and spectral.

Biography:
Andrew Alan Johnson is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California-Berkeley. He has previously served as an Assistant Professor at Yale-NUS College and at Princeton University and received his Ph.D. from Cornell in May of 2010. His research looks at how individuals reshape their worlds in the wake of economic and environmental disaster. He has two books – Ghosts of the New City (2014), a study of abandoned buildings as a crisis of urbanity in Chiang Mai, and Mekong Dreaming (2020), a look at how dams across the main stream of the Mekong River reconfigures how fishermen live with fish, the great river itself, international migrant labor, and the spirits of the river.

Links:
Mekong Dreaming: https://www.dukeupress.edu/mekong-dreaming
Ghosts of the New City: https://uhpress.hawaii.edu/title/ghosts-of-the-new-city-spirits-urbanity-and-the-ruins-of-progress-in-chiang-mai/
Academia.edu: https://berkeley.academia.edu/AndrewJohnson
Twitter: @manusyadrew

CLARE BOULANGER - Malaysian Politics: State of Play - FEBRUARY 5

Malaysian Politics: State of Play

 

Clare L Boulanger

Professor Emeritus
Colorado Mesa University

NOON – 1:30 P.M.

Watch the video of the talk here.
Online presentation followed by Q&A.

 

Malaysian politics is like a long-running soap opera, replete with bizarre plot twists and aging stars who don’t seem to recognize they can no longer cavort as in days of yore.  Keeping up is a monumental task, but one I’ll attempt with the help of Malaysians, who kindly supplied me with survey data back in Fall 2019, and yesterday’s newspaper, which will doubtless demonstrate the folly of trying to stay current.

ELIZABETH DREXLER - Indonesia’s Infrastructure of Impunity and The Mobilization of Affect - FEBRUARY 12

Indonesia’s Infrastructure of Impunity and The Mobilization of Affect

 

Elizabeth Drexler

Director, Peace and Justice Studies
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Michigan State University

NOON – 1:30 P.M.

Join Via Zoom.
Meeting ID: 937 8140 6239
Online presentation followed by Q&A

This talk examines the repeated performance of impunity over decades in and through the law, bureaucracy, policy, culture and common sense as an infrastructure of impunity. Understanding impunity as an infrastructure discloses how a number of dynamic systems intersect to compound impunity over time and space. It explores how victims, family members and activists persistently demand justice (most often defined in legal terms) despite repeated failures to achieve accountability and consider how their consistent and creative demands may ultimately subvert the infrastructure in the realm of affect rather than truth and law.

VINCENT BEVINS - Mass Murder and U.S. Hegemony - FEBRUARY 19

A HARVEY GOLDBERG CENTER LECTURE
Co-sponsored by UW-Madison’s
Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program
~and~
The Southeast Asia Research Group

Mass Murder and U.S. Hegemony

Vincent Bevins

Journalist and Author of The Jakarta Method

NOON – 1:30 P.M.

Watch the video of the talk here.
Online presentation followed by Q&A

In 1965, the US-backed Indonesian military carried out the intentional murder of approximately one million innocent civilians. The victims were members of the popular Partai Komunis Indonesia, or accused of being affiliated with the legal Communist party, and they were exterminated so that General Suharto could consolidate power and create an authoritarian capitalist state allied with Washington. This was one of the most important turning points of the Cold War, seen as such a success by other right-wing movements, and US allies, around the world, that they took inspiration from the massacres, and created copycat programs.

Overall, in the second half of the 20th century, the intentional mass murder of leftists was carried out in over twenty countries, and Vincent Bevins argues in his book The Jakarta Method that this was such an important part of the way global US hegemony took shape that it profoundly affected the nature of the globalized world in the 21st. Now that the relative power of the United States seems to be in secular decline; that Washington seems a site of instability rather than a guarantor of any global order, brutal or otherwise; in short, that North American hegemony is contested, for better or worse – what does this particular history tell us about our current world system, and the ways it might change?

For more about Vincent Bevins and his published works, please click here. You can RSVP and share our Facebook event here!

BEN KERKVLIET - Vietnam's Responsive-Repressive Regime - FEBRUARY 26

Vietnam’s Responsive-Repressive Regime

Ben Kerkvliet

Emeritus Professor
The Australian National University and
Affiliate Graduate Faculty
University of Hawai’i

NOON – 1:30 PM

Watch the video of the talk here.
Online presentation followed by Q&A

Repression is featured in many US news media accounts and human rights advocates’ reports about Vietnam. However, this is a highly misleading portrayal of how Vietnam’s regime deals with citizens’ political criticisms. Vietnamese authorities’ reactions to criticisms since the mid 1990s have also involved toleration and responsiveness, some of which included significant policy changes to accommodate critics’ demands.

SOPHIE CHAO - Eating and Being Eaten: The Changing Meanings of Hunger among Marind, West Papua - MARCH 5

Eating and Being Eaten:
The Changing Meanings of Hunger among Marind, West Papua

Sophie Chao

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Department of History
University of Sydney

NOON – 1:30 PM

Join via Zoom.
Meeting ID: 998 7030 9619
Online presentation followed by Q&A

This talk explores how Indigenous Marind communities in the Indonesian-controlled region of West Papua experience and interpret the condition of “hunger.” Drawing from Indigenous discourse and practice, it examines how agro-industrial expansion and commodified foodways provoke multiple, conflicting hungers among Marind – for sago, “plastic” foods, money, and human flesh. In tandem, Marind themselves are subjected to the insatiable appetite of various invasive entities – corporations, the government, roads, cities, and oil palm. It argues that hunger constitutes a symbolically charged, culturally constructed, and morally laden experiential mode through which Marind characterize and contest capitalist modernity and its more-than-human dynamics of eating and being eaten.

MARTINA NGUYEN - On Our Own Strength: The Self-Reliant Literary Group (Tự Lực Văn Đoàn) and Cosmopolitan Nationalism in Late Colonial Vietnam - MARCH 12

On Our Own Strength:
The Self-Reliant Literary Group (Tự Lực Văn Đoàn) and Cosmopolitan Nationalism in Late Colonial Vietnam
Martina Nguyen

Assistant Professor
Department of History
Baruch College-CUNY

NOON – 1:30 PM

Join via Zoom.
Meeting ID: 977 4835 8143
Online presentation followed by Q&A

On Our Own Strength examines the political activities of the most influential intellectual movement in interwar French-occupied Vietnam. The Self-Reliant Literary Group’s (Tự Lực Văn Đoàn) far-reaching work, which included applied design, urban reform, and fashion as well as literature, journalism, and cartoons, was deeply political in both form and intent. The Group drew upon a wide range of global intellectual currents and practices to build an enlightened public that would ultimately serve as the basis of a modern Vietnamese nation, a vision that was nationalist but curiously not anticolonial. This form of cosmopolitan nationalism proved tremendously popular among ordinary Vietnamese and necessarily shaped local politics, including the political agenda of rival groups like the newly-revived Indochinese Communist Party (ICP). The book argues that the Group’s cosmopolitan nationalism shaped the ways that the ICP positioned itself and sought popular support in the years leading up to the August Revolution and beyond. In later years, the ICP attempted to erase the early influence of the Group on national politics, banning their writings and casting them as little more than bourgeois literary figures. In analyzing the Group’s unique response to the world around them, this book bridges the areas of political, cultural, and intellectual history, drawing them together into a rich narrative of Vietnamese nation-building from the bottom-up within a larger global context.

MATTHEW HUNT - Politics and Ideology of Thai Film Censorship - MARCH 19

Politics and Ideology of Thai Film Censorship
Matthew Hunt

Author of Thai Cinema Uncensored

NOON – 1:30 PM

Join via Zoom.
Meeting ID: 979 8213 2663
Online presentation followed by Q&A

After a campaign by the film community protesting against the arbitrary censorship of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century, a rating system was introduced to Thai cinemas for the first time in 2008. But that long-overdue change didn’t save Thai films from being censored, largely for political reasons. Matthew Hunt wrote a book on Thai film censorship that includes interviews with ten directors whose films have been cut or banned. In this lecture, he will present an overview of the history of film censorship in Thailand, examine the consequences of the rating system, and show how filmmakers are finding ways to comment on Thailand’s volatile contemporary politics.

GERALD SIM - Route and Road: Postcolonial Hangovers in the Cinema of Singapore and Indonesia - MARCH 26

Route and Road: Postcolonial Hangovers in the Cinema of Singapore and Indonesia
Gerald Sim

Associate Professor
School of Communication & Multimedia Studies
Florida Atlantic University

NOON – 1:30 PM

Join via Zoom.
Meeting ID: 959 3425 8045
Online presentation followed by Q&A

Postcolonial Hangups in Southeast Asian Cinema: Poetics of Space, Sound, and Stability (Amsterdam UP, 2020) is an interdisciplinary journey through the cartographic cinema of Singapore, Yasmin Ahmad’s aural stagings of Malaysian soundscapes, and the recursive comfort of generic stability in Indonesian films after Reformasi. The book finds that these expressions in form, overdetermined by national encounters with colonial history, reflect Southeast Asia’s distinctive relationship to colonialism and transcend popular postcolonial tropes such as hybridity and mimicry. This presentation draws from the chapters about Singapore and Indonesia. Cartographic reiterations in Singapore’s cinema and visual culture reflect both the island’s desire to press its locational advantage as well as the desperate unending need to overcome spatial limitations. Just as its “red dot” moniker is a cartographic symbol that signifies both self-effacement and pride, physical infrastructure is a source of cinematic fascination, tools of both economic triumph and individual debilitation. Infrastructure also happens to feature in the expressive palette of Indonesia’s Reformasi movement. The book finds that genres, road narratives in particular, are a narrative vestige of the New Order’s stability discourse that embeds itself in the historical and feminist reckonings that energize post-1998 filmmaking.

WALDEN BELLO - APRIL 9

CRISTINA CASTILLO COBO - Fifteen Years of Archaeobotanical Investigations in Mainland Southeast Asia: What Have we Learned? - APRIL 16

Fifteen Years of Archaeobotanical Investigations in Mainland Southeast Asia: What Have we Learned? 

Co-sponsored by the Archaeology Brownbag Lecture Series

Cristina Castillo Cobo, Ph.D.

Research Associate
Institute of Archaeology
University College London

NOON – 1:30 PM

Join via Zoom.
Meeting ID: 940 3633 8029
Online presentation followed by Q&A

Archaeobotanical investigations in Southeast Asia have been limited by the belief that preservation is an issue in tropical climates. However, in the past fifteen years, the retrieval of botanical macroremains in many sites across mainland Southeast Asia has been successful. The results provide a deeper understanding of the emergence of rice agriculture, diets in prehistoric and historic periods, ecological reconstructions of the area, farming systems and the adaptation of people to changing climatic conditions.

This presentation will elucidate key findings. It will present data from different sites where Cobo has worked in Southeast Asia that are shaping the understanding of mainland Southeast Asia. Cobo includes her collaborative work in disentangling the origins and domestication of rice, a case study in Northeast Thailand that shows an agricultural transition from dryland to wetland rice cultivation happening during a period of increasing social complexity and aridification and new work conducted in Angkor that sheds light on the lives of the non-elite and on urban horticulture.

NICK CHEESMAN - APRIL 23

Nick Cheesman

Fellow, Department of Political & Social Change
Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs
College of Asia & the Pacific
Australian National University

NOON – 1:30 PM

Join via Zoom.
Meeting ID: 984 9880 5651
Online presentation followed by Q&A

LAURA JUNKER - Community Engagements and Partnerships in Archaeological Fieldwork in the Philippines: Prehistoric Heritage to Recent History - April 30

Co-sponsored by the Archaeology Brownbag Lecture Series

Community Engagements and Partnerships in Archaeological Fieldwork in the Philippines:
Prehistoric Heritage to Recent History
Laura Junker

Associate Dean for Behavioral Sciences, Fine Arts and Humanities
The Graduate College
University of Illinois at Chicago

NOON – 1:30 PM

Join via Zoom.
Meeting ID: 990 6332 8494
Online presentation followed by Q&A