APSS - Past Seminars

Monday, December 7, 2015



Dear RIMA Contributors and Readers,

We are holding a celebration of RIMA’s final edition in Australia, together with the final APSS Series, 2015. The future editions will most likely be coming out of NUS Press.

To celebrate the final Australian version, Professor Campbell Macknight and Dr. Minako Sakai would like to cordially invite you to join roundtable discussions by leading academics for future publishing options and trends on Southeast Asian Studies.

Confirmed Speakers:

Professor Adrian Vickers (Sydney), Professor Kathy Robinson (ANU), and Professor Campbell Macknight (RIMA Managing Editor), Professor Louise Edwards (UNSW, ASAA President) and Professor Ken George (ANU)

Please confirm your acceptance by noon, Thursday 3 December, 2015 (catering purposes) to Mrs Shirley Ramsay (s.ramsay@adfa.edu.au).

Look forward to seeing you join the RIMA celebration.

Please also circulate this invitation widely to RIMA community.

Warmest regards

Dr Minako Sakai and Prof. Campbell Macknight

This roundtable discussion is hosted by the Asia Pacific Seminar Series at UNSW Canberra.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

APSS Workshop: Islam and Social Transformation


Time: 9am start

Enquiry: Dr Minako Sakai (Workshop Convenor) -

APSS is pleased to host a workshop involving a distinguished research team led by the Dean Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University Jakarta (UIN Jakarta), Professor Zulkifli and the UNSW Canberra academics at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. The purpose of the visit is to disseminate their research findings to academic community at UNSW Canberra and possibly making research and academic partnership between Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta and School of Humanities and Social Sciences of UNSW Canberra.

1) Making and unmaking Democracy: In Search of Islamic Identity in the Context of Muslim Majorities and Minorities in Southeast Asia

by Prof. Zulkifli, Dr Zaki Mubarak, Dr Syafiq Hasyim and Husnul Khitam (UIN Jakarta)

2) Rohingya Asylum Seekers in Southeast Asia: Lessons from Aceh

by Dr Badrus Sholeh (UIN Jakarta)

3) Deradicalisation and Counter-Terrorism in Southeast Asia: Coping with the Rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

by Dr Badrus Sholeh and Ala'i Nadjib UIN Jakarta)

4) How is Islamisation affecting Muslim women's economic activities in Indonesia?

by Dr Minako Sakai (HASS, UNSW)

5) Pesantren as Agent of Socio-Economic Empowermentin Indonesia

by Falik Isbah (HASS, UNSW)

6) The Economic Theology of Urban Muslims in Contemporary Indonesia

by Najib Kailani (HASS, UNSW)


How career motivation empowers Muslim women: the impact of Islamisation upon Muslim professional spinsters in Indonesia

Dr Minako Sakai (UNSW)

This paper will ask if and how contemporary movements such as women's empowerment have freed women from Islamic-gendered roles. As Kabeer (1999) has shown, access to economic resources or education does not necessarily elevate the position of women in society. However, access to such provisions increases the probability that such a transformation may occur with the actual outcome being likely to be influenced by social contexts, local values and expectations. This paper will ask how the tendency towards increasing Islamisation in Indonesia is affecting the subjective wellbeing of Muslim career women based on qualitative research.

Islam is known for its conservative-gendered roles and the Islamisation or spread of conservative Islamic ideas tends to curtail the role of women in the public sphere. Over the last few decades, the impact of Islamisation has become increasingly evident, for example the widespread promotion of Islamic clothing such as veils by women. Islamisation has been occurring in parallel with the economic development of Indonesia and the associated spread of consumerism, both of which pressure households to increase their disposal income.. The impact of Islamisation thus pulls women in opposing directions, one towards education in order to attain a professional status that will generate a good income while an opposing force pressures women towards the conservative gender role of family carer. This paper will examine how these opposing forces affect professional women in Indonesia, particularly unmarried Muslim university academics with a focus on their subjective wellbeing. Despite seemingly having a successful career, these Muslim women can suffer from self-inflicted fear and shame because they failed to fulfil the Muslim duty to marry. They fear they will not enter Heaven due to their failure as a woman. On the other hand, married Muslim businesswomen tend to be encouraged to pursue their career in the pretext of supporting their family and performing their gendered role (Sakai and Fauzia In Press). In summary, I argue that the Islamisation of Indonesia has served to entrench women even further in their restrictive gender roles in Indonesian society.

Making and unmaking Democracy: In Search of Islamic Identity in the Context of Muslim Majorities and Minorities in Southeast Asia

Prof. Zulkifli and Dr. Syafiq Hasyim and Husnul Khitam


The study will account for the different types and dynamics of contestation between the process of making and unmaking of democracy in the context of Muslim minorities and majorities in Southeast Asia (SEA) with regard to their attempts of seeking an Islamic identity. The main topic of the research will be related to three contested issues, namely: feeling of being part of global umma, Sharia law, and reception of democracy and human rights. From those main issues, the research will then identify the wide range of debates on democracy among Muslim minorities and majorities living in Southeast Asia which differ from one country to another which is based on the written data and the data from interviews. The target groups of the research are: (1) the Muslim minorities in the Southern Thailand and Singapore, (2) the Muslim majorities in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Rohing Asylum Seekers in Southeast Asia: Lessons from Aceh, Indonesia

Dr Ala'I Nadjib and Dr Badrus Sholeh


The presence of Rohingya people experiencing state-sanctioned discrimination and fleeing from Myanmar can be seen in some Southeast Asian countries. Rohingya maritime asylum seekers have been the centre of attention for many scholars. Although there have been a number of studies relating to the problems faced by this community in Myanmar (Charney 2009; Lay 2009; Steinberg 2010; Brinham 2012; Rogers 2012; Kipgen 2013), little has been said on their current conditions in the host countries. This research will be conducted in three countries, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. To analyse such issues the research will use ethnography as well as other qualitative methods. The proposed research focuses on the international responses from the three countries being studied toward the presence of these asylum seekers. It will also analyse the role of religion in colouring the debates on their acceptance in the host countries. On the other hand, it will also focus on the responses of the representatives of the Myanmar government in the three countries in relation to the attention and support dedicated to Rohingya asylum seekers. In addition, the proposed research will observe to what extent the basic rights of Rohingya asylum seekers, such as their right to work and to receive an education, have been recognised and fulfilled. Another crucial point which will be the focus of this research is gender-related violence faced by the asylum seekers. To address such an issue, the research will examine the views of the asylum seekers, especially Rohingya women who are more vulnerable in this regard, government and non-government organisations, as well as Muslim mass organisations. The applicants believe that to develop an in-depth understanding of the Rohingya maritime asylum seekers' current conditions, the focus of the study should not only cover aspects of international relations but also local, international and Islamic solidarity.

Counter-Terrorism and Deradicalisation in Southeast Asia: Coping with the Rise of ISIS

Dr Badrus Sholeh and Dr Ala'I Nadjib


The rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Indonesia and Southeast Asia has challenged state and civil society how to overcome terrorism and radicalism (Hashim 2015). Indonesian government have attempted to deradicalise hundred jihadists inside and outside detention centres. However, the number of jihadist individuals and groups are growing significantly in the last decade. They recruit thousand volunteer jihadists, and more than five hundred of them have involved war in Syria and Iraq under ISIS and Jabhat Nusra. The returnees of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq threaten security in the global world, including Southeast Asia and Australia (Zammit 2015). John Horgan (2010) argued the importance of disengagement to prevent radicalisation. This, however, could not work effectively as some criminals joined radical groups during their imprisonment. This article is based on in-depth interviews to hundred jihadists, prisoners, police, counter-terrorism agencies and ministries in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. It argues that it is urgent to maximize persuasive approach to counter-terrorism and radicalism by engaging non-state actors.

Pesantren as Agent of Socio-Economic Empowermentin Indonesia

M. Falikul Isbah


Islamic boarding schools or locally called pesantren have been known for their important roles in disseminating and maintaining the tradition of Islamic education in Indonesia. Out of their core business in education, there is an increasing trend among pesantren to conduct community engagement through socio-economic projects. My research shows that these pesantren have made significant contributions to the prosperity and welfare of their neighbouring communities. By discussing case studies of four pesantren, I will analyse the ways pesantren have engaged with their communities. It will also examine local contexts and factors that have shaped the form of their engagement, further impact on their standing as educational and da'wah institutions, and their relationships with government and non-government organisations, who offer support and partnership. This thesis also highlights why there are pesantren which have undertaken significant engagement activities with their neighbouring communities, while others have not. This study is placed within the growing scholarly interest in analysing Islamic organisations as non-state actors in the provision of welfare services and as development agencies at grass roots level in contemporary Indonesia. Despite differing forms of pesantren's community engagement, I argue that propagating Islam through good deeds in the public interest is the driving force for their engagement. Furthermore, I argue that the more significant their engagement, the greater the religious authority they hold within their communities. As a result, their capacity as Islamising agents in the community is enhanced.

The Economic Theology of Urban Muslims in Contemporary Indonesia

Najib Kailani


This study examines the dissemination of economic theology among urban Muslims in contemporary Indonesia. This "economic theology" emphasises the performance of Islamic devotional acts with a strong expectation that such performance will result in material wealth as its reward. It is promoted by the celebrity preacher, Yusuf Mansur, in various ways including popular book publication, televised Islamic sermons and movies. This study draws on six months ethnographic fieldwork among Muslim small business people, business start-ups, and university students in Yogyakarta and Jakarta. It demonstrates that Muslim business people see economic theology as the best way to seek spiritual and material benefit. They adapt and promote this economic theology through business motivation seminars, book publication and social media. This study argues that the popularity of economic theology among the urbanites is due to its potentials to facilitate their aspirations for a prosperous life. Furthermore, it has also shown that the circulation of economic theology is attributed to the activities of promoters on various levels. They include Muslim business people and their followers who promote economic theology through business motivation seminars, social media and publications.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Impacts of the 2011 Fisheries Policy Changes in Indonesia Case Study: Experience of Tuna Fishers, Seaweed Farmers and Fish Processors in Cilacap and Nusa Penida

Saiful Marbun

Chair: A.Prof. Stuart Pearson (PEMS, UNSW)


Successive Indonesian governments have expressed their commitment to increasing food security with a major focus on increased exploitation of marine resources. However, the Indonesian National Committee for Fish Stock Assessment has stated Indonesia's waters are already either ‘fully exploited’ to ‘over exploited’ across almost all regions. In 2011, the then Indonesian Minister for Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), Syarif Cicip Sutardjo, announced a new policy: fisheries industrialisation aimed at increasing Indonesia’s fisheries production in a sustainable manner for aquaculture, capture fisheries and fish processing. Blue economy principles, such as zero waste, social equity and environmental protection, were incorporated into this policy later in 2012.

The fisheries industrialisation policy comes at a time when the sector's rate of growth (6.23%) exceeds Indonesia’s economic growth at (5.16% in 2013). Some policy outcomes have been perverse, for example increasing the total numbers of fish being exported from Indonesia has resulted in increases in fish being imported into Indonesia. While reports from government and media are abundant and available, scientific reports investigating the impacts of these new policy changes on local communities are very few in Indonesia.

This research investigates the impacts of the implementation of marine and fisheries industrialization policy and blue economy concepts on three specific communities from three different sectors in two different locations. Detailed surveys report the socio-economic conditions and personal perspectives of tuna fishers, fish processes and seaweed farmers three years after policy introduction. The workers’ knowledge of the policies, their current experience and their aspirations for the future were explored using face-to-face interviews in late 2014. Findings indicate the policies have not successfully reached many of these workers and a number of performance indicators relating to their socio-economic circumstances have not yet been achieved.

These frontline workers make recommendations and identify opportunities and threats from their current experience. These issues have significant implications for successful continuation of blue economy policies in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Monday, September 21, 2015

“Green” Productivity’s Changing Trend under Fishery Management Policies in Australian Commonwealth Fisheries

Donglan XU, OUC, Visiting Fellow PEMS UNSW Canberra ADFA

After graduating from Dalian Industry University, China, Donglan XU worked at the Environmental Protection Bureau of Yanji, Jinlin Province, in China. She has a master degree from Kyungpook National University, South Korea (1998-2000) and Ph.D. (2002-2005), post-doc course (2005-2007) in Nagoya University, Japan. After her long oversea study, she returned to China and has been an associate professor in School of Economics, Ocean University of China since 2007. Her research interests include environmental and energy economics, marine economics and productivity analysis.

Chair: A.Prof. Stuart Pearson (PEMS)


This study estimates green total factor productivity (GTFP) and environmental efficiency (EE) changes in five key Commonwealth fisheries under conditions of changing fishery policies from 2002 to 2011 using the Biennial Mamlquist productivity index. It also decomposes green TFP and analyses its changing trend by convergence analysis. The empirical results show that the average GTFP change rate was 4.49% and the average EE was 0.3795 (where 1 is the most efficient level) during the sample period. More specifically the Commonwealth Trawl Sector (CTS) and the Gillnet, Hook and Trap Sector (GHTS) showed higher EE, and the Eastern Tuna Fishery (ETS) and the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) showed higher GTFP growth. In addition, the convergence analysis results showed that the difference of GTFP and EE among these five fisheries remained steady during the sample period. Lastly, the results show the main management policies adopted (SOFF buyback scheme and Harvest Strategy Policy) in Commonwealth fisheries did not obviously contribute to their GTFP and EE growth (except ETBF) in the short term.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Showcasing Postgraduate Research on Contemporary Islamic Challenges in Indonesia at UNSW Canberra

Chair: Dr Minako Sakai (HASS)


This seminar will consist of short presentations by current HDR students undertaking research exploring the role of Islam in contemporary Indonesia at HASS. The topics range from the role of Islam in the Indonesian Defence Policy, Islamic devotional activities for small business development, socially engaged Islamic boarding schools for economic development, and causes of Islamic terrorism. Speakers (Michael Gan, Najib Kailani, M.Falik Isbah, Hsu-Lynn Lee will present short presentations to demonstrate work-in-progress.

All Welcome.

The Trainer-cum-Preacher: Islamic Management Trainings in Indonesia

Najib Kailani, PhD Scholar, Southeast Asian Social Inquiry, HASS, UNSW Canberra

The recent studies about contemporary Indonesian Islam have drawn attention to some Muslim figures that pioneer Islamic management trainings targeting Indonesian Muslim middle class (Hoesterey 2009, 2012, Rudnyckyj, 2010, Howell, 2013). They have discovered that the majority of Indonesian Muslim trainers have also performed as ustadz (Muslim cleric) or trainer-cum-preacher. Howell’s study on Abdullah Gymnastiar and Ary Ginanjar has revealed a blurred role of preacher and trainer. She argues that the blurred role is a result of the intersection between Islamic popular culture and popular religion facilitated by new media. Meanwhile, Hoesterey argues that co-existing register trainer-cum-preacher points out the evidence that the figure of the trainer hovers between psychologist and religious teacher. In order to extend the scope of the existing discussions, this article aims to provide historical narratives of Islamic management trainings and their advocators to reflect a comprehensive picture on the recent phenomenon. This article argues that the idea of trainer-cum-preacher is not a contemporary phenomenon or simply not as a result of the intersections of religion and pop culture. Rather this article highlights the contributions made by two prominent Muslim figures (Imaduddin Abdulrahim and Toto Tasmara) who had deliberately merged management theory with Islam in their training programs during the late 1990s. Imaduddin was a charismatic preacher of the Salman mosque trainings during the 1970s in Bandung and went to the USA to do a PhD in business and HR management. After his return to Indonesia from overseas study in 1980s, he moved into management consultancy and regularly delivered management trainings in Indonesia and Malaysia. His initiative was followed by his Salman mosque student Toto Tasmara, who is also a well-known preacher as well as a business trainer.

Pesantren-Community Engagement in Indonesia: A Comparison between a Major and Minor Pesantren

M. Falikul Isbah, PhD Scholar, Southeast Asian Social Inquiry, HASS, UNSW Canberra

In this forum, I will discuss the current pesantren-community engagement by comparing between a major pesantren with a national scale of fame and a minor pesantren with only a village scale of influence. The former is best represented by Pesantren Tebuireng in Jombang East Java which have widely been known for its great reputation in producing high caliber ulama and the legendary role of it leaders in the largest Muslim association Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), while the former is represented by Pesantren Al Ittifaq in Bandung, West Java which has only recently been heard of its success in agribusiness project. I will limit my discussion here to three questions: in what way have these two pesantrens engaged with their neighboring communities? what are the reasons and contexts leading them to take particular ways of engagement, and to what extent do their engagement give impact to the local community? Case studies will cover two institutions. Pesantren Tebuireng has started to operate a charity organization called LSPT (Lembaga Sosial Pondok Tebuireng) since 2007 as its arm to reach the locals. Pesantren Al Ittifaq has shown a growing and sustainable community-based agribusiness over the last two decades. I argue that those two pesantrens have tried to find the most possible way to engage with their communities by identifying both the available resources and the needs of the communities. In the case of Tebuireng, the impact in the community is its improved reputation among the neighboring community and the increasing enrolment of local children in its schools, while in the Al Ittifaq case, the greater support and participation of the locals into its economy and Islamic propagation agenda has been achieved.

Islam and Indonesian National Security Policy

Michael Gan, PhD Candidate, HASS, UNSW Canberra

Recent events across the globe have drawn much Western interest on the impact of Islam on national security. Australia’s focus on the subject has been heavily influenced by operations far from our shores in Iraq and Afghanistan, or within our own borders in counterterrorism programs. Less effort appears to be focussed on the study of the impact of Islam on national security in Indonesia – the world’s most populous Islamic country, Australia’s nearest neighbour, and a nation of growing economic and strategic weight.

While Islam’s impact on Indonesian social policy is widespread and highly visible, the influence of the religion on national security policy is far less obvious, but of greater consequence to Australia. Islam interacts with many other factors, both cultural and non-cultural, to define how Indonesia perceives security, internal and external threats, and the actions of other countries both regionally and globally.

This research paper will briefly examine how Islam interacts with other factors to formulate Indonesian national security policy, discussing three key areas: the impact of Islamic separatist movements, the Indonesian response to radical Islamic terrorism, and instances where Islamic groups and perceptions have influenced foreign policy decisions, such as in Indonesia’s response to sanctions to Iran in 2007-8. This paper will argue that despite the large Muslim population in Indonesia, Islam has not had a significant influence on Indonesian national security policy thus far, particularly when compared to the impact the religion has had on social issues.

The paper will contend that this is due to Indonesia’s unique Islamic identity and religious pluralism, as well as the attitudes of previous governments towards political Islam. While Islam has not been the primary factor in shaping national security policy in the past (Rizal Sukma (2003) describes it as a ‘control mechanism’) the paper will suggest that the impact of Islam will increase as the country moves further away from the Suharto era.

The Makings of Terrorism in Indonesia

Hsu-Lynn Lee, Master of Arts in Strategy and Management at UNSW Canberra

This research paper provides a consolidation of academic research and writings about the determinants of Islamic terrorism in an Indonesian context. Indonesia is the largest Muslim majority nation in the world and it is also the location of the 2002 Bali bombing, the largest Islamic terrorist attack in the history of Southeast Asia and the first to explicitly target foreigners on a mass scale. The purpose of this research paper is to provide a clear and current picture, in the contemporary Indonesian context, of environmental factors resulting in a shift in ideology and modus operandi to what is now regarded as Islamic terrorism. This paper draws on a range of academic research spanning from the Soeharto period and through Indonesia’s transition into democracy to the current day. In terms of internal influences, terrorists have exploited religious violence to further their goals through radicalisation, recruitment and militant training. The Indonesian military in its infamous Opsus operation has unintentionally had a hand in reuniting and mobilising terrorist networks into action. Further, analysis into Indonesia’s political landscape reveals empowerment – or the lack thereof – as a motivation for terrorist action. Islamic education, in the form of pesantren and pengajian have radicalised Indonesian Muslims and, more significantly, brought together networks of extremists, as demonstrated in the case of the al-Mukmin pesantren with Jemaah Islamiyah and the pengajian of terrorist ideologue Aman Abdurrahman. In terms of external influences, conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria have aided and abetted Islamic terrorism in Indonesia, equipping Indonesian radical Islamists through the spread of extremist ideologies and through the provision of capability and credibility. The advent of social media has enhanced the galvanising effect of external events, with radical Islamist messages and ideologies radicalising individuals and fostering relationships between radical Islamists online. The findings of this research project can guide and inform counterterrorism and deradicalisation efforts in Indonesia.

Monday, May 18, 2015

One Belt, One Road

A/Prof Keliang CHEN, Visiting Fellow, PEMS

Dr Keliang CHEN, an Associate Professor in Third Institute of Oceanography, State Ocean Administration, PRC., has been engaged in the research of marine environmental management and policies for many years, especially, marine eco-compensation regulations. As the first author or co-author, he has published more than 40 articles and 4 books. Currently he is a Visiting Fellow with PEMS, UNSW Canberra.

Chair: A. Prof. S. Pearson (PEMS)


Keliang Chen’s presentation will provide an up-to-date review of China’s new initiative called ‘One Belt One Road’. One of the main major objectives for President Xi of China in establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is to support two international economic development initiatives: 1) 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and 2) Silk Road Economic Belt. We believe this an opportunity for researchers, including SARCCM, SIMS and APSS researchers. Links one and two. The Maritime Silk Road will be highlighted from opportunities of economic development and marine science research.

Monday, September 15, 2014

War and habitability: Paul Virilio and strategic competition in South East Asia

Jason David Andrews (PhD Candidate, HASS, UNSW ADFA)

Chair: Dr Stephen Coleman (HASS, UNSW Canberra)


In the work of the French theorist Paul Virilio, the habitability of the world, and the ability of the human body to inhabit it, are central concerns that motivate his critical investigations of the relationships between speed, technology and society. Working from the philosophical tradition of phenomenology, he explores how the technological acceleration of military and social circulations impairs our ability to maintain “human ways of interacting and dwelling” (Conley, 1999).

This seminar will introduce Virilio’s concerns via a discussion of his ‘speculative war model of history’ that will in turn highlight aspects of how the historical development of the capacities for violence projection affect our ability to be in world. From this, the seminar will then turn to consider some of these concepts in the context of strategic competition between the United States and China in the South East Asia.

Monday, September 8, 2014

ASEAN and its New Democratic Fault-line: The South China Sea Case Study

A/Prof. Christopher Roberts (Associate Professor and Director of Executive Development UNSW Canberra)

Chair: Dr Jian Zhang


During the Cold War, Southeast Asia was clearly divided between the socialist countries in the north and the capitalist ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members in the South. However, the end of the Cold War coincided with what Francis Fukuyama termed the ‘end of history’ – ‘the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government’. These events, together with an emerging global consensus capitalist approaches to economic governance, provided an opportunity for all of Southeast Asia to be united under the umbrella of ASEAN. Nonetheless, Fukuyama’s thesis may have been premature. This presentation provides a preliminary review of the evolution of ASEAN cohesion, the challenges such cohesion has faced, and an associated nexus with political values. Through an analysis of events surrounding the South China Sea, the presentation contends that political values represent the new fault-line along which contending alignments with the great powers (and subsequent disunity) can be best understood.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Civil Marriage, Not Civil War: The Lebanese Women’s Movement and the Search for Secular Citizenship

Dr Nelia Hyndman-Rizk (Lecturer in Research Methods, School of Business, UNSW Canberra)

Chair: Dr Nico Warouw


This paper presents the findings of a Special Research Grant (SRG), "Beyond Sect: The Lebanese Women’s Movement and the Search for Secular Citizenship in the Arab Spring". The paper examines the relationship between citizens’ rights and women’s rights in the case of Lebanon and asks is civil marriage the key to solving the confessional impasse? Lebanon has long struggled with the problem of sectarianism, as the very construction of the Lebanese state is based upon a division of political power between three major religious sects, Maronite Catholics, Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims, and 15 minor sects, referred to as a system of Confessional Democracy. Despite 15 years of civil war and the subsequent reforms of the 1989 Taif Accord, which revised the ratio of Christians to Muslims to parity, today the March 8 and the March 14 coalitions have reached a political stalemate and the government is in a state of chronic paralysis. Adding to the dysfunction is the very low representation of women in parliament, with Lebanon ranked 122nd in the world. Women’s rights activists have called for a controversial 30% women’s quota to redress the imbalance and force social change using the "fast track model", based on the Beijing 1995 platform for action. The women’s quota is part of a broader campaign for political and social change in Lebanon, led by a coalition of women’s rights and civil society organisations in order to build a secular framework for both citizenship and the state, which includes four key pillars: electoral reform, including women’s quotas and proportional representation, nationality rights for women, the reform of personal status codes and, lastly, the right to civil marriage. Until 2013 civil marriages were only recognised if they were contracted outside of Lebanon (usually in Cyprus), but a recent civil marriage contracted inside of Lebanon reignited the national debate. The President supported the move, the then Prime Minister and prominent religious clerics opposed it, while protesters in downtown Beirut responded with signs which read: "Civil marriage not civil war". Finally the Interior Ministry registered Lebanon’s first civil marriage on April 25th 2013. Could this be a step in the right direction?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Crafting History for Autocratic Legitimation: Historiography in post-Soviet Uzbekistan

Dr Mustafa Murat Yurtbilir, Visiting Fellow HASS, UNSW

Chair: Dr Jian Zhang HASS, UNSW


Karimov and Uzbek elites proved highly flexible in adjusting themselves to the new political situation after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. They initiated the creation of an instrumental history serving to legitimate their autocratic regime. The official historians have also been extremely pragmatic in adopting suitable bits and pieces from the past. They crafted a usable narrative according to the needs of Karimov and his official ideology. This paper examines the key components of Uzbek post-Soviet historical narration and tries to provide hints about its role in regime legitimation.

In the first part of the paper a brief overview of Soviet historiography which sets the groundwork for the Uzbek post-independence historiography will be presented. The article aims to show that anachronism has been a common characteristics of both Soviet and independent Uzbek histories. Secondly the return of Amir Timur to the political rhetoric of Uzbekistan and to the history books will be outlined. Later excerpts from writings of Hamid Ziyaev, leading official historian in the first decade after the independence will be overviewed. Lastly parts from other official historical works will be analyzed to reveal their selective usage of historical material for today's political demands.

The regime in Uzbekistan, obsessive with stability, was in burning need of a malleable and utilizable history. Karimov's autocratic hegemony employs a pragmatic and instrumental version of history in which the current definition of Uzbekhood is situated in the past, in order to support actual claims of legitimacy and authenticity.