APSS - Past Seminars

Monday, April 20, 2009

The idea of Indonesia: a history

RE Elson

Professor of Southeast Asian History, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland

Chair: Minako Sakai

Abstract:

In the best sense of the adjectives, Indonesia the nation-state is a marvellous, miraculous construction. At first sight, the material for national unity could not be more unpromising; the territory of the present Republic of Indonesia is rent with divisions ranging from the geomorphic and the biogeographical to the linguistic and cultural, upon which Dutch colonial authorities, over hundreds of years, imposed their own horizontal and vertical renditions of divide and rule.

But Indonesia, as concept and as nation-state, endures and is, perhaps, beginning once again to thrive. This seminar seeks to discover the origins of the idea of Indonesia in the mid-nineteenth century and to explore its often vexed and troubled trajectory through to the present time, with particular reference to its contingent nature, the various aspirations it has represented, and the contestations it has endured both before and after the proclamation of the Republic of Indonesia in August 1945.



Monday, April 6, 2009

Alienation & obligation: the role of kinship and religion in the emergence of landlessness in Samoa

Dr AC (Alec) Thornton

Lecturer in Geography, School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, UNSW at ADFA

Chair: Jian Zhang

Abstract:

This paper seeks to explore relationships between social change and emerging urban poverty in contemporary Samoan society. In the Samoan way of life—the fa’aSamoa—religion, matai (chiefly system) and reciprocal ‘gift-giving’ kinship arrangements among the aiga (extended family) are fundamental elements. However, pressures from continued integration into the global economy, the importance of remittance income and related migration of well-educated and highly skilled Samoans overseas are presenting several challenges to the strongly held traditions of kinship and church obligations. This paper is based on the premise that recent increases in urban poverty and emerging landlessness, previously unheard of in Samoa, reflect a process of significant social change in Samoan society. Among these changes, low-income households are increasingly placing the material well-being of the immediate household first, thus ‘opting out’ of the culturally-defined primary obligation to the Church and risk alienation from beneficial familial ties, which includes customary land rights.



Monday, March 30, 2009

Becoming Religiously Hip

A/Prof Ariel Heryanto

Asian Studies, The Australian National University

Chair: Edwin Jurriëns

Abstract:

This talk examines the significance of Muslim women veiling and the debate on polygamy as expressions of a new political identity among urban middle-class Muslims. It focuses on the events surrounding the popularity of the film Ayat-ayat Cinta (2008), one of the very first Indonesian films that feature most prominently a female protagonist who is nearly fully veiled. Curiously, both supporters and critics of polygamy have commonly, but inaccurately, viewed the film as endorsing polygamy. Both the case of veiling and the polygamy debate are testimony to the increased assertion of the middle class consciousness in Indonesian public, rather than Islamic ideology per se. In turn, this can be understood as a response to the long American-centric global flow of pop cultures in media industry and entertainment.



Monday, March 16, 2009

Afghanistan's 2009 Elections: some reflections

Professor William Maley

Director, Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy Australian National University

Chair: Jian Zhang

Abstract:

It is a commonplace observation that often it is the second round of elections that tells one most about the progress of complex political transitions. Afghanistan's first round took place in 2004 and 2005, most importantly to elect a President and a Lower House (Wolesi Jirgah) of the bicameral National Assembly. With the presidential election of 20 August 2009, Afghanistan recommences the process. However, the political climate in 2009 is very different from that in 2004 when the incumbent, Hamed Karzai, was widely expected to win. This seminar outlines ways in which the context changed during President Karzai's five years in office, and offers some reflections on where Afghanistan might be heading in the aftermath of the August 20 voting.



Monday, March 2, 2009

Staging identities, constructing communities: Indonesian theatre today

Prof Barbara Hatley

University of Tasmania

Chair: Edwin Jurriëns

Abstract:

This seminar will focus on theatre, as one element in the thriving, dynamic contemporary Indonesian arts and popular media. Theatre performances take place today in conditions seemingly very different from the Suharto years, when New Order state was the all- determining force in cultural production. Today there is no single, authoritarian body prescribing ideological values and constructing national identity through its arts policies and funding. Similarly there is no all-powerful repressive force for critical theatre to demonise, nor a broad-based opposition movement to work with. Instead, in the context of democratisation and regional autonomy, diverse local interests vie for power, and varied social identities – ethnic, religious, territorial, sexual – are celebrated and contested. Meanwhile global cultural influence flourishes through the expanded, liberalised mass media and new technologies such as mobile phones, digital recording and the internet.

Given the long-standing importance of performance in Indonesia in conveying ideology and celebrating identity, what kind of social meanings are being generated on stage? A shared emphasis on ‘local culture’ and ‘community’ links theatre groups, while interpretations of these constructs vary widely. What sense of belonging is reflected – to local neighbourhoods, to like-minded social groups, to the nation, to global communities? To what extent do such identities intersect? In what ways, if at all, is Indonesian national identity being experienced and expressed?



Monday, September 29, 2008

Afghanistan's 2009 Elections: some reflections

Professor William Maley

Director, Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy Australian National University

Chair: Jian Zhang

Abstract:

It is a commonplace observation that often it is the second round of elections that tells one most about the progress of complex political transitions. Afghanistan's first round took place in 2004 and 2005, most importantly to elect a President and a Lower House (Wolesi Jirgah) of the bicameral National Assembly. With the presidential election of 20 August 2009, Afghanistan recommences the process. However, the political climate in 2009 is very different from that in 2004 when the incumbent, Hamed Karzai, was widely expected to win. This seminar outlines ways in which the context changed during President Karzai's five years in office, and offers some reflections on where Afghanistan might be heading in the aftermath of the August 20 voting.



Monday, September 1, 2008

Civil Society and the Prevention of Ethnic Violence in Indonesia: the Case of Yogyakarta City

Jae B. Park

PhD Candidate, Indonesian Program, HASS, UNSW at ADFA

Abstract:

Indonesia experienced a considerable degree of ethnic violence during and after the Asian economic crisis of 1998. During this period, thousands of Indonesian people, including Chinese Indonesians, were killed and displaced in various towns and cities. Observers have mainly focused their research on why ethnic violence took place, while have relatively little attention to how to prevent ethnic violence in a town or city in Indonesia. This paper will deal with how people in Yogyakarta City, Java, succeeded in preventing ethnic violence, particularly anti-Chinese riots during the turbulent months of 1998. The response of Yogyakarta people to economic and associated political crisis of 1998 was unique. Even during the one-million strong anti-Soeharto demonstration (Gerakan Rakyat Yogyakarta) of 20 May 1998, Yogyakarta City was a safe place for ethnic and religious minorities, particularly ethnic Chinese. From the onset of the economic crisis of 1998, Yogyakarta people launched a series of campaigns to overcoming the socio-economic crisis in society through the dispensing staple food packages, joint prayer meetings, and the formation of vigilante teams. These activities contributed to the prevention of ethnic violence in Yogyakarta. Various civil society organisations in Yogyakarta City mobilised their networks and presided over these activities. I argue that civil society engagement was a crucial social force to manage socio-economic tensions and facilitated ethnic peace in Yogyakarta during the economic crisis of 1998.



Monday, August 18, 2008

Fear of Security: Terror and Asylum in Australian Defence and Foreign Policy after 9/11

Dr Anthony Burke

Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations

Abstract:

This seminar, based on chapters in the books Fear of Security: Australia’s Invasion Anxiety (Cambridge 2008) and Critical Security in the Asia-Pacific (Manchester, 2007) critically reflects upon Australian security policy since 2001. It considers how threat perceptions were ‘broadened’ to take in new threats from terrorism and illegal immigration, how claims about security were drawn into domestic politicking, and how they legitimated coercive and militarized policy responses to problems requiring a more nuanced and humane mix of solutions. The seminar reflects on the conceptual, ethical and policy problems generated by this approach, and ponders how they could be changed to as to make claims about security both ethically defensible and practically achievable.



Monday, August 4, 2008

The Phantom Samurai: Pursuing Traces of Militarism in Provincial Japan after the Russo-Japanese War, 1905-1910

Associate Professor Stewart Lone

School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW@ADFA

Abstract:

In 1905, Japan claimed victory over imperial Russia, possessor of the largest army in the world. From that point, Western observers began to speak of the Japanese people – man, woman and child - as imbued with the military values of bushidō including unquestioning obedience to superiors and an unhesitating willingness to sacrifice themselves in defence of the emperor and nation. This image of a uniquely militarized society continued to influence Western diplomatic and military attitudes towards Japan up to and including WW2.

This paper explores the realities of provincial society’s relations with the military in the immediate aftermath of the Russo-Japanese war. It takes a central region of mainland Japan and uses the daily press to resurrect the voices of contemporary civilians. It looks at civilian attitudes towards the military as an institution, encounters with individual soldiers, and relations with military support groups. In particular, it considers the local debate on becoming host to a new regiment as the government expanded the army to meet the new international and domestic security challenges of the post-1905 world. The paper concludes that the stereotype of Japanese popular militarism was a gross distortion of reality. It shows that there was constant criticism of the military and other forms of authority in imperial Japan, that, among civilians, there was always a concern with personal and local interests rather than self-sacrifice, and that, overall, relations between provincial society and the armed forces at this time were contractual, not open-ended. In short, it argues that, far from being unique, society in imperial Japan functioned according to an entirely recognizable and common set of human motivations.



Monday, May 5, 2008

The Great Rumour Mill: Gossip, Mass Media, and the Ninja Fear

Dr Nicholas Herriman

Anthropology, ANU

Abstract:

Different methods of communication are associated with different kinds of human interaction and have different political implications. Generally, face-to-face communications spread through contact between people, predominate in pre-literate or semi-literate societies, and can have a strong subversive potential. The mass media spread through centralised broadcast stations or presses, predominate in industrialised or post-industrialised societies, and tend to be controlled by elites. In this presentation, I analyse the interaction of face-to-face communications and the press. I focus on a phenomenon that occurred in East Java province, Indonesia during October-November 1998. According to newspaper reports and rumours, conspirators and ninjas who had been responsible killing of hundreds of alleged sorcerers were now persecuting the traditionalist Muslim majority. Local residents established guards against, attacked, and even killed suspected ninjas. One fascinating feature of the rumours and newspaper reports was that suspicion was directed against the government, elites, and the armed forces. I attribute this inversion of authority to particularities of this historical period—Reformasi—and also to the preponderance of face-to-face communication in East Javanese society.



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