APSS - Past Seminars

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Operations of the Australian Task Force in Vietnam 1966-1971

Dr Bob Hall

Queen Elizabeth II Fellow, HASS, UNSW@ADFA

Chair: Dr Alec Thornton


Historical Analysis of the Australian Army's role in Vietnam has tended to be dominated by the 'big battles' such as the battle of Long Tan (18th August 1966) and the battle of Binh Ba (6-7 June 1969). But we argue that the focus on these 'big battles' tends to distort our understanding of the war. To avoid this problem we have built a database of approximately 4500 'contacts' in Vietnam. They range from the largest battles (Long Tan) down to the smallest, seemingly insignificant skirmishes. For each 'contact' we have captured up to 30 bits of information that describe the 'contacts'. The resulting database has been mapped and statistically analysed to reveal new insights into the Australian Task Force's performance in the war.

In the seminar we will discuss some of the problems of the 'big battle' approach to the war and we will outline some of the results of our database analysis.

The project is ARC-funded and the project team consists of Bob Hall (HASS), Andrew Ross (HASS), Amy Griffin (PEMS), Spike Barlow (SEIT) and Derill De Heer (HASS).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Praus, Trepang and Tampako: The Archaeology of Cross Cultural Exchange between Indonesia and Arnhem Land, North Australia

Daryl Guse

PhD Scholar, Archaeology and Natural History, Australian National University

Chair: Dr Jian Zhang


How do cultures from different technological and sociological systems manage to overcome conflict and negotiate space? This seminar will attempt to explore how two very different communities were able to communicate and collaborate effectively without the assistance of social scientific investigation that normally aids or interaction with different societies today. This research also demonstrates the resilience of Indigenous Australian communities and can provide an insight into how past cultures managed to move beyond their differences to develop mutually beneficial relationships.

During the 18th and 19th Centuries, Macassan (Indonesian) fishermen came to north Australia in search of trepang (beche de mer) and established many processing sites along the Arnhem Land coastline. Over several centuries, Macassan trepang fishermen developed relationships with local Indigenous Australian communities which had significant and lasting cultural impacts. Archaeological evidence from some of these sites has revealed an industrial scale impact on local Australian marine and terrestrial ecologies. The Macassan fishermen and Indigenous peoples of the region exchanged goods and natural resources in return for the use of local marine environments in Arnhem Land. Recent archaeological research in North Western Arnhem Land has revealed new data regarding Indigenous participation and exchange with the trepang maritime industry as well as some insights into earlier contact with sea-farers from Indonesia. Initial analysis indicates major reorganisation of local land use and settlement strategies in Arnhem Land demonstrating Indigenous coastal communities had a considerable ability to adapt and reorganise local economic and social strategies in response to culture contact.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Land Reform for Development: Some Lessons from Papua New Guinea

Dr Charles Yala

Research Fellow, School of Business, UNSW@ADFA

Chair: Dr Denise Faifua


Assessing the effectiveness of land tenure reform for spurring development remains problematic, largely because of the absence of a counterfactual. This paper presents a baseline and research methodology designed to assist assessment of the effectiveness of land tenure reform in Papua New Guinea. Regular updating of the data is envisaged with the lessons from the analysis to be used in fine-tuning of policy. While the research methodology has been applied to a specific context, the implications of these findings may extend well beyond Papua New Guinea.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Living with Ancestor Worship and Catholic Practices in Flores, East Indonesia

Dr Eriko Sakai

Professor of Anthropology, Ryukoko University, Japan

Chair: Dr Minako Sakai


It is well known that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. However, the Christian population holds the majority in many areas in Eastern Indonesia and the Island of Flores, located in the province of East Nusa Tenggara, is called the 'Catholic Island' in Indonesia.

The Indonesian state has been highly concerned with religions, as is typically shown in the official state ideology, Pancasila, the first sentence of which is 'the belief in one God (Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa). The religious situation in Indonesia has changed historically and revealed regional diversity. This is because it has been influenced by political situations, and not only regional cultures but also religious sects working in regions are diverse. I started anthropological field work in August 1979 among people who call themselves Ata Wolosoko (at a: people, person; Wolosoko: pseudonym of a peak on which the village for their rituals is constructed). At present 100 percent of Wolosoko people are baptised as Catholic. They conduct traditional ancestor worship and Catholic practices side by side without any conflict. My paper with examine under what kind of historical, political and religious situations Wolosoko people have adopted Catholic practices and how they have continued and even developed rituals related to ancestral worship simultaneously.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Naval Emissary Nomura: Ambassador Nomura, the Imperial Japanese Navy, and the pre-Pearl Harbor Japanese-U.S. Negotiations

Dr. Peter Mauch

Assistant Professor, International History Faculty of International Relations, Ritsumeikan University Kyoto JAPAN


This paper constitutes a reexamination of Japan’s path to a ruinous war. On the basis of a recent documentary discovery relating to the 1941 Japanese-U.S. negotiations, it establishes the existence of a hitherto unknown channel of communication which existed between Ambassador Nomura Kichisaburo (in Washington) and the Imperial Japanese Navy leadership (in Tokyo). In particular, it examines the Japanese navy’s involvement in a Japanese-U.S. peace proposal which surfaced in Washington in April 1941. It also examines the navy’s eventual failure to support this peace proposal – a failure which had wide-reaching ramifications for Ambassador Nomura’s effort to avert a Japanese-American war.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Empowerment of Women through Islamic Microfinance (Baitul Maal wat Tamwil) in Indonesia: Ethnographic Accounts of Business Strategies and Services of a BMT

Dr Minako Sakai

Senior Lecturer, HASS, UNSW at ADFA


This paper will examine the impact of the growing Islamic economy on women in Indonesia. With the establishment of the first Islamic bank in Indonesia in the early 1990s, Islamic economy and Islamic business are growing steadily in the urban areas of Indonesia, ranging from financial sectors, manufacturing, philanthropy and educational institutions. This paper will examine the business products and services of Islamic microfinance institutions (BMTs) in Indonesia. BMTs usually offer both Islamic philanthropic activities and Islamic financial services. I will highlight how their business strategies and services have contributed to empowerment of unskilled workers and small traders, who are mainly women. Based on my fieldwork in urban areas of Indonesia, I will argue that while political modernist Islam tends to exert control on women’s activities, the Islamic economy and businesses are more likely to encourage and support women’s participation in public life, both as beneficiaries and providers of the economic and philanthropic activities.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Political Resurgence of the Chinese of West Kalimantan, Indonesia

Dr Taufiq Tanasaldy, Visiting Fellow UNSW@ADFA and Dr Yusriadi, Lecturer STAIN Pontianak


This paper will discuss recent resurgence of Chinese interests in politics, by examining cases in West Kalimantan. This province has quite a significant history of Chinese involvement in politics. They established Kongsis, which were performing as independent “states” during the Dutch rule in the 19th century. The Chinese were also given significant political representation during the transitional times (1945-1950). From the 1950s, the community was attracted more to politics in mainland China, and consequently was divided into pro-nationalist and pro-communist camps, although the latter influence had surpassed the former at the end of 1950s. Unfortunately, this political affinity to mainland China had brought difficulties once the political environment changed in Indonesia in 1965. Almost all Chinese were removed from the interior region in a series of ethnic riots in 1967.

After introducing related events in the past, this paper will discuss the success (and failure) of the Chinese candidates in recent pilkada (1999-2008), issues they had encountered in the field, as well as possible conflicts with other aspiring ethnic groups.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Building Social Capital in Indonesia: An Innovate Experiment of Chinese Civic Organizations in the post-Suharto Era

Dr Jae Bong Park

Visiting Fellow HASS, UNSW at ADFA


This paper aims to interpret the meaning of the newly emerged Chinese civic organisations in Indonesia after the fall of Suharto regime in May 1998. It analyses the sufferings of Chinese Indonesians before and during the 1998 May riots because these incidents triggered a range of reactions of the Chinese community to these riots. The focus of this paper is the newly emerged inter-ethnic civic organisations, which have been established by Chinese and indigenous Indonesians in the post-Suharto era. I will examine the activities of inter-ethnic civic organisations including Indonesian Chinese Association (INTI), Homeland Solidarity (SNB), Indonesian Anti-Discrimination Movement (GANDI), and Volunteer Team for Humanity (TRuK) in mobilising various stake-holders in order to fight for legal justice and to protect minority rights in Indonesia. Their endeavors are a new and innovative experiment in recent Indonesian history. Based on this analysis, I will argue that in the post-Suharto era, the security of Chinese Indonesians is being improved as the activities of inter-ethnic civic organisations and their networks promote social trust and facilitate cooperation between Chinese and indigenous Indonesians.

Monday, May 4, 2009

ASEAN Regionalism: The Challenge of Divergent Interests

Dr Christopher Roberts

Faculty of Business and Government Lecturer in International Relations and Asian Studies University of Canberra


The seminar outlines how the ‘ASEAN way’ is increasingly reflective of the lowest common denominator in an authoritarian-democratic divide that has, in turn, restrained the process of regionalism in Southeast Asia. The relatively democratic members of ASEAN have recognized this limitation and the newly democratic Republic of Indonesia has been particularly active in lobbying to modify ASEAN’s modus operandi. Nevertheless, and as widespread disappointment over the final outcome of the ASEAN Charter suggests, significant trust, cooperation and institutionalization will not be viable in the absence of common 'regional' values. Because of this diversity, the region has not yet witnessed a significant convergence (or compatibility) between the national interests of the ASEAN members. The only ‘limited’ exception has been in economic sphere but, even here, many initiatives – such as the ASEAN Surveillance Mechanism – have stalled due to the region’s ideational and structural diversity. In building on recent theoretical developments, and by incorporating the speaker’s pilot survey data on regional perceptions, the seminar will explain why democracy will be a prerequisite for substantive regionalism in Southeast Asia. Many of the findings outlined in this seminar will be incorporated in a book due to be published by Routledge later in 2009. The book is entitled ‘ASEAN Regionalism: Cooperation, Values and Institutionalisation.’

Monday, April 20, 2009

We Are The Mujahidin Armed with Pens: The Da’wa Movement of Forum Lingkar Pena among Muslim Youth in Contemporary Indonesia

Najib Kailani

Southeast Asian Social Studies, Gajah Mada University

Chair: Minako Sakai


This paper investigates the phenomenon of contemporary Indonesian Muslim youth who have developed an Islamic (popular) cultural movement through an organization called ‘Forum Lingkar Pena’ (Lingkar Pena Forum). This organization was founded by some Tarbiyah campus activists in 1997 at the University of Indonesia, Jakarta. The primary purpose of the organization is to prepare young writers to propagate Islam using popular cultural ways such as short stories, comics and novels. Their main focus is disseminating a popular or trendy version of Islam among teenagers. They are most concerned about Islamic youth. They circulate their ideas and works among school students through religious institutions called Rohis (Kerohanian Islam). This study attempts to explore the contemporary Muslim youth movement in Indonesia which is occurring at a time when globalization is at its strongest.