APSS - Past Seminars

Monday, July 28, 2014

From Afghanistan to disaster relief in the Pacific: Civil-Military Interaction and how the ACMC supports the development of capability.

Judy Swann OAM, Director Civil-Military Concepts, Australian Civil-Military Centre

Chair: A/Prof Stuart Pearson PEMS UNSW


The ACMC is a centre based in Defence which aims to support the government and NGOs in Australia to develop national civil-military capabilities to prevent, prepare for and respond more effectively to conflicts and disasters overseas.. As part of this support the ACMC has a robust research program which sources research on issues as diverse as the rule of law in the Security Council, to the role of the private sector in disaster response, to civil-military interaction in Afghanistan. Judy Swann is the Director of Civil-Military Concepts at the ACMC and will give an overview if the ACMC's work and focus particularly on some aspects of the ACMC's projects on Women, Peace and Security, Security Sector Reform and the development of Civil-Military capabilities in conflicts and disasters overseas.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Strategic issues of development of a private Islamic charitable organisation: A case study of the Dompet Dhuafa Foundation, Indonesia

Dr Minako Sakai

Southeast Asian Social Inquiry, HASS UNSW Canberra


The Dompet Dhuafa (the Wallet of the Poor) Foundation was established by secular-educated Muslims in the early 1990s as part of the daily Islamic newspaper, Republika. The foundation grew significantly and has become one of the leading Islamic philanthropic organisations, supported by religious alms givings (zakat). This foundation has implemented a wide range of poverty reduction programs and has also been actively delivering disaster relief and post-disaster community recovery programs. The significance of this development is that it is a new Islamic organisation dissociated from established Islamic mass organisations such as Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama. Furthermore, their social programs have been funded by public donations including religious alms and corporate donations (CSR). The success of this foundation has inspired other Islamic charitable organisations to grow in Indonesia over the last two decades. These new Islamic charitable organisations are now running a wide range of social welfare programs for the poor in Indonesia, where the state is unable to provide significant welfare support. Although Islamic philanthropy is a long-standing tradition, I argue that the Dompet Dhuafa Foundation has become a sustainable private Islamic charitable organisation principally for two reasons. First, the foundation has responded quickly and taken pro-active measures to changing socio-political contexts. Second, the ideas of the founding members of this organisation appeal to younger Muslims, encouraging them to join and develop their ideas to achieve an equitable and fair Muslim community. Based on my fieldwork, this paper will explore these strategic issues which have assisted the Dompet Dhuafa Foundation to grow in contemporary Indonesia.

Monday, June 2, 2014

FPI’s Role in Indonesia’s Post-Disaster Humanitarian Assistance and Community Development

Fahlesa Munabari

Southeast Asian Social Inquiry, HASS, UNSW Canberra


Since the collapse of the authoritarian Suharto regime in 1998, Indonesia has witnessed an escalation in the activism of Islamic revivalist movements whose goals revolve around the enactment of sharia (Islamic law). In an effort to achieve their political ends, these movements have routinely engaged in collective challenges to Indonesian authorities and elites through various forms of collection action such as mass protest, public gathering, and petition drive. The vast majority of literature in contemporary Indonesian Islamic revivalist movements heavily focused on the political activities of these movements. To date, there has been little research conducted to account for humanitarian assistance and community development activities performed by Islamic revivalist movements in light of devastating impacts of natural disasters that have inflicted enormous suffering and damage across Indonesia over the last decade. Despite being labelled by many observers as radical and violent, FPI (Front Pembela Islam or Islamic Defenders Front) is one such movement that has demonstrated its readiness to address the limited capacity of the state’s welfare provision. This paper seeks to investigate the patterns and motivations of the humanitarian assistance and community development programs of FPI through understanding its concept of “Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil”. The paper will show that FPI’s role in humanitarian assistance and community development is in fact part and parcel of its political platform as a mass organisation with a view to reaching out to people at the grassroots level. The movement plays this role in tandem with its more well-known campaigns for the eradication of vices.

Monday, May 26, 2014

What does China, Australia and Indonesia’s coastal management research suggest for the future?

Stuart Pearson, Hua Wang, Shengnan Chen, Bo Dong, Amanda Pu

Geography, PEMS, UNSW Canberra

Chair: Prof. Satish Chand (Business, UNSW Canberra)


Staff and students in PEMS and The Sino-Australian Research Consortium for Coastal Management (SARCCM) have been doing collaborative research and that knowledge could guide future research efforts in three countries and beyond. In this series of short research presentations by staff and students we will explore how this knowledge can be shared and used as foundations for further work. Our focus has been to develop a state-of-the-art integrated coastal zone marine forecasting and management and enhance research capacity for collaboration by forming a network of coastal scientists, engineers and managers from Australia and China.

In this presentation researchers will provide canapés of their research with flavours such as: comparisons between Australia and China’s biofuel policy drivers; legal frameworks and management on coastal management; Chinese land reclamation and its impact on sea level and flooding in Korea; and interdisciplinary research on pollution in Jiaozhou Bay. More recently, research in Indonesia about fisheries policy and pollution in Jakarta Bay has lead us into a broadening of our palate in the Asia-Pacific environmental and coastal management issues.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Advocators of Prosperity Islam: Muslim entrepreneurs and Muslim youth in Contemporary Indonesia

Najib Kailani

Southeast Asian Social Inquiry, HASS, UNSW Canberra

Chair: Dr Nico Warouw (UNSW)


This paper highlights Muslim entrepreneurs such as Yusuf Mansur, who are deliberately combining entrepreneurial attitude to Islamic devotional acts in contemporary Indonesia. These Muslim businessmen are running small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and eagerly promoting entrepreneurship among Muslim youth through business seminars and publications. In contrast to existing practice, these new seminars and books emphasise that becoming an entrepreneur, rather than seeking an employment in public service, is appropriate and recommended (sunna) according to Islam. These advocates emphasise that the Prophet Muhammad was a very successful trader. More importantly, these new training sessions highlight that business success for Muslims depends on their voluntary devotional acts, especially a frequent practice of voluntary alms giving (sedekah).

This paper examines Muslim entrepreneurs in Indonesia who have established charitable organisations for voluntary alms giving. I argue that these businessmen believe that they need to assist the poor to receive worldly rewards (i.e. economic success) from god. They believe that material possessions such as luxurious cars and houses are manifestation of God’s blessings. This paper shows that the increased interest in alms giving among Muslim businessmen in Indonesia is to seek prosperity in return. Data draw from my fieldwork among the members of a charitable organisation called Makelar Sedekah in Yogyakarta.

Monday, April 28, 2014

From war in Afghanistan to disaster relief in the Pacific: Civil-Military Interaction and the activities of the ACMC

Kelisiana Thynne

Research Manager, Australian Civil-Military Centre

Chair: A.Prof. Stuart Pearson (UNSW)


The ACMC is a centre based in Defence which aims to support the government and NGOs in Australia to better respond to conflict and natural disasters overseas. As part of this support the ACMC has a robust research program which sources research on issues as diverse as the rule of law in the Security Council, to the role of the private sector in disaster response, to civil-military interaction in Afghanistan. Kelisiana Thynne is the ACMC research manager and will give an overview if the ACMC's work and focus particularly on some aspects of the ACMC's projects on Afghanistan, the role of the private sector in humanitarian emergencies and the role of regional organisations in disaster response in the Pacific.

Monday, April 14, 2014

External Influences toward Pesantren’s Community Engagements in Indonesia

Falik Isbah

Southeast Asian Social Inquiry, HASS, UNSW Canberra

Chair: Dr Minako Sakai (UNSW)


Many of previous studies have discussed Indonesian Islamic boarding schools or locally called pesantren as having important contributions in providing education for the lower class and unreached populace. These schools have produced Muslim community leaders and Islamic scholars (ulama) in Indonesia. Little has been known, however, that some pesantren have also actively engaged in socio-economic development activities. Such engagement is located within the nature that pesantren leaders (kyai) are cultural brokers (Geertz 1960) and community guide (Horikoshi 1976) mediating the broader political, social and economic changes to their communities. Therefore, pesantren often function not only as educational but also socio-cultural institution by which kyai address the societal problems occurring in their environments. In conducting such socio-economic role pesantren have received influences and support from external entities such as government institutions, non-government organisations (NGOs), Islamic mass organisations, and organisations that advocate the application of shariah-based economic practices. Based on my fieldwork findings, this paper explores projects and activities of these entities that influencing pesantren’s engagement with their communities. It also examines to what extent such external influences and supports have affected the capacity of pesantren in carrying out their socio-economic roles. This exploration is needed to foresight the current dynamics affected by the changing socio-political contexts. I agure that all these initiatives and support have not significantly improved pesantren’s socio-economic role in the community.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Memory and Self: Narrating Family stories between Fiction and Autobiography

Beibei (Amy) Chen , English, HASS, UNSW

Chair: A. Prof. Nicole Moore, HASS, UNSW


As one of the best and most complicated books by Brian Castro (an Australian writer of Chinese heritage), Shanghai Dancing has received much critical attention from diverse perspectives. Bernadette Brennan has comprehensively discussed the language play in Shanghai Dancing, while Katherine Hallemeier and Maryline Brun focus their research on the contested notion of hybridity and its representations in this book. Scholars like Wang Guanglin have interviewed Brian Castro about Shanghai Dancing and produced several critical papers reflecting on the author’s original views of the text. Although these existing discussions have touched on many of the notable aspects of Shanghai Dancing, there is a gap to fill in the scholarship if we highlight the way this book represents memory, family history and a notion of self.

Generically, Shanghai Dancing blurs the boundaries between fiction and autobiography, and deconstructs the common approach to writing about family history. It fictionalizes the author’s autobiographical memory and contests how family myths are recorded and rediscovered through memory, and how both national history and family history are presented from perspectives of individual memory and family memory. Therefore, in a way, Shanghai Dancing is a text for looking at the relations between memory, history, and the fictional construction of family myths. By narrations of the Castro family myth and history, the notion of the self is thus contested linguistically, temporally and geographically.

My argument is that Shanghai Dancing is not only a postmodernist fictional autobiography; it is also a template for studying how the self, memory and family history relate to each other. It should be situated in distinctive transnational literary linguistic, and cultural contexts in order to be comprehensively interpreted.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Failure to Protect Religious Minority Rights in Sampang, Madura: Caused by Communities Intolerance or Less State Capacity?

Dr Sartika Soesilowati

Visiting Fellow, HASS, UNSW and the University of Airlangga, Indonesia

Chair: Dr Peter Balint, HASS, UNSW


This study aims to examine the type, causal factors and pattern of violent attacks and discrimination toward Syiah minority in the Sampang District, Madura Island, Indonesia. The case study choice represents a close picture of the problems and pattern on going and frequent communal conflict and discrimination to minority group in Indonesia.

The study looks to provide the answer to questions which emerges in this problem: (2) What are the characters of the communities that encourages violations to minority?; (1) Why does the religious conflict and discrimination towards religious minority occur and intensify when the Indonesian government has implemented a more democratic system?; and (3) Why has the state (authorities) failed numerously to protect the minority?

This research argues that the religious conflict and discrimination in Indonesia happened because some judicious amalgamation factors: (1) Some incorrect character’s of communities such as group rivalries, and high degree of intolerance, resolution conflict by force contributes to escalate the conflict (2) The current democratic system which is the downside of democratic system such as to prioritize the majority vote has marginalized the effort to protect and to provide freedom to minorities; and also (3) Some factors inhibit state and its apparatus to apply equal treatment and necessary actions and policies to protect religious minority including: to weaken judicial authority and law enforcement; and poor coordination among security apparatus.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Identity Politics: A case Study of Afghanistan

Alireza Yunespour (HASS, UNSW Canberra)

Chair: Dr. Jian Zhang


This study seeks to study identity politics in Afghanistan with a focus on ethnic and sectarian identities. The central hypothesis is that the manipulation and instrumentalisation of ethnic and sectarian identities as sources of political legitimacy have significantly constrained efforts towards state-building in Afghanistan. By taking a historical perspective, it shows that identity politics is not a new phenomenon in Afghanistan and that a weak historical state and widespread culture of poverty have caused, sustained and reinforced ethnic and sectarian identity politics over time. It will also demonstrate that ethnic and sectarian identity politics has been a dominant feature of Afghanistan’s post-Taliban state-building. It will argue that ethnic and sectarian identity politics have seriously undermined the process of state-building as they have prevented, amongst other things, a meaningful national reconciliation and the development of national identity in Afghanistan in the past decade.