APSS - Past Seminars

Monday, September 10, 2012

ORGANISING AND SOLIDARITY MAKING: Naqshbandi Haqqani Movement in Indonesia

Luthfi Makhasin, ANU

Chair: Najib Kailani, UNSW


Sufi is typically described as a type of religious movement with an excessive veneration and an unquestioned allegiance toward the master. It is also understood as an association or brotherhood with a strictly hierarchical structure that exercises a high degree of control over its adepts (Trimingham, 1970; Buehler, 1993; Werbner, 2003; Schmidt, 2004:109-26). The vitality and enduring influence of Sufism therefore supposedly comes mainly from personal appeal of the Sufi sheikh that is religiously justified and socially accepted by the disciples. This charisma derives from the teaching lineage (silsilah) and intimacy with God combining the inner-path of religious devotion and the requirements of sharia’s observance (Buehler, 1993:10). Those scholarly studies implicitly suggested that routinisation has generated an established rule of conduct, set of doctrine, and institutional arrangement. Those views also implicitly imply that the Sufi master has an authoritarian control over and always received unreserved obedience from the disciples. Given this, Sufi movement is still considered as being dominated by a self-appointed leader with unreserved obedience from the disciples and shaped through continuous routinizing personal charisma which is maintained over generations by successive line of genealogy. As a result, Sufism supposedly attracts only marginalized segments of society with inadequate education, low social status or ongoing rural connections (Chih, 2007:21). Concomitantly, the emergence of an educated urban middle class that embraced rationality, ideas of progress, individualism and democracy therefore appeared to leave little space for this allegedly old-fashioned Islamic movement. By focusing on Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi movement in Indonesia, this paper tries to re-examine that established view and demonstrate internal struggle and dynamics within the Sufi movement and the efforts of the Sufi sheikh in performing his role as a supreme leader, spiritual guide, and sole religious authority within the movement. This paper argues that religious authority of the Sufi sheikh is not necessarily unlimited and to some extent even often contested and negotiated due to different social backgrounds of and conflicting interests and perception among the disciples. The case of Naqshbandi Haqqani movement in Indonesia shows that a Sufi sheikh cannot rely only on his own charisma. Instead, he must also have organisational skills and decentralise his authority to maintain solidarity within the movement.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise of coastal communities in Central Java: A systems approach and perspective

Vijai Joseph

PhD Candidate PEMS/Geography UNSW Canberra

Chair: Alec Thornton, UNSW


The biophysical and social impacts of sea level rise and vulnerability of communities have been deliberated upon at length in various scientific studies. Less studied are the feedback mechanisms that influence vulnerability of the communities in a socio-ecological system in the context of sea level rise. The aim of this study is to develop a systems perspective of vulnerability of selected coastal occupational groups such as fishers, brackish pond farmers and labourers to sea level rise, which will help to uncover feedback mechanisms. The study area is the Demak regency of the Central Java province of Indonesia. This region is affected by hazards such as land subsidence, tidal floods and coastal erosion, which make it particularly vulnerable to rise in sea level. The quantitative analysis of vulnerability was also conducted to develop a snap-shot view of vulnerability of the occupational groups before an in-depth analysis into the complexity of feedback mechanisms that influence the vulnerability. The feedback mechanisms showed that vulnerability of the occupational groups in the study area is influenced by processes at multiple scales and revealed the increasing social vulnerability of the occupational groups due to the presence of undesirable feedback mechanisms. Additionally, vulnerability indices showed that fishers and brackish pond farmers were the most vulnerable to sea level rise, while labourers were better in terms of their vulnerability index values. The research has investigated the livelihood transitions of the occupational groups in the past and identified the drivers of transitions, which included lack of financial capital, decreasing natural capital, old age and other personal reasons. This systems approach towards vulnerability can inform policy making for vulnerability reduction and adaptation in future scenarios of sea level rise, with due regard to the complexity and dynamics of the socio-ecological system of coastal communities.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Understanding China’s Ascending Maritime Power: China’s Maritime Security Policy-making on South China Sea Dispute

Chia-Yu (Mike) Huang, HASS, UNSW

Chair: Dr Zhang


China’s maritime power has been rapidly ascending in the past three decades along with its exceptional economic development. Nevertheless, what makes regional countries more suspicious of China’s rapid rise is that even though Beijing constantly advertises its “peaceful development” policy, the Chinese government’s maritime operations in South China Sea have become more assertive in recent years. This research aims to answer why there is a gap between China’s assertiveness and its reassuring rhetoric. With a detailed examination of the decision-making process of China’s maritime security policy on South China Sea disputes, this research argues that the “Fragmented Authoritarianism” framework is applicable to characterize China’s maritime security policy-making nowadays. Given the fragmented nature of this process, China lacks clear and well- coordinated policies on South China Sea dispute and therefore fails to undertake consistent government operations. This phenomenon implies that an ascending Chinese maritime power with fragmented decision-making process would impose more negative impacts upon regional stability in Asia.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Deviant ‘Other’: Religious authority, Shias, and ‘Liberal’ Islam in contemporary Malaysia

Norshahril Saat

Department of Political and Social Change, Australian National University (ANU)

Chair: Fahlesa Munabari, UNSW


This presentation examines the dominant religious orientation of the prominent religious personalities in contemporary Malaysia. It analyzes the salient features of their ideas and their implications on the Malaysian society at large. By orientation we mean a style of thought that influence not just the selection of religious ideas and issues but also how they are conceived and understood. This presentation shall examine the attitude of the religious elite towards the “other”, whom are seen as not being part of the ‘mainstream’. The ‘other’ constitutes people of other faiths and ethnicity, and even Muslims with different religious orientations as well (inter-religious and intra-religious relations). Generally, those who are seen as not part of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah (ASWJ) are treated as deviant, and they include the ‘apostates’, Shias and ‘Liberal’ Muslims. Albeit their heterogeneity as a group, the religious elite’s understanding of these issues or the sense of them is a function of an orientation which reveals the salient traits of what Robert Towler defines as traditionalism. While not denying the existence of other thought styles or orientations, traditionalism features pronouncedly in the selection and appropriation of major issues raised by the religious elite. The presentation shall focus on the more prominent religious elite, particularly the ‘trend setters’ in religious debates. They include members of political parties, civil-society organizations, state bureaucracies, as well as the pendakwah bebas or independent preachers. This presentation also highlights the possible factors that condition the prevalence of their religious orientation and the implications they bear not only on the Muslim community, but also on the larger multi-ethnic and multi-religious Malaysian society, within the context of change, development and modernization.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Roundtable Discussions - Agency in Asia Pacific Disaster Relief: Connectivity, Conflict and Community Resilience

Satish Chand, Edwin Jurriens, Minako Sakai, Jian Zhang (UNSW)


Natural and human-induced disasters seem to be increasing in frequency and severity in both developing and developed countries. This is certainly the situation in the Asia Pacific region, where over 50% of the total world disasters occur. This paper draws main conclusions and lessons learnt from our ten case studies involving key countries in the Asia Pacific region (Indonesia, Myanmar, Japan, China, India, Fiji and Samoa). These case studies have been conducted by leading scholars in the field through our one- year-long Asia Pacific Seminar Series.

We have taken a regional and multidisciplinary and multi-actor approach to improve understandings of how key agents in disaster relief and recovery could interact and work together. The key agents in scope include government institutions, civil society, media, international donors and local communities and they have responded to natural (tsunamis, cyclones, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, floods) and human-induced disasters (armed conflict and displacement) in the Asia Pacific region. Lessons from our case studies in the Asia Pacific region will enrich and extend current understandings of ‘capacity building’ and ‘resilience’ by critically assessing complex relationships between various types of relief and how they affect communities. It challenges the conventional wisdom, which focuses mostly on building material and organisational capacity as part of post-disaster recovery process. Our roundtable discussions will highlight the importance of building community resilience through social networks and/or safety nets. Our findings will inform the decision-making and policy development agencies in Australia and New Zealand, as we regularly provide disaster-relief and recovery assistance to our neighbouring region.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Non-traditional security issues in the Asia Pacific Region – challenges for nation-states in the 21st Century

Rita Parker, Visiting Fellow, HASS


Climate change, pandemics, unregulated population migration, cyber security, energy and food supply chain security, people trafficking, and critical infrastructure protection all have one thing in common; they are part of today’s security agenda around the globe. They are non‑traditional security issues which demand a security policy response. Yet scholars and policy makers in the twenty-first century have been challenged about how best to deal with these non-military threats.

In this presentation I will describe the changing security environment in which non‑traditional security issues are now included as credible threats to the economic and well-being of nation-states. I will look at the case for broadening the concept of security with a reduced military focus and argue that events that degrade the quality of life of state and non-state actors threaten national security.

This shift of emphasis to include non-traditional security threats as part of the security agenda has generated much scholarly debate and, while some progress and concessions have been made in the literature, the concept is still not adequately addressed. The challenges of how to deal with non-traditional security threats are pressing and of real concern for policy makers and advisers. The second part of my presentation will look at the some of these challenges faced by nation-states and possible ways to address them in the Asia Pacific region.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

APSS Workshop - Being a Muslim in Secularised and Globalised Indonesia: Propagation and Practice

Chair: Dr Minako Sakai UNSW Canberra


Following the successful year of the APSS seminar in 2011, we have chosen the 2012 theme as Towards Sustainable Development in the Asia Pacific: Community, Security and Environment. We will explore how various institutions and communities are approaching the issue of sustainable development in the Asia Pacific region in 2012. We will focus on various key issues affecting the socio-economic development of the region. Some of the topics may include population growth, disaster resilience, sustainable energy and transport, philanthropic and corporate social responsibility, education, community networks and human security and civil society organisations.

In view of the APSS 2012 theme, we will hold a workshop to explore the role of Islam in socio-economic development in Indonesia. We aim to hold a workshop to give feedback to each others and produce publications.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Examining Islamism in Regional Indonesia: What It Means to Be an Islamist

Dr Minako Sakai (UNSW) and Dr Amelia Fauzia (Rector-funded Visiting Fellow, UNSW Canberra and UIN Jakarta)

Chair: Dr Jian Zhang


This article will examine Islamic orientations held among Muslims in Indonesia. Indonesia has approximately 240 million people and more than 85% of the population are Muslims. This study is important because currently there are conflicting views on the political influence and social role of Islam in Indonesia. Whilst religious intolerance incidents have frequently been reported in mass media, political Islam in Indonesia, represented by Islamic political parties seems to have failed to gain popular support. Against this conflicting standing of Islam and Islamic organisations in contemporary Indonesia, this article will examine religious orientations of Muslims in Indonesia. We aim to gain insights into causes and factors affecting Muslims, particularly the inclination towards Islamism. Based on our survey on 1500 Muslims in Indonesia in 2010 conducted by UIN Jakarta, and case studies in regional Indonesia, this paper will show that Islamism in Indonesia is on the rise. We attribute the rise of Islamism in Indonesia to mainly to socio-cultural change in regional society and the diffusion of religious authority through media use. We argue that Islamism in Indonesia has increased because Muslims are seeking to become better Muslims in order to cope with challenging and changing social contexts.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Indonesia-Malaysia Relations: Cultural Heritage and the Politics of Harimau vs Garuda

Dr Marshall CLARK

Senior Lecturer, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University


Historically, both Malaysia and Indonesia have drawn on a common cultural heritage as a means of effectively managing any political tensions. Yet despite the diplomatic pleasantries, bilateral ties over the last decade in particular have been marked by rivalry, acrimony and conflict. In 2009 in particular there was a series of heated anti-Malaysia demonstrations in Indonesia after Malaysia allegedly claimed cultural heritage rights to a variety of Indonesian cultural forms. The staking of claims over each other’s culture came to a head when UNESCO recognised batik, a wax-resistant dyeing technique, as a distinctly Indonesian form of intangible cultural heritage. This was widely perceived as a snub towards Malaysia. Examining the UNESCO batik decision, the first half of this paper will attempt to account for the very hostile reactions by Indonesians in particular to the recent spats over ‘ownership’ of shared Indo-Malay cultural traditions. The second half of the paper will examine the ongoing nature of this hostility, as demonstrated on numerous occasions during the SEA Games 2011, held in Jakarta and Palembang. The increasingly impatient Malaysian response to this widespread anti-Malaysia sentiment, as well as the seemingly robust nature of the contemporary Malaysian batik industry, will also be discussed.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Evaluating communication for development: a framework

Professor Jo Tacchi

Deputy Dean, Research and Innovation in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University. She is a Centre Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation.


It is recognised that dominant measurement and accountability-based approaches to research and evaluation are not well equipped to understand and address complex development problems and the messy realities of social change. Yet these approaches help to define and drive how development happens in practice. Communication for development (C4D), and participatory research and evaluation of social change, provide an important counterpoint to help us open up to alternative approaches to development.

In this presentation I will describe a research project conducted in collaboration with a development communication organisation in Nepal, Equal Access. Assessing Communication for Social Change set out to develop a methodology for impact assessment that would help Equal Access not only prove impact to donors, but also, and most importantly, to improve their practices. This work contributed to the development of a framework for evaluating C4D. I will present this framework and set out its seven key concepts. The framework advocates an open, flexible, critical and pluralistic approach to evaluation aiming to overcome dichotomies that have hindered progress in this area. It is proposed that such an approach can increase the sustainability and effectiveness of C4D programmes.