Southeast Asia at AAS 2016
Southeast Asia Related Panels at AAS 2016
March 31-April 3, 2016
Seattle, Washington – Sheraton Seattle & Washington State Convention Center
Each spring, the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) holds a four-day conference devoted to planned programs of scholarly papers, roundtable discussions, workshops, and panel sessions on a wide range of issues in research and teaching, and on Asian affairs in general.
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Islamic Authenticity and Uncivil Society in Indonesia
Sponsored by the Indonesia Timor Leste Studies Committee (ITLSC)
7:30 to 9:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 602
The relationships between civil society, incivil discourse, and an uncivil society can be seen at different times in Indonesian society. The efforts of the reformation era to create a civil society gave rise to a freedom of press that allowed the emergence of incivil discourse against minority groups such as the Ahmadiyya and Shia. Greater freedom of the press and of speech has also meant more competing voice about Islamic authenticity. Authenticity discourses are marginalizing discourses; for one approach to be authentic, all others must be false. This panel examines a number of different cases that address different aspects of these issues. Early in Indonesia, authenticity discourses examined the relationship between communism and Islam. In the 1980s, young Indonesian men were drawn to mujahidin groups fighting as acts of piety, that is as a way to be find a more authentic Islam. More recently, MUI has established its own authenticity by undermining the authenticity of Ahmadiyya. It is not only more hardline approaches that contribute to uncivil society by claiming authenticity (and thereby denying it for others). The young men’s movement within Nahdlatul Ulama makes claims to authenticity that attempt to undermine the authenticity of hardline groups.
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30 Years of People Power: Mobilization during Crises and Change in Philippine Democracy
Sponsored by the Philippine Studies Group
7:30 to 9:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 619
It has been thirty years since the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, a popular nonviolent mobilization for regime change that led to the collapse of one of Asia’s most brutal and enduring dictatorships. Named after the urban space in Manila where this historical watershed occurred, the uprising that led to the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos was the first democratic transition in Asia during the so-called “third wave of democratization.” It initiated a powerful “demonstration effect” and inspired similar campaigns for political change in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s to early 1990s. It has profoundly influenced succeeding episodes of large-scale collective mobilization in post-authoritarian Philippines. This panel, composed of a young generation of Filipino social scientists, examines the legacies of this critical juncture to Philippine democratic politics. It looks forward by investigating the subsequent mass movements since 1986 EDSA but at the same time looks backward by tracing the different protests events that led to this episode of people power. This panel separates itself from the current appreciation of 1986 EDSA since it analyzes the mobilization less from the elites that led it and more from the perspectives of its mass participants and other political actors often neglected by mainstream narratives. Through an analysis that emphasizes class, nationality, ideology, citizenship, and space, the papers hopes to generate new knowledge on the enduring impact of this collective mobilization to Philippine society and politics.
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Southeast Asian Elite Photographies in an Era of Colonial Anxiety
10:30am to 12:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, 2nd Floor, Room 213
Regional; Myanmar; Thailand
By examining the adoption of photography in Southeast Asia’s early modern period, this panel will demonstrate how photography was understood, practiced, mobilised, and negotiated as a [cultural and political] communicative tool, not merely as a colonial technological transfer process. This panel also examines how individual photographs project meaning and agency both visually as well as materially, enabling us to interpret photographs as both ‘visual’ and ‘material’ objects.
Political tensions within Southeast Asia were especially heightened with the influx of European colonialism from the mid-1850s to the 1910s. As Britain expanded its colonial territories from India to Burma and the French expanded the Indochinese empire into the upper Mekhong region of Laos, Siam occupied the non-colonial space in between, balancing its own geopolitics with those of two global imperial powers. The region’s elites introduced many cultural and political strategies during this period in attempts to assuage their anxieties and stabilise the turbulent political landscape. The papers of this panel focus on a cross-section of elite Southeast Asian photographies of crypto-colonised Siam, the Shan States under the British Protectorate, and Cambodia under the French Protectorate. This panel explores how Western photographic technologies were deployed as both political and cultural medium in elites’ efforts to re-balance their positions within the realms of regional and global geopolitics.
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A Lost World: The Indonesian Left before the 1965-66 Politicide
10:30am to 12:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 304
By mid-1965, the left movement in Indonesia had become very vibrant, with many different organizations attracting millions of members. The movement consisted not just of the communist party and its front organizations (some of which were partly autonomous of the party) but also other political parties and ethnic organizations. President Sukarno’s Guided Democracy, with its principles of anti-imperialism and “Indonesian socialism,” had legitimated the discourse of revolution and encouraged mass mobilizations. But after October 1, the people who had been part of this movement were hunted down as traitors. The Indonesian army orchestrated a politicide – the intentional mass killing of members of a political group. After the terror, the history of the left movement before October 1965 became difficult to understand. Many of the survivors felt too scared to speak in public. Meanwhile, the perpetrators wrote the official histories. Many documents were lost or intentionally destroyed. The result is that we know the history of the left movement only in broad outline. Less understood topics include the subjectivity of the rank-and-file participants – such as their motivations, creative visions, ethical norms, and sense of history – and the complexity of the local politics in which they were embedded. This panel, as an effort at historical recovery, raises the general question as to what was lost in Indonesia because of the politicide fifty years ago. The papers, based on oral interviews, rarely consulted Indonesian-language documents, and declassified US government records, allow for a more nuanced evaluation of this lost world of activism.
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Exploring the History of Manners in Thailand
10:30am to 12:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 308
Manners, civility, courtesy, and culture, have for a long time been closely bound up with notions of “civilization”. In the case of Thailand civilization (Thai: siwilai) has been a perennial theme in the study of how the country has come to terms with modernity. Scholars have placed particular emphasis on the part played by the West in justifying its imposition of colonial rule by appeals to a “civilizing mission”. Much of the scholarly literature on Thailand’s encounter with European colonialism is permeated by nationalist or postcolonial sentiment against this mission. The Western colonial powers are criticized for setting up a culturally-specific standard of civilization that Thailand and other colonized peoples must strive for. Yet this critique misses the central argument of Norbert Elias’s classic work, The Civilizing Process, in which civilization is to be understood as the progressive adoption by individuals of a series of self-restraints due to changes in the social, economic and political structure of societies over time. In Thailand today manners are politically charged. The debilitating political crisis that began in 2005 has brought the subject of manners and morality to center stage. The coups of 2006 and 2014 have been largely justified by the military and their supporters on moral grounds. There has been a revival in the official rhetoric about the importance of the values of servility, respect, deference, obedience, and orderliness. This panel explores Thailand’s history of manners and its relevance to the country’s current political predicament.
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Harnessing Foundational Myths: Hùng Kings in Three Vietnams, 1965-2015
Sponsored by the Vietnam Studies Group
10:30am to 12:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 602
The Hùng kings, who allegedly ruled between 2879-258 B.C.E., are considered by many Vietnamese as ancestors and founders of the nation. The historical and mythological characters of their existence have been discussed in numerous scholarly works. While unanimously seeing the Hung king narrative as mythical, the panel’s participants approach it from a new perspective: how it has been “harnessed” and employed by the three Vietnamese states – the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) – between 1965 and 2015. Papers on this interdisciplinary panel, combining historical and anthropological approaches and complementing each other, analyze the Hùng king narrative vis-à-vis causes promoted by different states, academics, and entrepreneurs and establish a basis for their incorporation into a broader analysis of national discourse. Dror analyzes the Hùng kings in the RVN between 1965 and 1975 as a unifying political and social force against hippies and communists through organizing annual festivals. Berry shows how at the same time in the DRV, while abandoning the tradition of annual festivals, the authorities promoted academic works to establish historical proof of the Hùng kings’ existence. Bridging the RVN and the SRV, Kelley considers how scholarship of a South Vietnamese scholar on the Hùng kings and antiquity was first denounced and then appropriated by academics in the SRV. Nguyễn Phúc Anh takes the Hùng kings into the global arena to consider their tradition in relationship between Vietnamese in the SRV and in the diaspora through engagement with socialist and neoliberal economies.
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Orthodoxy, Invention, and Appropriation in 17th- and 18th-Century Nôm Texts
Fri, April 1, 12:45 to 2:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 304
Demotic Vietnamese texts using Nôm character script are an important, but not much studied, source of information about the process of formulating and reformulating cultural statements. This panel proposes to analyze texts from different regions and perspectives written in the 17th and 18th centuries to consider how language usage reveals accumulations of cultural debris, announces linguistic and social proscriptions, orients intellectual and political agendas, and creates cultural formations; it combines the methods of linguistics, literature, and history. John D. Phan applies phonological analysis to a 17th-century northern dictionary to illuminate the conventionalization of a prestige register of Vietnamese (Hán-Việt). K. W. Taylor uses textual and literary study with two northern 18th-century Buddhist texts to show how translating from literary Chinese (Hán) to Nôm and from Nôm prose to Nôm poetry reveals the erosion and the invention of culture. Claudine Ang brings historical, content, and reception analysis to an 18th-century southern text to indicate how it worked in a provincial Vietnamese setting at the time it was written and how it was later recycled into the Chinese Ming diaspora during the late 19th century. The general theme of the panel is that behind the modern usage of alphabetic Vietnamese is a great depth of experimentation that can be seen in the archive of surviving Nôm texts.
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Reading between the Lines: Islamic Interlinear Translation in Indonesia
12:45 to 2:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 603
This panel takes the practice of interlinear translation from Arabic to Javanese and Malay as a lens through which to consider historical change, religious authority, literary writing and linguistic shifts in Indonesia and its diaspora. Presenters approach this theme from a historical, anthropological and literary perspective and explore translations produced in diverse locales including Aceh, Java and colonial Ceylon. Interlinear translation – the practice of translating Arabic religious texts word for word into a vernacular – has been practiced in Indonesia since the sixteenth century. Such translations played a significant role in the early spread of Islam in the region, in the development of various intellectual traditions, and in the transformation of local languages as a result of an influx of Arabic. Today such translations continue to be produced and read in religious educational settings where future generations of Islamic students and scholars are shaped. Dan Birchok will consider how ethnographic work on interlinear translations in Aceh can help scholars rethink the history of religion as an anthropological category; Saiful Umam will discuss significant changes in Arabic-to-Javanese interlinear translation over time and the importance of such shifts to understanding wider trends in Javanese Muslim society; Ronit Ricci will explore how sound and silence across languages transpire between the lines of interlinear translations produced by diasporic Malays in colonial Ceylon. Laurie Sears will serve as Discussant and Chair. The panel has three presenters so as to allow ample time for discussion.
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Urban Exclusion in Southeast Asia - Sponsored by the Southeast Asia Council (SEAC)
12:45 to 2:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 604
Regional; Indonesia; Malaysia; Philippines; Viet Nam
The idea of “urban exclusion” typically evokes images of walls, gates, locked doors or other blockades and forceful mechanisms intentionally designed to deny people access to city spaces. In practice, however, exclusion is not always born from an explicit desire to keep people out, but often emerges as the byproduct of schemes ostensibly designed to make cities “better” places. This panel focuses specifically on the ways in which projects ostensibly designed to “improve” cities in both mainland and insular Southeast Asia have contributed to processes of urban exclusion. To show this, panelists look at the exclusionary consequences of heritage districts, religious-based housing developments, infrastructural developments, modernization, and city beautification. While few of these projects were born from an explicit desire to keep people out of the cities we examine, they all have led to the exclusion of specific kinds of city residents in order to make their vision possible. Combining the perspectives of urban planning, urban geography, spatial demography, anthropology, and urban studies, and discussing case studies in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, the panel papers develop a truly comparative and interdisciplinary lens that expands our understanding of how exclusion works in different social-cultural contexts. Comparing these cases and places reveals that the very will to create spaces of orderly urban conduct—be they “pious spaces,” “historical spaces,” “modern spaces,” or “formal national spaces”—depends on the symbolic, spatial, and often forceful exclusion of people who do not fit into those models of order.
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Beyond Commodification: Mass-Produced Religious Objects and Deep Authority in South and Southeast Asia
3:00 to 5:00pm, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 302
Regional; Singapore; Thailand
Mass-produced religious objects in South and Southeast Asia are often understood as material embodiments of the market-oriented concerns of various prosperity cults that have emerged over the past thirty years. The lives of these objects, however, are intensely varied. From the moment of production, they are vulnerable to processes of marketing, consumption, veneration, abandonment, and destruction. As these objects circulate between religious, domestic, and international marketplaces they often simultaneously occupy the ranks of commodity, talisman, identity marker, and souvenir. Some regard them as conduits for religious power, while others denigrate them as worthless tchotchkes. This panel presents how different groups’ relationships to mass-produced religious objects create spaces crucial to the articulation religious meaning. Religious lifeworlds, ethical orientations, and regimes of power are worked out while dwelling with mass-produced religious objects. These objects demand specific bodily practices, ethical behaviors, and identity politics of those who seek them out. Furthermore, the objects’ imbedded histories, aesthetic qualities, and market values influence how people construct ontologies and narratives of self. While the modes of production, consumption, and circulation have changed, the meanings and powers embedded and extracted from these objects are often rooted in long-held beliefs found within the respective histories and traditions that produce them. We understand the condition of mass-production to be an indicator of their mass-appeal and deep authority. In short, this panel explores how mass-produced religious objects in South and Southeast Asia signify a new iteration of the central role of material culture in the lives of the devout.
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For Love, Money or Drugs: Policing Illicit Activities in Colonial Southeast Asia
3:00 to 5:00pm, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 306
Regional; Malaysia; Myanmar; Thailand; Viet Nam
This panel focuses on the policing of illicit activities in colonial Southeast Asia. The many empires and states that divided the region shared an obsession with the “hidden” aspects of the daily lives of their subjects, not least because individual behavior seemed to threaten the social order and expose the sordid underside of colonial economies. What were the sources of this anxiety and how did state efforts to define and police criminal behavior result in new styles and forms of governance? To address these questions, this panel brings together four papers that explore various sites of encounter in the region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century: opium smuggling in Burma, counterfeiting money in Thailand, abusing drugs in Vietnam, and controversies over marriage and Islamic law in interwar Malaysia. Together these papers examine the creation of new legal instruments, scientific tools, visual technologies, and bureaucratic schemes which allowed offenses to be codified for the first time as “crimes” that could be adjudicated, punished and counted. Whereas postcolonial scholars more often focus on the discursive aspects of criminality, as a description or metaphor of imperial decline, this panel considers criminalization --the process of transforming offenses into crimes -- as both a critical aspect of colonial state-building projects and as a site for innovation. Furthermore the interdisciplinary perspective of this panel facilitates comparative inquiry into how—under what conditions and by what processes—advances in expert knowledge, regional politics, and shifts in norms of respectability defined, and redefined, illicit activities.
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The Development of Vietnamese Studies since 1980: A Roundtable in Honor of Prof. Hue-Tam Ho Tai
(Session 1: Religion, Social History, and Political History)
3:00 to 5:00pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 603
Over the past 35 years, Vietnamese Studies has experienced remarkable growth and change. In 1980, only a handful of Vietnamese Studies specialists taught at North American universities. Conducting research in Vietnam was difficult or impossible for foreign scholars, due to Cold War politics and the country’s diplomatic isolation. But since the advent of the Đổi Mới era in the late 1980s, the field has thrived, as reflected in dramatically expanded research opportunities in Vietnam and in the hiring of dozens of Vietnamese Studies faculty in the United States and elsewhere. This two-part roundtable explores the transformation of Vietnamese Studies through the work of Hue-Tam Ho Tai, who began teaching at Harvard University in 1980 and who has profoundly impacted the field through her research, writing, and mentorship. In the first session, five discussants will reflect on how Tai has shaped the study of three interrelated themes: Vietnamese religion, Vietnamese social history, and Vietnamese political history. Charles Keith revisits Tai’s path-breaking first book, Millenarianism and Peasant Politics (1983), especially its determination to move past flattened-out class categories, its resistance to the equation of religion with “tradition,” and its deep attention to place in Vietnam. Haydon Cherry shows how Tai opened new avenues for the study of the social history of French Indochina, especially with regards to the study of business, labor, state power, and Overseas Chinese communities. Philippe Peycam discusses Tai’s efforts to incorporate subjective individual experiences into Vietnamese historical narratives, with particular attention to the new paradigms introduced by colonialism. Nhung Tran considers the ways in which Tai’s work on both religion and history has helped a generation of Vietnamese Studies scholars to take new approaches to region, method and subject. And Edward Miller will discuss how Tai’s work has shaped the study of postcolonial Vietnam, especially with respect to the connections between religious belief and political history in the era of the Indochina Wars. These five commentaries will provide the frame for a broader conversation with audience members and with Professor Tai.
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Surviving the Global City: Dispossession and Urban Resistance in the Philippines
5:15 to 7:15pm, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 306
In its quest to turn Manila into a "global city", the Philippine government has implemented urbanization and neoliberal economic policies that exacerbate existing social inequalities and create new conditions of marginality for vulnerable populations. Building on multidisciplinary social science methodologies such as ethnography and policy analysis, this panel discusses the ways that urban poor populations adapt, survive, and resist the aggressive, market-driven alteration of their urban environment. In her policy analysis of the government’s Philippine Development Plan (PDP), Santos traces how the PDP's business and commercial districts lead to projects of "poormaking" that invalidate urban poor residents' land titles and clear the way for forced resettlement. Gonzalez draws from her ethnography in Manila’s Baseco area, the country's largest slum community, to study how global and regional urban-centric models of development have resulted in food insecurity among the community's elderly population. Ordoñez applies a Gramscian framework in analyzing struggles and strategies between coalitions of civilian and military residents and their political allies versus the state-led relocation and gentrification in Bonifacio Global City, a former military reservation converted into one of the Philippines' fastest-growing business districts. Lastly, Arcilla the “barikadang bayan” (community barricade) as a subaltern vision for a democratic future that secures the land and livelihoods of subaltern populations. As its Southeast Asian neighbors increasingly implement their own market-driven strategies towards “global city” status, this panel draws from the Philippine context to theorize alternate narratives and development practices that are more responsive to its vulnerable residents.
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Money Politics in Southeast Asia: Patronage, Clientelism, and Electoral Dynamics
5:15 to 7:15pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 602
Regional; Indonesia; Malaysia; Philippines; Singapore
Throughout Southeast Asia, in a range of phenomena sometimes collectively labelled “money politics,” candidates for elected office distribute patronage—particularistic benefits, including cash, goods, appointments, or other rewards—via clientelist networks. Sometimes illegal or illicit, other times above-ground and at least tacitly condoned, such practices span the electoral cycle and deeply inflect the quality and character of governance structures, democracy, and national integration. This panel will bring together scholars using a variety of methods to study on money politics in Southeast Asia. The panel will see to present work tracing the flows and implications of patronage for electoral gain in Southeast Asia, including: Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Despite the ubiquity of these practices and a long-standing focus on patron–client ties in the literature, surprisingly few cross-country studies have compared the forms, determinants, actors and outcomes of money politics, particularly in Southeast Asia. In this panel we seek to situate patronage and clientelism in the nexus of politicians, parties, brokers and voters. Through richly textured analysis of our cases we will interrogate causes and motivations found across three overarching and overlapping categories: institutional, structural, and normative.
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The Development of Vietnamese Studies since 1980: A Roundtable in Honor of Prof. Hue-Tam Ho Tai
(Session 2: Memory, Memoir, and Gender)
5:15 to 7:15pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 603
This two-part roundtable explores the transformation of Vietnamese Studies through the scholarship and mentorship of Hue-Tam Ho Tai, who began teaching at Harvard University in 1980. The second session considers the impact of the analysis of the complex contours of memory, memoir, and gender that Tai developed in three path-breaking books. In Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution (1992), Tai argues that questions about Vietnamese women's roles provided a means for radical intellectuals to debate the future of the nation. As editor of The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late-Socialist Vietnam (2001), Tai considers the relationship between the nation and the making of historical memory: How does one explore the social bases of memory? How does gender shape collective memory? What and who are forgotten and why? In Passion, Betrayal, and Revolution in Colonial Saigon (2010), Tai combines memoir, newspapers, archival sources, and family stories to attend to the details of women's lives, the frameworks and sources through which those lives can be imagined and narrated, and the material and ideological dimensions of gender in times of rapid change. Session chair Mark Philip Bradley introduces the roundtable's themes by raising questions about how particular constructions of memory refract and ultimately distort efforts to understand the places of different regions or actors. Christina Schwenkel discusses Tai's theoretical contribution to memory studies and the significance of her interdisciplinary methodology for anthropologists engaged in historically informed analyses of socioeconomic change in Vietnam. Hy Van Luong considers how Tai's historical approach to gender in Vietnam relates to contemporary ethnographic data on gender relations in different regions of Vietnam. Ann Marie Leshkowich discusses the relationship between gender, class differentiation, life narratives, and the expansion of a market economy. Inspired by Tai’s analysis of women’s autobiography, Nguyễn Thị Phương Châm collected life histories from Vietnamese women who migrated to China for marriage. She explains how this approach has transformed Vietnamese scholarship by linking women’s experiences to broader issues of urbanization, traditional culture, and social change. Professor Tai will offer reflections and comments at the end of the session.
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From Hinduism to Islam: Performing Gender and Religion in Indonesia
Sponsored by the Indonesia and Timor Leste Studies Committee (ITLSC)
5:15 to 7:15pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 619
Indonesian performing arts are often deeply rooted in religious contexts and as such are powerful sites of identity construction, negotiation, and resistance. These contexts also provide deep insight into understandings of women’s agency as well as shifts in senses of femininity and masculinity. This panel explores the intersection of performing arts, ritual, religious beliefs and practices, gender construction, and gender reformulation in three different cultural contexts in Indonesia. The first paper examines how a sacred female masked dance in Bali portrays and embodies a particular Balinese Hindu feminine power that opposes the national image of the ideal woman as supporter of husband and children. The second paper analyzes the shift in religious identity consciousness enacted by female singers in West Java by inserting a new song as an Islamic expression into a Sundanese Hindu performance context. The third paper explores ways in which musicians and dancers in Malang, East Java challenge both dominant senses of Islam and of gender through cross-gender performance. Following these presentations, a discussant will offer further commentary on common themes that link the three papers, taking a wider view to understand the significance of these works in a broader context of increasing Islamization and shifting gender identities in Indonesia. We aim to spark dialogue among audience members about the cultural and ideological power of the performing arts, individual agency, identity construction and resistance in Indonesia, as well as any other related topics that arise.
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Burma in the World/Burma and the World: Celebrating the Career of Michael Adas
Sponsored by the Burma Studies Group
8:30 to 10:30am, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 303
Michael Adas’ career began with an innovative study of Burma’s colonial economy (The Burma Delta); followed by comparative research putting Burma’s Saya San millenarian revolt into a comparative conversation with uprisings in Africa and other parts of Asia (Prophets of Rebellion); before publishing a classic in the field of World History (Machines as the Measure of Men). To celebrate the transitions that mark Adas’ lauded career, our panel will address a parallel question: How can we incorporate Burma/Myanmar into research that is more regionally comparative, trans-national, and/or world historical through research that considers non-state peoples, borderlands, and networks of exchange that map across state boundaries? Michael Adas will discuss his career trajectory from Burma specialist to World Historian. Drawing from his deep knowledge of both fields, Adas will reposition Burma as a major player in global history. Nile Green will link Burma’s history to Indian Ocean networks of human movement and religious exchange using Urdu language sources to uncover histories of Buddhist-Muslim interactions. Non-state people have histories that challenge nation-state frameworks. Mandy Sadan, a specialist on Burma’s upland peoples, will discuss “borderlands” perspectives on Burmese history that re-center the importance of upland regions. Similarly, Patrick McCormick will discuss trans-national challenges to writing of Mon history, an ethnic group with deep historical roots in Burma and Thailand. We believe the recent turn by Myanmar to re-engage with the world community inspires a parallel challenge to comprehend Burma through research that is global in its vision and aspiration.
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Coastal and Maritime Dynamics of Southeast Asia, 5th - 19th Century
8:30 to 10:30am, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 307
Regional; Indonesia; Malaysia
Trading systems, inter-regional cultural exchange, migrations and diasporic communities have received substantial consideration in studies of Southeast Asia and its surrounding seas. Yet, Southeast Asia's mariners and the political and social systems they were part of still seem so opaque. In order to gain a clearer understanding of how regional maritime dynamics interfaced with political and social worlds above the high-water mark, this panel examines connections and interactions along and between coasts, and between the maritime and onshore worlds of Southeast Asia from the 5th to 19th centuries.
This panel may be viewed as either regional or border-crossing, as the topic inherently deals with forms of long-distance exchange and interaction. Panelists will restrict presentations to 20 minutes in order to foster discussion of potentially innovative topics, methodological challenges and new approaches to sources.
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Religion and Nationalism in Contemporary Southeast Asia: Historical Legacies, Political Mobilization and Identity Formation
8:30 to 10:30am, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 308
Regional; Indonesia; Malaysia; Myanmar; Thailand
A recent surge of violence against religious minority communities across Southeast Asia raises a number of important questions about the role of religion in nationalism, identity formation and democratic transitions. Despite significant scholarly contributions made by Southeast Asianists to the studies of nationalism (e.g., Anderson 1983; Kahin 1953), the role of religion in nationalism and nation-building in deeply divided Southeast Asian societies has still been largely neglected. This cross-national comparative panel invites four area/country experts to draw upon their first-hand empirical research, innovative data, and archival sources in respective countries and regions to explore the theoretical questions of religion, nationalism, and identity formation in order to fill this gap.
The panel is organized along geographic localities to address three broad themes: (1) elite efforts and constitutional frameworks in managing deep religious divisions (Shah on Indonesia and Malaysia); (2) the political mobilization of religious identity to sustain or oppose an incumbent regime and its effect on nationalism (Selway on Thailand; Walton on Burma); and (3) the political origin and effects of secular and religious nationalism in emerging democracies (Hamayotsu on cross-religion case studies). Collectively and comparatively, we seek to look into historical legacies, institutional frameworks, and political mobilization of religious identity and symbols in emerging Southeast Asian democracies to gain a better understanding of the role of religion in nation-building and inter-communal relations.
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Empire, Nation, and Sovereignty: New Theoretical Approaches to Vietnamese Political History
Sat, April 2, 8:30 to 10:30am, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 619
Vietnamese political history has long been dominated by two main narratives: Vietnam’s resistance to China in the premodern period and the communist revolution of the 20th century. Although recent scholarship challenges the reigning interpretations, only a handful of studies have developed alternative theoretical approaches to the study of Vietnamese polities, politics, or political movements. Inspired by Keith Taylor’s notion of “surface orientations” and Christopher Goscha’s usage of the “archipelago state,” this panel proposes concepts that will enable scholars to retheorize the Vietnamese past. Tuong Vu reexamines the history of state formation through the lens of a “shadow empire” and a hegemon. Critiquing conventional understandings of modern Vietnamese sovereignty, Shawn McHale situates the rise of the modern State of Vietnam from 1949 onwards in terms of the “long partition” of the French empire and contestations over what would replace it. Lastly, Nu-Anh Tran proposes the concept of “contested nationalism” as a way to reinterpret the internal Vietnamese conflict that was integral to the First and Second Indochina Wars. Although the panel focuses on Vietnam, the panelists’ discussion of key political concepts, such as empire, nation, and sovereignty, will also be of interest to scholars outside the field of Vietnam studies.
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That ‘70s Area Studies: Indonesia and the Sociological Imagination
Sponosred by the Indonesia and Timor Leste Studies Committee (ITLSC)
10:45am to 12:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, 2nd Floor, Room 206
Every so often a city, a country or a region becomes the ground for the production of truly innovative ideas, giving rise to ways of thinking that have the capacity to put a kink into our worldview. This panel focuses on one example of this: Indonesia in the sixties and seventies. In these two decades, Indonesian studies attracted and produced a set of scholars whose work was notable for its rich imaginativeness, its novel sense of problem, and its openness to alterity. These included such ‘greats’ as Gregory Bateson, Margaret Mead, Clifford Geertz, Benedict Anderson, James Fox, Frederik Barth, Daniel Lev, Hildred Geertz and James Siegel. This panel investigates these scholars’ work from this period, examining its impact on subsequent scholarship, and assessing its relevance for area studies today. At the same time, the panel seeks to understand and delineate the set of factors that constituted the milieu out of which this work arose. What was it about Indonesia in this era that made it fertile ground for what C. Wright Mills (1959) called “the sociological imagination”? By meditating on this intellectual past, we seek to open windows into our future, awaken our imagination, and create new possibilities for thinking about our ever changing global cultural, economic and political context.
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Pleasure, Pain and “Perversions” in Modern Vietnam
10:45am to 12:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 306
This multidisciplinary panel critically examines sexual behaviors and identities that were considered non-normative in 20th century Vietnam. Grounded in religious, moral or social belief systems, ideas of gender and sexuality in modern Vietnam were transformed during the colonial and postcolonial eras. By focusing on desires and activities considered deviant or unnatural, the papers explore the tensions between social norms and and private life in the colonial and contemporary periods from various disciplinary perspectives. Drawing on reportage and editorials from the interwar years, Martina Nguyen examines the attitudes of mainstream intellectuals towards rapid modernization and Hanoi prostitution. Christina Firpo explores the intersection of race, age, and “sexual perversion” in a Catholic orphanage for Eurasian boys. Through a close reading of contemporary fiction, Vinh Quoc Nguyen argues that despite their humane and positive portrayals of homosexual characters, the novels of Bùi Anh Tuấn often remain fraught with cultural ambiguity. And finally, Oscar Salemink looks at how transgender and crossgender practices considered transgressive in everyday society privilege transgender and transsexual bodies in ritual time-spaces. While scholars such as Michael Peletz and Barbara Andaya have made significant contributions to gender and sexuality in Southeast Asia, Vietnam studies have been relatively lacking in such research. Together these papers on what in colonial and postcolonial Vietnam were considered sexual “perversions” demonstrate that the “normality” of filiality and patriarchy has to constantly reassert itself against the challenges of “perverse” desires, thus making a distinct multidisciplinary contribution to the emergent scholarship on sexuality and gender in Vietnam.
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Multidisciplinary and Collaborative Investigations in Southeast Asia: Archaeology, History, and Colonialism
10:45am to 12:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 604
Regional; Indonesia; Philippines
The archaeology of Southeast Asia traces its origins to the colonial enterprise and has largely remained in the shadow of Western scholarship. This orientation has served to limit the relevance of archaeological research to the contemporary populations of Southeast Asia and restrict potential new theoretical and methodological innovations from outside of traditional Western scholarly traditions. In the last decade, however, postcolonialism and practice theory-guided investigations have provided new directions in the study of the archaeology of the region. These new directions have also given archaeologists, historians, and cultural anthropologists wider opportunities for collaboration. More importantly, these studies encourage descendant communities to work hand-in-hand with researchers. This panel brings together a wide range of researchers working on exploring Southeast Asia’s past in these new directions. The panel will emphasize collaborative research that crosses boundaries and challenges existing epistemological frameworks. These include projects that feature collaboration between archaeologists and scholars from other disciplines (such as history, cultural anthropology, or the natural sciences), between western and Southeast Asian scholars, and between archaeologists and members of descendant communities in Southeast Asia. We intend this panel to include frank discussions of the successes-and failures—of projects that cross boundaries.
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Without Account: State Violence, Law, and Impunity in Southeast Asia
3:00 to 5:00pm, Washington State Convention Center, 2nd Floor, Room 214
Regional; Indonesia; Myanmar; Thailand; Viet Nam
During the last ten years, revocations of amnesties, prosecutions, and processes of democratization in parts of Latin America, Africa, and Europe have led to symbolic and actual holding to account of both leaders of former dictatorships and rank-and-file perpetrators of state violence. Yet attempts to do so across Southeast Asia have remained stalled. Instead, impunity, or the impossibility of bringing state officials to account, reigns. Impunity is routinized and institutionalized over time as cases are repeatedly dismissed by judges, attempts to challenge amnesties are met with threats by perpetrators, and survivors who dare to call for accountability face intimidation. Like the production of impunity itself, its effects are felt from the level of the individual, where those who lives are already marginal are made even more insecure, to the level of the nation, where transitions to and consolidation of democracy are deferred each time perpetrators are not held to account.
This panel begins from the premise that the dominance of impunity in Southeast Asia has led to a lack of attention by scholars to the legal, political, and historical processes that produce it. Grounded in case studies across Southeast Asia, the papers trace how and why state officials get away with murder, torture, disappearance and other violent crimes and analyze the modes and effects of impunity in Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Then, through discussion among the panel members and with the audience, the panel aims to comparatively outline what might be necessary to end impunity’s reign in the region.
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Invisible Actors and Factors of Infrastructure: Ethnicity, Gender, and Work across Mainland Southeast Asia
Sat, April 2, 3:00 to 5:00pm, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 308
Regional; Laos; Myanmar; Viet Nam
This comparative panel explores hidden material processes and labor practices in diverse forms of infrastructure in Mainland Southeast Asia. While political actors have long prized the role of transportation in economic development, scholars have more recently begun to interrogate the processes underlying such projects and the social transformations they produce. The finished projects—from bridges to airports—were and remain significant not only for their economic role but also as nodes of and for symbolic investiture. There is also often a crucial, yet not always explicit, relationship between economic stakeholders and the laws that govern such projects. Whether building airspace networks in Burma/Myanmar or roads in colonial Indochina and revolutionary Vietnam, labor mobilization was always rooted in particular social geographies, which intersect -- and can exacerbate -- marginality, often including issues of gender, class, and ethnicity. Exploring the bureaucratic and ideological forces at work in transportation projects reveals disproportionate exploitation of women and ethnic minorities. Meanwhile, the finished projects can serve to glorify the ethnic majority state, and increasingly, trans-regional economic development. There are sometimes opportunities for subversion of this process as well. By comparing old and new cases across Southeast Asia, the panel offers historical depth as well as regional breadth into studies of infrastructure.
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An Architecture under Influence? Building between the Local and the Global and across the Colonial and the Postcolonial in Southeast Asia
3:00 to 5:00pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 604
Regional; Indonesia; Thailand; Viet Nam
Architectural aesthetics are rarely neutral. Patterns of influence are too often seen in simplistic ways as manifestations of domination transmitted in a uniform manner. The four papers in this panel demonstrate the multiplicity of forms and senses that influence can take, and unravel the dynamics of interpretations of styles from pre-colonial to postcolonial periods. Each paper covers a broad modern period, while incorporating themes of interpretations of bygone eras. By showing complex connections across time periods, the panel calls into question the widespread acceptance of the great divide between pre-colonial and colonial periods, and between colonial and postcolonial periods, respectively. The panelists achieve this by examining: accumulated incorporation of aesthetic influences from pre-colonial through colonial sources in a single Thai temple (Rujivacharakul); Vietnamese architects, as colonial and postcolonial subjects, partaking in International Modernism while responding to local needs and tastes (Herbelin); recurring patterns of stylistic dialogue across colonial and postcolonial periods in Ho Chi Minh City (Hahn); and renewal of “local” styles drawing from selected usage of the past in Indonesia’s Riau Islands for the state-led construction of local identity (Moser). Through cases of cultural exchange across time and space, the panel examines ideological underpinnings of aesthetics that loom large in questions of heritage and identity regarding the local and the global, and show that it is far from the case that influence has flowed simply following trajectories of domination.
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After Decolonization: Citizenship and Sovereignty in Postcolonial Malaysia and Singapore
Sponsored by the Malaysa-Singapore-Brunei Studies Group
3:00 to 5:00pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 606
Regional; Malaysia; Singapore
In 1957, Malaya attained independence from British colonization. The boundaries of the nation-state in the early independence years were deeply unstable: in 1963, Sarawak lost its nearly century-long sovereignty when folded into the newly-created Malaysia; in 1965, Singapore left Malaysia to form an independent nation. Occurring during the Cold War, these contestations of sovereignty led the political leadership of Malaysia and Singapore to introduce laws permitting indefinite political detention, which were eventually used not only against the Communists but also against state political opponents more broadly. These authoritarian practices characterized the governments of the two powerful prime ministers, Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad (1981-2003) and Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew (1965-1990), each of whom began their political careers in the late colonial period. However, Mahathir’s retirement from politics and Lee’s recent demise raise important questions regarding the reproduction of the techniques of governance that were crafted during the throes of decolonization. This panel asks: how are citizenship and sovereignty negotiated by citizens in contemporary Malaysia and Singapore as a younger generation takes over the political leadership? There are three papers in this panel. Amali Ibrahim examines how Lee Kuan Yew’s rule has taught ordinary Singaporeans to become authoritarian in the politics of everyday lives. Rusaslina Idrus looks at how youth in Malaysia are pushing back against authoritarian control by creating their own spaces for social critique and intellectual discourse. Juno Parrenas shows why decolonization remains an ongoing struggle in Sarawak through a history of space and boundaries at Sarawak’s wildlife centers. Daromir Rudnyckyj will be the discussant.
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Buddhist Secularism? Interrogating the Relation between Buddhism and Religious Plurality in Burma/Myanmar and Thailand
5:15 to 7:15pm, Washington State Convention Center, 2nd Floor, Room 213
Regional; Myanmar; Thailand
While both the scholarly literature and popular discourse emphasize the role of Buddhism in politics in Burma and Thailand and the “problem” of religious minorities, little work to date has considered how such interactions constitute local constructs of the “secular.” This panel explores the provocatively-termed concept of the “Buddhist secular” to look at the place of Buddhist discourse in mutually constitutive genealogies of “religion” and “secularism.” We are interested in the specificities of Buddhism regarding secularism, the supposed compatibility of certain Buddhist practices with the secular, and the construction of the “Buddhist secular” vis-à-vis minorities and marginalized practices. Two presentations examine the turn of the 20th century as a decisive historical juncture for negotiating the Buddhist secular: exploring the Nangsue Sadaeng Kitchanukit (Book Explaining Various Things, 1867) from Thailand as demonstrating an epistemic shift towards a secular construction of the category of religion; and looking at colonial Buddhist monasteries as a space where “Buddhism” operated as a mechanism for pluralistic interaction in Burma. Two contributions engage with the contemporary construction of the Buddhist secular in Burma/Myanmar: one explores practices of public evangelizing in Yangon for insight into how this Buddhist secular is navigated by different actors in a moment of political change; the other looks at how Burmese spirit worshiping faces a new process of marginalization in this same context.
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Networks of power in Southeast Asia
Sponsored by the Indonesia Timor Leste Studies Committee (ITLSC)
5:15 to 7:15pm, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 307
Regional; Indonesia; Timor-Leste
A remarkable feature of democratization processes across Southeast Asia – from Indonesia to the Philippines, Cambodia and Malaysia – is the persistence of networks of power that are not necessarily encompassed within formal institutions. This panel focuses on the phenomenon of this “infrastructure of power” as it is expressed through political relations. It examines various aspects of how such networks are constructed, ranging from road building programs to the dilemmas of politicization of bureaucracy in local settings; from the role of political violence, to the role of elite attendance at weddings. The aim of the panel is twofold: to highlight the diverse approaches necessary to explain how and why networks are formed and maintained; and to encourage productive dialogue between these approaches in order to understand how networks shape politics in the region.
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After Lee Kuan Yew: Repositioning Singapore Studies
Sponsored by Southeast Asia Council (SEAC)
5:15 to 7:15pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 604
Much of Singapore's international image has been closely intertwined with the Republic's first Prime Minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015). Lee’s commitment to political stability, a centralized state, and to economic development has been associated with controversial policies and positions. Singapore’s noted transformation from a “third to first-world nation” drew admiration and criticism from within and without over the intensity and character of state integration. Lee’s dominance in domestic politics and governance, as well as his prominence on the international stage, has shaped how observers have come to understand and interpret what Singapore is about. This personification of Singapore in Lee and the discourse it generated obfuscated local complexities, varying experiences, and the country’s connections to Southeast Asia. Singapore’s official self-identification as a global city reinforced this distinctiveness by branding itself as more similar to New York and London than the Malay/Southeast Asian world in which it is situated. This singular perception of Singapore as an extension of Lee has limited the depth and breadth of mainstream discussions about the Republic. This panel repositions Singapore Studies by reconnecting it to its broader Southeast Asian context. It challenges official representations and mainstream critiques of Singapore by questioning the categories, narratives, and boundaries through which the city-state has been understood. Individually, the presenters offer different disciplinary, theoretical and institutional perspectives that complicate the study of Singapore. Collectively, they promote a vision of Singapore Studies that recognizes differences within the local setting and its interconnectedness to broader Asian contexts.
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Embodying Memories in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Diaspora
Sponsored by the Thailand/Laos/Cambodia Group
5:15 to 7:15pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 620
Regional; Cambodia; Laos; Thailand
Taking a cue from Rankine’s above quote, this interdisciplinary panel underscores the physicality of memory, a concept that risks becoming hyper-theorized and disembodied through such tropes, in the field of memory studies, as “prosthetic memory” (Alison Landsberg). Ethnographic approaches enrich all four papers, whose authors variously engage with rural, urban, familial, national, artistic, monumental and diasporic sites, archives and practices of recollection. Our panelists explore multiple media and a range of interventions – individual, familial, and state-led - in their reflections on diverse navigations of past trauma and political presents, and offer insights into the arena, frameworks, affects and vehicles of memory in contemporary Southeast Asia and in the diaspora. Historian Taylor Easum considers the sculpting of memory via iconic monastic and royal statuary in northern Thailand. Anthropologist Anne Guillou explores the resonance between memories of the Khmer Rouge regime and earlier histories of warfare, alongside the production of “painful memories” (David Graeber) in Cambodia. Geographer Ian Baird examines divergent narratives of the political transition of 1975 in Laos and among peoples who originated in Laos, and their descendants, now living overseas. Widening our lens on memory, sociologist Sudarat Musikawong and political scientist Malinee Khumsupa spotlight the role of contemporary Thai cinematic and visual arts in recuperating and restaging acts of political violence. Discussant Boreth Ly will situate this pioneering research in theoretical and cultural context.
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Environmental Challenges in South and Southeast Asia: Conflict, Cooperation and Exploitation
8:30 to 10:30am, Washington State Convention Center, 2nd Floor, Room 214
Regional; Cambodia; Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam
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Reimagining Political Participation in South and Southeast Asia
Sun, April 3, 8:30 to 10:30am, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 302
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Transmission, Adaptation and Transformation of Traditional Artistic Practices in Southeast Asia
8:30 to 10:30am, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 305
This panel explores various aspects related to the transmission, adaptation, and transformation of traditional music and dance in post-colonial and modern Southeast Asia. The speakers present multi-disciplinal perspectives of ethnomusicology, music education and dance performance on issues pertaining to alternative pedagogy, musical orality versus literacy, as well as creative appropriation. As anchor, Ramon Santos provides a broad vista on the current state of teaching and learning traditional performing arts in Southeast Asia in his paper entitled Transmission, pedagogy and education: a critical study of Southeast Asian traditional music cultures in post-colonial and post-modern times in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. The remaining speakers will focus on the Philippine setting. Verne de la Pena's paper entitled Crossing borders – the migration of the Philippine kulintang tradition provides an account of the transformation of kulintang music from Mindanao to an emblem of Filipino identity outside Southern Philippines, highlighting the role of culture bearers who have developed kulintang pedagogy non-MIndanaon students in the academe. Indigenous Funds of Knowledge, Hybridity, and Identity In Bandurria Master-Apprentice Music Education will be presented by Jocelyn Timbol-Guadalupe wherein she investigates the informal transmission of rondalla performance existing in communities in the form of apprenticeship. Finally, Angela L. Baguilat describes how contemporary creation can function as a means for the transmission of traditional dance forms. In her paper entitled Na-Salapuan: A Philippine Traditional Dance Rendered in a Contemporary Form, she discusses the creative process that transpired in a specific contemporary dance production that involved field research.
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Myanmar Political Transitions: Shifting Roles and Expectations
10:45am to 12:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, 2nd Floor, Room 205
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Food Insecurity, National Cuisine, and Philippine Modernity in the 20th Century
10:45am to 12:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, 3rd Floor, Room 304
This panel examines the politics and tensions of 20th century Philippine modernity through food. By using food as an optic, the panelists illustrate the ways in which bureaucrats and elites deployed the politics of race, class, and gender to invoke a dietary biopolitics for the emerging nation. From the advent of U.S. colonialism, into the interwar period, and through the Marcos era, presenters consider the effects of food insecurity and international pressure (such as WHO dietary recommendations and Cold War modernization) on national foodways. Indeed, the ultimate makers of Philippine cuisine were the bodies of quotidian Manila life: schoolchildren, nursing mothers, and street vendors, who seized on food in myriad ways as a medium of resistance and expression. Alexander Orquiza considers publications on food by the American-run Bureau of Education during the first half of the American Period to reveal the attempt by American reformers to create a new Filipino cuisine that was both heavily informed by the American Progressive movement and profoundly detached from everyday Filipino life. Theresa Ventura turns to the period between the wars to examine how national elites built upon and departed from U.S. colonial projects through their promotion of maternal nutrition and breastfeeding. Adrian De Leon examines the proliferation of street foods during the Marcos years to show how an urban food system--and a national cuisine--could flourish under food insecurity and martial law. Emeritus Professor Daniel Doeppers, author of the forthcoming Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945, will chair and comment.
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Rethinking, Questioning and Reformulating the Notion of Assessment in Foreign Language Teaching
Sponsored by The Council of Teachers of Southeast Asian Languages (COTSEAL)
10:45am to 12:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 620
Mastery of foreign language(s) plays an integral part in the success of academic research. The field of language teaching, therefore, has played an important role in all fields. Much has been done in creating teaching materials and improving methodology. However, equally crucial is the comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process. In recent years, traditional ways of assessment has been constantly analyzed, questioned, dismantled and, as a result, modified and improved. The four presentations in this panel will comprehensively address important issues of assessment in language teaching from four different perspectives. The first paper will examine current trends in listening comprehension assessment, as well as to suggest the need to differentiate between testing as assessing and how such differentiation will have an impact on the desired outcome. The second paper will discuss the issues of intake, on-going and final assessment in the case of teaching pronunciation and listening, particularly in the context of hybrid and online settings. The third paper will highlight how formative assessment techniques can influence teaching strategies, and how it is beneficial to students’ success. Lastly, the fourth paper will provide a comprehensive comparative analysis of the blended classroom, including choice of material, as well as a discussion of connectivity issues both in traditional and online settings.
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