Events Audio Channel

Velo/city: How to Read the Postcolonial Megalopolis

Prof Peter Hitchcock | Dec 2015


Penang Hawker Food: Preserving Taste, Affirming Local “Distinction”?

Assoc Prof Khoo Gaik Cheng | Nov 2015


Mission and Development: “Cycles of Concern” in the History of an Indonesian and Dutch Church

Dr Philip Quarles van Ufford | Nov 2015


From the Ground Up: The Space for Southeast Asian Migrants’ Rights Activists in the Global Governance of Migration

Dr Stefan Rother | Cluster Seminars | Aug 2014

For a long time, migration has been largely absent from the global arena. This has changed significantly in recent years. The “migration-development mantra” has entered the discourse and new processes such as the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) and the United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development (UN-HLD) have been established. In addition, migrants’ rights organisations have started their own parallel and separate events such as the World Social Forum on Migration and formed global alliances. It is no coincidence that migrants’ rights activists from Asia and particularly Southeast Asia are highly visible and active in all of these processes. This is due to the high level of organizing they have achieved from the ground up and on the regional level. The lecture will highlight the role of activists and “networks of networks” from Asia and the formation of transnational political spaces in which political attitudes, advocacy, organizing strategies, framing of political issues and existing political cleavages can be diffused.

Stefan Rother is a Researcher and Lecturer at the Department of Political Science, University of Freiburg, Germany. His research focus is on international migration, global governance, social movements, regional integration and non-/post-Western theories of international relations.


Building Resilience through Translocality: Climate Change, Migration and Social Resilience of Rural Communities in Thailand

Dr Patrick Sakdapolrak | Cluster Seminars | Aug 2014

Much attention in the debate on environmental migration has been given to climate change as a push factor contributing to migration, and to the potential conflicts and humanitarian crises that may result. Policy recommendations tend to focus on adaptation measures that prevent or reduce migration, since migration is usually considered as a problem or a threat. The paper offers a fresh perspective on the climate change-migration nexus. It starts from the assumption that, regardless of the projected environmental changes, migration is already a major dynamic of global change. Migration is connecting people, transforming places, and facilitating flows of knowledge and resources, and thus creating networked and interconnected translocal spaces. Through this intensifying translocal connectedness, the ability of households and communities to respond to climatic risks and sustain their livelihoods and well-being – that is, their social resilience – has the potential to be strengthened.

Patrick Sakdapolrak is Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Geography, University of Bonn, Germany. He is primarily concerned with the question of how vulnerable groups live with risk. Dr Sakdapolrak is particularly interested in how people cope with and adapt to environmental and social stresses.


Whither Digital Citizenship? A Dialogue with Assoc Prof Itty Abraham and Mr Ashish Rajadhyaksha

Prof Itty Abraham and Mr Ashish Rajadhyaksha | Cluster Seminars | Jul 2014

In February 2009, the Government of India announced the formation of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The purpose of this initiative was twofold: it would issue a unique identification (or Aadhaar) number to all Indian residents (as against citizens, an important distinction) that would be (a) robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and (b) verifiable and authenticable in an easy, cost-effective way. The project was controversial from the outset partly for substantive reasons – such as concerns about privacy and government snooping of databases – and partly for legal-procedural reasons, such as whether public services could make Aadhaar mandatory (India’s Supreme Court has recently ruled that they cannot) and for its excessive cost (one estimate was as high as $30 billion). On the other hand, the project has also had wide support, especially among some publics, within the State itself and from the private sector, for its avowed ability to identify and set up direct and unmediated links with the ultimate beneficiaries of social welfare initiatives. Viewed in a longer historical perspective, Aadhaar itself emerges as only the latest in a long line of initiatives where technology has mediated between the Indian state and its publics. These histories include biopolitical interventions going back two centuries, from the census to fingerprinting to smallpox eradication to population control. Like the Chinese state, India is increasingly concerned about the social risks they see emanating from digital space and new media technologies and seeks new ways to control these technology providers. Citizenship emerges as a highly contested category in this history, both enabled and attenuated, even as the meanings of technology have shifted radically from the days when large dams, nuclear power plants, and other prominent symbols of conspicuous megatechnology were used by the state to define desired national futures.

Itty Abraham is Associate Professor at the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS, and an associate of the STS Cluster at ARI. His interests include Asian science and technology, especially nuclear politics, theories of the postcolonial, and international relations

Ashish Rajadhyaksha is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Culture & Society, Bangalore, India. His books include The Last Cultural Mile: An Inquiry into Technology and Governance in India (2011) and Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: From Bollywood to the Emergency (2009).


The Bahai Faith and its Critical Engagement with the Global Discourse and Practice of Development

Assoc Prof David Palmer | ARI Seminars Series | Jul 2014

The Bahá’í Faith, since its early years in Iran in the second half of the 19th century, has placed a strong emphasis on what its scriptures refer to as humanity’s calling to “carry forward an ever advancing civilization” based on spiritual principles and characterized by unity, social justice and prosperity. These efforts have acquired increased intensity and global reach since the mid 1980s, with the establishment of an Office of Socio-Economic Development at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa (Israel), the launching of thousands of social service projects around the world and the emergence of several large-scale Bahá’í-inspired development NGOs in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In the course of these efforts, which have led Bahá’ís to work closely with the institutions, funders, NGOs, communities and academic discourses commonly designated as the world of “development”, they have gradually systematized a discourse and practice of development which builds on and yet is critical of both traditional religious conceptions of philanthropy and mainstream secular approaches to development. This talk will sketch the historical evolution of Bahá’í efforts in this field, and discuss current Bahá’í conceptual frameworks and patterns of social engagement, drawing on examples from Colombia, India and Hong Kong and Macau (China). It will conclude by situating these experiences in the context of recent critiques of prevailing models of “development” and of the secular-religious divide.

David Palmer is an Associate Professor in the department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong, and Honourary Associate Professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences.


Regional Globalization, Town Development and Evolving Urbanization in India: Preliminary Findings from Darjeeling

Prof Tim Scrase | ARI Seminars Series | Jul 2014

Despite the rapid transformation of India over the past two decades, and a swathe of publications dealing with the impact of globalization on the culture and economy of the subcontinent, and its large metropolitan cities, far less is known about the regional impacts of globalization, in particular, how globalization is transforming smaller, regional towns in India. Within the literature, the impact of globalization in India has been predominantly analysed in terms of the visible presence of transnational corporations, the spectacular manifestation of shopping malls and multiplex cinemas, and virtual consumption via globalized media. We contend that there is another global reality: the stagnation and/or uneven development in many of India’s regional towns and centres. This presentation is part of a larger Australian Research Council funded project on Regional Globalization in India, comparing and contrasting Anand, Gujarat and Darjeeling, West Bengal. This presentation, which is based on empirical and qualitative research in Darjeeling carried-out from late December 2012 to January 2014, aims to address the following three areas: 1. [Briefly] the social history and growth of the Darjeeling; 2. the transformations of Darjeeling linked to neoliberal globalization which, we surmise, are leading to unique forms of development in Darjeeling; and 3. presents and analyses some of the initial findings from our interview data, in particular the uneven urban development, widescale environment degradation, and lack of heritage protection. Our research points to the contested nature of the social transformation of Darjeeling, determined by a complex array regional politics, migratory history, the geographic and social distinctiveness of the town itself, and current planning and development policies and programs.

Tim Scrase is Professor of Sociology in the Faculty of Education and Arts, Australian Catholic University (Melbourne). Prior to that, he spent eight years at the University of Wollongong (NSW) as Associate Professor of Sociology and Director, Centre for Asia Pacific Social Transformation Studies (CAPSTRANS).


Meat, Murrain, Germs: Examining Epizootics, Veterinarians, and Sanitary Science

Dr Samiparna Samanta | ARI Seminars Series | Jul 2014

My talk examines the relationship between animal cruelty, diet, and disease in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Bengal to analyze the impact it had on the history of Calcutta’s urban spaces. More specifically, it explores how slaughterhouse emerged as a site of tension among British public health officers, humane society, and the bhadralok (Bengali middle class) as they were enmeshed in an interlocking relationship and debated the regulation of Calcutta’s urban space. Concern for slaughterhouses surfaced fast with the expansion of the city. In the twentieth century however, new notions of social hygiene emerged which insisted on the removal of the abattoirs to the city margins. Against this backdrop, the contests over appropriate measures for controlling animal disease became part of wider debates surrounding environmental ethics, slaughterhouse horrors, vegetarianism, and the politics of class that reconfigured boundaries between the colonized and colonizer, “humans” and “animals.” My paper traces these shifting discourses and demonstrates how by the early twentieth century, animal disease profoundly affected the culture and politics of diet, space and sanitary science in Bengal. Cattle plague (rinderpest) transformed the issue of diseased meat into the political agenda and quickly rekindled bhadralok debates on sanitation and public health. At a theoretical level, through a close examination of this discourse on epizootics, I demonstrate how the Bengali bhadralok in their understanding of diet and germs, often mediated the language of modern ‘science’ and imagined it in their own cultural contexts.

Samiparna Samanta is an Assistant Professor of History at Georgia College and State University, Milledgeville, Georgia, USA. As part of her own research.


Globalization, Moral Authority, and Progressive Islamic Discourse: The Nahdlatul Ulama and the Gulen Movement in Comparative Perspective

Dr Alexander Arifianto | Study Group Seminars | Jul 2014

Much of the current scholarships on globalization and Islam in Muslim-majority countries focus on the political discourses of conservative/fundamentalist Islamic groups such as Al Qaeda and Hamas. Fewer scholarships have examined the role of globalization of ideas in influencing the political discourse of progressive/liberal leaning Islamic groups such as the Gulen Movement (GM) from Turkey and the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) from Indonesia. Utilizing social constructivist theory, this study attempts to make a theoretically informed cross-regional comparison between NU and GM Movements. It analyzes similar and different strategies utilize by these groups to promote and institutionalize progressive Islamic ideas - defined in this study as theological support toward democracy, human rights, and religious tolerance -- within their respective societies. The reasons why NU and GM managed to institutionalize progressive Islam within their respective socieities are twofolds: 1) Both are accustomed to incorporate unorthodox ideational influence, such as Sufism and localized Islamic teachings, making the adaptation of Western liberal ideas within both groups easier, and 2) The promotion of progressive ideas within the two groups was articulated by well-respected charismatic leaders: Abdurrahman Wahid (NU) and Fethulah Gulen (GM), who commands strong moral authority within these organizations.

Alexander R. Arifianto is currently a Visiting Fellow with the Indonesian Studies Programme, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore.


The Skin of the City: Moral and Material Histories of Plastic in India

Assoc Prof Sarah Hodges | Study Group Seminars | Jun 2014

This talk charts out a series of histories of the now ubiquitous plastic carrier bag. From an initial career of plastics as consumer delight, to the more recent iteration of plastics as crisis, this talk asks: what all might the plastic bag carry in contemporary urban India? I answer through an admittedly ‘pirate’ reading of Lara Marks’ book, The Skin of the Film (2000). I use this book as an entry point for a (corollary pirate) analysis of the haptics of plastics in India. That is to say, this talk explores how the sensory experience presented by the materiality of various objects—such as the experience of handling a plastic carrier bag—both produces and signifies destabilizing excesses of meaning. In this talk I am particularly concerned with how we might raise questions about how plastics in general—and plastic carry bags in particular—come to be imbricated in the everyday performance of urban life. In short, I attempt to trace how the plastic bag came to serve as a powerful marker of caste and untouchability in otherwise ‘caste-blind’ spaces of urban middle class life.

Sarah Hodges is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Warwick, UK. She works on the social and cultural history of Tamil-speaking south India.


Indonesian Studies: The View from Australia

Prof Adrian Vickers | Study Group Seminars | Jun 2014

Australia has long had a special position in the study of Indonesia, due especially the significant number of scholars with Indonesia expertise working or living in Australia. Discussions on the direction and nature of Indonesian Studies have, however, been largely centred on the global hegemon, the United States, or on the former colonizer, the Netherlands, represented chiefly by Cornell and Leiden Universities. Like Indonesia and Singapore, Australia is not necessarily regarded as setting agendas for the study of Indonesia. Through a historical exploration of the development of Indonesian Studies in Australia, I will examine the changing politics of Australian studies of Indonesia, and draw attention to the neglect of areas where Australian scholars have made particularly important contributions, the study of literature and the arts. In this paper I will suggest why these areas remain important, despite the emphasis towards Social Science that has become significant within international university systems.

Adrian Vickers holds a personal chair at the University of Sydney, and researches and publishes on the cultural history of Southeast Asia. He received his PhD and BA Hons. in Indonesian and Malayan Studies from University of Sydney.