Associate Professor Michael Connors
Associate Professor in Global Studies
School of Arts and Social Sciences
+603-5514 6076 (Ext: 46076)
Room No. 2-6-35
Michael Connors is Associate Professor in Global Studies at Monash University Malaysia and Deputy Head of School (Education, SASS). He believes that university education can empower by enabling the interrogation of existing knowledge and creating new knowledge and understanding.
He finished high school as a young adult through correspondence classes (cassette tape classes and the exchange of notes and readings by snail mail). After working in a range of jobs typical of an itinerant he went on to study a BA at La Trobe University in the 1980s before completing a Diploma of Education (Secondary Education). He spent four years as a high school teacher in Melbourne’s west before returning to university, completing his BA Hons at the University of Melbourne in the mid-1990s and his PhD in political science at the same institution in 2000. He was fortunate to be supervised by Professors Phillip Darby and John Dryzek.
Before joining Monash Malaysia in August 2021, Michael worked as a lecturer in a number of institutions including Thammasat University, La Trobe University, University of Leeds, City University of Hong Kong, University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus and Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. Among his service roles are Head of Department (XJTLU), Head of School (Nottingham), Director of Research (XJTLU), and Faculty Chair, Graduate Studies (La Trobe). He was in 2016-2017 a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University where he convened a workshop on political ideologies, commenced a translation project (Thai to English), and wrote several papers on populism, corruption and political theory.
Michael currently views his work as lying in the emerging field of global area studies. He has a keen interest in local manifestations of global moments including political events, ideas and culture. Many of his publications explore these through a study of Thailand. He also works in the area of International Relations and is especially interested in the foreign policies of Australia, Thailand and Japan, Gramscian IR, and the politics of civilisade. He currently serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Contemporary Asia and Asian Review.
Bachelor of Arts, La Trobe University (1986-1989)
Diploma of Education, University of Melbourne (1989)
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) University of Melbourne (1994)
PhD University of Melbourne (2000)
Michael’s previous research has explored the following topics: how western notions of political development became part of the Thai state’s apparatus of governmentality in the construction of ideal citizenship - a process he as called ‘democrasubjection’; the situated expression of political ideologies such as royal liberalism, communitarian liberalism, Thai conservatism, developmental liberalism; the nature of the state and power in Southeast Asia; critiques of development.
Michael is currently engaging in several projects.
Translating Thai Conservatism. With Professor Ukrist Pathmanand (Chulalongkorn University). This project comprises two parts. The first is translation, and involves introducing to English reading audiences key texts that can illuminate the poorly understood dynamics of conservative thought in Thailand. The second is the interpretation of conservative politics: how to deal with misconceptions, (the confusion around Thai style democracy), the mischaracterization of key thinkers, and the motivating problems for conservative movements and ideas. An edited collection of translations, Thai Politics in Translation: supra-constitution, monarchy and democracy (NIAS Press) is forthcoming.
Populism. How does a social movement appropriate its leader? What does it mean for a leader to be an empty signifier? Using a case study of the red-shirt movement, I explore the role of political cadre in consciously fashioning a populist leader.
Liberalisms in Southeast Asia. With Professor Mark Thompson (City University of Hong Kong) this project involves a range of researchers who are exploring local manifestations of liberal ideas. This project attempts to bring a more systematic approach - by combining the study of political ideologies with Area studies expertise - to understanding the diversity of liberal expression in Southeast Asia. Michael is specifically focusing on the recovery of competing liberal projects in Thailand. This will soon appear as a Special Issue of Asian Studies Review (Locating Liberalisms in Southeast Asia).
The politics of authoritarianism. Under what conditions do political thinkers and actors embrace authoritarian solutions? Does authoritarianism enable historical progress, or at least, how do authoritarians rationalise in this manner? (Michael have published on this theme in “Liberalism against the people” in the Journal of Political Ideologies. That piece was broad in scope and engaged with defining liberal decisionism. He is now moving towards an episodic study of liberal authoritarian mobilisation.
Area Studies and China. This is at an early stage. How does China ‘do’ Area studies? This project will be undertaken with Associate Professor Alessandra Cappelletti, XJTLU.
Approach to Teaching
Across his career Michael has sought to bring problem-based learning to the heart of his teaching - it is something he learned to value in his Graduate Diploma of Education in another century.Now it is being revitalised in the context of digital education and blended learning. This approach comes in various names, but fundamentally it concerns integrating scholarly analysis, theory and empirics with real-life problems. That approach means students are continually reviewing theoretical knowledge in the light of its practical application, and when that occurs in group work, there is a multiplier effect. It is no surprise that classes that engage in well-constructed role plays, policy analysis and development, public forms of writing, and other real-life assessments tend to embed deeper understanding among participants. Problem-based learning is at the heart of all of Michael’s teaching. In every module he teaches, he builds in assessments that enhance theoretical content by applying it. He finds that students rise to the challenge of engaged problem solving and find real purpose in completing assignments when they encounter participant forms of assessment such as role-plays, group work involving team policy development, application for funding for development projects and learning diplomatic forms of communication.He also actively employs primary sources or classic texts in classes – regardless of discipline. The joy of learning from the original and rediscovering its freshness or making connections from the original to the contemporary situation is exhilarating. Grounding study in crucial moments in the development of a discipline rather than endless secondary readings of a highly jargonistic nature equips students to be better readers of scholarly literature.Michael has taught in the disciplines of history, international relations, political sociology, area studies, political theory, global studies and international development.
Publications since 2018
Connors, M.K. and Ukrist Pathmanand (Forthcoming) Thai Politics in Translation (NIAS Press: Copenhagen).
Connors, M.K. (2018) (co-authored with R. Davison and J. Dosch) The New Global Politics of Asia Pacific: Conflict and Cooperation in the Asian Century, Routledge: London (Revised: 3rd edition).
Connors M.K. (2017) ‘Ideological aspects of development, empire and inter/nation: select cases from Southeast Asia, Asian Review (Journal of the Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University), Special issue 30, 2. 155 pgs.
Connors M.K and M. Thompson (Under Review) ‘Locating Liberalisms in Southeast Asia’ – Asian Studies Review.
Connors M.K (forthcoming). Towards a History of Conservative Liberalism in Thailand: an Ideological Analysis, Asian Studies Review. (Accepted)
Connors M.K and Mark Thompson (Under Review). Introduction: Locating Liberalisms in Southeast Asia, submitted to Asian Studies Review as an introduction to the proposed Special Issue.
Connors M.K. and Ukrist Pathmanand (2021). Thailand’s Public Secret: Wealthy Generals and the Thai State, Journal of Contemporary Asia., 51, 2, pp. 278-302
Connors M.K. (2019). Liberalism Against the People: Learning to Live with Coups d’etat, Journal of Political Ideologies. 24, 1, pp.11-31
Connors M. K. (2018). Cultural Policy as General Will and Social Order Protectionism: Thailand’s Conservative Double Movement, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 24, 3, pp. 315-330
Connors M. K. (2017). Introduction: Ideological aspects of development, empire and inter/nation: select cases from Southeast Asia, Asian Review, 30, 2, pp. 1-6.
Connors, M. K. (2020). The Two Faces of Democracy, in Routledge Handbook on Contemporary Thailand, edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun (London: Routledge).
Connors M.K. (2019). Anticorruption Politics in Thailand: From Regime Institutionalization to Sovereignty Wars, in The Political Logic(s) of Anti-Corruption Efforts in Asia, edited by Cheng Chen and Meredith Weiss. New York (SUNY Press).
Research and other grants
2019-2020 100,000 RMB HSS grant on China Outside Project XJTLU (with colleagues in School of Humanities and Social Sciences), to administer small grant research on the titular theme and hold workshop)
2017 Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University and the Institute of Asia Pacific Studies, Nottingham University joint-grant ($4000) for Workshop on political ideologies in Southeast Asia.
2016-2017 Visiting Fellowship Honorarium (Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University).
2016 IAPS Small Gant 5000 ringgit for work on Malaysian think tanks.
2013-2015 (Seed grants secured from various university sources to establish Institute of Asia Pacific Studies (Malaysia) £20,000.
2013 Teaching Development Grant for tri-campus web-based module. University of Nottingham, UK. £10,000 (Making of Modern Asia
2011 La Trobe Research Infrastructure Block Grant to coordinate Program Research Assistant $17,000.
2010 Australian Academy of Social Sciences and the Institute of Human Security, La TrobeUniversity , $7000, to fund fieldwork and research assistance on human security in Thailand for 2011.
2008 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia-Thailand Institute, $22, 000 (with supporting funds from La Trobe University of $4000) – to facilitate photographic exhibition and film on Thai south.
2007 Department of Foreign Affairs and Exchange, Australia-Thailand Institute, $24, 000 (with supporting funds from La Trobe University of $2000) – to facilitate exchange visit of Thai Muslims to Australia in 2007.
2006-2008 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant $85, 000: Chief Investigator. Resulted in 5 publications, including 3 ISI journal articles.
2003 Australian Academy of the Humanities Fieldwork Fellowship $3700.
2002 – co-author with Professor Duncan McCargo of a successful bid for Department for International Development funded link between the University of Leeds and the Prince of Songkla University, Thailand.
2001 British Academy of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Small Grant for a project on ‘Rediscovering Liberalism in Thailand’ £ 2800.
Areas of Research & Supervision
Democracy (critiques, theories, democratisation), political Ideologies, studies of the state, Thailand, Southeast Asia ,foreign policies of Australia and Japan; nationalism, populism, political corruption, cultural policy, comparative political theory, global intellectual history (Southeast Asia focus).
PhDs supervised (Other Universities)
Nongyao Nawarat (Co-supervisor with Professor Ruth Pearson).
‘’Mapping households’ coping mechanisms in the era of recession:Peri-urban village case studies in Northern Thailand’, University of Leeds.
Andrew Cock (Co-supervisor with Professor Joe Camillerri).
‘A ruling elite’s interaction with an externally promoted policy reform agenda: the case of forestry under the second Kingdom of Cambodia, 1993-2003’, La Trobe University. Dissertation published as a monograph.
Jarinya Thamachoto (Associate and Co-supervisor with Professor David Bradley)
‘Objections and Objection Responses in Thai No Confidence Debates:1997-2004’, La Trobe University.
Bencharat Chua (Supervisor and Co-supervisor with Dr Wendy Mee)
‘Redefining Citizenship Rights: the Community Forest Movement in Thailand’, La Trobe University.
Greg Raymond (Supervisor and Co-supervisor with Professor Nick Bisley)
‘Thailand’s Strategic Culture’, La Trobe University. Dissertation published as a monograph.
Mukda Pratheepwatanawong (Supervisor and Co-supervisor with Dr. Tessa Houghton)
‘As if it was something spoken by a friend’: Political public relations and digital vote-canvassing networks via Facebook’, University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus.
Kevin Tan (Co-supervisor with Dr Gaik Cheng Khoo)
The Quasi-Populist Mobilisation of Conservative Malay-Muslim Social Movement: A Study of Perkasa and ISMA, 2008-2017. University of Nottingham Malaysia.
Ayodele Stephn Owalabi. Co-supervisor with Dr Debora Malito, Obert Hodzi (UoL), and Professor David Dolowitz (UoL).
Embedding Human Security into Free Trade Agreements in Africa. Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU).
Silence Masiya. (Co-supervisor with Dr Debora Malito and Dr Diane Jeater)
Zimbabwe's conflict watersheds: challenges for peacebuilding. Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU).
Dwight Honours Award in Political Science 1994 University of Melbourne.