Current research students

Research Degree Students

Doctor of Philosophy

Jeannette Goon
Thesis titile:  Disturbance of Medical Understandings of the Female Body in a Modern Postcolony.
Abstract: Female sexual difference has haunted modern medicine since ancient Greece. This research project shall consider manifestations of the monstrous-feminine on screen and in digital media, in relation to healing and medicine, especially with regards to the health and well-being of women. It aims to answer the following question: How does the monstrous-feminine manifest and problematise notions of modernity in Malaysia?
Supervisors: Dr Jonathan Driskell (main supervisor), Dr Agata Frymus (associate supervisor)
Charulatha Pitigala
Thesis titile:  Helpful or Harmful: The Role of Faith-based Interventions in Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia.
Abstract: Faith communities are powerful agents of social change. However, the links between religion, conflict and violence are multi-faceted and the ambivalence of religion means that specific faith-based contributions should be explored independently and intrinsically. The following research aims to examine how faith-based interventions in Southeast Asia contribute or help mitigate the issue of human trafficking, and explore the role of faith-based advocacy in peace, conflict and violence.
Supervisors: Professor Sharon A Bong (main supervisor), Associate Professor Marie Therese Segrave (assistant supervisor)
Sharifah Rose
Thesis titile:  Digital Health Support for Ageing Populations in Malaysia.
Abstract: This research seeks to understand Malaysia's community-dwelling older adults' perception and needs of digital health technologies (DHTs), in pursuit of developing an inclusive and sustainable DHT guideline that promotes optimal ageing and improves quality of life. The design thinking approach is the proposed research design as the nature of this project aims to solve complex issues from human-centric ways and focus on the users' experience while involving an interdisciplinary research team.

Supervisors: Dr Tan Meng Yoe (main supervisor), Dr Dyah Pitaloka (associate supervisor), Associate Professor Leah Heiss (MUA - main supervisor), Dr Rowan Page (MUA - associate supervisor)

Lee Choo Sum
Thesis titile:  Kawaii Kayfabe: Co-construction and Negotiation of Indonesian VTuber Talents' Fictive Realities.
Abstract: This thesis seeks to examine the cultural implications behind the co-construction and negotiation of the fictive realities within which Indonesian Virtual YouTuber talents, their Japan-based employers, and their fans inhabit.
Supervisors: Dr Jonathan Driskell (main supervisor), Dr Agata Frymus (associate supervisor), Dr Olivia Khoo (associate supervisor)
Zhao Ziran (Brandon)
Thesis titile:  Ritual and rule: The simulation mechanism of game platform.
Abstract: Game, as one of the oldest human activities, is undergoing a transformative process of platformization, wherein Chinese platform companies imbue game rules with the characteristics of the platform. This fundamentally alters the nature of games, which traditionally were meant to transcend the rules of everyday life. This thesis locates itself at the historical juncture of the game’s platformization and the field of players, aiming to investigate the dynamic interaction between game platforms and players in generating meaning and culture, as well as players’ engagements with the dominance of platform rules. Focusing on the game platform Sky: Children of the Light circulated by NetEase as a field site, this thesis employs a digital ethnographic approach to bridge the theoretical gap between game platforms and cultural studies. Specifically, developing topics that have existed since in game studies, the main research questions explored in this thesis include three layers covering the players as individual, dyad, and community: within the rules of the game platform, how do players’ transactional action shape the in-game consuming culture? How do players develop romantic relationships with each other? How are players’ virtual communities and identities formed? This thesis not only contributes local knowledge to game and platform studies, but also explores the tension between games as platforms, players, and social culture in the context of platform society.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Emma Baulch (main supervisor), Dr Taesik Kim (associate supervisor)
Gabriel Pereira
Thesis titile:  "Yo ta Kristang": Negotiations of Mixedness Among Malaysian Portuguese Eurasians.
Abstract: Situated in the field of mixed-race studies, this project aims to understand the culture of Portuguese Eurasians (also known as Kristang) in Malaysia and their challenges to racialization as an historically mixed community that is a living legacy of colonialism. This study explores their identity and belonging in the context of postcolonial Malaysia’s state-engineered racialization that only officially recognizes three races (i.e., Malay, Chinese, Indian), and relegates mixed individuals to the ambiguous category of “Others”. By studying the Kristang, one can see how their historical presence in the country shows that Malaysia’s racialized groups are not separate entities without any connections, disrupting the notion of the plural society in Malaysia demonstrating that interethnic mixing has historically occurred with visible outcomes among the Kristang. For the field of mixed-race studies, this research project highlights the tendency of multiracial countries to other mixedness because of its ambiguity and questions the relevance of colonial racial categories in an increasingly diverse society with myriad forms of mixed-race individuals. A distinguishing factor of this study is that it is anchored in the Malaysian experience of mixedness, contributing to the diversity of mixed-race studies which remains heavily centered in the United States. Through this research project, one would better understand Malaysian Kristangs via insight into how their contemporary presence, culture, and heritage are not explicitly acknowledged by the Malaysian state, and the effects of this on their lived realities as othered Malaysians.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Emma Baulch (main supervisor), Dr Ting Fai Yu (associate supervisor)
Kaflina Binti Kamalul  Ariffin
Thesis Title: An exploration on the usage of mobile technology for older adults in fostering community bonding.
Abstract: This research explores the utilisation of mobile application service for the Malay older adults in Klang Valley towards  community bonding. It attempts to study their motivations, communication patterns and how communication technologies help to foster bonds in the absence of physical community activities such as the recent Covid-19 lockdown.  The tentative framework will integrate analytical frameworks on friendship, kinship bonding and  textual  communications.  The data collection will involve collection of WhatsApp texts from participants (upon ethics clearance) and focus group interviews.  This study is hoped to provide an insight on  the  communication framework  and social cultural change in the digitisation for the older adults  in Malaysia.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Emma Baulch (main supervisor), Dr Dyah Pitaloka (associate supervisor)
Cheah Wui Jia
Thesis Title: (Un)broken faith - Doubt and Departure in the Evangelical Church of Malaysia
Abstract: My research explore how doubt/trauma shape one’s sense of identity as an Evangelical Christian who stays or leaves the church. I look at how the Christian ‘stayer’ makes sense of doubt/trauma in light of their belief. I also examine how ‘leavers’ perceive their exiting journey and their previous believing selves.
Supervisors: Professor Sharon A Bong (main supervisor), Associate Professor Yeoh Seng Guan (associate supervisor)
Arath Nirmala Prabhakar
Thesis Title: Movements, Moorings and Power: Differential Mobilities of Migrant Female Workers in Malaysia and Identity Construction
Abstract: My research explores the differential mobilities of migrant female workers in Malaysia, to identify the organisation of power in society that influence these mobilities and identity construction, analysed via an intersectionality lens. Aspects of the mobilities paradigm underpin this study, particularly the recognition of movements and moorings within these mobility forms.
Supervisors: Dr Koh Sin Yee (main supervisor).  Associate Professor Prof Yeoh Seng Guan (associate supervisor)
Mehvar Khan
Thesis Title: Media and Political Attitudes in Malaysia: Fake news and its impact on the political opinions and attitudes of Malaysians
Abstract: This research will plot a version of the model developed by Miller (2016) that will be customised for the Malaysian context. The original model looked at the interaction of individual's political ideology, knowledge and trust about politics as a predictor of conspiracy endorsement. Therefore, for this research my goal will be to develop measures of these variables that are relevant to the Malaysian context, to inductively find other unconsidered factors that may potentially be relevant in this context and to conduct a pilot test of modified model in Malaysia.
Supervisors: Dr Tan Meng Yoe (main supervisor), Dr Joel Moore (associate supervisor)
Adrian Yao Yong Tat
Thesis Title: Vodcasts as digital instructional learning objects in the learning of Malay as a foreign language: Examining its effects amongst international students within self-directed learning environment.
Abstract: My thesis examines the adoption of vodcasts as digital instructional learning objects in the learning of Malay as a foreign language amongst international undergraduate students within a self-directed learning environment and investigates how vodcasts influence and affect the achievement scores of learners with gender differences, different levels of foreign language learning anxiety and different interaction and engagement levels. Combining theoretical frameworks on second language acquisition and instruction, multimedia learning principles and technology-enhanced language learning, a research framework was conceptualised to demonstrate and investigate the relationships among the theoretical frameworks and different variables identified in this research. Drawing from the researcher's prior teaching experience and learners' anxiety in learning a foreign language, learners learn from the vodcasts designed, developed and deployed through hybrid instructional methods. An instructional design framework was adopted to design, develop and deploy the vodcasts. Through the time-series design method, I analyse the longitudinal effects of learners' adopting vodcasts regarded as the administered 'interruption' or treatment from in-person to technological-enhanced instructional approaches that may reduce foreign language learning anxiety yet investigate the interaction and engagement levels and subsequently improve learning performance and Malay as a foreign language proficiency. Preliminary results suggest that learners with high foreign language anxiety and high levels of interaction and engagement can still achieve high scores. This study contributes to the body of knowledge by examining how learners with different learning styles and preferences can improve and improve their communication skills in Malay as a foreign language. This serves as the first strategy for introducing vodcasts into learning and teaching other foreign languages.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Andrew Ng Hock Soon (Main), Dr Neethiahnanthan Ari Ragavan (external), Dr Melissa Wong (external)
Paola Reale
Thesis Title: Capacity Development initiatives in support of Youth employment in fisheries and aquaculture food systems: Malaysia Case Study.
Abstract: Today's youth population of 1.21 billion (2020) is the largest in history, and youth unemployment continues to rise worldwide. The fragility and un-sustainability of the world’s food systems present serious consequences for the realization of the human right to food, employment, a healthy environment, and overall well-being. Food systems, including aquaculture and fisheries, remain the largest employer of youth, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. There are multiple and complex causes behind youth unemployment, and it represents one of the greatest global challenges. For many countries currently experiencing high levels of youth unemployment, investments in resources, knowledge, and skills targeted to address the structural challenges facing youth represent the best hope of achieving the SDGs and the wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Development actors and governments have placed Capacity Development (CD) at the heart of their mandates, and have established many interventions in the last decades. However, despite the billions of dollars invested through foreign aid, CD interventions show that the failure rate hovers at around 70%. Their effectiveness is further limited by the data gap in relation to youth unemployment in the agricultural sector and clear project outcomes. Moreover, the global literature only discusses the CD interventions in support of youth employment supported by foreign aid donors, while national interventions are scarcely highlighted. This research hypothesizes that the scarce effectiveness of CD Initiatives in supporting youth employment in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors is due to a lack of knowledge regarding the appropriate design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of those initiatives, as well as a lack of structural research on CD. The overarching question for this research is “How do capacity development initiatives for youth in aquaculture and fisheries funded by international donors differ from National initiatives in Malaysia? To what extent are the international initiatives meeting the country-specific needs, and if they are not, why?”. To respond to this question the research will be framed with a System lens,  which would avoid fragmentation in actions by different key stakeholders and would enable filling in the sector gaps and address inequalities, especially for marginalized youth such as poor rural youth. To analyse the characteristics of CD initiatives in support of youth employment in aquaculture and fisheries, CD initiatives funded by the Malaysian government and international development actors will be compared through discourse analysis. Further analysis will be performed to understand the main constraints challenging youth employment, where an intersectional perspective will be adopted, thematic analysis will be used to analyse interviews with fishers, farmers, and key experts in the sector. The geographical scope of the research will be in Malaysia and four states will be studied as case studies. The foremost goal of this research is to contribute to expanding the knowledge about CD theories, frameworks, and research design for achieving positive outcomes for youth employment in the fisheries and aquaculture domain.
Supervisors: Dr Koh Sin Yee (main supervisor), Dr Stefan Bächtold (associate supervisor), Prof Kyoko Kusakabe (external)
Gwendolyn Bellinger
Thesis Title: A Ghostly Inheritance: The Cultural Legacy of Specters in Postcolonial Literature
Abstract: This project examines the use of specters in postcolonial works from four distinct cultures — Beloved (Toni Morrison), God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy), Season of Migration to the North (al-Tayeb Salih), and The Ghost Bride (Yangsze Choo). It aims to explore how the specific cultural traditions of each region uniquely shape the ghost narratives included within each novel and how these unique traditions in turn shape how the author employed each specter as a device for subversion and healing. Ultimately, this research will examine the role of the specter in postcolonial literature as a vehicle for exploring the relationships between collective memory, trauma, cultural inheritance, and social identity. 
Supervisors: Associate Professor Andrew Ng Hock Soon (main Supervisor),  Dr Chrishandra Sebastiampillai (associate supervisor)
Dobby Chew
Thesis Title: Cross-border cultural influences on the Death Penalty among Mandarin-speaking Communities
Abstract: This research aims to explore the potential impact and change of perceptions on the death penalty created by popular media, historical or cultural icons in Mandarin-speaking or ethnic Chinese communities in the Asia-Pacific. It will also explore the cross-border influence of narratives in favour of the death penalty within the region.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Yeoh Seng Guan (main Supervisor), Associate Professor Mai Sato (external)
Theresa Symons
Thesis Title: Going beyond spiritual, ecological and social divides: Tracking relational system change in moving from a needs-based to rights-based approach for the Good Shepherd sisters in Asia.
Abstract: Change is inevitable. Outward change must be preceded by the internal transition of individual and collective levels of consciousness. This research seeks to explore change. It shall look at the application of contemporary systemic interventions to a faith based organisation in its efforts to move from a charity and needs based approach to a rights based approach in addressing social injustice. It uncovers the blind spots and blocks that cause a faith based organisation to remain stationary in its old ways, focusing on critical elements in sensing and seeing the reality of its own situation. The research then identifies the emerging features that will hold the organisation’s system together as it shifts through the spiritual, ecological and social divides in its journey of transformation and shift in consciousness. It is hoped that the research process will reveal how the awareness based collective action play out in a system that is multi-layered – with core beliefs rooted in a spiritual tradition whilst striving to be relevant in the ecological and social context of today.
Supervisors: Professor Sharon Bong (main supervisor), Dr Thaatchaatini Kananatu (associate supervisor)
Chloe Yap
Thesis Title: Queer Sinophonicities Online: Exploring Queer Chinese Malaysians’ Internet-mediated Negotiations of Identity.
Abstract: This thesis examines the online practices of young queer Chinese Malaysians in the early- to mid-2000s, a time that marked a notable increase in internet penetration and absorption across Malaysia. In what ways did newly-gained access to the internet, particularly during a crucial period of identity development and exploration, facilitate the negotiation of complex tensions between ethnic, national, and sexual identities? How did these early online practices subsequently influence their social, cultural, and political choices from then until now? Through interviews and textual analysis, this project looks at narratives of queer Chinese Malaysians and aims to contribute towards the fields of queer digital media and Sinophone studies.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Emma Baulch (main supervisor), Dr Ting Fai-Yu (associate supervisor)
Aidonna Jan
Thesis Title: The Role of International Governance in Addressing State- owned Multinational Enterprises (SO-MNEs): An International Trade and Investment Perspective.
Abstract: The primary objective of this research is to fill the gap in understanding the international governance of state-owned multinational enterprises (SO-MNEs). SO-MNEs have grown in prominence in recent years, particularly from an international trade and investment perspective. Thus, this study aims to look at the need to regulate SO-MNEs; and study whether existing international governance of SO-MNEs address this need. Anchored on international economic law, this research aims to take a multidisciplinary approach to achieving the research objectives. This research seeks to bring to light a better understanding of the perspective of developing countries with SO-MNEs, that have actively participated in creating international rules on SO-MNEs (such as Malaysia). This research is important to both developing and developed countries that have trade and investment linkages with SO-MNEs. Therefore, this research is current, innovative, and would be useful to policymakers, academicians and legal experts seeking to understand, propose, and manage the international governance of SO-MNEs.
Supervisors: Professor Helen Nesadurai (main supervisor), Professor Andrew Mitchell (external)
Tham Jia Vern
Thesis Title: Keeping the Noose on Drugs: A Critical Examination of Retaining the Death Penalty for Drug Offences in Malaysia
Abstract: My research investigates the deterrent argument used to justify the retention of the death penalty for drug offences in Malaysia. It will examine the deterrence literature and its role in shaping Malaysia’s political rhetoric as well as public attitudes towards drug activities. It will also assess the true effectiveness of the death penalty on Malaysia’s drug market activities as well as influencing the behavior of drug offenders in the country.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Mai Sato (main supervisor), Dr Thaatchaatini Kananatu (associate supervisor), Dr Marek Rutkowski (associate supervisor)