2016

Seminar Series (No. 7, 2016)

“The Reality of the Flesh Migration, Sexuality, and Religion in Diasporic Intersection”

Speaker: Dr Hugo Córdova Quero
Date: 16th Nov 2016
Time: 11am-12.30pm
Venue: Meeting Room 2-6-41 (Building 2, Level 6, Room No 41)
Contact person: Eswary Sivalingam (Logistics) and Dr Joseph N Goh (Academic matters) 

Speaker’s Profile:

Hugo Córdova Quero holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies in Religion, Migration, and Ethnic Studies (2009) and an MA in Systematic Theology and Critical Theories (Feminist, Queer, and Postcolonial) (2003) both from the Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley, California; as well as an M.Div. (1998) from ISEDET University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Currently, he is Adjunct Faculty and Director of Online Education at Starr King School, Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He is member of the research groups Emerging Queer Asian & Pacific Islander Religion Scholars (EQARS), Multidisciplinary Study Group on Religion and Public Incidence (GEMRIP) and the Queer Migrations Research Network. Dr. Córdova Quero is also a fellow at the Institute for Theological Partnerships, The University of Winchester (UK) and at the Institute for the Study of Asian Religions (CERAL), Pontifical University of São Paulo (Brasil). His areas of research are religious studies and queer theologies, ethnic and migration studies, critical theories (feminist, queer, and postcolonial), cultural studies, and geography of religion. He has authored several articles, book chapters and the book El Desafío del Diálogo: Historia, definiciones y problemáticas del ecumenismo y la pluralidad religiosa (GEMRIP, 2014). 

Abstract: 

Since the mid-1980s and the so-called “bubble economy,” Japan has received an increasing number of immigrants, including thousands of Japanese descendants from Brazil and other parts of Latin America. They migrated to fill the unskilled labor needs of the Japanese industrial sector, as broker companies cater labor force to small and medium-size factories. Although much research has been conducted in order to report on socio-economic factors, it is of special interest to explore the daily life interactions of Japanese Brazilian immigrants amidst the broader Japanese society in terms of religion and sexuality. This research seminar focus on the issues faced by Japanese Brazilian queer immigrants. It presents findings from two separate fieldworks conducted among Japanese Brazilian immigrants currently residing in the Kanto region and the Tokai area of Japan. Concentrating on issues of sexuality and religion, I deconstruct and question the arguments surrounding the discussion of the roles that desire, bodies, and faith play in the process of immigration and in the everydayness of diaporic individuals and communities.   

 

Seminar Series (No. 6, 2016)

“The Rise of the Paranormal Documentary in the Twenty-First Century: Assumption of Purpose, Audience Expectation and the Problem of Referential Integrity”


 
Speakers: Associate Professor Andrew Ng Hock Soon
Date: Wednesday, 19 October 2016
Time: 11.00am - 12.30pm
Venue: Meeting Room 2-6-41 (Building 2, Level 6, Room No 41)
Contact person: Eswary Sivalingam (Logistics) and Prof Helen Nesadurai (Academic matters)

Speaker’s Profile:

Andrew Ng hails from the small town of Klang, in Selangor, Malaysia, and attended La Salle, a missionary school, for his secondary education. He pursued an education degree for his undergraduate studies, and a Master in English Literature, both at University Malaya, before continuing with his doctorate studies (literature) at University of Western Australia. He joined Monash University in 2003.

Abstract: 

This presentation considers the popularity of paranormal documentaries in the twenty-first century. Drawing on Bill Nichols’s notions of assumption about a documentary’s purpose and audience expectations, it seeks to understand an interesting conundrum posed by such documentaries, i.e. why they continue to garner strong ratings despite a lack of referential integrity consistently undermining the avowed purpose they assume to conclusively prove (or otherwise) the reality of the paranormal. Part of this irony, it argues, has to do with audiences’ familiarity leading to an expectation of these documentaries’ failure, thereby sustaining viewership rather than turning it away. Finally, this presentation will look at other possible purposes that paranormal documentaries assume, drawing particular attention to one that can plausibly explain both their success despite the lack of referential integrity and why audiences continue to watch them even while expecting them to failure in their avowed objective. It concludes with a brief discussion of the genre’s significance in the present century.

 

Seminar Series (No. 5, 2016)

“Human-Scale Economics: Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction in Northeastern Thailand”

  Speakers: Dr Joel Moore
Date: Wednesday, 29 June 2016
Time: 11.00am - 12.30pm
Venue: Meeting Room 2-6-41 (Building 2, Level 6, Room No 41)
Contact person: Eswary Sivalingam (Logistics) and Prof Helen Nesadurai (Academic matters)

Speaker’s Profile:

Joel Moore has served as the Deputy Head of School for Education for the School of Arts and Social Sciences since 2013.  He has instituted a number of teaching and learning innovations in the classroom including a transdisciplinary unit based around a multi-week crisis simulation.  He has also utilized a variety of open source technologies to enhance student learning in and out of the classroom.

He received his Ph.D. in Political Science at Emory University in 2011. His dissertation, The Varieties of Capitalist Development: The Political Determinants of Economic Governance Systems, focused on the impact that structural and institutional factors had in constraining policy makers and shaping economic governance systems in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.   

Abstract:

Under what conditions does economic growth benefit the poor? One way to answer this question is to identify and compare positive and negative outlier areas, those that experience greater and lesser poverty reduction, respectively, compared to what was anticipated given their levels of economic growth. The more similar these areas, the more leverage there is to unearth the factors that allow the poor to benefit from growth. In this paper, we employ an inductive approach to glean possible pathways out of poverty from two highly similar underdeveloped neighboring provinces in northeastern Thailand. Using extensive fieldwork and interviews, we explore factors that can account for one province reducing poverty at a quicker pace than expected, even as the other failed to channel its faster growth into significant poverty reduction. Our study finds that in Surin province, because a strong network of local NGOs was working closely with provincial leadership, national policies that targeted the poor found fertile ground and thrived. Small-scale, low-tech, rural-based initiatives including organic rice, handicraft production, and rural tourism helped drive initially high levels of poverty down. Though many in Si-Saket also pursued many of these initiatives, they were structured in ways that promoted economic growth but largely prevented poor farmers from benefitting. Further research can examine whether this kind of “micro-oriented” path to rapid rural poverty reduction is useful in other contexts. 

 

Seminar Series (No. 4, 2016)

“Crimes and Criminalization in World Politics”

  Speakers: Ms Suwita Hani Randhawa
Date: Wednesday, 18 May 2016
Time: 11.00am-12.30pm
Venue: Meeting Room 2-6-41 (Building 2, Level 6, Room No 41)
Contact person: Eswary Sivalingam (Logistics) and Prof Helen Nesadurai (Academic matters)

Speaker’s Profile:

Suwita Hani Randhawa is a doctoral candidate in International Relations at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. Her research interests center on the politics and historical development of International Criminal Law. She holds a Master of Arts (International Relations) from The Australian National University (Australia), as well as Bachelor degrees in International Relations/Political Science and Law (LLB) from the University of Pretoria (South Africa).

Abstract:

Certain acts are prohibited in world politics because they constitute ‘international crimes’. There are currently only four international crimes – aggression, crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes – and they are commonly viewed as ‘atrocities that shock the conscience of humanity' and 'the most serious crimes of concern to the international community'. What explains the emergence of this special category of internationally prohibited conduct? Why have only certain acts been established as international crimes and relatedly, what explains the process by which this occurred? Answers to these questions pivot upon the concept of international criminalization, the process by which international crimes are created in world politics. Contemporary scholarship has very little say about this concept, with neither international legal nor international relations scholars having adequately explained how and why only certain types of acts have been criminalized in world politics. This talk is aimed, therefore, at addressing this neglect and it seeks to show how a framework for understanding international criminalization charts new conceptual territory in interdisciplinary international relations/international law scholarship. The talk will address the following issues: how international criminalization ought to be defined; what it entails as a process that is entirely distinct from other international processes; and what its social, political and legal drivers are. It will also demonstrate how this proposed framework can unlock important insights as to how and why the international crime of genocide was established and in doing so, can help us better understand how and why crime and criminality have been internationalized in world politics.

 

 Seminar Series (No. 3, 2016)

"Climate Contributions and the Paris Agreement: Fairness and equity in a bottom-up world”

  Speakers: Dr Nicholas Chan 
Date: Wednesday, 27 April 2016 
Time: 11.00am-12.30pm  
Venue: Meeting Room 6-2-14 (Building 6, Level 2, Room No 14) 
Contact person: Eswary Sivalingam (Logistics) and Prof Helen Nesadurai (Academic matters)

Speaker’s Profile:

Nicholas Chan is a Research Associate at the Centre for International Studies, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, and completed his D.Phil in International Relations at St. Antony's College, Oxford. His main research interests lie in constructivism and historical institutionalism in IR theory, the international politics of climate change, the negotiating behaviour of developing countries, and regionalisms in world politics. He has participated in UN climate change negotiations since 2011 as a member of various Pacific island state delegations. He has consulted for the United Nations, and is a contributor to analysis and advisory firm Oxford Analytica. He tweets at @nickdotchan. 

Abstract:

One of the chief aspects of last December's landmark Paris Agreement on climate change was acceptance of the notion that all states would make a 'contribution' to the global effort to address climate change. These voluntary, nationally determined, non-binding pledges are the most visible feature of the re-orientation of the international climate regime away from its previous emphasis on 'top-down' international coordination, and towards a 'bottom-up' architecture that provides greater national flexibility in order to induce broader participation. At the same time, however, the agreement to keep the rise in average global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius indicates a limited quantity of carbon that can be emitted to meet this temperature goal, raising the challenge of how to apportion this carbon 'budget' among states. 

Can a fair distribution of the carbon budget be achieved amid voluntary contributions? This paper firstly discusses the tension between the top-down distribution that carbon budget approaches generally imply, and the bottom-up institutional elements of the new climate architecture. Secondly, it reviews the alternative ways in which considerations of fairness have been integrated into the design of the Paris Agreement, and the rise of 'national circumstances' as the context for fairness. Finally, this paper points to the increased role and space for normative argumentation in this bottom-up world, where new norms embedded in the Paris Agreement, especially surrounding progressive increases in national ambition, take on greater importance in efforts to achieve an equitable response to climate change. 

 

Seminar Series (No. 2, 2016)

"Developmental State” in Decay: Case Study of Federal Budget in Malaysia”

  Speakers:  Dr Ayame SUZUKI 
Date:  Wednesday, 2 March 2016 
Time:  11.00am-12.00pm  
Venue:  Meeting Room 2-6-41 (Building 2, Level 6, Room No 41) 
Contact person:  Eswary Sivalingam (Logistics) and Dr Yeoh Seng Guan (Academic matters)

Speaker’s Profile:

Ayame SUZUKI is an associate professor of the Faculty of Law, Doshisha University, Japan. She holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Tokyo. Her research interests include politics and political economy in Southeast Asia; political regimes; and, democracy and public finance. Dr. Suzuki’s substantive research on politics and law in Malaysia was published as Freedom and Order in “Democracies”: Reconsidering Malaysia’s Political Regime (Kyoto University Press, 2011, in Japanese), for which she was awarded the Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Award in 2012.

Abstract:

Malaysia used to be categorized as a “developmental state” (Robinson and White 1998; Stubbs 2005), or one of the “High Performing Asian Economies” (World Bank 1993). Various literatures highlighted the role of a strong or autonomous state in realizing high economic growth led by export, macro-economic stability, and equitable development. However, recent debate on Malaysian economy point to slowing growth, persisting income inequality, budget deficit, and increasing government debt after the Asian Financial Crisis. 

This paper tries to argue that Malaysia’s developmental state is in decay. Based on budget documents, it argues that the increase in the federal budget can be attributed to (i) the increasing populistic spending to the lower-income group; (ii) increasing particularistic spending for the property sector, GLICs and soft-loans to the SMEs that often serve as political patronage; and (iii) the Government’s failure to strengthen/expand the revenue base given the fear of losing votes from those who perceive an unfair distribution of public fund that favor BN cronies and resist tax hikes.  

The paper further argues that the “decayed developmental state” is partly a consequence of the “successful” developmental state under authoritarian government in the 1990s.

  

Seminar Series (No. 1, 2016)

"You and I are Ayyappa’: The Growth of an Aspirational Hindu Pilgrimage Sect in Malaysia”

  Speakers: Dr Sudheesh Bhasi
Date: 26 January 2016, Tuesday
Time: 10.30-11.30am
Venue: Seminar Room 6-2-14 (Building 6, Level 2, Room No 14)
Contact person: Eswary Sivalingam (Logistics) and Dr Yeoh Seng Guan (Academic matters)

Speaker’s Profile:

Sudheesh Bhasi is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity and a Visiting Scholar at the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia. Sudheesh’s current research examines transnational Hindu networks in Malaysia and Singapore. His work is focused on exploring the enduring transnational religious connections of the ‘old Indian diaspora’ and documenting the extent of the economic, material, affective and symbolic ties that exist within the transnational and translocal social space of Hindu networks. At the heart of this research lies a significant anthropological and sociological concern about the nature of transnationalism in longer-established diasporas – how are transnational religious networks formed, maintained or revitalized in an older diaspora that has been away from the homeland for several generations? Sudheesh’s work will provide a point of comparison to the ongoing research at the MPI which has been documenting transnational Chinese temple networks in Malaysia and Singapore. In his earlier doctoral research, Sudheesh explored everyday religious practices and the production of social capital within the Hindu diaspora in Sydney. Sudheesh’s research interests encompass religion and migration, transnational communities, community development, urban sociality, social inclusion, and neoliberalism.

Abstract:

Ayyappan worship is a fast growing religious movement in Malaysia with several thousands of devotees travelling each year from the country to the holy pilgrimage centre of Sabarimala in the Western Ghats of South India. This paper explores the transnational nature of this sect which has emerged alongside the proliferation of budget air travel in the region.  Based on fieldwork in Malaysia and India, this paper argues that the religious sect in Malaysia and its distinctively severe form of religiosity and penance fulfils an aspirational role among Malaysian Hindus today, growing from a largely middle-class phenomenon to incorporating working-class individuals and groups over the past decade.  The development of the sect in the country has been dual-pronged – involving a transplanting of sacred pilgrim landscape on to Malaysia, as well as a transfer of ritual knowledge through revered ritual specialists (gurusamys) who become conduits between the Malaysian pilgrims and the spiritual, spatial and temporal topography of Sabarimala.  At the same time, several Malaysian pilgrims display their own distinctive approach to the worship through an emphasis on states of trance and transcendence, normally devoid within the traditionally austere form of Ayyappan worship. The study of this religious sect suggests that the ‘Old Indian diaspora’ in Malaysia is being renewed in terms of the breadth of its religious practices by the emergence of an aspirational form of religiosity, dependent on new transnational links formed with India.