Will democracy in the Philippines go the way of Thailand? by Michael Vatikiotis, 14/09/2017, The Economist
Rodrigo Duterte bears many similarities to Thaksin Shinawatra
WHEN Filipinos attempt to explain the political success of their tough-guy president, Rodrigo Duterte, they tend to point to local precursors. Joseph Estrada, a former matinée idol who had often played Robin Hood types, rose to the presidency by promising to be hard on bad guys and good to the poor. And then there is Ferdinand Marcos, who cultivated an image as a war hero to win election before assuming dictatorial powers, and whose reputation Mr Duterte is doing his best to restore.
Both these comparisons make Mr Duterte’s knack of casting himself as a friend of the people while giving short shrift to the niceties of democracy seem like a function of Philippine politics, in which populists occasionally attempt to stir up resentment against the hereditary caste of landowners who dominate government and the economy. After all, despite regular elections and much talk of reform, the 40 best-connected families still control about three-quarters of the Philippines’ wealth. Poverty is equally entrenched, as a visit to Manila’s slums or the southern, partly Muslim island of Mindanao makes clear.
But the Philippines is not the only country in South-East Asia with an entrenched establishment presiding over profound inequality. Most are blighted by single-party rule, or by a political churn which does not seem to have much impact on local power structures. Thailand, with a monarchy manipulated by the elites, is a case in point. The purpose of 12 military coups, two in the past 12 years, has been, as Michael Vatikiotis argues in “Blood and Silk”, a perceptive new book on the region, to maintain “an imposing if arcane edifice of power and [cultivate] a conservative mindset that has prevented the devolution of power and autonomy to ordinary people.”
Rohingya identity and the limits to history by Jonathan Saha, 17/09/2017, New Mandala
Public discussions around Rohingya people currently fleeing violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar, have often involved arguments about history. While critical historical analysis is useful in offering insights into conflicts, History—if treated as a single, knowable past—is not. This is especially true when dealing with ethnicity. Whatever the past was, no amount of historical research can justify the current violence against Rohingya people.
The debate around Rohingya ethnicity lacks awareness of wider historiography (the history of historical research). On the one side, those denying that this is ethnic cleansing argue that there is no such thing as a Rohingya ethnic group. It is claimed that these people are actually Bengali Muslim migrants. The writings of historians such as Jacques Lieder have been used, by some, to support this position. He argues that the use of the term Rohingya to connote this Muslim population, although noted by eighteenth-century European travelers, is a modern one. For him, Rohingya is primarily a political identity. On the other side, Rohingya activists have resisted this characterisation. They have countered that there is evidence of Muslims living in the Rakhine region for centuries, and that these groups have periodically been called Rohingya.
Writing in The Diplomat last year, one commentator attempted to disentangle these debates by arguing that “the Rohingya are not an ethnic, but rather a political construction. [emphasis in original]”. This is wrong. Not only wrong in the sense of it being inaccurate, but wrong in two other ways: 1) in that it relies on a false division between the categories “political” and “ethnic”, and then treats the two as if they are mutually exclusive; and 2) in that it assumes that we can definitively know people’s ethnic identification in the past.
The Department of Religion at Dartmouth College invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track position in Asian Religions. Appointment to begin as early as July 1, 2018. Applications from candidates who specialize in Japanese, Tibetan/Himalayan, or Southeast Asian religions, whose academic specialization lies in religion or in an academic discipline relating to the study of religion are encouraged. The successful candidate will be grounded in both theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of religion, as well as the relevant primary languages.
Taking as the literary frame Southeast Asian literature in the diaspora, this seminar invite proposals that address the diaspora as the “dispersion” into many and multiple places. Following what Yen Espiritu calls “a relational comparative approach” that revolves around “critical juxtaposing” in Body Counts, the organizers seek proposals that explore diasporic literatures and cultural productions of Southeast Asia and deliver critiques of empire, neoliberalism, among others.
En octobre 2016, ce groupe avait déjà attaqué trois postes frontière dans la région. La réponse de l’armée birmane et les affrontements qui ont suivi ont provoqué en l’espace de deux semaines, un nouvel exode de musulmans dans le Bangladesh voisin. Quelques 300 000 réfugiés sont alors venus s’ajouter à d’autres dizaines de milliers, installés dans des camps, ou alentours, près de la frontière, tandis que les autres populations civiles d’Arakan non musulmanes, bouddhistes et hindoues surtout, se réfugiaient vers le sud de la région.
Le cap des 350.000 musulmans Rohingyas réfugiés au Bangladesh pour fuir les violences a été franchi. L’ONU évoque ce qui semble être un exemple classique de nettoyage ethnique. Que veut l’armée birmane ? Aung Saan Suu Kyi à la tête de l’Etat birman est-elle impuissante ou indifférente ?
– Sophie Boisseau du Rocher, chercheure associée au Centre Asie de l’IFRI.
– Alexandra de Mersan, enseignante chercheure à l’INALCO. Rattachée du Centre Asie du Sud-Est au CNRS. Détachée à l’IRASEC, l’Institut de Recherche sur l’Asie du Sud-Est Contemporaine.
ASEAN Forum 2017 : Women in ASEAN, 06/10/2017, New Law School, Camperdown Campus, University of Sydney
In the 50th year of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN Forum 2017 explores the role of women in our region; acknowledging accomplishments and shedding light on the challenges faced by women in Southeast Asia.
ASEAN Forum 2017 will bring together leading academic thinkers, activists and policy makers to discuss and debate the political, economic and social position of women in Southeast Asia and what is being done to advance the standing of women in the region. The forum will focus on women’s involvement in three key domains: work, politics and development.
As part of ASEAN Forum 2017, two additional events will be held on 5 October 2017.
Postgraduate Conference : « Movement: Southeast Asia », 22/09/2017, SOAS
With evolving political, social, and cultural currents in Southeast Asia, movement is an important discursive lens to understand the dynamism of the region. Reflecting on movements, and change—from prehistory to the contemporary period—can improve our understanding of Southeast Asia, in terms of its constituent nation-states, peoples, and cultures, and as a region as well as an area of study. For this first postgraduate conference on Southeast Asia at SOAS, we invite papers that consider “movement.” For example, how can we critically investigate migration? Conflict and displacement? Diaspora and transnationalism? Trade? The movement of objects in and out of the region? Political movements? Social movements? Artistic movements? The movement of bodies in performance? Exchanges of ideas? Musical, visual, or filmic influences? Translation? Changes in the natural or architectural landscape? Climate change, resources, and resilience? Or indeed rethinking the delimitations of Southeast Asia as a region—and as an object of “area studies”?
The conference is open to all, free of charge but registration is essential. Please register here
This conference is organised by postgraduate students with the generous support from the SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies and the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics
Postdoctoral fellowship in Southeast Asian Studies, Chao Center for Asian Studies, Rice University, Houston, Texas
The Chao Center for Asian Studies (CCAS) at Rice University is currently accepting applications for the Henry Luce Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Southeast Asian Studies to begin January 1, 2018 (pending funding approval). The search is open to any aspects of academic research in Southeast Asia with a transnational orientation. By “transnational,” we mean an approach that devotes particular attention to the movement of people, products, ideas, beliefs, ethics, technologies, etc. across established borders and boundaries. Expectation is to teach one course a year and contribute to the Chao Center intellectual community.
Ph.D. degree by December 31, 2017 in one of the following fields: anthropology, art history, Asian studies, Asian American studies, cinema, comparative literature, Sanskrit studies, global health studies, history, political science, religion, sociology, or women’s/gender/sexuality studies.
The annual stipend is $50,000, with an additional $5,000 for research and travel expenses, and a one-time relocation allowance of $3,000 will also be provided. Renewal for the second year will be contingent upon the appointee’s performance in the first year.
« Spatializing Enlightened Civilization in the Era of Translating Vernacular Modernity: Colonial Vietnamese Intellectuals’ Adventure Tales and Travelogues, 1910s–1920s » by Yufeng Chang in The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 73, n° 3, August 2017
This article examines the strategy of literary spatialization employed by colonial subjects to imaginatively engage with colonial civilizing projects. It analyzes twelve adventure stories written between the 1910s and 1920s by colonial Vietnamese reformed scholars, whose lives were impacted by the pan-Asian reform movements that swept Japan, China, and Vietnam between the 1860s and 1900s. They reflected their experiences with Enlightened civilization as they were pushing for vernacularization and modernization through translating the Chinese transculturation of Japanese texts into Latin-based quốc ngữ script while constructing a national literature. Adventure tales and travelogues were considered suitable for aspiring writers to translatively imitate Western literature as presented in Chinese translation of Japanese texts. The authors negotiated with the French version of Enlightened Civilization by employing two East Asian literary tropes: the dangerous but exciting Rivers-and-Lakes World, where the protagonist ventures to search for văn minh, and the peaceful and other-worldly Peach Blossom Spring utopia, where the true qualities of văn minh are realized. These stories reveal colonial subjects’ admiration for and anxiety regarding the French mission civilisatrice, and their literary efforts to imagine a Vietnamese văn minh that would both impress and surpass the original models.
Putting Myanmar’s “Buddhist Extremism” in an International Context by Aye Thein, 01/09/2017, Tea Circle (Oxford)
Aye Thein argues that the international influences on “Buddhist extremism” have been overlooked.
This article further develops an idea I had briefly discussed in an earlier piece written for New Mandala in February 2017. A recent phenomenon in Myanmar, which has been called by different names by commentators depending on their preference, has put the country in the international spotlight. It has been characterised, among others terms, as “Buddhist nationalist”, “ultra-nationalist”, “militant Buddhist” and “Buddhist extremist”, the latter being used in the title of this article. MaBaTha or the Organisation for the Protection of Race and Religion, being the largest of the groups described by these various terms, has triggered a good deal of scholarly and journalistic attention.
What is problematic with the articles such as the ones using the terms quoted above is that most of them overemphasise the role of these groups as promoters of Islamophobia. In order to advance our understanding of this worrying trend, I will make the case here that more attention needs to be given to another role Buddhist nationalist groups play, which has hitherto been glossed over or commented on only in passing: that is, that they are in fact voracious consumers, albeit uncritical and selective, of global media coverage on Islam. This is where the international factor comes in.
Based on my reading of recent literature of the Buddhist nationalists in the Burmese language, I have observed at least three ways in which the international factor feeds into Islamophobia, as consumed and purveyed by these groups in Myanmar.
The Staying Power of Dynastic Politicians in the Philippines by Nico Ravanilla, Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia (Issue 22), Young Academics Voice, September 2017
… And How We Might Think About Reforms that Could Undermine Their Entrenchment.
Elections in the Philippines are a family affair. Family dynasties control the political landscape, fielding candidates at all levels of government. The current makeup of the Philippine Senate is illustrative: a third of current Filipino Senators are either related to one of the last six Presidents or to former members of the Senate. But where political families are most prevalent is at the local level. What explains why the Philippines tend to elect candidates from the same set of political clans?
One explanation is that dynastic candidates tend to come from central families in social networks, and these families have an advantage in winning office. In a recent article published in American Economic Review,Cruz, Labonne and Querubin (forthcoming) find evidence that centrality in family networks matter a lot for the electoral success of mayoral candidates in the Philippines. Candidates from central families are not only more likely to stand for office; they also capture greater vote-shares all else equal. But what explains the electoral success of candidates from well-connected families? In a new paper, my co-authors and I argue that a key part of the answer is because family networks matter a lot to voters.
Political Communication and Transformative Citizenship in Myanmar (Part II) by Matthew J. Walton, 07/09/2017, Tea Circle (Oxford)
One of the holy grails of democratic studies is the idea of transformative citizenship. Many have theorized about how democracy could be transformative or how engaged citizenship could transform relationships between citizens and government, but it is difficult to really track this concept.
A national political dialogue process made up of biannual 21st Century Panglong Conferences, themselves consisting of 700 elite representatives mostly drawn from a few centrally important institutions, reflects multiple views on citizenship, none of them transformative in empowering or ennobling ways. It further privileges direct political participation and decision-making for a select few, while imposing a set of passive citizenship practices on the vast majority of the population. A meaningful voice in political decision-making (particularly about their own affairs) is the central complaint of almost every interest group in Myanmar, from ethnic armed groups to women’s organisations to opposition parties and student unions. Yet almost every step of the process leading to the current national political dialogue framework (from initial negotiations between a small government team and ethnic armed group leaders through to the drafting of the final framework by a nine member, all male group behind closed doors) has reinforced the notion that for most, citizenship is primarily a non-participatory notion, merely the act of being represented. And this type of citizenship cannot be transformative in the sense of turning people into more active, knowledgeable, inter-connected, and empathetic members of a political community.
What types of citizen engagement might be potentially transformative? A 2011 study looked at the presumed benefits of citizen participation in democratic governance and found that the positive effects of expanded participation are noticeable primarily to those actually taking part, which should not be surprising. The study specified these benefits as coming in the form of “knowledge, skills, and [democratic] virtues” (Michels 2011, 290). This insight helps to distinguish between the effects of different types of “democratic innovations,” for example referendums and deliberative forums. While referendums seem to result in more direct policy influence, deliberative forums would contribute more to individual citizen development, not to mention the embeddedness that seems to be so critical in the citizen-political community relationship.
Political Communication and Transformative Citizenship in Myanmar (Part I) by Matthew J. Walton, 06/09/2017, Tea Circle (Oxford)
Citizenship is undoubtedly one of the more contentious issues in Myanmar today. But with so much focus on the boundaries of national inclusion, discussions usually ignore a key aspect of citizenship: its practice. The following two posts are excerpted from a chapter that will appear in an upcoming volume, Citizenship in Myanmar: ways of being in and from Burma, edited by Ashley South and Marie Lall (ISEAS Press and Chiang Mai University Press, 2018).
The practice of citizenship includes various perspectives on what citizenship entails (the different rights and responsibilities), the roles of state and civil society groups in fostering citizenship, and expectations of citizen participation (as well as expectations of the state in facilitating that participation). A discussion of the practice of citizenship should also include attention to the many “skills” of citizenship that go beyond basic rights and responsibilities. Especially important—but often unaddressed—are the particular citizenship skills that need to be cultivated by government officials.
Developing a broader understanding of a diverse range of citizenship skills and practices is particularly necessary in the context of Myanmar’s rapid political change. Since at least the 2008 constitutional referendum, the country’s citizens have been expected to participate in politics in a variety of ways that were not only previously unavailable to them, they were actively denied by military-led governments. The result is a situation in which the meaning and content of citizenship is either limited among citizens or expressed in ways that do not necessarily accord with centralized notions of citizenship and participation in Myanmar or with international norms.
In these two posts, I consider the practice of citizenship primarily in relation to the national political dialogue process, now officially reconfigured as the 21st Century Panglong Conference, arguably the forum that (in some form or another) will shape Myanmar’s political future. This is a useful starting point for critical analysis, especially because many of the crucial aspects of citizenship practice that I discuss are completely ignored in the current political dialogue process.