Tyrell Haberkorn, In Plain Sight : Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand, University of Wisconsin Press, 2018
Following a 1932 coup d’état in Thailand that ended absolute monarchy and established a constitution, the Thai state that emerged has suppressed political dissent through detention, torture, forced reeducation, disappearances, assassinations, and massacres. In Plain Sight shows how these abuses, both hidden and occurring in public view, have become institutionalized through a chronic failure to hold perpetrators accountable. Tyrell Haberkorn’s deeply researched revisionist history of modern Thailand highlights the legal, political, and social mechanisms that have produced such impunity and documents continual and courageous challenges to state domination.
Tyrell Haberkorn is an associate professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of Revolution Interrupted: Farmers, Students, Law, and Violence in Northern Thailand.
Katherine A. Bowie, Of Beggars and Buddhas : The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand, University of Wisconsin Press, 2017
An exploration of the subversive politics of humor in the most important story in Theravada Buddhism
The 547 Buddhist jatakas, or verse parables, recount the Buddha’s lives in previous incarnations. In his penultimate and most famous incarnation, he appears as the Prince Vessantara, perfecting the virtue of generosity by giving away all his possessions, his wife, and his children to the beggar Jujaka. Taking an anthropological approach to this two-thousand-year-old morality tale, Katherine A. Bowie highlights significant local variations in its interpretations and public performances across three regions of Thailand over 150 years.
The Vessantara Jataka has served both monastic and royal interests, encouraging parents to give their sons to religious orders and intimating that kings are future Buddhas. But, as Bowie shows, characterizations of the beggar Jujaka in various regions and eras have also brought ribald humor and sly antiroyalist themes to the story. Historically, these subversive performances appealed to popular audiences even as they worried the conservative Bangkok court. The monarchy sporadically sought to suppress the comedic recitations. As Thailand has changed from a feudal to a capitalist society, this famous story about giving away possessions is paradoxically being employed to promote tourism and wealth.
Katherine A. Bowie is a professor of anthropology and the director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of Rituals of National Loyalty: An Anthropology of the State and the Village Scout Movement in Thailand.
« Ownership and control in 21st century Malaysia » by Charles Brophy, 17/01/2018, New Mandala
In a series of public lectures beginning in 2016, Professor Terence Gomez began to distil the findings of his latest research into corporate governance in Malaysia. The first finding was a marked reduction in the holding of private directorships by members of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. The second was a major growth in the influence and power of Government Linked Companies (GLCs; individual state-owned enterprises) and Government Linked Investment Companies (GLICs; state-owned investment vehicles) over the Malaysian economy.
What such findings did was to challenge typical understandings of “money politics”, and the relationship between politics and business, in Malaysia. The data pointed not towards the direct influence of the political class over private enterprise, but rather a growing centralisation of economic and political power in the Office of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance (an office which is today held concurrently), and the influence of the state over the economy through the GLCs and seven large GLICs. The resulting book, Minister of Finance Incorporated: Ownership and Control of Corporate Malaysia, written alongside Gomez’s team of research assistants, has brought into the spotlight not only problems of political centralisation and GLC/GLIC governance reform, but also the effect of the very structure of the Malaysian economy on the country’s continuing prospects for development. (Disclosure: the author works for Gerakbudaya, the Malaysia/Singapore publisher of Prof Gomez’s book, but writes here in a personal capacity.)
Talking Indonesia: Pornography with Helen Pausacker, 18/01/2018, Indonesia at Melbourne
The prohibition of pornography has been a controversial area of law in Indonesia, attracting the attention both of Islamic conservatives and activists promoting freedom of expression. Several public figures have been investigated and prosecuted under questionable circumstances, raising concerns that the law is being applied arbitrarily. Recently, the police investigation of Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab and his female follower Firza Hussein over a leaked salacious Whatsapp chat has put prohibitions of pornography back in the headlines. The case has gained attention both because FPI has been one of the main groups pushing for pornography prosecutions, and because the investigation has been widely perceived as politically motivated, following Rizieq’s role in the protests against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.
How does Indonesia regulate pornography, how have its anti-pornography laws been applied, and what determines who gets charged and convicted? How do debates over pornography reflect broader questions of morality and Islam in Indonesian society? In the first Talking Indonesia episode for 2018, DrDave McRae explores these issues with DrHelen Pausacker, deputy director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society (CILIS) at Melbourne Law School.
In 2018, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Dave McRae from the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University, Dr Charlotte Setijadi from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore and Dr Dirk Tomsa from La Trobe University.
American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, 17 – 20 November 2018, Denver, Colorado, USA
The deadline for proposals is Thursday, March 1, 2018
Religion in Southeast Asia Unit
Statement of Purpose:
Situated at the nexus of several civilizational influences — including Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern — Southeast Asia, as a region, remains understudied in terms of its relevance to the theoretical and methodological study of religion. This neglect is in part due to the tendency to reduce Southeast Asian religious systems to the named “world religions” often identified with other regions. As a result, indigenous practices are not viewed in terms of their conceptual and other linkages — and in some cases the dynamic interactions between those practices and the religious practices brought over by different classes of immigrants are frequently overlooked. However, and especially in the last fifteen years, exciting materials addressing different religious cultures in Southeast Asia have emerged. Hitherto, there has been little scholarly conversation at the AAR on Southeast Asia. And, perhaps even less commonly, are Southeast Asian religious cultures (e.g., Buddhist, Islamic, Christian, Hindu, “animist,” Chinese, and Pacific) put into conversation with one another. In light of this need in the field, we strive to provide a context for this conversation as well as to foster critical thinking about Southeast Asia as a region.
Call for Papers:
The Religion in Southeast Asia Program Unit at the American Academy of Religion invites proposals for individual papers, paper sessions, and roundtables. For those interested in proposing organized paper sessions, we would encourage you to consider a 90-minute session with pre-circulated papers. (This can be indicated in your panel proposal.) Continuing our effort to cultivate a greater inclusiveness in the range of topics and participants involved in the Unit’s activities, we will favor submissions from both underrepresented groups and those who have never before presented in this Program Unit. Topics of special interest for 2018 include:
• Religion, borders, and violence
• Religion as a critical category
• Southeast Asian scholarship on religion in Southeast Asia
• Contemporary ethnographies of religion
• Cinema in Southeast Asia
The Religion in Southeast Asia Unit is working with the Religion and Popular Culture Unit to organize a jointly sponsored session on cinema in Southeast Asia. The session will explore film as a site for debating issues — such as, e.g., historical memory and violence, LGBTQ rights, the place of religion in public life, changing ideals of romantic intimacy and personal accomplishment — that have proven difficult to discuss in other public arenas.
• Decolonization as Healing
With a wide range of other units, we plan to co-sponsor a session on the theme of decolonization as healing, recognizing that colonization in Africa and in other parts of our world has resulted in both historical and ongoing threats to health and wellbeing. We are looking for papers that address facets of this theme, including but not limited to: “Place, Land, and Environmental Degradation,” “Decolonization/Restoration of Identities,” “Vocabularies and Pragmatic Applications of Rituals and Ceremonies,” « Reclaiming the Past, Imagining the Future, » and “Tradition as Healer”. Co-sponsored with the Religions, Medicines and Healing; African Diaspora Religions, African Religions; Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society; Body and Religion; Indigenous Religious Traditions; Latina/o Religion, Culture, and Society; Native Traditions in the Americas; Religions in the Latina/o Americas; Religion in South Asia, Religion in Southeast Asia; and Religion, Colonialism and Postcolonialism; and World Christianity Units. Successful proposals will clearly identify where the project fits within the Call for Papers, and will speak to its broader implications for African American religious history.
This session is a panel. Please submit a proposal for a paper or presentation. If your proposal is chosen, your paper will be circulated ahead of the conference and you’ll be asked to give a brief (5-7 minute) summary of the paper during the conference session.
Proposals may also be submitted on any other subject relating to religion in Southeast Asia.
Geoffrey Robinson, A Killing Season : A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66, Princeton University Press, 2018
The Killing Season explores one of the largest and swiftest, yet least examined, instances of mass killing and incarceration in the twentieth century—the shocking antileftist purge that gripped Indonesia in 1965–66, leaving some five hundred thousand people dead and more than a million others in detention.
An expert in modern Indonesian history, genocide, and human rights, Geoffrey Robinson sets out to account for this violence and to end the troubling silence surrounding it. In doing so, he sheds new light on broad and enduring historical questions. How do we account for instances of systematic mass killing and detention? Why are some of these crimes remembered and punished, while others are forgotten? What are the social and political ramifications of such acts and such silence?
Challenging conventional narratives of the mass violence of 1965–66 as arising spontaneously from religious and social conflicts, Robinson argues convincingly that it was instead the product of a deliberate campaign, led by the Indonesian Army. He also details the critical role played by the United States, Britain, and other major powers in facilitating mass murder and incarceration. Robinson concludes by probing the disturbing long-term consequences of the violence for millions of survivors and Indonesian society as a whole.
Based on a rich body of primary and secondary sources, The Killing Season is the definitive account of a pivotal period in Indonesian history. It also makes a powerful contribution to wider debates about the dynamics and legacies of mass killing, incarceration, and genocide.
Geoffrey B. Robinson is professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. His books include The Dark Side of Paradise: Political Violence in Bali and “If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die”: How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor (Princeton).
Colloquium on Genocide and Politicide in Asia, Spring 2018, Asian Studies Center and Peace and Justice Studies, Michigan State University
The Asian Studies Center and Peace and Justice Studies present the Genocide and Politicide in Asia Colloquium, which deepens our knowledge of Southeast Asia as a region from transnational perspectives by bringing outstanding scholars from around the world to the Michigan State University campus in spring 2018. Through lectures based on their cutting-edge research, these scholars will illustrate innovative ways to understand history, culture, society, as well as religion in Southeast Asia beyond national and regional boundaries.
A Time to Kill: Indonesia’s Anti-Leftist Purge in Comparative Perspective by Geoffrey Robinson (UCLA) : 09/02/2018
The Political Economy of Mass Murder: Indonesia’s 1965-1966 Killings and the Cold War by Brad Simpson (University of Connecticut) : 13/03/2018
Indonesia 1965-1966: Crimes, Calamities and the Quest for Accountability by Phelim Kine (Human Rights Watch) : 11/04/2018
Incitement to Mass Murder: the 1965-68 Indonesian Genocide by Saskia Wieringa (University of Amsterdam) : 24/04/2018
« Power Plays in Indonesian Waters : Transforming Indonesia into a Global Maritime Power is a Complicated Game » by Muhamad Arif, 01/02/2018, Asia and the Pacific Policy Society
The new Maritime Security Agency has only heightened competition in the Navy-dominated governance of Indonesian maritime security, Muhamad Arif writes.
When Indonesian President Joko Widodo signed the presidential regulation on the establishment of the country’s Maritime Security Agency (Badan Keamanan Laut or BAKAMLA) on 8 December 2014, the mood among interested observers was bright. The complicated management of Indonesian maritime security – for which no less than 12 national agencies had responsibility – would finally be settled. The country would soon have a dedicated coastguard to carry out most of the law enforcement functions in Indonesian maritime jurisdictions.
The vision for BAKAMLA was that it would work alongside the Indonesian Navy, which could finally focus on building its much-needed war-fighting capability amidst the increasingly volatile geopolitics of the region. This optimism was justified since the regulation was among the first signed by a president who came to power with a vision to build the geographically strategic country as a prominent maritime power. Or so it was thought.
Three years after the establishment of BAKAMLA, the reality is still a far cry from the original vision. Indonesian maritime security governance is still complicated by well-known problems such as inter-agency competition, overlapping legal frameworks, separate information and intelligence management systems, as well as limited and scattered resources.
In the last couple of years, the number of security violations in Indonesian waters and jurisdictions has decreased substantially. But this outcome is actually a result of sporadic, sub-efficient and, in some cases, conflicting policy directions. Indonesia’s pioneering National Maritime Policy with its attached Action Plan, released by the government in 2016, have not done much to tackle the problems on the ground.
Talking Indonesia : Being Chinese and Muslim with Dr Hew Wai Weng, 01/02/2018, Indonesia at Melbourne
Ethnic Chinese make up less than three percent of Indonesia’s population. Of this group, a tiny minority are Muslim. As such, ethnic Chinese Muslims occupy a unique and significant position where the religious majority intersects with this ethnic minority, which has long assumed a role of economic middleman and been used as political scapegoat. In many ways, Chinese Muslims in Indonesia disturb both their religious and ethnic identity groups. At its best, their position in society serves to highlight the inclusivity and diversity possible within Indonesian nationalism, and at its worst, to expose the undeniable limitations therein.
Who are Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese Muslims? What is their history and situation in contemporary Indonesia? Is there a Chinese way of being Muslim? What can their story tell us about religious tolerance and cultural diversity in Indonesia today?
In this week’s podcast Jemma Purdey explores these issues with Dr Hew Wai Weng, a fellow in the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, National University of Malaysia (UKM).
« L’ancien droit siamois, réinterprétation bouddhiste du Code de Manou hindou ?Réflexions à partir de l’étude des rapports entre royauté et droit » par Eugénie Mérieau, 02/02/2018, Séminaire de l’IAO
C’est par l’intermédiaire des peuples Môns que le droit hindou est parvenu aux peuples bouddhistes du Siam. Le code de Manou inspira, à partir des 14ème – 15ème siècles, le Phra Thammasat siamois, récit des origines du monde, des lois qui le régissent, et des devoirs du roi, ainsi que la Loi du Palais, ordonnant la vie dans l’enceinte du Palais. Jusqu’au début du 20ème siècle, le droit régissant la royauté demeure principalement composé de ces deux textes inspirés du droit hindou. Cette présentation s’attachera à analyser la transposition du droit hindou aux peuples bouddhistes et ses implications en ce qui concerne les rapports entre royauté et droit.
Eugénie Mérieau est post-doctorante auprès de la Chaire de constitutionnalisme comparé de l’Université de Göttingen.
« A multitude of sins: the revised criminal code » by Naila Rizqi Zakiah, 30/01/2018, Indonesia at Melbourne
Over the last two weeks, the bitter debate over whether lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Indonesians should be criminalised has reached new heights of acrimony. The never-ending argument about LGBT rights was revived following the decision of the Constitutional Court to reject the Family Love Alliance (AILA) petition that sought to extend the scope of articles in the Criminal Code (KUHP) on same sex relations and sex outside marriage.
The speaker of the Constitutional People’s Assembly (MPR), Zulkifli Hasan, added fuel to the fire when he made unsubstantiated claims that the People’s Representative Council (DPR) was discussing a bill on LGBT and same-sex marriage and five political parties were attempting to legalise LGBT behaviour. In reaction, politicians are now expediting efforts to pass long discussed reforms to the KUHP, including provisions that would criminalise same sex relations.
But while the media and the public have focused on the criminalisation of homosexuality, the proposed revisions to the KUHP are much broader, and seek to criminalise all extramarital sex, regardless of gender. The anti-LGBT propaganda has obscured the threat the revisions pose to the privacy and human rights of all Indonesians. There is a real danger that society will support increasing criminalisation based on moral and religious arguments without knowing or thinking about the consequences.
As is stands, the KUHP already criminalises adultery (zina). But the provision on adultery applies to sex between a married person and a person who is not their spouse, and is a complaint offence (delik aduan). This means it is only considered a crime if a party who feels they have suffered from the act reports it to the police. Article 484 of the revised criminal code, however, converts zina where one of the parties is married into a ‘normal offence’ (not based on a complaint or report), meaning that anyone can report cases to police.
Most concerning is that Article 484 extends the definition of zina to all extramarital sex. If a man and woman who are not bound by a “legitimate marriage” have sexual intercourse, they could face up to five years in prison. Article 484(2) explains that this type of adultery between two unmarried people based on complaints of spouses, or any concerned third party. The article doesn’t contain a clear definition of third party, which could be interpreted loosely. Can society claim to be a third party? A neighbour? Or the police? The revised code could pave the way for anyone in society to interfere in their fellow citizens’ affairs, essentially providing the legal basis for the persecution of people who engage in extramarital sex.