Podcast : A New Malaysia? #1: Meredith Weiss and Ambiga Sreenevasan, 17/07/2018, New Mandala
In this podcast, New Mandala’s editor Liam Gammon talks to Prof Meredith Weiss about whether Malaysia is witnessing “democratisation through elections”, and Dr Ross Tapsell, Director of the ANU Malaysia Institute, speaks with Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan about how civil society can hold the new government to its promises of reform.
2018 Malaysia Update – Regime change in Malaysia: how, why and the future, 12 October 2018, Weston Theatre, JG Crawford Building (132), Lennox Crossing, ANU
The ANU Malaysia Institute will hold the 2018 Malaysia Update conference on Friday, 12 October. The conference provides an opportunity to examine the recent momentous changes in Malaysia, including the first regime change since independence in 1957, attempts to establish a new democratic nation, and its regional impact.
The conference will feature world-class expertise from leading academics of Malaysian Studies. Attendees will include academics within the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, as well as government representatives and policymakers, diplomats, students, and the general public. The aim of the conference is to providing fresh thinking about the ways forward for the study of Malaysian society in scholarship as well as reflect on recent changes in Malaysia’s politics, economics and society which may reflect policy-making decisions.
Speakers include :
Meredith Weiss, State University of New York
Terence Gomez, University of Malaya
Amanda Whiting, The University of Melbourne
Vilashini Somiah, IMAN Research
Hew Wai Weng, Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Serina Rahman, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore
Sophie Lemiere, Harvard University
James Chin, University of Tasmania
Bridget Welsh, John Cabot University
The full conference program will be available in August. Registration is free but essential via Eventbrite.
« National Gallery Singapore brings major show of works by Latiff Mohidin to Paris’s Centre Pompidou » by Gareth Harris, 5 /03/2018, The Art Newspaper
The exhibition of 1960s works by the Malaysian artist is part of a long-term plan to turn Euro-centric Modernism on its head
The National Gallery Singapore is going global, presenting its first show at the Centre Pompidou in Paris as part of the joint Reframing Modernism initiative launched by both institutions. The exhibition in Paris, Latiff Mohidin; Pago Pago 1960-69 (until 28 May), includes more than 70 works by the eponymous Malaysian artist and poet drawn from private and public collections in Singapore and Malaysia.
Reframing Modernism “was developed in the spirit of re-examining the currents and perspectives which have shaped existing notions of Modernism”, write Eugene Tan, the director of the National Gallery Singapore, and Bernard Blistène, director of the Centre Pompidou’s Musée national d’art moderne, in the exhibition catalogue.
Both institutions are keen to “contribute to a more nuanced understanding of interactions between southeast Asia and Euro-America from a decentralised perspective”. In 2016, the Beaubourg gallery loaned works by artists such as Picasso and Chagall to the Reframing Modernism show held at the National Gallery Singapore, putting southeast Asian works in a new global context.
Prints, poetry, sculptural objects and writings on display reflect Mohidin’s multifaceted practice during the 1960s. The co-curators—Catherine David of the Centre Pompidou and Shabbir Hussain Mustafa of the National Gallery Singapore—demonstrate how Mohidin was exposed to movements such as German Expressionism and Cubism during his time studying at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in west Berlin from 1961 to 1964. Key works on show include Nature Morte I, Paysage de Berlin (verso; 1962), and the work on paper Un garcon (1963).
In the second half of the 1960s, Mohidin travelled across southeast Asia against a turbulent political backdrop whereby various nationalist movements had begun to prevail (Singapore split from the Malyasian Federation in 1965, for instance). The artist also forged important relationships with other avant-garde thinkers such as the writer Goenawan Mohamad in Jakarta. Mohidin dubbed this dialogue, and the new aesthetic taking shape regionally, Pago Pago.
Hussain Mustafa outlines the process, saying: “Mohidin evokes the consciousness that emerged through these travels with a phrase, Pago Pago, a manner of thinking and working that complicated Western Modernism through the initiation of dialogues with other avant-garde thinkers in southeast Asia.”
Mohidin describes how the Pago Pago works are made, saying in the exhibition catalogue: “Each Pago Pago object is constructed with a black contour… sometimes the colouring came after the shape had taken form. The bottom ground is uniformly the same colour, like the Berlin still-life paintings. In terms of the brush technique, although Pago Pago has fewer brush strokes, there is significant control over the form, the curves, the leaves.” His poetry of the time is, meanwhile, in free verse form, echoing the biomorphic aspect of his art.
« Unknown language discovered in Southeast Asia », 06/02/2018, Lund University
A previously unknown language has been found in the Malay Peninsula by linguists from Lund University in Sweden. The language has been given the name Jedek.
“Documentation of endangered minority languages such as Jedek is important, as it provides new insights into human cognition and culture”, says Joanne Yager, doctoral student at Lund University.
“Jedek is not a language spoken by an unknown tribe in the jungle, as you would perhaps imagine, but in a village previously studied by anthropologists. As linguists, we had a different set of questions and found something that the anthropologists missed”, says Niclas Burenhult, Associate Professor of General Linguistics at Lund University, who collected the first linguistic material from Jedek speakers.
The language is an Aslian variety within the Austroasiatic language family and is spoken by 280 people who are settled hunter-gatherers in northern Peninsular Malaysia.
The researchers discovered the language during a language documentation project, Tongues of the Semang, in which they visited several villages to collect language data from different groups who speak Aslian languages.
The discovery of Jedek was made while they were studying the Jahai language in the same area.
“We realised that a large part of the village spoke a different language. They used words, phonemes and grammatical structures that are not used in Jahai. Some of these words suggested a link with other Aslian languages spoken far away in other parts of the Malay Peninsula”, says Joanne Yager.
« Papia Kristang: Documenting and Describing one of Malaysia’s Disappearing Languages » by Robert Laub, 07/02/2018, SOAS
In the year 1511 Vasco da Gama and the Portuguese arrived in Malacca, one of Asia’s largest trade centres. As the Portuguese took root, intermixing between the Portuguese and locals led to the creation of a mixed community. Holding onto their Catholic faith and Eurasian traditions until today, they also continue to speak their Portuguese-lexified creole language, known as Papia Kristang. My study looks into the morphosyntactic structure of Kristang in relation to its contact languages, Portuguese and Malay, as well as in relation to Makista, the Portuguese-lexified creole of Macau. My research took me to Malacca where I had the opportunity to record native speakers of Kristang to help better understand the language.
Robert Laub is a PhD candidate at SOAS in Linguistics. He previously received his MA from SOAS in Language Documentation and Description and wrote his thesis on decreolization in Makista (Macau Creole). His current interests are Luso-Asian creoles, especially the morpho-syntax and how the sociopolitical and sociolinguistic environments help to shape the structure of these languages.
« 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.)
Youth and a culture of protest in Southeast Asia by Julian CH Lee, 08/11/2017, Regional Learning Hub, New Mandala
Shortly before Malaysia’s general elections in 2008, I sat on a cool floor with blank placards and marker pens, beneath a whirring ceiling fan in a bungalow house in Kuala Lumpur. I sat there with friends, some younger, some older than my 31 year old self, thinking of slogans for our campaign to educate voters about the representation of women in Parliament and the hurdles that women face in having their voices heard and issues addressed…
The particular energy that these young people brought to our campaign is worth drawing attention to. Malaysians, and especially young Malaysians, have often been characterised as being averse to political activism. But the work of scholars like Meredith Weiss has persuasively demonstrated that Malaysia has a rich history of student activism, one which has been actively suppressed and obscured such that many young people today have little idea of it. In this context, work such as Weiss’s book, activist Fahmi Reza’s documentary Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka, and discussions such as this on New Mandala, have a potentially important role in reconnecting people with lost histories and stories.
Podcast Malaysian’dreamings: Islamist politics and political survival in Malaysia with Clive Kessler and Norani Othman, Sidney Southeast Asia Center
The rise of using Islam for political survival in Malaysia as its ruling party and leadership are mired in a multi-billion dollar global corruption scandal. And how the long-term agenda of the Islamist Pas party crashes into the secular founding of Malaysia, and the threats to the Federal Constitution and the future of the nation. Speakers, in order, are: Professor Clive Kessler, emeritus UNSW; and Professor Norani Othman, emeritus UKM and co-founder Sisters in Islam. Introduced by Dr Lis Kramer, moderated by Kean Wong. Hosted by Sydney University’s SouthEast Asia Research Centre, and globalbersih.org.
While doing anthropological fieldwork in Malaysia, Dominik Müller noticed that the Islamic Party of Malaysia organizes events and activities that are frequently embellished with popular culture elements, such as bands playing on electric guitars. This seemed at odds with common Western assumptions that Islamic political movements tend to condemn popular culture as un-Islamic. Müller then investigated how the change of the party’s religious stance – a Sharia-framed stance that had still been adamant twenty years before – came about. He found that not only the Islamic Party has opened itself to new forms of modern pop culture but also these elements have been appropriated and reframed in an Islamic context to convey the political messages of the party. This ethnographic study shows that Islamist ideologies can be much more complex and flexible than many people would normally assume.
Timothy P. Daniels, Living sharia : law and practice in Malaysia, University of Washington Press, december 2017
Drawing on ethnographic research, Living Sharia examines the role of sharia in the sociopolitical processes of contemporary Malaysia. The book traces the contested implementation of Islamic family and criminal laws and sharia economics to provide cultural frameworks for understanding sharia among Muslims and non-Muslims. Timothy Daniels explores how the way people think about sharia is often entangled with notions about race, gender equality, nationhood, liberal pluralism, citizenship, and universal human rights. He reveals that Malaysians’ ideas about sharia are not isolated from-nor always opposed to-liberal pluralism and secularism.
Timothy P. Daniels is professor of anthropology at Hofstra University. He is the author of Islamic Spectrum in Java and Building Cultural Nationalism in Malaysia, and editor of Performance, Popular Culture, and Piety in Muslim Southeast Asia.
Lily Zubaidah Rahim, « Careful What You Wish For: Salafi Islamisation and the Shifting Structures of the Malaysian State », 31/05/2017, ANU Malaysia Institute
Malaysia appears to be fragmenting under the weight of salafiIslamisation – threatening the country’s secular and democratic constitutional foundations. Initially instigated by state-led Islamisation initiatives under the Mahathir administration, the promotion of salafi Islam has become increasing assertive, particularly since the 2013 general elections. In this election, the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional (BN) government lost the popular vote. More recently, UMNO and the conservative opposition Islamist party PAS have attempted to introduce hudud (sharia penal code) legislation through the Federal parliament – further reconstructing the character of the post-colonial state. The lecture examines Malaysia’s salafiIslamisation in conjunction with the broader socio-political and economic pressures confronting the ruling BN government. The ambiguous and fragmented responses of the predominantly Muslim-led opposition parties (Amanah, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Bersatu) towards salafi Islamisation will also be considered. After sixty years of independence, Malaysians continue to be challenged by the following questions: What is the constitutional status of sharia law?; How should the dual legal jurisdictions (civil and codified sharia) be managed?; Can traditional interpretations of sharia genuinely accommodate principles such as citizenship rights, gender equality and democratic constitutionalism?
Lily Zubaidah Rahim is an Assoc Professor at the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney. She is a specialist in authoritarian governance, ethnic politics and democratisation in Southeast Asia and political Islam in Muslim-majority states. Her publications include The Singapore Dilemma: The Political and Educational Marginality of the Malay Community, (Oxford University Press 1998/2001; translated to Malay by the Malaysian National Institute for Translation); Singapore in the Malay World: Building and Breaching Regional Bridges (Routledge, 2009); Muslim Secular Democracy (PalgraveMacmillan, 2013) and ThePolitics of Islamism: Diverging Visions and Trajectories(PalgraveMacmillan, 2017, Forthcoming). Lily is completing her fifth book on governance reform in Singapore. She has published in international journals such as Democratization,Contemporary Politics, Journal of Contemporary Asia andAustralian Journal of International Affairs. Her sole-authored journal article ‘Governing Muslims in Singapore’s Secular Authoritarian State’ was short-listed for the Boyer Prize by the Australian Journal of International Affairs (AJIA) in 2011.
There’s now a place to go to admire Malaysia’s comic book art by Daryl Goh, 03/04/2017, star2.com
The newly-opened Malaysia Cartoon And Comic House, nestled in leafy Taman Botani Perdana in Kuala Lumpur, is set to be a major attraction for comic book enthusiasts and the more curious-minded. The building, which is now home to the nation’s cartoon and comic book story, is practically packed out, wall-to-wall, with original comic book art, editorial cartoon strips, storyboard sketches, studio notes and vintage youth culture magazines, all dedicated to chronicling Malaysian comic book history and culture.
Over 500 cartoon and comic book works – spanning mid-1930s to the late 1990s – are on display now at the gallery, with Tazidi revealing that less than 10% of the Malaysia Cartoon And Comic House archive has been made public in this opening exhibition.
Malaysia and the world : cross-regional perspective on race, religion and ethnic identity, International Conference at Ohio University, 24-26/03/2017, Athens, Ohio
The conference aims to highlight Malaysia’s profile and role on the world stage by bringing together leading scholars from Malaysia, Europe, and North America. The intellectual academic exchange will provide a venue for competing comparative perspectives on Malaysia and other countries. It is the broader intention that this academic activism will benefit and enrich Malaysian studies.
The highlights of the International Conference will include keynote addresses by:
Malaysia’s Distinguished Professor Datuk Shamsul Amri Baharuddin of UKM and the National Council of Professors, who will speak on “The Making of Malaysia’s National Unity Blueprint: Redefining Unity in Malaysia”
UPM VC, Prof Datin Paduka Aini Ideris, who will speak on the role of research universities in nation building.
The conference will also feature talks by leading American scholars who have done extensive work on Malaysia such as:
Donald L. Horowitz, the James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science Emeritus of Duke University
Professor Meredith Weiss of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs, State University of NY at Albany.
Other distinguished and notable speakers from Malaysia will include:
The well-known former Imam of Perlis, the Honorable Dato Dr Juanda Jaya, who is a member of Sarawak Legislative Assembly and will speak on a subject that addresses the themes “Islam, the state and law”
UPM’s Visiting Professor at Wailalak University, Thailand, Professor Ahmad Tarmizi Talib, who will speak on “Muslim – Non-Muslim Relations in Malaysia »
UNIMAS Professor Stanley Bye Kadam Kiai, who will speak on “the Politics of Federalism: reflecting on the role Sarawak and Sabah played in the formation of Malaysia »
Tun Abdul Razak Chair Professor Jayum Jawan, who is from UPM, will speak on “Race & Ethnic Relations: What can Malaysia and the US learn from each other?”
The three day conference will have speakers addressing four major themes:
Le cas de la Malaisie est particulièrement révélateur de l’influence politique et économique croissante de la Chine sur l’Asie du Sud-Est. Le rapprochement entre la Malaisie et la Chine, longtemps entravé par des divergences idéologiques, s’est renforcé au cours de cette dernière décennie. Dans un contexte d’intégration régionale de l’Asean sur fond de conflits territoriaux en mer de Chine méridionale, l’examen de leur relation prend ses distances avec l’idée d’une simple manœuvre hégémonique chinoise et révèle une alliance porteuse de nombreux bénéfices réciproques.
Trois spécialistes de la Malaisie – une économiste, une géographe et un sociologue – décryptent ici les multiples facettes de cette « précieuse » relation du point de vue malaisien. Leur enquête montre comment, au cours de la période 2008-2016, cette alliance a été méthodiquement construite sur la base de partenariats déployés dans des secteurs économiques clés et sur des territoires stratégiques. Elle interroge les rapports d’État à État, les dimensions socioculturelles des échanges bilatéraux et les enjeux liés aux gigantesques projets d’aménagement immobiliers et aux investissements industriels. Cette analyse éclaire les logiques du déploiement de l’activité chinoise en Malaisie autant que les efforts du parti conservateur malais pour en tirer bénéfice.
« Divide and rule: the racist roots of Malaysia’s Redshirt movement » by Paul Millar, 03/01/2017, Southeast Asia Globe
With an election looming and the 1MDB scandal still hanging over Najib Razak’s head, the Redshirt movement has proved a useful pawn in silencing dissent.
Ross Tapsell, a lecturer and researcher at Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, said the Redshirt movement had been cynically created to drive a wedge between Malaysian voters.
“The Redshirts and their backers are trying to polarise Malaysian politics further, mostly on ethnic and religious grounds, by claiming the Bersih supporters, or ‘Yellowshirts’, are predominantly opposition voters of Chinese heritage, and the Redshirts are the ‘pro-Malay’ group,” he said.
Rather than allow Bersih’s demands for clean elections to resonate with the public, Tapsell said, the Redshirt movement had redrawn the battle lines into something more closely resembling a tribal brawl – with predictable consequences. “Bersih’s goals and the ethnic background of their supporters are much more diverse than the Redshirts give them credit for, but the effect has been to make these protests [about] free and fair elections to be more of a street ‘battle’ between coloured shirts of political parties – think Thailand,” he said.
According to Gerhard Hoffstaedter, a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Queensland and the author of Modern Muslim Identities: Negotiating Religion and Ethnicity in Malaysia, it is a tactic that has been used to stifle real reform for more than half a century.
“By collapsing important human rights issues and the demand for free elections into the racial politics that have dominated Malaysian politics since independence, the Redshirts aim to discredit universal claims to freedoms and mire their demand in a zero-sum game,” he said. “That game rests on pitting ethnic groups against each other and has proven a potent electoral tool.”