Seminar: The Politics of National Identity in Malaysia: The Making of Negara Islam

 

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

 

About the Seminar

The government’s move on 26th May 2016 to expedite for parliamentary deliberation the Private Member’s Bill introduced by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang to expand the Syariah court’s jurisdiction surprised and unsettled many. It has been interpreted by its opponents as a step towards the implementation of Islamic penal code. Others in particular the Prime Minister and his party leaders have dismissed this reading and explained that the bill would merely remove any limitations on the type of sentences the Syariah Court is authorised to hand down to Muslims except for the death penalty. A third interpretation regards the incident as nothing more than a ploy to boost the political credentials of UMNO and/or PAS in the face of the two up-coming by-elections in June, and consequently, it would eventually come to nothing.

This presentation argues that the push to enhance the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court has been in the making for some time, not just by PAS politicians but also by other Islamic social and institutional actors. This push, in tandem with the attempts at implementing Islamic penal code, may be understood as part of the broader movement in terms of efforts towards what are regarded as rendering the Malaysian state institutions more in conformity with Islamic teachings. This idea and the multiple policy initiatives of realising the so-called negara Islam, unleashed since the launch of the Islamisation Policy by Dr Mahathir Mohamed as Malaysia’s Prime Minister, have acquired a momentum of its own.

The impact of this process of change is progressively making itself felt, on matters such as the interpretation of Article 3(1) and 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution, the judicial deliberation of inter-religious litigations and the yawning gap in perspectives between advocates of Islamic penal code and their detractors on the constitutional implications of its implementation.

This presentation will examine some of these unfolding dynamics and the social actors involved.  Periodic outbursts of interreligious contentions in the public sphere over issues such as the above-mentioned move are only symptoms sustained by these underlying social dynamics. By way of concluding, I will consider some implications of this development on national identity formation, interethnic relations and national integration in Malaysia.

About the Speaker

Helen Ting Mu Hung (PhD in Political Science, Sciences Po, Paris) is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). Her research interests include the politics of national history, multiculturalism, political secularism, identity and agency.

Registration
For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 4 July 2016.

 

Seminar: Christianity, Conversion, and Overseas Chinese: Historical Moments in Religious Interaction

 

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

About the Seminar

This presentation is an offshoot of my current research, which explores the nature of religious interaction in Southeast Asia between 1500 and 1900. Throughout most of this time a major goal of Christian missions in Asia was to reach China, and Chinese communities in Southeast Asia were valued primarily as a preparatory training ground. Reviewing the period from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century, the presentation addresses the interaction between Christian missionaries and Chinese in Southeast Asia. It seeks to explain why Christianity was relatively slow to appeal to overseas Chinese, and why it did not gain any significant following until the 20th century. While recognizing that each location has its own history, I focus on three ‘historical moments’ when the Christianization of overseas Chinese assumes a prominent place in the sources: Spanish Manila, 1581-1639; the Straits Settlements, 1815-67; and Singapore and the Netherlands Indies in the 1930s. In adopting a comparative framework, I argue that historicizing the global connections between religious missions, the personalities involved, and the differing responses among overseas Chinese opens up new opportunities for Southeast Asia to become involved in the growing field of world history.

About the Speaker
BARBARA WATSON ANDAYA (Ph.D. Cornell University) is Professor and Chair of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii, and currently Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. Between 2003 and 2010 she was Director of the University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies and in 2005-06 she was President of the American Association of Asian Studies. In 2000 she received a John Simon Guggenheim Award, and in 2010 she was awarded the University of Hawai‘i Regents Medal for Excellence in Research. She has lived and taught in Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the United States. Her specific area of expertise is the western Malay-Indonesia archipelago, on which she has published widely, but she maintains an active teaching and research interest across all Southeast Asia. Her publications include Perak, The Abode of Grace: A Study of an Eighteenth Century Malay State (1979); co-translator of Raja Ali Haji’s Tuhfat al-Nafis (The Precious Gift) (1982); To Live as Brothers: Southeast Sumatra in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1993); The Flaming Womb: Repositioning Women in Early Modern Southeast Asia (2006). With Leonard Y. Andaya she has co-authored A History of Malaysia (1982; revised edition, 2000; third edition, forthcoming 2016); and A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Her present project is a history of religious interaction in Southeast Asia, 1511-1900.

Registration
For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 16 June 2016.

 

Seminar: Betrayal, Sacred Landscapes, and Stories of Justice Among Tamils in Malaysia

 

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

 

About the Seminar

Malaysia’s multiethnic ideology is premised upon an ideal of hospitality that simultaneously announces its own impossibility through the marking of legal ethno-nationalist rights and privileges. The performativity of the Law has been increasingly revealed to Malaysian Tamils through a series of recent events that have left them questioning the civility of their country. Specifically, the demolitions of temples and the acquisitions of land by the State, forced conversions, and the dispossession of Tamil plantation workers have precipitated doubts. I argue that the force of law within the ethno-nationalist state is haunted by a fragmentation of memory and experience among Tamils. This is wrought by a sense of “betrayal” by the State upon an increasingly sacralized landscape. Among Tamil Hindus, notions of divine justice have become fused with possessive and sometimes violent imaginaries. Tamil notions of divine justice are revealed to be a form of compensation, albeit one grounded in a growing victim’s narrative. Through my interlocutors and collaborators, I have come to critique the Law, as mutually understood through the ethnographic encounter. At the same time, I have strategically utilized empathy in the face of great hospitality, whilst recoiling, at times, from the implications that accompany calls of justice. I conclude with a meditation upon the ethics of critique by suggesting the ethnographic betrayal is both painful and necessary.


About the Speaker

Andrew Willford is Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University. Professor Willford’s work characteristically explores psychological aspects of selfhood, identity, and subjectivity within a matrix of power and statecraft. His previous research has focused upon Tamil displacement, revivalism, and identity politics in Malaysia and India. A recent book, Tamils and the Haunting of Justice: History and Recognition in Malaysia’s Plantations (University of Hawaii Press/Singapore University Press, 2014) examines how Tamil plantation communities face the uncertainties of retrenchment and relocation in Malaysia. Other books include: Cage of Freedom: Tamil Identity and the Ethnic Fetish in Malaysia (University of Michigan Press, 2006; Singapore University Press, 2006), Spirited Politics: Religion and Public Life in Contemporary Southeast Asia, Andrew Willford and Kenneth George, eds. (Southeast Asia Program Publications, Cornell University, 2005); and Clio/Anthropos: Exploring the Boundaries between History and Anthropology, Andrew Willford and Eric Tagliacozzo, eds. (Stanford University Press, 2009).


Registration

For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 1 June 2016.

 

Seminar: Has Malaysian Islam been Salafized?

 

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME SEMINAR

 

About the Seminar

Recent surveys have worryingly suggested that there has been a rise in the level of extremism among Muslims in Malaysia, although the majority remain moderate in orientation. This tallies with media reports on increasing numbers of Malay-Muslim youth harbouring attraction towards radical Islamist movements such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This presentation posits that the form of Islam that is normatively understood and practised in Malaysia i.e. Malaysian Islam, has undergone myriad changes as a result of gradual internalization of the Wahhabi brand of Salafism since the 1970s. Salafization, referring to a process of mindset and attitudinal transformation rather than the growth of Salafi nodes per se, is not restricted to individuals or groups identified as ‘Salafi’, but rather affects practically all levels of Malay-Muslim society, cutting across political parties, governmental institutions and non-state actors. Powered by petrodollars, this new wave of Salafization has eclipsed an earlier Salafi trend which spawned the Kaum Muda reformist movement. It has also resulted in Islamist, rather than Islamic, ideals increasingly defining the tenor of mainstream Islam in Malaysia, with debilitating consequences in the fields of both intra-Muslim and inter-religious relations. However, the Malay-Muslim powers that be in Malaysia conveniently ignore the Wahhabi-Salafi onslaught for expedient reasons, thus putting social pluralism at stake.

About the Speaker

AHMAD FAUZI ABDUL HAMID is Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, and Professor of Political Science, School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, Malaysia. Trained as a political scientist and political economist at the universities of Oxford, Leeds and Newcastle, UK, his research interests lie within the field of political Islam in Southeast Asia. Ahmad Fauzi has published over forty scholarly articles in leading journals such as Indonesia and the Malay World, Islamic Studies, Asian Studies Review, Southeast Asian Studies, Asian Journal of Political Science, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Asian Survey, Pacific Affairs, Sojourn and Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. He regularly contributes book chapters to edited volumes, the most recent being ‘Sociopolitical Developments in West Asia and Their Impact on Christian Minorities in the Region’, in Felix Wilfred (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Christianity in Asia (New  York: Oxford University Press, 2014); ‘The Hudud Controversy in Malaysia: Religious Probity or Political Expediency?’, in Daljit Singh (ed.), Southeast Asian Affairs 2015 (Singapore: ISEAS, 2015); and ‘Globalization of Islamic Education in Southeast Asia’, in Ken Miichi and Omar Farouk (eds.), Southeast Asian Muslims in the Era of Globalization (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Ahmad Fauzi has published three research monographs, namely Islamic Education in Malaysia (RSIS, 2010), Political Islam and Islamist Politics in Malaysia (ISEAS, 2013) and Middle Eastern Influences on Islamist Organizations in Malaysia: The Cases of ISMA, IRF and HTM (ISEAS, 2016 – co-authored with Che Hamdan Che Mohd. Razali). His latest contribution to knowledge, published in April 2016, is an article in ISEAS’s flagship journal, Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 38, no. 1 (2016), pp. 28-54, entitled ‘Syariahization of Intra-Muslim Religious Freedom and Human Rights Practice in Malaysia: The Case of Darul Arqam’. Earlier this month, Ahmad Fauzi featured in a panel discussion on ‘Islam in the Contemporary World’ in Channel News Asia’s ‘Between the Lines’ talkshow.

Registration
For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 24 May 2016.

 

Seminar: Political and Economic Risk in Malaysia beyond 1MDB

 

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME


About the Seminar

Two years into the full-blown 1MDB saga which shows no sign of abating, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak remains in office with his detractors – particularly Dr Mahathir Mohamad – admitting they need outside help and prosecution to unseat the man who is arguably the most unpopular prime minister to date.

Despite the unpopularity and a world that shows no tolerance for abuse at the political top, Najib remains in office with no challenger in sight. But the economy is floundering due to low prices of oil and commodities, the retail sector is slowing and the only bright spark is a recovering ringgit and a stock index which remains robust due to the services and manufacturing sectors.

What is in store for Najib and Co, the effects on the opposition and the outcome of the Sarawak Elections in May and also the general elections which must be called by mid-2018. Jahabar Sadiq goes through the saga and the scenarios that could develop for the next 12 months.

About the Speaker

Jahabar Sadiq was the Chief Executive Officer and Editor of The Malaysian Insider, Malaysia’s fastest growing news portal until it was shut down on March 15, 2016, and has been a journalist in print, news wires, television, radio and internet since 1988. He was a senior producer with Reuters Television, the international news and information broadcast agency, from 1998 to 2009, interviewing world leaders, captains of industry and others from Afghanistan to East Timor. He had also had an earlier stint in Reuters as a political and economic news correspondent and was briefly a producer in AP Television. He started his career in the New Straits Times and spent a year in Business Times before joining Reuters.

Registration
For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 27 April 2016.

 

Seminar: Adenan, Autonomy, and the Alternatives: Sarawak Decides 2016

 

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

 

About the Seminar

A recently published survey by a respected pollster indicated that Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s popularity has soared among Sarawakians from 74 percent in July 2015 to 81 percent in January 2016. The new Chief Minister is not only popular among the Bumiputera voters who form the backbone of Barisan Nasional (BN) support but also among ethnic Chinese who overwhelmingly voted for the opposition in the 2011 state elections. Many believe that Adenan’s popularity will help to swing the Chinese votes, thus enabling the BN to consolidate its electoral dominance in Sarawak. However, some skeptics argue that the Chinese ground is not moving significantly enough to the BN because there are lingering issues and problems that the new Chief Minister has yet to resolve. Another interesting and significant development going into the 2016 elections is the rise of Sarawak nationalism. The manifestations of this sentiment vary from the call for greater autonomy to the more extreme call for secession from the Federation of Malaysia. It is believed that the rise of Sarawak nationalism may erode the popularity of federal opposition parties. However, some quarters argue that the ruling party had played the sentiment of Sarawak nationalism in the previous state elections and this did not stop close to 40 percent voters to vote for DAP and PKR. With so many questions raised over the impact of Adenan’s popularity and Sarawak nationalism, how will the 2016 elections pan out? Will Sarawakians decide to go for Adenan’s promise of hope and greater autonomy or will they continue to demand for change? These questions are the focus of the presentation.

About the Speaker

Faisal S. Hazis is the Head of Centre for Asian Studies and Senior Fellow at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. His research interests include electoral politics, state-society relations, democracy and civil movements. Dr Faisal has studied Sarawak politics for over 18 years and published numerous books and articles on the subject. Among the notable ones are Domination and Contestation: the Muslim Bumiputera Politics in Sarawak (ISEAS Press), ‘The Politics of Development in Sarawak’ (UKM Press) and ‘Patronage, Power and Prowess: Barisan Nasional’s Dominance in East Malaysia’ (USM Press).

Registration
For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 21 April 2016.

 

Seminar: Intimate Citizenship of Non-heteronormative Malay Men in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia: A Comparative Study

 

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

ABOUT THE SEMINAR

The presentation investigates the interplay of gender, sexual, ethnic, religious and national identities of Malay non-heteronormative men by comparing cases in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The Malays are singled-out not only because of their largely shared ethnic, cultural, and historical heritages even as they are physically and politically separated by post-colonial national boundaries, but also because these similarities allow for comparisons. By adopting the comparative study strategy and Ken Plummer’s (2003) conceptual model of intimate citizenship, the presentation aims to answer these questions: What are the similarities and differences in the lived experiences of Malay non-heteronormative men in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore?; What are the similarities and differences in the ways these men express their non-heteronormativities within specific and local gender, sexual, ethnic, religious, and nationalist discourses?; and How do they negotiate and navigate zones of intimacy?

By adopting the comparative study approach and conceptual model of intimate citizenship, this presentation hopes to shed light on how Malay non-heteronormative men negotiate their masculinity, sexuality, ethnicity, religious and national identities within the realms of nationalism, citizenship and the international discourse of sexual citizenship.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Chua Hang Kuen is an early career researcher who completed his PhD at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University in Melbourne. Dr Chua is currently a lecturer and researcher in Anthropology and Sociology Division, School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia. His research interests include masculinity, male body and sexuality. More specifically his work examines the behaviour, identity- and meaning-making of men within specific social contexts.

 

REGISTRATION

For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 30 March 2016.

 

Conference: The Malaysian Economy towards 2020: Issues and Challenges

 

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME & REGIONAL ECONOMIC STUDIES 

 

ABOUT THE CONFERENCE
Malaysia’s ambition to become a developed nation by the year 2020 was first articulated in 1991.  The “Vision 2020” goal has explicitly and implicitly influenced medium and long-term development planning in Malaysia for the past 25 years.  As the year 2020 approaches, the Malaysian economy has grown at a pace below the annual growth target of six percent set in the Tenth Malaysia Plan (2011-2015).  This has been partly due to the adverse global economic conditions in recent years.  Thus, the goal of achieving robust economic sufficient to achieve developed nation status will remain a significant challenge for Malaysian policymakers.


ABOUT THE PROGRAMME

Please click here.

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
This conference brings together prominent economists working on various aspects of the Malaysian economy with the goal of examining and assessing the extent to which the  government’s current economic policies are able to address the challenges of achieving a developed country status by the year 2020.

REGISTRATION
Attendance to the conference is free of charge but registration is required by 18 March 2016. To register, please fill up this form as linked. As seats are limited, please register early.  Admission to the conference can only be taken as confirmed upon receiving the written acceptance from ISEAS. For any queries, please feel free to e-mail <iseasevents3@iseas.edu.sg>.

 

Seminar: Consequences of Development-induced Displacement in the Greater Klang Valley Region: “Despair to Hope” among Tamils

 

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

ABOUT THE SEMINAR

The displacement of Indian communities from the former plantation areas of the greater Klang Valley region (GKVR) of Selangor State in Malaysia (GKVR), and their subsequent forced movement to squatter areas and high-rise low cost housing led to their becoming a part of the lowest bottom 40 percent of Malaysian society. Simmering frustration over their deteriorating socioeconomic situation finally culminated in the massive protest, led by HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Force), in Kuala Lumpur in November 2007. Subsequently, the 2008 and 2013 General Elections saw a decline of support from Indians for Barisan Nasional (BN), the ruling coalition, as well as the diminution of the Malaysian Indian Congress, a party that represented Indians in the ruling coalition.

Various projects have been implemented to address and redress the plight of the Indians by various interest groups, NGOs, political parties, middle-class Indians as well as Tamil newspapers and writers championing their cause in the proposed 11th Malaysian Plan. The seminar will recount the political maneuvering among these groups to emerge as champions of the displaced and working class Indians. The discussion would also present findings by the author in a recent fieldwork carried out in the GKVR.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

A Mani is Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and Emeritus Professor, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan, where he has been associated with since 2000. Currently, Dr Mani still teaches at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University on subjects related to South East Asia and South Asia. Mani has also previously worked at the Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, and the University of Brunei Darussalam. He has edited four books relating to Indians in Southeast Asia and his academic areas of interest include education, ethnicity and migration.

REGISTRATION
For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 10 March 2016.

 

 

Seminar: Melting Mosh Pit: Extreme Music Performance in Multi-ethnic Malaysia, 2010-2015

 

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

ABOUT THE SEMINAR

This seminar focuses on the way in which globalised extreme music – defined as a concoction of modern, extreme fringes of heavy metal and punk – manifests itself in Malaysia. A multi-ethnic, multi-religious and fast developing Southeast Asian society where class and ethnicity mark physical, sociocultural and political space, the construction and negotiation of ‘authentic’ extreme music identities in Malaysia are affected by both the global-local music scene dynamics and pre-existing markers of ethnic identity. Malaysian social reality is highly fractured between ‘everyday-defined’ and ‘authority-defined’ contexts – constructed by those who are part of the nation’s dominant power structure, and who ‘represent’ its ascribed Malay majority. As such, the performance of extreme music is seemingly dependent not only upon the authenticity-defined boundaries of global extreme music performance, but also upon the friction between ‘everyday-defined’ and ‘authority-defined’ spheres of ethnicised Malaysian society.

Data collected through insider ethnography and in-depth interviews with 40 multi-ethnic Malaysian extreme music scene’s participants in different locales in West and East Malaysia suggest two main findings. First, extreme music in the early 2010s Malaysia is performed by referencing metal and punk’s authenticating global codes. Second, pre-existing markers of ethnic identity influence the construction of diverse Malaysian extreme music identities, creating ‘sedimented hybrids’. These multi-layered identities blend pre-existing socio-political, ethnic, religious, or policing aspects of Malaysian ethnic identity with the buttress provided by global ‘authenticating’ codes of extreme music performance.

On the one hand, the Malay-Muslim majority in Malaysia performs extreme music by respecting the boundaries set by both authenticity-defined globalising subcultural models, and clashing with authority-defined Malaysian social reality. On the other hand, ethnic minorities demonstrate less dependency on authority-definitions, using extreme music as a site for social empowerment and construction of ethnically-transcending Malaysian identities. Regardless of this major distinction, the narratives of all ethnic groups represented in this study suggest that between 2010 and 2015, Malaysian extreme music configures a social space where inter-ethnic solidarity and discourses are significantly promoted at an accessible grassroots level that is not limited to Malaysia’s artistic and cultural elite.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Marco Ferrarese is a musician, freelance travel writer, author and Ph.D. candidate at Monash University Malaysia. He has played guitar, recorded and toured internationally with Italian metal-punk band The Nerds until 2007, before relocating to the People’s Republic of China to teach languages at Hebei Normal University of Science and Technology, Qinhuangdao. He has been teaching, travelling and researching in the greater Asian region since 2008, with a particular focus on Insular Southeast Asia and its extreme music scenes. He is the author of novel Nazi Goreng (Monsoon Books, 2013) – currently banned in Malaysia – and Banana Punk Rawk Trails: A Euro-Fool’s Metal Punk Journeys in Malaysia, Borneo and Indonesia (SIRD, 2016). He also currently plays guitar and records with thrash-core band WEOT SKAM in Penang, Malaysia.

REGISTRATION
For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 9 March 2016.