In this webinar, Dr Norshahril Saat, Dr Azhar Ibrahim, and Associate Professor Noor Aisha explored the educational trajectories of Singapore’s Islamic graduates, discussing the challenges faced in terms of employment prospects and ability to meet the demands of the economy, as well as the larger impact of these graduates on shaping religious discourses and teachings within the community upon their return.
Social media is having an ever increasing impact on politics and everyday life. This Regional Social and Cultural Studies (RSCS) workshop examined the key drivers of change in the social media landscape over the past decade, and discussed issues contributing to the rapidly shifting information societies across Southeast Asia.
A substantial share of foreign direct investments have been directed towards extractive resources and their infrastructures in Mainland Southeast Asia. This Regional Social and Cultural Studies (RSCS) workshop examined issues concerning resource extraction and commodification in the region, the stakeholders involved, and their effect on local economies.
REGIONAL SOCIAL AND CULTURAL STUDIES PROGRAMME
The Politics of Art in Southeast Asia Seminar Series
About the Seminar
The consequence of the 1932 Revolution on the development of Thai modern art was the shift of art patronage from the court to a “commoner” government. In 1933, the management of the Fine Art Department (Krom Silpakorn), the national organisation responsible for the preservation, support, and promotion of arts and culture in Thailand, was transferred from the Royal Institute (Ratchabanditsabha) to the Ministry of Education. At the zenith of the revolutionary regime, the Fine Art Department, founded in 1912 during the reign of King Vajiravudh (King Rama VI, r. 1910-1925), promoted art representing the working class as a subject matter and Western realism as a stylistic preference. This resulted in the creation of a new aesthetic canon: the strong, desirable armoured body, symbol of the revolution’s commoner ready to work and sacrifice for the nation. This seminar will discuss this canon, its promotion of the ideal Thai body, and how it was, in fact, a critique of the upper class. This politics of the body was primarily manifest in the art of sculpture and promoted through Constitutional Fairs between 1937 and 1938. I will elaborate further on how these fairs served as a tool for nation-building and for the eradication of social hierarchy.
About the Speaker
Thanavi Chotpradit is a lecturer in modern and contemporary Thai art history in the Department of Art History, Faculty of Archaeology, at Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. She is also a member of the editorial collective Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art, a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the study of contemporary and modern art in Southeast Asia. She received her PhD in art history from Birkbeck, University of London, under a Royal Thai Government Scholarship. Dr Chotpradit’s areas of interest include modern and Thai contemporary art in relation to memory studies, war commemoration, and Thai politics.
About the Seminar
Urban development in Ho Chi Minh City is simultaneously a highly bureaucratic and flexible process, a paradox born out of the city’s development at the nexus of state and market practice—what is now referred to as late socialism. Decentralized government agencies and foreign investors who bring capital and infrastructural expertise to the city negotiate a wide range of city making possibilities. The result is an urban landscape made piecemeal, with each urban development project built, more often than not, in defiance of city plans.
While Ho Chi Minh City produces comprehensive infrastructure plans according to modern rational planning principles, each project is subsequently disassembled and disarticulated in order to deal with Vietnam’s decentralized governing regime and meet the demands of foreign investors, each of whom compete with one another and bring their specific and contrasting historical logics of development. Thus, infrastructure projects are not only diverse in type (i.e. roads, power plants, transportation systems, water management, etc.) but are also conditioned by source and type of investment and by the contingent and conditional connections they forge with government agencies. This diversity creates an array of infrastructure projects, each standing upon their own set of “infrastructures of infrastructure” made up of the different logics of development, various and conflicting legal and regulatory frameworks, historical developments, and principles of planning and growth.
The seminar shows how these differences condition the material outcomes of completed projects in the city by examining the World Bank’s Green Transportation Bus Rapid Transit System and its eventual disarticulation through competition with other foreign investment projects, most notably rail and metro projects that are currently under construction in the city.
About the Speaker
Hun Kim is a Visiting Fellow in the Vietnam Studies Programme at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning with a designated emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. His research interests include: urban social-spatial transformation under late-socialist and postsocialist regimes, inter-Asian circuits of investment capital in land development, infrastructure and real estate, development theory and governance. His book project, entitled, “Reform Capital: Hedging Saigon’s Urban Future” examines government reforms that facilitate inter-Asian capital flows into urban real estate projects in Saigon, Vietnam.
REGIONAL SOCIAL AND CULTURAL STUDIES PROGRAMME
About the Seminar
Singapore was the hub of Malay cultural and intellectual expression. Malay journalism first began with the Jawi Peranakan community in 1876, and since then, Singapore was destined to be a site for Malay publishing. The growth of numerous newspapers became channels for intellectual, cultural and political expression, accommodation and resistance. What made this possible was that Singapore’s cultural-geographical location saw the collusion of colonial communication and maritime activities, to that of newspapers and journalism. Until World War II, Singapore was a market-place for the Malay-Muslim community expressing a diversity of beliefs and identities.
Tolerance, and a tinge of republicanism were canons of the day.
Yusof Ishak was at the centre of this fateful interplay of history, geography and nationhood. The milieu and vibrancy of intellectual and journalistic activities inspired progress for the Malays alongside other communities. This culminated in his founding of Utusan Melayu – a newspaper that manifested a strong sense of Malay identity, but that was at the same time liberal enough to accommodate the views of other communities. Singapore was a world where diasporic communities converged, after all, and their search for expression ushered in an era of inter-ethnic cooperation that propelled Yusof ultimately to the position of President of Singapore.
About the Speaker
Professor Dato’ Dr Ahmad Murad Merican is a faculty member at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies (CenPRIS), Universiti Sains Malaysia, Pulau Pinang, and an adjunct professor at the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (ASWARA) in Kuala Lumpur. He was a visiting professor at Universitas Andalas in West Sumatera in 2006 and has helped to establish the media and journalism program there. Professor Ahmad Murad was the first recipient of the Honorary President Resident Fellowship, Perdana Leadership Foundation 2009-2011.
Professor Ahmad Murad began his career as a journalist with the Malaysian National News Agency (BERNAMA) in the early 1980s. He is a columnist for the New Sunday Times and the New Straits Times, and a contributor to Bahasa Melayu dailies and periodicals such as Utusan Malaysia, founded by Yusof Ishak as Utusan Melayu in 1939. His interest in journalism, social science, and public advocacy was inspired by the scions and descendants of a 16th-century Minangkabau family which runs to more than 11 generations now, among them Tun Yusof Ishak, and his younger brother Aziz, and also Sulaiman Ahmad (the youngest brother of Tun Yusof’s father, Ishak), an intellectual in his own right who was a journalist and editor in Singapore in the 1930s.
He has a PhD in the history and philosophy of science and baccalaureates in Political Science and Journalism and has written 11 books on media, social science and history. He founded the Institute of Journalism Studies in a Malaysian public university in 2005, and sits on the panel of the Malaysian Journalism Awards and has been chairman of the Malaysian Journalism Laureate Awards. His latest book is titled In Other Words: Ideas on Journalism, Social Science and Society (2017).
About the Book
ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute is proud to launch this pictorial volume on Yusof Ishak, which consists of a biography of the man and a large collection of pictures depicting his eventful life.
Yusof Ishak, the first president of Singapore, was very much a child of his times. Being in the thick of things, he had a pioneering role in many aspects of late colonialism and in the early nation building process in Singapore. Of his generation of young and gifted men and women, few would achieve the profound impact that he came to have on his society and country. It is often forgotten today that he was the man who established the highly influential Malay-language newspaper, Utusan Melayu. His principles as a journalist, however, did not allow him to continue running the newspaper for too long after independence came to the Federation of Malaya. Yusof Ishak’s good ties with the newspaper’s lawyer, Lee Kuan Yew, and the mutual respect these two men had for each other saw him rising to become the Head of State of Singapore for three terms, first as Yang di-Pertuan Negara in 1959, and then for two terms as President of an independent republic in 1965. Always by his side was his charming and capable wife, Noor Aishah. His life was a hectic and meaningful one, and remains an inspiration for future generations of Singaporeans and Southeast Asians.
About the Author
Dr Ooi Kee Beng is the Deputy Director of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore. His book, The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time (2006) won the “Award of Excellence for Best Writing Published in Book Form on Any Aspect of Asia (Non-Fiction)” at the Asian Publishing Convention Awards 2008, while Continent, Coast, Ocean: Dynamics of Regionalism in Eastern Asia (Ed., 2007), was named “Top Academic Work” in 2008 by the ASEAN Book Publishers Association (ABPA).
His other noted works include The Eurasian Core and Its Edges: Dialogues with Wang Gungwu on the History of the World (2015); Merdeka for the Mind. Essays on Malaysian Struggles in the 21st Century (2015); The Third ASEAN Reader (Ed., 2015); Young and Malay. Growing up in Multicultural Malaysia (Ed., 2015); Lim Kit Siang: Defying the Odds (2015); Young and Malay: Growing Up in Multicultural Malaysia (2015); In Lieu of Ideology: An Intellectual Biography of Goh Keng Swee (2010); March 8: Eclipsing May 13 (2008); and Lost in Translation. Malaysia under Abdullah (2008). He is a columnist for The Edge, Malaysia (2011- ); editor of Trends in Southeast Asia (2013- ); and founder-editor of ISEAS Perspective (2012- ) and Penang Monthly (2009- ).
About the Discussant
Dr Norshahril Saat is a Fellow with ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. In June 2015, he was awarded a PhD in International, Political and Strategic Studies by the Australian National University (ANU) under the MUIS postgraduate scholarship scheme. His research interests are mainly on Southeast Asian politics and contemporary Islamic thought. In 2015, he published Faith, Authority and the Malays: The Ulama in Contemporary Singapore. In 2016, he co-edited Majulah!: 5o years of Malay/Muslim Community in Singapore. His articles have recently been published in journals such as Asian Journal of Social Science (AJSS), The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, Contemporary Islam: Dynamics of Muslim Life, Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, and Studia Islamika. Dr Norshahril’s pioneering work on Singapore’s first President, Mr Yusof Ishak, was published in 2015 on the occasion of the renaming of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) to ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.