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Working Paper No. 10

In Banten (Indonesia), the recent detention of the governor and her brother introduces a level of uncertainty about future political dynamics in the province. These political figures belong to part of a powerful familial dynasty that has held power since the 1970s in the President Suharto era through connections with religious leaders and strongmen. The latter form a local structure of authority that has played an intermediary role between local communities and national political institutions since Indonesia’s independence in 1945.

With the initiation of decentralization reforms in Indonesia in 1999 and the accession of Banten to province status, the governor’s family fragmented these local networks to consolidate political alliances on kinship relations. The strategy of regional political hyper-centralization is based on discourses that reshape historical and territorial markers. This leads to considerations about the kind of political representation proposed by the regional leaders and, in turn, how the wider Bantenese populace manages to articulate their expectations concerning political issues at the local level.

Working Paper No. 11

The reason for Brunei Darussalam’s refusal to join the Malaysia Federation in August 1963 remains an enigma to this date.  Scholarly speculations abound pointing to Brunei’s reluctance to share her oil income and the ire of then Brunei Sultan Sir Haji Omar Ali Saifuddin for losing priority in the hierarchy of the Malayan kings and so on.

This article sets the historical background of the Sultan’s unyielding resistance in diluting sovereignty of the State by becoming part of any Federation within or without Malaysia. Federalism, a cardinal British imperial policy to unite otherwise fledgling smaller colonial territories, may have worked elsewhere in the dominion, but the promoters in the British Colonial Office hit a blindwall when they tried to promote the same among the three Northern Borneo Territories namely Sarawak, North Borneo (Sabah) and the Sultanate of Brunei.

No amount of persuasion, cajoling and even indirect threats could nudge Brunei to accept an ostensible Closer Association Proposals prior to the formation of a larger Federation including Malaysia and Singapore.  By focusing on this important but a still-born event, this article highlights complex issues that shaped Brunei’s modern history in which the Sultanate slithered towards neo-traditionalism as well as monarchic absolutism as witnessed today.

This article further highlights an ironic coalescence of disparate interests represented by a nascent nationalist movement in the Partai Rakyat Brunei (Brunei People’s party) led by Shaikh Azahari with that of the altruism of British colonial design to achieve the same goal vis-à-vis an obstinate Brunei Ruler who emerged victorious in the end to keep intact  the age-old Brunei monarchy while preserving the geographical integrity of a rump State that stood the danger of being obliterated during  the period under discussion.

Working Paper No. 12

This paper is an ethnographic account of the spiritual function of pengangun (a wedding attendant) based on anthropological research in the Brunei-Muara district. It explores the important role of women in wedding rituals and the ways in which their role has changed as a consequence of modernization and Islamization.

Working Paper No. 13

The following paper specifically addresses the challenge that the international norm of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) posed to the old ‘ASEAN Way’ of non-interference in the sovereign affairs of its members. It examines the extent to which the ‘ASEAN Way’ adapted in the face of the Cyclone Nargis R2P crisis. The paper argues that Myanmar’s R2P crisis was a wakeup call for ASEAN. It not only challenged ASEAN’s old ways of dealing with crisis but provided a potential precedent for dealing more effectively with regional problems through mediation, action and hybridity. This in turn allowed for pragmatic adaptation without a wholesale abandonment of the Association’s founding principles and values.

Working Paper No. 14

Nurul Umillah Binti Abdul Razak, Adira Rehafizzan Binti Anuar, Dk. Siti Nurul Islam Binti Pg. Mohd Sahar and Nur Hidayah Binti Matsuni

This paper is a case study of Indonesian domestic maids or referred to locally as amah working in Brunei Darussalam. It is an account of the lives, hardships, difficulties, and dreams of five eastern Javanese women, and how their position as domestic maids abroad has changed the dynamics of gender and power relations in their traditionally patriarchal households in Java.

Working Paper No. 15

This paper is an attempt to position Penan story-telling in the context of the evolution of Borneo from an island to that of a nation-state formation, defined ultimately by the grand narratives of Malaysian developmentalism. The paper initially addresses the historical picture of this transformation. It also critically interrogates the question of epistemology in relation to the anthropology of ‘the Other’, specifically the methodology of research on indigenous society. Against the dominant state-capital narrations of development, the paper moves towards a postmodernist/storytelling ethnography of Penan de-territorialisation.

It is argued that indigenous counter-narratives are equally capable of generating their own legitimate forms of knowledge and discourse on development. By adding to the Penan ethnographic base that has been paved by scholars such as Langub and Brosius,  I foreground my analysis of Penan de-territorialisation based on my fieldwork in the Ulu Baram area of Sarawak, where I present an overview of the impact of the state-sponsored modernisation process (read: developmentalism) on the Penan traditional landscape and communitas.

My argument on Penan de-territorialsiation is further empowered by the storytelling of Penghulu James, which is a representation of an indigenous notion of place, space and territory. This may also be seen as a defence of Penan claims to ‘stewardship’ over the land despite their traditional status as non-cultivators, to contest the current bureaucratic ‘rational legal’ and official discourse which governs the present Penan landscape.

The paper calls for the role of a de-colonising anthropology in mediating knowledge from the margins through the postmodernist texts and storytelling ethnography, to narrate not only the realities of de-territorialisation, but more importantly, the‘re-territorializing’ imaginings of indigenous society.

Working Paper No. 16

Farah Purwaningrum, Syamimi Ariff Lim, Hans-Dieter Evers and Tony Banyouko Ndah

In 2010, the Southern Institute of Social Sciences of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences conducted two surveys in the Southeast region of Viet Nam. The first survey was conducted in Ho Chi Minh City. It consists of 1,080 households living in 30 wards or communes. The second one was carried out in other provinces of the Southeast region, consisting of 1,080 households living in 30 wards, towns or communes.

This paper outlines the social stratification structures by occupational groups, social strata and quintiles of income based on the data set analysis of the surveys. Three properties attached to the social groups, namely the economy, knowledge and power resources, are measured by three variables: household’s income, years of schooling, and being a member of the ruling Party. The analysis highlights that the distributions of these resources are consistently structured by the configuration of social stratification.

Working Paper No. 17

Research focusing on ethnic relations in plural societies often assume the ethnic groups under discussion are natural categories. While ethnic categories appear clear and fixed at a given point, a closer examination of these categories over time demonstrate that ethnic boundaries are often fluid and can be based on a variety of criteria.

The following paper focuses on the formation of ethnic identities in Malaysia with comparisons made to Fiji and South Africa.  Through an examination of archival censuses, this paper attends to the following research questions, “What are the current ethnic categories in Malaysia, Fiji and South Africa?” and “How have the boundaries between them developed over time?” In doing so, it addresses the issue of saliency in ethnic boundary formation.

Working Paper No. 18

Sometime in 1989, Margaret Scott, a Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) journalist, observed the heightening fervour of Malay rock music among ardent young Malay followers calling themselves ‘kutus’, when at the same time Islamic fundamentalism was on the rise. Fast forward towards the end of 1997, however, Raihan, a Nasyid(Islamic religious song) group, signed by Warner Records, sold a record-breaking half-a-million of their debut album. Since then Nasyidmusical groups and Raihan wannabes began to mushroom creating a new hype in Malaysian popular music and industry, culminating in the Nasyid pop ‘success’ story.

The focus of the article is to analyse how, at a particular phase in the evolution of Malaysian popular music, ‘rock’ was ‘disciplined’ to make way for the rise of other musical genres, in this case, Balada Nusantara (Irama Malaysia) and Nasyid pop. Taking a critical perspective, I argue that the ‘transition’ from rock to these musical genres occurred on a terrain which involves several levels of contestation, constituted by the juxtapositions of different institutions and social actors – such as the role of the state, state actors, political parties, the mediation of Islam and national culture, and ultimately, the ‘agency’ of non-state actors and the creative nucleus.

Working Paper No. 19

A Chinese junk in full sail is one of the most enduring symbols of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour and the surrounding South China Sea, which brings life and commerce to the region. Inspired by this symbol of Chinese culture along with other found artifacts, I have created a series of digital artworks based on my childhood memories of these iconic symbols of my Hong Kong upbringing.

This series of work is based on deconstructed photographs of vintage patterns and sections of objects that were once common household and everyday articles. I then manipulate and reformat them into swirling designs of color that can only be described as having an association with contemporary digital images of fractals. Another category of found objects that appear in my work are natural wonders, such as shells and plants that are commonly found on Hong Kong’s rocky shores.

My journey of selecting objects to photograph, deconstruct, manipulate, print, exhibit, and reflect on is integral to my artistic research. As such, it comprises material critical to understanding my identity as a bicultural artist and how I have come to understand certain cultural aspects of my youth as a person of Chinese heritage growing up in the harbour city of Hong Kong.

In this paper, I intend to use complex spiral digital art to trace the inspirational forms that frequently materialize in my work. This work was exhibited in Hong Kong in March 2014 in conjunction with an explanation on how it might influence the visual culture there.