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Working Paper No. 30

The “One Belt-One Road” (OBOR) strategy was launched in September 2013 by President Xi Jinping in Kazakhstan as regards the mainland area and in October 2013 in Indonesia as regards the maritime area. This is by far the largest project of interconnection between Asia, Europe and Africa that will last for decades, entail vast amounts of resources and involve a large multilateral collaboration. This Chinese initiative is potentially a good news for ASEAN which has huge infrastructure investments needs to implement its master plan for connectivity (AMPC). But this will depend on the capacity of ASEAN to maintain its centrality and speak with one voice to China when investment decisions will be taken. Otherwise, the risk is that the OBOR strategy may deepen existing divides between mainland ASEAN and maritime ASEAN, while the purpose of the AMPC is precisely to alleviate them. This paper will analyse these issues and explore the solutions to achieve a synergy between China’s OBOR and AMPC.

Working Paper No. 31

How to map the sea? ‘Silent the sea, writing the shores’ presents a series of reflections on the problems of maps and mapping, narrative and narration, as the background to a discussion of how older Malay writing dealt with the Sea, including the South China Sea – it is an entity beyond human understanding and beyond description.

Given the historical fact that the South China Sea had been sailed by Malay – speaking mariners for centuries, it seems probable that they discussed the Sea in their conversations, mapping it out in words rather than in pictures. It is important to realize that the 17th century author Hamzah Pansuri makes explicit mention of the ‘China Sea’ in his poetry, a rare reference to the South China Sea that may have hung as a silent shadow over later Malay writing. Mapping an ever-moving space may be an impossible exercise, even in our human imagination.

Working Paper No. 32

Hybridity is the antithesis to identity. It is a transgressive concept that blurs and traverses the boundaries by which identities are bounded. Between the poles of identity and hybridity lies the multiple positions that depends on how agency and power are exercised.

This paper discusses the multidirectionality of the hybridizing process of the Chinese Indonesians, from assimilation during the Suharto’s New Order (1966-1998) to “resinicization” following the democratization process after fall of Suharto. It examines the cultural politics of the Chinese Indonesians in negotiating between hybridity and identity, as well as the underlying power dynamics in such negotiations. For many hybridized Chinese Indonesians who are unable to access the cultural resources in Chinese, learning Mandarin and performing Chineseness appeals more to economic rather than cultural logic.

In light of the rise of China, this paper attempts to unpack the deeper embedded cultural and economic meaning to the return to primordial Chineseness among the Chinese in post-Suharto Indonesia.

Working Paper No. 33

The ‘labyrinth of detachable shoals’ in the South China Sea presented mariners during the late-18th and early-19th centuries with a maritime area of considerable hazard that was best avoided. These same marine features now not only pose a problem for safe navigation within the South China Sea basin but have also challenged the minds of lawyers and politicians since the early-1980s.

The basic geographical concepts and definitions of banks, cays, islands, reefs, rock, seamounts and shoals are being debated and often misinterpreted as the legal fraternity and political parties of littoral nation states dispute sovereignty claims and create potential flashpoints in this regional semi-enclosed sea. Indeed, since 12 July 2016, these features have been re-framed in the context of Article 121 of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Hydrographers from the western maritime powers, particularly, Britain, France, Spain and United States and those from Japan and to a minimal extent China had undertaken exploration and surveys and recorded and reported their findings on navigational charts and as narratives in journals and official documents since the early-1800s.

This current study, whilst alluding to these historical involvements of the national hydrographical agencies engaged in the waters of semi-enclosed South China Sea focuses on the period from about 1930 to 1980 on account of the contemporary political and security issues raised since the 1960s and the national policies of regional and external maritime powers.

The study centres on a geographical area commonly referred to on navigational charts and prose in various nautical publications as ‘Dangerous Ground’. The area is also affectionately known as ‘Archipelago of Reefs’ and ‘Reefs of the South China Sea’. This study examines the records and charts of the early hydrographic surveys and analyse the political and legal implications of the graphics and the uncertainty that has been brought to the fore by researchers of many disciplines. It offers description of the geographical marine features and bathymetry of the basin and the characteristics of the coastlines of the littoral states.

Working Paper No. 34

Since time immemorial, Southeast Asia has been exposed to external influence, which has sometimes appeared as shocks with negative effects. In post-independent Southeast Asia, the destiny of regional states and regional stability are inexorably intertwined. Thus, it is imperative that the region develop the capacity to effectively cope with external shocks stemming from different sources.

This paper aims at identifying this capacity by looking at three contemporary cases of external impact: (1) the South China Sea dispute; (2) the Western pressure on Southeast Asia for the domestic conduct of the Myanmar government; and (3) the impact of the newly established international norm of the responsibility to protect (R2P) on Southeast Asia.

The concept of mediation regime is adopted as an analytical tool for the case studies. Among the major findings of the paper are: (1) that Southeast Asia has developed the capacity to absorb external shocks in several ways unique to itself; and (2) that the region also acquired other capabilities to cope with the shocks, such as preventing external shocks, ensuring the co-existence of incompatible positions of the parties and deflecting external shocks.

Working Paper No. 35

The field of tourism studies is now addressing a range of issues which in part stem from the problems engendered by multi-disciplinary approaches and from the post-modernist, post-colonialist, post-structuralist criticisms that its priorities and concepts have been determined by a Western-centric (Euro-American) view of the world of tourism. In this regard comparisons are made in this paper between tourism studies and area studies (specifically Southeast Asian Studies). Both suffer from some of the same difficulties.

From this comparative perspective, it is suggested that we engage critically with unhelpful binary modes of thinking which have sought to distinguish between the West, and in this case the East, between Western-centred and Eastern-centred perspectives, and between insiders and outsiders. The issue of “emerging tourisms” only serves to complicate these matters.

How do studies of tourism accommodate novel tourisms? Do we view them as simply variations on a theme which can be addressed within existing conceptual frameworks? Is a “mobilities” or an “encounters” approach sufficiently robust and viable to handle apparent touristic innovations? In an Asian and Southeast Asian context does the issue of emerging tourisms in this region require us to re-engage with debates about Orientalism and Western academic hegemony?

Working Paper No. 36

House matters to consumers. However, there are varying values and meanings attached to a house depending on spatial and cultural differences. This research draws upon a study of consumers in Brunei Darussalam. Governance, consumption patterns and socio-cultural institutions shape how consumers value housing and influence their desire to become homeowners.

This research suggests Brunei’s housing development and culture are unique compared to societies that underwent great financial liberalisation such as the UK and USA. Financial liberalisation, also known as financialisation, involves governments reducing their restrictions on financial institutions and the financial markets. Based on the results of a qualitative research approach that involved 210 structured interviews which was substantiated by qualitative interviews and secondary data analysis, this study identifies the variables that influence the culture of housing consumption.

Working Paper No. 37

Canada’s skilled worker program is designed to attract those educated and experienced individuals from around the world who are eligible to integrate into Canada’s labour market upon arrival. However, many skilled and other non-business-class immigrants do not find suitable jobs upon arrival in Canada. Some of them choose to open their own businesses and eventually become entrepreneurs.

Drawing on the experiences of Bangladeshi immigrants, this paper examines how immigrants reposition themselves from the rank of non-business-class immigrants to that of entrepreneurs in the settlement process. The paper reports that migrant entrepreneurship is embedded within the dynamics of immigration trajectory and the broader context of the receiving society. Even though they are driven towards the lower end of the economy, innovations have expanded the breadth and depth of their businesses and made their businesses different and rewarding.

Working Paper No. 38

Cooking food is a beautiful alchemy and transformation; the consequence of this is where we integrate various influences to create certain meanings. Claude Levi-Stauss said that food can be conceived as a language that expresses social structure and cultural system. Certain food means different things to different communities.

In a time and age where we are infiltrated by commercial interest and encouraged to consume fast food, to cook or not to cook becomes a consequential question. When we do cook, we utilize a space very familiar to us called the kitchen for cultural mixing through hybrid dishes, negotiating gender identities through food preparation and determining kinship ties through sharing of food. What is the meaning of the kitchen for Malays who cook in their homes in Brunei? When we use complex ingredients, do we create a new ethnic culinary culture? What are the social realities such as gender, sex and kinship that will be the outcome when preparing, sharing and distributing food on the dining table?

The consumption of everyday food is one of the most important everyday arenas in which rigid rules about how things should be done are often apparent, although they are often unspoken or only partially explicit. Preparation, sharing and distribution of food are significant and when we prepare cooked food in the Malay kitchen, there are meanings behind it and we instil these meanings in our friends, family and whoever sits down with us at the dining table.

Working Paper No. 39

This working paper proposes an advancement of geographies of religion by putting forward three interconnected key areas for consideration in future research. It starts by briefly looking at the past and current discourse within this field in an attempt to lay out the field’s future directions.

The three key areas that this paper proposes to explore are as follows. First, through a discussion of techno-religious space as a religious conduit for young people to perform their religiosity, the significance of these online sites or spaces in religious and socio-cultural contexts will be underscored to advance further the new geographies of religion. Second, this paper will flag the importance of studying micro-geographies of young people as new religious agents. Transfers of religious authorities have been observed, and this is significant in understanding the transformation of religion in new contexts. Third is the performance of these young people’s religiosity in the online environment, and a consequence of their performance of religiosity is the concern with measuring or assessing religious performativity in online contexts.

While these three proposed key areas will be discussed within the context of Islam and Muslim identities, they are not limited to Muslim contexts.