IAS Working Papers 40-49

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Working Paper No. 40

One of the major research interests in the study of development, culture and identity in Thailand during the past four decades has comprised the effects and processes involved in the development of international tourism and the globalization of leisure. More recently attention has also been paid to the importance of domestic tourism in Thailand and the wider Southeast Asia as economic growth has led to an expansion in the local middle classes and greater opportunities for leisure activities.

Tourism in Thailand has tended to focus on selected sites along an axis which includes the northern hill or ‘tribal’ regions, Chiang Mai and its environs, the greater Bangkok metropolitan area, and several beach and island resorts in southern Thailand. The leading scholar in research in this field has been Erik Cohen. Not only has he contributed to the store of empirical material on Thailand on a wide range of tourism-related subjects, but also to an important series of theoretical debates in the sociological-anthropological study of tourism.

These debates examine the appropriate concepts to be deployed in understanding tourism and the transformations which it has set in motion. In tourism studies, there are several key ideas which have preoccupied researchers, many of them in relation to Thailand: cultural ‘touristification’ and commoditization; imaging and representation; staging and authenticity; identity and ethnicity; host-guest relations; mediation and tour guides; trajectories of change; sequential typologies; and the tourist gaze.

A most recent set of discussions generated by Erik Cohen and Scott Cohen has considered the utility of the sociological concept of ‘mobilities’ and the problem of Eurocentrism in understanding local-level touristic encounters. The paper will critically review these concepts in a changing Thai tourism context.

Working Paper No. 41

Tourism promotional videos are known to play an important role in shaping destination image which motivates people to travel to the destination. Since destination images create expectations, marketing videos should ideally promote realistic scenarios which the tourist would experience at the destination. Failure to match the communicated destination image with reality, would only lead to tourist disappointment.

Applying content analysis, we analyse the Brunei Tourism Promotional Video produced by Brunei Tourism in 2012, looking into possible areas where viewers are presented with unrealistic scenarios on Brunei’s rainforests and people. We also look into the Biocultural content of the video, to understand how the biological and cultural diversities of the country has been portrayed. The video is then compared objectively with other prominent videos from the region to generate a comparative understanding. The results show that tourism promotion videos published from Brunei and Indonesia have a significant percentage of unrealistic content.

Working Paper No. 42

Nur Shawatriqah Binti Hj Md Sahrifulhafiz and Chang-Yau Hoon

This paper explores the ways in which Bruneians who are born into a Chinese-Malay family define their identity, how the state classifies them in terms of “race”, how they negotiate their bicultural practices, and what challenges they face while growing up. It argues that possibly due to their relatively small population and due to the hegemonic force of assimilation, the Chinese-Malay community in Brunei has not developed a distinct hybrid identity like their Peranakan counterparts in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Nonetheless, by examining the experience of inbetweenness among these biracial subjects, the paper alludes to the power relations that define the boundaries of exclusion and inclusion, belonging and non-belonging.

Working Paper No. 43

On the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, scholars have documented a precarious land tenure, livelihood and security situation for many smallholders. Agrarian political economy studies provide insightful analysis of the underlying causes of much poverty and violence on the island. Less attention has been given to cases of smallholder success.

This article proposes that conditions for smallholder farming, even among ethnic minority groups, are more varied across the island than the literature suggests. In upland villages of north-central Mindanao, there are signs of dynamic smallholder economies. The main case study is from a thriving mixed swidden and fixed field Maranao-Muslim farming village. Almost all the households in the village had successfully claimed land as their own and diversified and improved their livelihoods in recent times. To explain this positive outcome of agrarian transition, the article builds on a relational approach developed to assess the bargaining power of smallholders in land deals.

To elaborate on the kinds of relationships smallholders use to access land and improve livelihoods, the article draws on anthropological literature on kinship, land tenure and place. A stronger cross-fertilization of key insights in agrarian political economy and anthropological literature on kinship helps develop the debate on agrarian transition in the southern Philippines.

Working Paper No. 44

This paper examines ordinary people’s voices by foregrounding their sentiments and perspectives on Duterte’s imposition of martial law following the Marawi siege in May 2017. The paper purposively privileges the voices of everyday citizens, which are often overlooked, to generate alternative viewpoints to the elite-driven narratives dominating political discourses and counter-discourses.

Drawing on 4-month extensive fieldwork in south-central Mindanao, we surface how martial law has caused political anxiety, resistance, and widespread support despite its tentativeness and apparent perplexities. We argue that the prevailing narratives of those in the peripheries of Mindanao directly affected by martial law are sharply in contrast to the chilling and attention-grabbing headlines.

While the political atmosphere initially turned precarious and tumultuous, the apparent military rule in fragile areas of Mindanao has actually gained traction and widespread support.

The article concludes that the populist appeal of Duterte’s version of the military rule is synoptic of the multiple and pervasive sources of insecurity in large part of Mindanao. Additionally, the public enticement of the current martial law is symptomatic of swelling frustrations on the shortcomings of state’s apparatuses working within “democratic terms” in addressing personal and communal insecurities.

Working Paper No. 45

This paper seeks to understand how it is that a small number of Europeans were able to extend their authority and control over the northern region of the island of Borneo in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to establish a state known as British North Borneo, as well as to understand why the multi-ethnic society there remained largely peaceful during that time period.

Often mentioned only in passing in histories of the colonial era in Southeast Asia, British North Borneo came to share many similarities with the colonial states in the region, particularly with the development of plantations and the importation of laborers. British North Borneo was also similar to other colonial societies in that a very small number of Europeans controlled a much larger local population.

That said, while the concept of the “plural society,” which posits that shared economic interests can enable diverse populations to find common ground, has been employed to explain the relative stability of colonial possessions such as British Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies, in this paper we argue that such an “economic factor” was not yet present in the early years of British rule in North Borneo.

Instead, this paper argues that the theory of the “stranger-king,” the idea that some societies welcome an outside ruler to resolve their internal divisions, can also be of benefit in understanding early British North Borneo. Ultimately, however, any historian who wishes to understand the reality of life in early British North Borneo faces the challenge of having to rely on sources that reflect a clear colonial bias, a mindset that saw “Asiatic” societies as inherently different.

This paper takes on that challenge, but also recognizes that we cannot help but be left with a great deal of ambiguity in our understanding of human relations in early British North Borneo. This paper also argues, however, that it is precisely the ambiguity of the relations between “strangers” and “stranger-kings” that might be key maintaining of that relationship.

Working Paper No. 46

This article focuses on the experiences, aspirations and challenges of Sri Lankan Muslim returnees to the northern part of Sri Lanka, Jaffna and analyzes their strategies to cope with the ambivalent situation they face. The empirical point of departure is drawn from the stories of three Muslim returnees in Jaffna who returned from different parts of Sri Lanka.

The article finds that the Muslim returnees conceptualize home as a place where they can have a “better future” than the displaced location where they stayed for so long. We argue that this unveils the different kinds of attachment they have to their homes through memories, emotions, as well as material and other immaterial concerns. There even, exist feelings of alienation and detachment from their homes among some. Furthermore, their aspirations of a good life seem to be fading after their return.

Working Paper No. 47

Brunei Darussalam is a Malay and Islamic state that is well known for its various local cultural heritage and Adat (customs and traditions) that are steadfastly maintained until today. Adat is considered to be one of the most significant local practices that reflects the unique identity and foundation of Brunei Malay society and culture. It is part of being Calak Brunei and has been carried out and passed down from one generation to another.

Adat functions as a social, political and cultural marker of Brunei Malay society. However, with exposure to and influence of Islamisation in Brunei Darussalam, there has been a decline in the performance and practice of Adat especially in Malay traditional marriage customs as some of these customs are seen to be religiously incompatible. This paper explores and understand the extent to which tension and conflict between Adat and Islam exist in practices in the marriage customs of Brunei. It will also take into account the various changes and negotiations made to accommodate Adat within Islamic practices and values.

Working Paper No. 48

This paper examines woman (gender), Muslim (Orient) and elderly (age) from a postcolonial perspective. It highlights the relevance of spirituality to ageing, which is currently under-studied in sociology. Ten Brunei Malay Muslim women aged 60 – 76 were interviewed, with the aid of photo-elicitation method, about their experience of ageing.

All interviewees perceive ageing as a gift from God and should be embraced wholeheartedly but this is not necessarily translated into practice. Nonetheless, spirituality remains prominent and heightened as one grows older. This study also demonstrated how these women’s ageing experience is mediated by structural influences. They include ongoing Islamisation discourse, strong Malay cultural and Islamic values, interdependence of family structure (social expectation of filial piety) and social rapport and network.  Their experiences reveal a nuance understanding and diverse narratives of ageing. These findings open up new possibilities of understanding ageing in non-Western contexts.

Working Paper No. 49

This paper explores critically and historically some of the popular academic views or ‘myths’ concerning the development of the study of Southeast Asia through the lens of the contributions of particular scholars and institutions. Within the broad field of Southeast Asian Studies the focus will be on the disciplines of geography, history and ethnology, and major scholars who contributed to the early study of the region.

There are certain views concerning the development of scholarship on Southeast Asia which continue to surface and have acquired, or are in the process of acquiring ‘mythical’ status. Among the most enduring is the claim that the region is a post-Second World War construction primarily arising from Western politico-strategic and economic preoccupations. More specifically, it is said that Southeast Asian Studies has been subject to the American domination of this field of scholarship, located in particular programmes of study in such institutions as Cornell, Yale and California, Berkeley, and, within those institutions, focused on particular scholars who have exerted considerable influence on the directions which research has taken.

Another is that, based on the model or template of Southeast Asian Studies (and other area studies projects) developed primarily in the USA, it has distinctive characteristics as a scholarly enterprise in that it is multidisciplinary, it requires command of the vernacular, and assigns special importance to what has been termed ‘groundedness’ and historical, geographical and cultural contextualization; in other words, a Southeast Asian Studies approach as distinct from disciplinary-based studies addresses local concerns, interests, perspectives and priorities, and it does so through in-depth, on-the-ground, engaged scholarship.

Finally, and, more recently, views have emerged that express the conviction that a truly Southeast Asian Studies project can only be achieved if it is based on a set of locally-generated concepts, methods and approaches. In other words, Western ethnocentrism and intellectual hegemony encourages ‘a captive mind’ in local scholarship which must be replaced by a genuinely local research endeavour presenting alternative views of the region, its past, present and future.