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IAS Working Papers 50-

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Working Paper No. 79

During the past two decades, the Southeast Asian region (ASEAN) has experienced a range of serious crises affecting the tourism industry and related services, including natural and environmental disasters, epidemics and pandemics, global financial slumps, terrorist actions and political and military conflict.

The latest challenge has been the “Novel Coronavirus” (Covid-19/SARS-CoV-2) pandemic which began to make a profound impact from the first half of 2020. It has had damaging consequences for tourism development and economic growth in all the ASEAN countries, but some have suffered more than others. These difficulties are set to continue in 2023 and into 2024; though there are signs of recovery and of the resilience of the tourism industry.

The paper examines this process of post-Covid-19 recovery, taking the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR or Laos) as a case study, and giving consideration to the continuities and discontinuities in the tourism industry and the transition from the environment of lockdowns and restrictions to the re-opening of borders and the increasing movements of people.

Tourism in the Lao PDR is rather neglected in the literature and attention to how the country is faring in its attempts to retrieve its 2019 pre-pandemic position is crucial in attempting to understand how the tourism industry there will develop in the next several years. Tourism was the major source of foreign exchange in 2019 and its decline has therefore amplified the economic pressures which the Lao PDR is continuing to experience.

Working Paper No. 78

This paper discusses the dynamics of gulintangan inheritance in Brunei Darussalam, especially among gulintangan-owning families. We closely examine the process of maintaining this traditional musical form by bringing to light the tangible and intangible aspects of gulintangan.

We argue that the family contributes significantly to maintaining this cultural heritage. Our findings suggest that the family is the musicians’ source of introduction, knowledge, skills, and inspiration. The entanglement of the family with gulintangan makes it an inalienable gift for the receivers of this heritage.

We gathered the data for this paper through in-depth interviews and participant observation with eight gulintangan practitioners from four gulintangan-owning families.

Working Paper No. 77

Marginality, vulnerability and disadvantage are key concerns of the social sciences. Nevertheless, state-business-investment agendas, policies, and practices in Southeast Asia regularly downplay these issues.

This paper examines the applicability of a precarity framework for deciphering the forces, processes, and interests shaping contemporary forms of jeopardy in the region.

Using a selection of illustrative examples, it demonstrates that conceptualising precarity enhances the efficacy and scope of research on everyday marginality, disenfranchisement, and inequality.

By focusing on the interplay of political, economic, social, and psychological factors, the precarity lens provides a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of current vulnerabilities and insecurities in Southeast Asia.

Working Paper No. 76

Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s The Girl from The Coast (1991) is a novel about women’s struggles under Javanese patriarchy, highlighting the controversial culture of polygamy and ‘practice wives’ in colonial Indonesia.

Previous studies of the novel have situated the character of The Girl as the victimised female under the Bendoro’s dominance due to her gender and class position. However, these reviews overlook the other female characters – mBok, Mardinah and the mother – and their relationships with The Girl.

This paper questions whether the female relationships in the novel perpetuate internalised oppression and misogyny, or do they offer solidarity and resistance for the women living under the structure of Javanese patriarchy? It focuses on the female characters by exploring the relationships between The Girl and her servants, mBok and Mardinah, and her mother through the lens of intersectionality.

I first analyse the hierarchical power relations which permeate The Girl’s relationships with the other female characters. Then, I consider how internalised misogyny challenges female solidarity in these characters. Lastly, I examine how the characters’ acceptance of patriarchal values function as a means of survival for them.

In the conclusion, I propose that assessing these relationships through the lens of intersectionality will uncover the significant role of women in replicating and reinforcing Javanese patriarchy.

Working Paper No. 75

The politics of identity is central to the study of race and ethnicity. This paper considers the utility of several methodological approaches relevant to making sense of ethnic identity. It details the contributions of narrative, performative, and dialogical understandings of identity-formation and the ways in which they intersect and inform one another. The paper further highlights their application to ethnicity through four case studies in Malaysia and Indonesia. Although analytically distinct approaches, it is important not to treat the three elements in isolation or separately. A performative or dialogical approach is only meaningful if the narratives implicit in both are uncovered and analyzed, while narratives gain greater import if they are regarded as dialogical. As this paper argues, if triangulated and used in careful combination, they can render a fuller sense of ethnic identity-formation and its complexities.

Working Paper No. 74

Wars, armed combat, and military occupations are as old as humanity with conflict arising over mates, food and subsequently territory and material resources and ultimately power, control, and domination. The weapons of conflict have also evolved in sophistication, efficacy, and destructiveness with little sign of abatement. There are presently scores of conflict hotspots (of varying degree) across the globe with others simmering under the surface.

This paper details examples drawn from Southeast Asia as an exploratory study to develop a compendium and potential typology set of wars and armed conflicts across the region over time. The aim is to discern patterns of occurrence, and more importantly, primary driving forces and/or ‘push’ factors that precipitated conflict in the first place. Scrutiny and analysis of discernible patterns might reveal certain conditions and situational commonalities that alert us to the need of making concerted efforts to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

Working Paper No. 73

Chinese sources have played a very important role in the writing of early Southeast Asian history. However, scholars have struggled to understand the information in those sources and over the past century, there have been countless different interpretations that have been put forward.

In this paper, we revisit the Chinese sources on early Southeast Asian history and do not simply offer a new interpretation, but also attempt to demonstrate why previous scholarship has been inaccurate.

In particular, previous generations of scholars failed to recognize the way that Chinese scholars in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries distorted information about Southeast Asia by (arbitrarily) equating historical placenames with the names of contemporary kingdoms. In doing so, they made false connections between placenames, thereby leading later scholars astray.

In this paper, we return to the earliest sources and build our knowledge from scratch. What emerges is a new picture of early Southeast Asian history and one that is free of the many textual problems and contradictions that scholars have struggled with over the past century.

Working Paper No. 72

Our ways of representing the cosmological world are core issues in the reconfigured animism field in contemporary anthropology, as well as a recurring theme in the social sciences’ current interest in ontologies.

This paper interrogates methodological questions of decisions regarding who to listen to as cosmological interlocuters in fieldwork, and how to interpret diverse perspectives and varied claims of expertise on the spirit-worlds.

The work is an attempt to be transparent about the methodological untidiness of fieldwork on a topic upon which there seemed to be a very nebulous body of ideas and practice.

Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the Kulen plateau in northwest Cambodia, I describe an expressed paucity of specialized knowledge about the nature of the cosmological inhabitants of the place.

However, when it came to engaging with the spirit-worlds, mountain residents joined together in complex ritual practice. Cosmological knowledge was not held by one but many, and supernatural solutions were sought through a network of expertise and in community.

I contrast the types of knowledge held by pilgrims to the mountain with that of its long-term residents, and discuss the challenges presented in observing and representing a varied cosmological ethnoscape in a sacred place.

Working Paper No. 71

This paper contends that a state’s political-economic dynamics can have a key influence over the primary aims and rationale of conducting transdisciplinary projects in the Global South (TPGS).

By reflecting on fieldwork experiences in the study of dam-induced problems in northeast Cambodia, it problematises a tendency to overstate the impact of methodological challenges such as language barriers, internet access or unexpected funding expenses on project efficacy.

Instead, the paper employs a social-conflict lens to detail the political-economic agency of actors and the preponderant influence this can bring to bear on the aims of a transdisciplinary project.

In doing so, it foregrounds often-inimical and asymmetrical relationships that form among various non-academic stakeholders during a TPGS to significantly shape project outcomes.

Working Paper No. 70

This exploratory study seeks to detail propositions and a conceptual framework that factor ethnic heterogeneity and exclusive institutions in determining public service motivation (PSM).

Drawing on scholarly work on PSM, heterogeneity and institutions, our paper suggests that in assessing an individual’s PSM and chances of joining the public service, ethnic heterogeneity matters. It matters because while personal attributes – like education, personal values and identity, political beliefs, socialisation – are important in determining one’s public service motivation, they are not the sole determinants.

As the paper highlights, an ethnically heterogeneous environment with the potential of producing numerous types of exclusive institutions can influence one’s perception of the public service, alter one’s motivation to serve in the public service or even eliminate one’s chances of joining the civil service.

Working Paper No. 69

Due to geopolitical tensions, such as those brought about by COVID-19 and the US-China trade war, many multinationals have been closing factories in China and relocating to countries along the Mekong such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

As a result, these countries will inevitably experience more international commerce in the future and attention will focus on their legislative and judicial systems. While much has been written about these countries’ laws, scant attention has been paid to a common feature in their development, the pervasive influence of Japanese private law.

Since 1996, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has played a major role in the modernization of law in the region. Through its Legal and Judicial Development Project, JICA has provided technical assistance for the reform of codes and the training of lawyers in the use of those codes.

This paper critically examines JICA’s contribution to the rule of law in the region. It considers whether Japanese soft power (as manifested by JICA) complements or is at cross-purposes with projects of other organisations and initiatives (such as, Asian Development Bank and World Bank).

It then evaluates the extent to which JICA’s work is currently attuned to or has the potential to be made more responsive to the social and economic aspirations of the relevant countries.

Working Paper No. 68

Places are social constructs. They become individuated and significant when imbued with meaning through people’s lived experience, usage, and imagery.

This paper discusses the construction of Patanian places in Thailand’s Deep South, a region consisting of the provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala, where the Malays constitute the ethnic majority.

Using the Krisek Mosque, the Tomb of Sultan Ismail Shah, and the former home of Haji Sulong as examples, the paper shows how Patanian Malay narratives about these places illustrate their sorrow about the demise of the historical Malay kingdom of Patani and their community’s strained political relationship with the Thai state and nation.

Viewed collectively, these places constitute a landscape of grief for the Patanian Malays.

Working Paper No. 67

Lian Kwen Fee, Yabit Alas, Tong Chee Kiong, and Faizul Ibrahim

The etymology of the term ‘Dusun’ is disputed. It has been attributed to British colonialists to refer to a place where people practised horticulture and to the Brunei Malays to describe orchard or countryside. Over time, as a consequence of official ascription, it has been accepted by the indigenous community itself, even though the Dusun themselves initially preferred to call themselves Sang Jati (our people).

In this paper we address the question of what is Dusun identity and who are the Dusun by examining the work of local and foreign scholars and the views of informants who have been influential in the community.

Equally important, we also identify critical issues that have dominated the work of these scholars and assess their relevance to current and future research on the Dusun. These issues include ethnic identity and religion, ecology and language, and kinship and leadership. We come to the conclusion that ecological variations matter.

Future research should address how the Dusun are represented and essentialised and recognise the diversity of ‘Dusunness’ today.

Working Paper No. 66

It is a commonly held assumption that while migrants can contribute to economic growth, their impacts on population composition may also generate socio-cultural tensions and political instability. As such, ethnic diversity of a province or a community may have a positive or negative affect on regional development. This raises the question of whether impacts of migration on ethnic diversity correlate with economic growth.

Taking Indonesia as the locus of the study, the following paper presents new empirical data in response to that question. By analysing statistics on ethnic groups and regional composition derived primarily from the Indonesia 2010 Population Census and cross referencing them with recent ethnic classifications and fractionalisation and polarisation indexes, a fuller overview of ethnic diversity across the archipelago and its relationship to migration and economic growth is gained.

Based on the data, a mixed pattern emerges on the role ethnic diversity plays in intermediating the relationship between migration and economic growth. The findings suggest a correlation between indicators of ethnic diversity and economic regions but in less developed regions in particular, other variables also modulate the relation between migration and economic growth. While ethnic diversity appears to be a primary variable in more developed regions.

Working Paper No. 65

This paper is based on fieldwork on selected Iban communities in Temburong, Brunei Darussalam during research visits there between 2018 and 2021.

In Brunei, the Iban are a minority population of about 20,000 and, in terms of its Constitution and the Nationality Act of 1961, they are not considered as one of the recognised indigenous populations (puak jati) of the state. Despite being marginal to the Brunei state, they have chosen to make their home here and enjoy the support and the employment opportunities that the state provides.

This paper aims to fill a gap in Iban Studies by providing recent data on the Temburong Iban’s social organisation, economic activities and cultural identity in conjunction with their responses to their minority status in Brunei. It is also an ethnographic prelude to a prospective major study of the Iban of Brunei.

Working Paper No. 64

Caroline Anne Yong Suk Zhen, Siu Tzyy Wei, and Paul J. Carnegie

This paper considers whether regional digital partnership offers an effective strategy for post-pandemic recovery.

To ground the paper in critical reflection, we combine personal impressions of our current situation with a discussion of the ways to achieve meaningful digital partnership.

Drawing on work as varied as Thomas Kuhn, Bong Joon-ho, Nikolai Kondratieff and Piyawat Sivarak, the paper argues that our future wellbeing is predicated on our ability to bridge the digital divide and cooperate effectively for mutual benefit.

Working Paper No. 63

The COVID-19 pandemic calls for a collective response at the global and regional level. Otherwise, some nations may be left behind and the potential for the contagion to return remains high.

As advanced regional blocs, the EU and ASEAN have a major responsibility to their members for coordinating health protection measures and access to vaccines, maintaining the mobility of people and goods, and supporting their economy. The pandemic is therefore a test for regions. They must demonstrate that they are at least making national measures more effective.

This paper seeks to determine whether the EU and ASEAN have passed the COVID-19 test. It does so by analysing their responses in 2020 when the countries were hit by the first wave of contagion.

The first section of the paper considers their attitude and action when the initial cases appeared in Europe and Southeast Asia in the early part of 2020. While the second section focuses on vaccines and the policies adopted in each region.

The paper concludes that overall, the responses of the two regions to their COVID-19 test were late and insufficient.

Working Paper No. 62

This paper explores various notions of masculinity among young Malay men in Brunei Darussalam. Using interview data from 16 male and female informants, it elucidates other forms of self-expressions and identities in contrast to the stereotypical and traditional notion of masculinity.

While the data attest to the normative values and ways of being men recognized by the mainstream society and institutions in Brunei, it also found a significant “modern” approach and perception of expressing different notions of masculinity.

This pilot study sheds light on the norms and values that define and shape masculinity among young Malay men within their socio-cultural contexts of contemporary Brunei Darussalam.

Working Paper No. 61

The South China Sea is a significant maritime region both strategically and economically. Its valuable resources provide major economic benefits for the countries of the surrounding region. Maintaining the maritime security of Brunei’ territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) against illegal activity is key to ensuring the long-term viability of its benefits for the country. This paper considers the effectiveness of maritime co-ordination and information sharing in combatting illegal fishing activities within Brunei Darussalam’s EEZ and the challenges it faces.

Working Paper No. 60

This paper examines the contribution of overseas scholars to Chinese studies.

Given that eighty percent of the Chinese diaspora are located in Southeast Asia, it pays particular attention to social science scholarship in the region. The work of scholars in religion and ethnicity are highlighted. . .

Working Paper No. 59

Borassus flabellifer L., is a semi-domesticated palm of cultural and economic importance to local communities from the Persian Gulf to the Cambodian- Vietnamese border.

Drawing from a qualitative study conducted in Southern India, we bring out its biocultural significance to the local people, and the mutualistic relationship between the palm and its tappers. . .

Working Paper No. 58

The Malay peasantry in peninsular Malaysia has been the subject of fieldwork and ethnographic research by both colonial and local anthropologists.

Raymond Firth’s Malay fishermen, based on fieldwork in Perupok, a fishing community in Kelantan, stands as an early and now classic example of the genre.

I was born some seven years after Firth’s first fieldwork in another east coast Malay fishing village, Kampung Che Wan, Kijal, in Terengganu. This article is about my own process of remembering the ethnographic details of my home village, thinking like an anthropologist over the period of a lifetime. . .

Working Paper No. 57

Jennifer Kim Lian Chan & Victor T. King

During the past two decades the Southeast Asian region has experienced a range of major crises. Its substantial tourism industry has often taken the brunt of these difficult and testing events, from natural and environmental calamities, epidemics and pandemics, downturns and financial slumps in the world economy, terrorism and political conflict.

The latest peril, this time on a global scale, is the ‘Novel Coronavirus’ (Covid-19/SARS-CoV-2) pandemic; it has already had serious consequences for Southeast Asia and its tourism development and will continue to do so. . .

Working Paper No. 56

There are an estimated 14,000 to 20,000 Iban living in Brunei, most of them in the Ulu Belait and Temburong districts. They migrated to Brunei from Sarawak just before the Second World War in search of new land and opportunity to improve their livelihood.

Not recognized as one of the seven puak by the state, the common narrative is that they face challenges of incorporation into the Sultanate. In Mukim Sukang (Ulu Belait) there are eight Iban longhouses.

This case study of the Iban of Melilas documents how one particular community has successfully negotiated and managed their acceptance as full citizens of Brunei while retaining their Iban identity. . .

Working Paper No. 55

Proposing constitutional reform and the process of establishing it are two distinct matters. The former is largely a normative projection of what could be whilst the latter involves the manner in which reform is brought about.

In reality, translating proposals into accepted practice involves overcoming legacies of the past. Whether or not they can persist over time is a process that is invariably fraught and often generates mixtures of trade-off and compromise.

The following paper examines the merits or otherwise of a gradualist approach to constitution-making. By anatomizing the constitutional reform process that took place in Indonesia from 1999-2002, it considers whether or not such an approach is appropriate for establishing meaningful constitutionalism in plural and divided societies. . .

Working Paper No. 54

While the myth of the exotic Oriental is a subject of rejection and subversion in conventional postcolonial studies, in contemporary studies of Southeast Asia, self-exoticism is evident at both the individual and national levels. It is deployed to achieve positional status in a globalised world.

This paper investigates what Graham Huggan (2001) terms the postcolonial exotic, particularly in terms of a re-politicisation of the female body in contemporary literature concerning Southeast Asia. It also draws on Christopher B. Balme’s theory of performative metonymy (where postcolonies mimic the expectations of the ex-colonisers) to foreground the workings of Huggan’s postcolonial exotic in selected texts.

The two primary texts selected for this purpose are Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s Sarong Party Girls (2016), which traces the practice of postcolonial exotic through the self-exoticising of the female body, and Amir Falique’s The Forlorn Adventure (2014) in which the presentation of Brunei can be read as an extension of the politics of the female body. . .

Working Paper No. 53

In this paper, I trace the development of my work on race and ethnicity over my academic career, as a reflection in part of my biographical background.

My interest in race and ethnic relations originated from my experience of the race riots in Kuala Lumpur on May 13th in 1969, subsequently grounded in graduate school in New Zealand where I conducted research on the Chinese and the Maoris.

My early work on returning to Singapore was on Malay identity in the region. It moved on later to writing about the marginalization of Tamils as an underclass in Malaysia and then a broader consideration of race, class, and politics in Peninsular Malaysia precipitated by the General Election of 2008.

Since the 1990s the representation of race and politics has pre-occupied many social science discourses, which is reflected in my work on the politics of racialization and Malay identity in Singapore. . .

Working Paper No. 52

Dispute, disagreement and debate are the very stuff of academic activity. The problem arises when the language of the debate takes on a personal dimension and the authority that is claimed in arguing in favour of a particular position, approach or perspective becomes so entrenched that other voices are assigned to the margins.

This paper reviews the origins and development of the exchange of views between competing voices in the interpretation of the importance and ‘meaning’ of the ritual textiles of the Iban of Borneo and whether or not they embody and express a language of symbols. . .

Working Paper No. 51

In the last three decades, labour casualization has become synonymous with Public Service reform in many developing countries. Reforms were meant to restructure and streamline public service delivery by establishing a more flexible workforce. Yet, labour casualization brings with it significant uncertainties such as diminished security of tenure, minimal employment protections and no guarantee of long-term employment prospects.

The following paper considers the structural impact of casualization on labour relations and the ways in which it influences the effectiveness of public service delivery. It argues that despite popular views about the advantages of labour casualization, it is less than beneficial to public service delivery in the long-run. The levels of precariousness generated by excessive labour casualization are more likely than not to undercut morale and stifle the ability of public service workers to carry out their roles effectively.

Working Paper No. 50

Hajah Siti Norfadzilah Binti Haji Kifli

This research explores how halal is regulated and practised in Brunei by highlighting the process of Halal Certification in Brunei.

In the recent enforcement of the Halal Certificate and Halal Logo (Amendment) Order of 2017, this research discusses the effects it has towards the local food and beverage (F&B) businesses, particularly the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

By comparing halal certification in Brunei with Singapore and Malaysia. . .