Research Clusters and Projects

The primary focus of the Institute of Asian Studies is to engage in research on Asia. To pursue a rigorous research agenda, IAS organises its research projects into four research clusters, each of which is led by experts in the field.

Human Security and Regionalisation

Investigators: Bruno Jetin and Paul Carnegie

Asia is involved in many regional integration projects. ASEAN continues to deepen the construction of the ASEAN Community while engaging in trade and investment agreements within and outside the Asia-Pacific area.

In addition, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is also reshaping the regional infrastructure and people-to-people connectivity.

These ever-evolving forms of regional integration are affecting the interdependence of economic, migration, food, health and environmental security in Southeast Asia.

This cluster is broadly inter-disciplinary in outlook and focuses on the ways in which regionalisation and human security are understood and recognized. And the implications for livelihoods, rights, choices and opportunities of communities and individuals across contemporary Southeast Asia.

Migration, Mobility and Diaspora

Investigators: Lian Kwen Fee

The region is at the confluence of international migration from some of the largest labour surplus countries in the world including South Asia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Myanmar since the colonial era. It is a repository of both intra- and inter-regional movements of people now and then.

While much of these are economically driven and are labour migrations, mobility and diaspora encompass a contemporary dimension associated with globalisation.

The human experience of contemporary migration has evolved into a complex and challenging agenda for research and scholarship. Temporary labour migration throws up issues of risk, precarity, inclusion, and exclusion.

The open-endedness of mobility and diaspora challenges us to treat migration as a rupture between the present and the past, as memory and representation, and as location and identity-making.infrastructure and people-to-people connectivity.

These ever-evolving forms of regional integration are affecting the interdependence of economic, migration, food, health and environmental security in Southeast Asia.

This cluster is broadly inter-disciplinary in outlook and focuses on the ways in which regionalisation and human security are understood and recognized. And the implications for livelihoods, rights, choices and opportunities of communities and individuals across contemporary Southeast Asia.

Biocultural Diversity

Investigators: Merlin F. Franco and Victor T. King

Many of Asia’s languages and much of its biodiversity are yet to be fully studied and understood. Yet, they are being eroded rapidly along with the associated Traditional Knowledge.

This research cluster examines the linkages between Biodiversity, Traditional Knowledge and Languages, and the factors responsible for their maintenance or loss. Such research requires multidisciplinary collaboration.

The research cluster will focus on three areas: The stream on Traditional Knowledge examines its contemporary relevance to Asian societies including biodiversity conservation and adaptation to climate change.

The second stream examines the ways in which Heritage and Conservation Tourism can be used to encourage the sustainability of the rich cultural and natural legacy of Asia.

The third stream focuses on Indigenous languages and their close interrelationships with biodiversity and traditional knowledge.

Finally, we are concerned to promote a biocultural approach to the study of Brunei as well as the island of Borneo, and to situate our studies in the wider context of Asia.

Identities, Narratives and Representations

Investigators: Hoon Chang Yao and Liam C. Kelley

The dramatic economic and social transformations that have taken place in Asia in recent decades have led to countless reformulations in the ways that individuals and groups of people view, explain, and present themselves.

In the process, marks of difference such as ethnicity, gender, race, and religion have in some cases softened and in others have become more rigid.

Alongside such developments, the ways in which people explain and represent the symbols that they see as significant for their identity have also changed, making narratives increasingly multiple and contested.

Meanwhile, these developments have all taken place in a time when communication has been continuously revolutionized, with the development of such technologies as satellite TV, the Internet, and smartphones.

The result is that identity has become more fragmented and is constructed not only through human interactions but also through transnational flows of ideas and images.