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Reminiscences of a Raffles Professor, 1953-67
Professor K.G. Tregonning's anecdotal memoir of his years as a member of the Department of History in the University of Singapore, culminating as Raffles Professor, captures the mood and milieu of Singapore as the country emerged from colonial rule to become a self-governing independent nation. Arriving at the height of the Cold War, Tregonning was acutely conscious of the ongoing Malayan Emergency and of the political shifts taking place across Southeast Asia. He records meetings with a number of the region's leaders, and encounters with students and colleagues who would later feature in Singapore's politics, or become leading figures in the academic world. The result is an engaging and very personal account of a university and a professional, political and social environment that is quite different from that found in Singapore today.
Philippine Nationhood and Class Relations in a Globalized Age
Since the 1960s, overseas migration has become a major factor in the economy of the Philippines. It has also profoundly influenced the sense of nationhood of both migrants and nonmigrants. Migrant workers learned to view their home country as part of a plural world of nations, and they shaped a new sort of Filipino identity while appropriating the modernity of the outside world, where at least for a while they operated as insiders. The global nomadism of Filipino workers brought about some fundamental reorientations. It revolutionized Philippine society, reignited a sense of nationhood, imposed new demands on the state, reconfigured the class structure, and transnationalized class and other social relations, even as it deterritorialized the state and impacted the destinations of migrant workers. Philippine foreign policy now takes surprising turns in consideration of migrant workers and Filipinos living abroad. Many tertiary education institutions aim deliberately at the overseas employability of local graduates. And the “Fil-foreign” offspring of unions with partners from other nationalities add a new inflection to Filipino identity.
The Buddhist monk Buddhadasa Bhikku (1906-1993) injected fresh life into Thai Buddhism by exploring and teaching little known transcendent aspects of the religion. His investigations excited both monks and lay people, and gave rise to vigorous discussion in shops, temple and yards and newly founded Buddhist associations. While these discussions included serious exchanges on doctrine and practice, they also included jokes and light humour, criticisms of weak evidence for various positions, and rumours that Buddhadasa was a communist sympathizer. Some of this material was captured in Buddhist journals and in numerous "pocket books" aimed at a general audience. Departing from the classical method of studying Buddhism through philology, Tomomi Ito's account of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu draws on this popular literature and on detailed interviews with a very broad spectrum of the people involved in these exchanges. The result is a lively intellectual and social history of contemporary Thai Buddhism built around the life of an exceptional monk who captured the interest of Buddhists pursuing spiritual depth in the context of the ideologcial conflicts of the Cold War.
Political Parties in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia
Are political parties the weak link in Indonesia’s young democracy? More pointedly, do they form a giant cartel to suck patronage resources from the state? Indonesian commentators almost invariably brand the country’s parties as corrupt, self-absorbed, and elitist, while most scholars argue that they are poorly institutionalized. This book tests such assertions by providing unprecedented and fine-grained analysis of the inner workings of Indonesian parties, and by comparing them to their equivalents in other new democracies around the world. Contrary to much of the existing scholarship, the book finds that Indonesian parties are reasonably well institutionalized if compared to their counterparts in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and other parts of Asia. There is also little evidence that Indonesian parties are cartelized. But there is a significant flaw in the design of Indonesia’s party system: while most new democracies provide state funding to parties, Indonesia has opted to deny central party boards any meaningful subsidies. As a result, Indonesian parties face severe difficulties in financing their operations, leading them to launch predatory attacks on state resources and making them vulnerable to manipulation by oligarchic interests.
Environmental Histories of Singapore
How has Singapore’s environment—and location in a zone of extraordinary biodiversity—influenced the economic, political, social, and intellectual history of the island since the early 19th century? What are the antecedents to Singapore’s image of itself as a City in a Garden? Grounding the story of Singapore within an understanding of its environment opens the way to an account of the past that is more than a story of trade, immigration, and nation-building. Each of the chapters in this volume—focusing on topics ranging from tigers and plantations to trade in exotic animals and the greening of the city, and written by botanists, historians, anthropologists, and naturalists—examines how humans have interacted with and understood the natural environment on a small island in Southeast Asia over the past 200 years, and conversely how this environment has influenced humans. Between the chapters are travelers' accounts and primary documents that provide eyewitness descriptions of the events examined in the text. In this regard, Nature Contained: Environmental Histories of Singapore provides new insights into the Singaporean past, and reflects much of the diversity, and dynamism, of environmental history globally.
The Short Stories of Arthur Yap
The volume marks the recovery and first combined publication of the stories of Arthur Yap, one of Singapore's most accomplished and important writers. A hitherto neglected facet of Yap’s opus, his eight short stories are deceptive in their simplicity, housing within their sparse prose a complex engagement with Singapore society that he wrote in and within. With his signature minimalistic style, Yap simultaneously perplexes readers with stories of seemingly plotless ambiguity, yet draws them in with familiar characters playing out situations that still resonate in twenty-first century Singapore today. Angus Whitehead’s introduction highlights literary nuances in the stories and frames the stories within the wider backdrop of social change of Singapore at the time of Yap’s writing. The meticulous critical apparatus make this book of interest to not only the general reader but also students of Singapore and Southeast Asian literature in English.
The rapid urbanisation of the Asian continent and the transformation of its cityscapes have led many professionals and scholars to pay urgent attention to the study of Asian streets and public places in the hope of recording them, learning their complex nature, and testing theories in new environments before they disappear under the assault of rapid urban transformation. This volume presents articles focusing on four prevalent themes, namely transformation and modernity, the culture of streets, the experience of the street and finally, the design and quality of streets. However, these themes inevitably overlap, pointing out the complexity of what we call the "street" and the necessity for interdisciplinary research. Finally, adding "Asian" to "street" opens up the discussion about spaces in the Asian city, and concepts of "Asian-ness," if indeed such a concept can be defined. This book will interest not only urban planners, architects and other design and building professionals, but also geographers, sociologists, environmentalists, anthropologists, historians as well as the general public.
Unions and the State in Java, 1945‒48
The years 1945-48 marked the peak of the Indonesian revolution, but they were also formative years for state-labour relationship in modern Indonesia. Drawing on a wide range of historical sources, Jafar Suryomenggolo reconstructs labour’s initial drive to form and orient unions during this critical period. The historical narrative captures early unions’ nationalist spirit and efforts to defend members’ socio-economic interests, and shows the steps taken by the labour movement to maintain its independence and build institutional capacity within the new Indonesia state. Organising Under the Revolution challenges the prevailing assumptions that see labour movements as political arms of the post-colonial state. The author’s conclusions provide a comparative lens for the study of labor movements in Southeast Asia, and developing countries in general.
History, Culture and Identity
The world's population negotiates a multiplicity of naming systems. Some are compatible with the "normative" system of the world of passports and identity cards but a great many are not. This is particularly true in Asia, a region with some of the most sophisticated naming devices found anywhere in the world, including nicknames and teknonyms, religious and corporation names, honour and death names, pseudonyms and retirement names, house names and clan names, local and foreign names, official and private names. People across the continent carry multiple names meaningful to different audiences. Some are used only in family relations while others locate individuals in terms of gender, ethnicity, religion, caste, class, and nation. The centrality of names to many of the crucial debates and preoccupations of the modern world — identity, hybridity, migration, nationalism, multi-culturalism, globalization — makes it particularly surprising that there has been little systematic comparative exploration of Asian names and naming systems. This path-breaking volume classifies and theorizes the systems underlying naming practices in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia where systems are abundant and fluid. Using historical and socio-anthropological perspectives, the authors of this exceptionally close collaborative effort show the intricate connections between naming systems, notions of personhood and the prevailing ethos of interpersonal relations. They also show how the peoples of Asia are fashioning new types of naming and different ways of identifying themselves to suit the demands of a changing world
Islamic and Other Vision, c. 1830-1930
By the early 19th century, Islam had come to be the religious element in Javanese identity, but it was a particular kind of Islam described by the author as a “mystic synthesis”. The Javanese held firmly to their identity as Muslims and fulfilled the basic ritual obligations of the faith, but they also accepted the reality of local spiritual forces. Polarising Javanese Society discusses how colonial rule, population pressure and Islamic reform undermined this distinctively Javanese syncretism. A fourfold division appeared among pious Muslims -- some remained adherents of the “mystic synthesis”, some followed reformers who demanded a more orthoprax way of life, some supported reformist Sufis, and some accepted messianic ideas. A new category emerged comprising Javanese who resisted Islamic reform and began to attenuate their Islamic identity. These increasingly nominal Muslims -- the majority -- became known as abangan. The priyayi elite meanwhile embraced the forms of modernity as represented by their European rulers and modern scientific learning, and Christianity began to make limited inroads into Javanese society. Some even came to regard the original conversion of the Javanese to Islam as a civilisational mistake, and within this social element explicitly anti-Islamic concepts took shape. In the early 20th century, these categories became politicised in the context of Indonesia’s nascent anti-colonial movements. Thus were born the contending political identities that lay behind much of the conflict and bloodshed of 20th-century Indonesia. Based on a wide range of original sources in Javanese and Dutch, this book is the first thoroughly researched publication on Islam in Java.