Asian Studies Association of Australia Asian Currents
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May 2005 | ISSN 1449-4418 | <>

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Asian Currents aims to connect Australia's academic experts on Asia with journalists, policy makers, business people, artists and other educators. Please feel free to forward this email to others you think would be interested in receiving Asian Currents. Registration is free and open to all by simply registering your email address at (scroll down to the Asian Currents button.) The e-bulletin normally appears in the third week of each month.

May 2005 Federal Budget: note from the president

Over the last year, there has been an intensive focus in Australia on our relations with Asia. Most poignantly, the government and community reaction to the tsunami reflected Australians' real concern about the wellbeing of our neighbours. Subsequently, there have been groundbreaking visits from the Indonesian President and Malaysian Prime Minister.

The ASAA has long been concerned to deepen Australia's engagement with Asia. Its 2005 budget submission suggested practical ways of maximizing Australia's Asia knowledge. Unfortunately, the budget did not respond to the ASAA's suggestions. Instead, in relation to Asia, it concentrated on traditional security measures. Ironically, Australia's capacity to deal effectively with counter terrorism in the region can only be enhanced by greater attention to Asian language skills and knowledge of the world around us.

Robert Cribb,


Each edition of Asian Currents brings you a short insight into topical issues. This month we look at two very different aspects of Indonesia.

What next in Aceh?

by Colin Brown, Dean of Media Society and Culture at Curtin University in Western Australia.

The first phase of the response to the tsunami disasters in Aceh and Nias is largely over. It has been remarkably successful, given the scale of the tragedy. There have, been no major outbreaks of disease, as some observers had predicted, nor great increases in malnutrition. All foreign military personnel have left the region and the number of foreign civilians has fallen considerably.

But this was the easy phase: the extent of the disaster shocked virtually all parties into action and cooperation. The rehabilitation and reconstruction phases will be much more difficult.

One problem is bureaucratic. In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, things happened remarkably rapidly. There were hold-ups, but these were usually a result of the tsunami itselfóchiefly damage to the transport infrastructureórather than bureaucratic delays. Now that the immediate crisis has passed, the bureaucracy seems to be reverting to type, with complaints from many quarters that reconstruction is being hindered by insistence on following regulations to the letter. 'Those bureaucrats have no sense of urgency', complained Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, shortly after his appointment in early May to head the Aceh Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency.

The other major problem is to ensure that the money allocated to Aceh and Nias is used appropriately: that it is not stolen by corrupt officials or business people. The government in Jakarta is conscious of the problem it faces with corruption at the national level. But in the particular instance of Aceh, preventing - or more realistically minimising - corruption has an even greater than normal significance.

For one thing, the rest of the world will be watching very carefully what happens to the funds intended for Aceh.

Even more important is the fact that how the aid money is used will have a major impact on the attitude of the Acehnese people to their future, and to the role of Indonesia in that future. Jakarta has to demonstrate to mainstream Acehnese society they are better off staying with Indonesia than supporting the separatists.

The Acehnese people must therefore be involved in the reconstruction of their province. As the National Development Planning Minister, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said in March: 'First and foremost, the people of Aceh must assume a central role in decision making; after all, it is their home and livelihood that are at stake.'

If the aid money is used speedily and effectively it will be a most powerful force helping to keep Aceh in Indonesia. If it is not, then Jakarta can kiss Aceh goodbye. It's that important.


Recalling the Bandung Conference

by Jamie Mackie, emeritus professor at the Australian National University. His book, Bandung 1955: Non-Alignment and Afro-Asian Solidarity (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2005), is obtainable in Australia from Thames and Hudson, Melbourne; email See also

When the Asia-Africa conference of (mostly) newly independent nations met at Bandung in April 1955 it was greeted as a landmark of historic significance, symbolising the end to colonial rule in Asia, Africa and the Middle Eastóalthough only the beginning of the end in Africa.

The stars at the conference were Nehru of India, Zhou Enlai of China and Ali Sastroamidjojo of Indonesia, who had proposed the conference and was elected its chairman. Its most important achievement was to bring about communist China's acceptance into the Asian family of nations and thereby reduce her dependency upon Moscow. That was achieved through Zhou's conciliatory handling of the issues. Also, by opening up relations with the Middle Eastern nations in particular, he launched China's increasingly independent role in the Cold War politics, which resulted later in the Sino-Soviet rift. The disintegration of a rigid bipolar division of the world and the emergence of a multipolar international system in the 1960s can thus be attributed, at least in part, to Bandung.

While the conference was influential in hastening the ending of formal colonialism (but certainly not of neo-colonialism), Afro-Asian solidarity turned out to be a rhetorical myth, which disintegrated in the face of widening rifts between several key nations, India and China, and their allies especially in the face of growing adherence to the idea of non-alignment. An attempt to hold a second Asia-Africa conference in Algiers in 1965 was a spectacular failure and no further efforts to do so were made until 2005. But the Belgrade Conference of non-aligned nations in 1961 gave rise to a formalised, enduring structure, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which spread to include most of the newly independent African states as well as several from Latin America and even Europe. The NAM, representing the world's poorer nations, the 'Third World', against the rich, had grown by 2005 to 116 nations, including several which had opposed the concept in 1955.

The 50th anniversary celebrations of the Bandung conference represented the first attempt since 1965 to give institutional form to Afro-Asian solidarity. The specific arrangements agreed upon were practical, down-to-earth, limited in scope and potentially useful (a stark contrast with 1955-65!). This new structure, if successful, may even have the effect of cutting into the appeal of NAM, which has become so large and amorphous as to have lost much of its original raison d'être.

The challenge over the next fifty years for the Afro-Asian nations is to generate new ideas which capitalise on their diversity. These ideas will need to build on the benefits of divergence rather than the excessive convergence implicit in so many of the ideas and institutions currently shaping our futures. Thus, the 'spirit of Bandung' might yet be able to revitalise the high hopes of 1955 and 2005.

David Walker, Professor of Australian Studies at Deakin University, has an article on Australian responses to the 1955 Bandung Conference in the April 2005 issue of Australian Historical Studies. For details of the journal see


This month we profile, Krishna Sen, Professor of Asian Media, Dean of Research and Graduate Studies in the Division of Humanities at Curtin University of Technology and Vice President of the Asian Studies Association of Australia. Her latest book, co-authored with David T. Hill, is Internet and Democracy in Indonesia, Routledge, London (forthcoming). See also

Q. When did you become interested in studying Asia and why?

A. I was born in India but did not really think of Asia as an object of study until the mid 1970s, when I started a degree in international relations, at Jadavpur University in Calcutta, and had the option of taking some units on Southeast Asia. This was a huge eye-opener.

As a student in India, every book on Southeast Asia I had access to was written by a 'westerner'. That convinced me it was my post-colonial duty to study another Asian countryóand write about it!

This peculiar dream (not shared by one other student in my international relations classóthey were all hoping to be diplomats!) became more concrete when Professor Herb Feith visited our university and talked to us about Indonesia. He was inspiring. I made up my mind to work on Indonesia and arrived at Monash University in 1978 to start a Masters with Herb, which eventually became a PhD.

Q. What are your current preoccupations?

A. Research-wise I work on various aspects of the media in Indonesia. At the moment I am looking at the regional media. On my last visit in December/January, I did fieldwork in Jayapura, Bali, Surabaya and Yogyakarta. Overall, the project examines how decentralisation of the economy and politics is shaping the media in the various provinces.

I have a wonderful group of post-graduate students working with me. Most are from Southeast Asia and all are working on aspects of the media in their own countries.

Q. How do these fit into the contemporary scene?

A. My own research and that of my post-graduates is entirely on contemporary Southeast Asia. Media and pop-culture are exploding areas of teaching and research in places like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Furthermore, the lines between these discipline areas and professional work can often be eroded. Everything about media studies is contemporary - even trendy! But what's more important is that this work tells us what's going on in the nooks and crannies of politics, outside of the formality of policy discourse. We get insights into how people are thinking, living, being, consuming - the stuff of real politics that straightforward readings of politics might miss.

Q. What are your hopes for Asian studies in Australia?

A. I am not really hung up on something called Asian studies. What is important is that Australian students learn Asian languages, that they learn about Asia, no matter what discipline they are in. I myself have always taught Asia-related units, but have never taught in a department of Asian Studies. I would like to see Asia incorporated in all courses of study, so that it no longer needs exclusive attention or particular defence. Most importantly, Australians need to cease being monolingual. They need to learn other languages because multiculturalism cannot thrive on one dominant language.

Researcher of the month

Shoko Yoneyama is senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide's Centre for Asian Studies. Born in Japan she came to Australia on an Australian government postgraduate scholarship. She studied sociology at La Trobe University and completed her PhD in 1993. She decided to stay in Australia where she thought there would be more scope to pursue her career and seek personal fulfilment. Since 1989 she has taught at the University of Adelaide, and received a Stephen Cole the Elder Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1996.

Being brought up in the Japanese education system, Shoko has developed a fascination with the question of how different school environments affect student learning and well-being. Her book, The Japanese High School: Silence and Resistance (London, Routledge, 1999), a study involving over 2,500 students in Japan and Australia, analyses the crisis produced by the intense pressures of the Japanese education system. Using the Australian system for comparison, she presents the students' own perspective on school, truancy and bullying. The students in her study found Australian schools more democratic than Japanese schools, although they shared many commonalities as conventional (as against alternative) schools. The book argues the Japanese system of controlling students is so effective that it tends to alienate and silence them.

More recently, Shoko has been working on issues and challenges confronting students from Japan in Australian schools. She is especially interested in how/why many Japanese youth find the experience of studying in Australia empowering despite the apparent linguistic and other difficulties. She also believes the voices of international students can be reflected more in educational policy, in order to improve the quality of education offered to international as well as local students. Shoko is a member of the organising committee of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia's 14th Biennial Conference to be held at the University of Adelaide in July. The topic of the conference is Japan - Negotiating the 21st Century. Among the keynote speakers are Dr Mamoru Mohri, JAXA Astronaut and Executive Director of the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Japan and Professor Helen Hardacre, Harvard University. See

Website of the month

The first issue of the China Heritage Newsletter, an online quarterly, focuses on heritage protection in the People's Republic of China during 2004 and the first quarter of 2005. Unfettered economic development has been wreaking havoc on the Chinese environment and the remnants of traditional culture. China's conservationists and its incipient green movement began voicing concerns about this in the 1990s. By 2004 China had accepted the concept of world cultural heritage and appears now to have a continuing commitment to protecting the past.

Recent article of interest

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has recently published a report, Living with giants: finding Australia's place in a more complex world, which examines the future of Australian foreign policy in a world dominated by a company of giants: India and China at over a billion people each, through to those at four or five hundred millions, like the United States and the European Union and those at the hundred million plus level. Of the nineteen polities projected to have populations over 100 million in 2020, ten of them are in Australia's region of direct interest and primary strategic concern. A summary is available online.

Did you know?

Dr John Makeham, Head of the Centre for Asian Studies at the University of Adelaide ( has won the American Association for Asian Studies' prestigious Levenson Prize for the best book on pre-1900 China published in 2004. Of Makeham's book, Transmitters and Creators: Chinese Commentators and Commentaries on the Analects (Harvard University Asia Center, 2003), the judges said, 'In sum, Makeham shows us centuries of Chinese scholars making sense of Confucius, of each other, and of themselves in fascinating and inter-connected ways'.

Diary dates

CALL FOR PUBLIC SUBMISSIONS to be lodged by 17 June 2005: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is inviting public submissions on issues relevant to the negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and China. Submissions or comments may be lodged electronically to or by post. See

SPEAKING WITH CLOTH - INDONESIAN TEXTILES, Friday 22 April - Sunday 28 August 2005. This exhibition explores contemporary life in Indonesia through personal stories, highlighting the breadth of creativity and cultural diversity in Indonesia. At the Immigration Museum, Old Customs House, 400 Flinders Street, Melbourne. See or call (03) 9927 2700.

WORLD EXPO: March to September in Aichi, Japan. 127 countries and 6 international organisations, along with leading Japanese corporations such as Toyota, Toshiba and Mitsubishi, will take part in the Expo. The Australian Government has committed $35 million to Australia's participation in the event, and has been joined by the Victorian, Queensland and Western Australian state governments and the private sector in preparing Australia's participation. For each month of the six months of the Expo, the business program will feature one of the following sectors: agribusiness; natural resources and energy; biotechnology; information and communications technology; automotive sector; and environmental technology. See for more information about the Australian pavilion.

TYPHOON: CLIMATE, HISTORY AND SOCIETY IN THE PHILIPPINES - SOME INITIAL THOUGHTS, 26 May 2005, Perth. Asia Research Centre lunchtime seminar, Senate room, Murdoch University at 12.30 pm. See

IICEF 05 INDIA INTERNATIONAL CAREER AND EDUCATIONAL FAIR, 27 May - 6 June 2005. This fair is for institutions wishing to recruit Indian students (especially in South India) for under- and post-graduate programs.,5678

RECONCILIATION AND COLONIALISM IN EAST TIMOR, 6 June 2005. Melbourne Globalism Institute seminar. RMIT, Building 15, Level 3, Room 3. 11.30 am-12.30 pm. This paper gives particular attention to the theme of reconciliation and to the work undertaken by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) in East Timor. See;ID=67fz2im2t5e3#June

CHINESE STUDIES ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA, Ninth Biennial Conference, Bendigo, 30 June - 3 July 2005. Hosted by La Trobe University at the Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo, Victoria. A special feature of the 2005 CSAA conference will be a stream on the Chinese diaspora in the Asia Pacific. See:

JAPAN-NEGOTIATING THE 21ST CENTURY, Japan Studies Association of Australia 2005 conference, 3-6 July 2005, University of Adelaide. The conference will bring together scholars from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and around the world to share the latest research in the fields of Japanese Studies and Japanese Language Education. See for further detail.

IMPROVING POLICING FOR WOMEN IN THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION CONFERENCE, 20-23 August 2005, Darwin. Delegates from Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Asia will explore how policing can better protect women's human rights and strategies to improve the number of women in key decision making positions within policing. For more information go to the Australasian Council of Women and Policing website at

Call for Papers - EIGHTH WOMEN IN ASIA CONFERENCE, University of Technology, Sydney, 26-28 September 2005. Papers are invited from all disciplines and participants may submit proposals for panels if they wish. You can download the form to register at For enquiries, please email

INDONESIA COUNCIL: OPEN CONFERENCE, Flinders University, Adelaide, 26-27 September 2005. This multi-disciplinary conference will provide a forum for innovative work on Indonesia, with particular emphasis on bringing established scholars and newer students of Indonesia together. Registration is free. To register, please send an email with your name, institutional affiliation and email address to by 1 August 2005.

Call for papers - MEDIA AND IDENTITY IN ASIA CONFERENCE, 15-16 February 2006, Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Malaysia. This is an interdisciplinary conference jointly organised by the Media-Asia Research Group at Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia and Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Malaysia. For more information visit

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About the ASAA

The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) promotes the study of Asian languages, societies, cultures, and politics in Australia; supports teaching and research in Asian studies; and works towards an understanding of Asia in the community at large. It publishes the Asia Studies Review journal and holds a biennial conference.

The ASAA believes there is an urgent need to develop a strategy to preserve, renew and extend Australian expertise about Asia. It has called on the government to show national leadership in the promotion of Australia's Asia knowledge and skills. See Maximizing Australia's Asia Knowledge Repositioning and Renewal of a National Asset

Asian Currents is published by the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA), thanks to a grant from the Myer Foundation made to assist the ASAA promote the study of Asia in Australia. It is edited by the ASAA's promotions agents, Francesca Beddie and Peter Rodgers.

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