Asian Studies Association of Australia Asian Currents
The Asian Studies Association of Australia's e-bulletin
Maximising Australia's Asian Knowledge
May 2009 | ISSN 1449-4418 | for the plain copy (no images) of this issue please click here

Sponsored by ARC Asia Pacific Futures Research Network

In this issue:

Message from the President

The issue of career opportunities in the field of Asian Studies is crucial to encouraging new generations of scholars to replenish Australia’s Asian expertise. A comment from a postgraduate reader in this issue, however, highlights some of the difficulties facing those with qualifications in Asian Studies in establishing careers, and hurdles to be overcome to make Asian studies an attractive option for students.

The job market for those with qualifications in Asian Studies is particularly tight job at present. However, the Bradley Report highlights the issue of the ‘greying’ of Australia’s academics, and this indicates that there should be a boom time as the academics appointed in the years of university expansion in the 1960s and 1970s retire.

But this does not solve the immediate problem of our post-grads looking for the next step post-PhD.

Many new graduates find casual academic work teaching at sessional rates, or in short term appointments—for example paid for by teaching buyouts for academics on research grants. Unfortunately, it is common practice to fill these posts with casuals, rather than short-term contracts. However, new graduates are at least building the ‘skill set’ they need when applying for a job.

As a longer term strategy, new graduates can look for opportunities to be part of large research grants with more senior scholars. They can be a named Research Associate on an ARC Grant held by senior scholars, for example. This puts them in the academic pay scale, rather than the Research Assistant pay scale and, at least at my university, they are regarded as post-doctoral fellows, even though they have not had to compete for the grant in their own right.

Research assistantships are another option—and research assistants can try to negotiate to have some publications from the project under their authorship, or jointly authored. These strategies can keep postgraduates in a related kind of employment, albeit short-term, while they build their skills and publications, and even get that thesis turned into a book, which is sometimes taken as an important consideration for a Post-doctoral Fellowships.

Asian Studies graduates usually have good language skills, which are a useful asset in jobs in aid and development. In terms of job overseas, it is worth postgraduates broadening the places where they look for jobs. The Economist, for example, advertises a lot of academic and related jobs

The international development jobs newsletter sends out bi-weekly lists of jobs to subscribers, and there are no doubt more of these web-based services in particular areas or fields.

The ASAA has a jobs section on its web site, but could be developing it as a more significant site for advertising jobs.

We see lobbying around the impending ‘crisis’ of the greying academic population, coupled with the push for Asia Literacy, as a key activity for the next few years. We are keen to receive feedback, insights, and suggestions on this important issue.

The ASAA has run regular workshops on topics such as career planning and job-seeking skills at both the biennial and the regional conferences. We welcome suggestions on the kinds of activities that the ASAA could provide and that postgrads and new graduates would find useful.

Kathryn Robinson



In the global downturn, it’s increasingly difficult to find opportunities once you've finished your PhD, whether it’s a post-doc, lecturer 'level A' or similar opportunities. It would be useful for the soon-to-be or newly qualifieds to know (a) what opportunities are out there, and (b) what to look for, and for some sort of list of ongoing opportunities to be made available.

I’ve completed my PhD and am looking for post-doc work or similar, but am not sure whether there are equally beneficial alternatives. Also, for example, I have an honorary position, which means that while I’m looking for a post I can still access library resources in return for using that institution as my affiliation in any publications. I’ve applied for a few post-docs now and am waiting to hear back from some. Some I’ve already heard back from and received information about the current job market.

Usually—according to the recruiters—in the more recent years, post-docs have attracted between 20–40 applicants. This year, however, they’re attracting 150–170.

With the current global downturn, particularly in the United States, it seems there is much greater competition over post-docs.

As universities are on hire freezes, it seems that people who’ve already done a couple of years post-doc work are applying to do a couple more as tenure-track options are either unavailable or few and far between.

It would be great if there was some way of communicating this to ASAA members in the same position as me; and also to see some report back on the current status of the job market at the moment.

I read on a listserv, for example, that universities throughout Asia are recruiting more academics at the moment, apparently as part of a wider shift in global power towards Asia. I’d be interested to know if there are any websites or such to look at for this.



With the next presidential election due to be held next August, Afghanistan stands at the crossroads, says Dr Norm Kelly. An associate of the Centre for Democratic Institutions at the Australian National University, Dr Kelly recently spent two weeks in Kabul and Herat assessing political parties for the Washington-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. This interview is based on an article by Dr Kelly, published in this month’s Inside Story and the Canberra Times.

Are Afghanistan’s democratic institutions strong enough to support a transition to a more free and tolerant society?

The results from the Asia Foundation’s latest public opinion survey of the Afghan people show declining confidence in the efficacy of elections—down from 75 per cent in 2006 to 52 per cent in 2008. Tolerance for alternative political views has also declined, with two-thirds of people opposed to the idea that all parties should be able to hold local meetings. While 40 per cent say they feel free to express their political views, almost the same number (39 per cent) believe they don’t have that freedom due to fears for their own safety, security concerns or a Taliban presence.

What is the most significant factor in Afghan politics, and the strongest determinant of how people will vote?

Ethnicity remains the most significant factor. At around 40 per cent of the population, the Pashtun are the largest ethnic group, though they don’t constitute a majority. The Tajiks constitute about 30 per cent of the population, and the Hazara and Uzbeks about 10 per cent each. Several other ethnic groups, including the Aimak, Turkmen and Baluchi, make up the remainder.

In the 2004 presidential elections, Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun, secured the vast majority of his ethnic group’s support, and picked up votes from other ethnic groups largely because of his high profile as the transitional president prior to the election. Incumbency played a significant role.

The successful candidate in this year’s presidential election will need to secure a good proportion of the Pashtun vote to win.

How suited is the Afghan electoral system to serving the democratic process?

Unfortunately, Afghanistan’s electoral system for its national assembly (the Wolesi Jirga) is inappropriate for most democracies, let alone a fledgling democracy. The country uses the Single Non-Transferable Vote, or SNTV, system—best described as first-past-the-post for multi-member electorates—for provincial and national elections. Voters make one selection only. If the election is for five members, the five highest-polling candidates are elected.

Afghanistan is one of the few places in the world that uses SNTV. Electorates are formed by the boundaries of the 34 provinces, with seats distributed in proportion to the total population. This means that seat magnitude ranges from three seats in the smaller provinces to 33 seats in the most populated province, Kabul. A third of provinces elect 10 or more members.

The results for Kabul province in the 2005 election highlighted the absurdity of the system. With 390 candidates competing for 33 seats,

the ballot paper took up seven A3-sized sheets. As a result, the rate of informal voting was high and many intending voters are reported to have discarded their ballot papers because of the difficulty in finding their preferred candidate.

SNTV also weakens the party system by placing the emphasis on individual candidates. Without any party lists or recognition of parties on the ballot paper, candidates have no incentive to affiliate with parties. In fact, there remains a strong suspicion and distrust of political parties, as many of the older parties were military organisations during the civil war or were connected to the previous communist governments. In addition, President Karzai has been vocally opposed to political parties, blaming them for many of the ethnic divisions within the country.

What effect is this distrust having on the formation of political parties?

Despite this distrust, registering political parties is a growth industry in Afghanistan. More than 100 parties are registered with the Ministry of Justice (ideally, an independent authority should be in charge of registering parties) and about 20 to 25 parties claim to have MPs in the Wolesi Jirga.

While parties tend to overstate how many representatives they have, MPs themselves often distance themselves from any party connection, seeing an advantage in being viewed as independent. As a result, the Wolesi Jirga operates as an assembly of 249 individuals with shifting alliances.

Most of the major parties have strong ethnic bases and advocate on behalf of their ethnic base to muster continued support. Many were former jihad parties that fought the Soviet occupation and then turned on each other during the civil war. While they may have demobilised their military operations, they have maintained military-like organisational structures, which have been useful in recruiting armies of volunteers and getting out the vote.

To reduce the number of parties, it has been proposed that the minimum membership requirement of 700 members to register a party be increased to 10,000 members. While this might simplify Afghanistan’s party system, it won’t necessarily improve it. No incentive would exist for parties to be promoted at election time,

and the emphasis on leaders and individual candidates—during elections and within parliament—would continue. It’s also been suggested that parties should be required to have a national presence, with a certain number of members in a majority of provinces. This, it’s argued, would reduce the emphasis on geographically based parties with distinct ethnic platforms and encourage a shift to multi-ethnic parties with the national interest at heart. This would diffuse ethnic tensions during election campaigns, forcing parties to differentiate themselves via their policy platforms.

You appear to have a pessimistic view of Afghan democracy.

While much of this may—and should—sound pessimistic, there are positives to note. Western influence during the transition to democracy has resulted in a requirement that a quarter of the Wolesi Jirga seats (68 of 249) be reserved for women, a significant breakthrough for an Islamic country. Although some women MPs appear to be mouthpieces for their male political guardians, several strong, independent women in the Wolesi Jirga are providing a growing voice for women’s rights in the country.

What needs to change if Afghanistan is to survive as a functioning democracy?

Afghanistan’s democratic institutions will need to change significantly. The introduction of a form of proportional representation, or a mix of proportional and individual seats, would provide a greater connection between voters’ choices and election outcomes. Proportional representation would also provide greater legitimacy to election results. If SNTV is to be retained, electorate sizes should be reduced to avoid the large numbers currently elected from some provinces.

Proportional representation would also strengthen the party system by requiring groupings of party candidates. The party system should be further strengthened by adopting rules of parliamentary conduct that recognise parties. Although this may be culturally difficult in Afghanistan, which has a history of consensus decision-making, it would smooth the way for the management of business and debate in the Wolesi Jirga chamber.

Other changes to party law, such as introducing public funding and giving an independent registrar the power to audit party finances, would help to level the playing field between parties.


by Professor Robin Jeffrey from the ANU’s Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. His special interest is in the modern history and politics of India.

India’s 15th national general elections have surprised and signalled.

They surprised by returning the Congress Party much more strongly than anyone, save a few Congress spruikers, predicted. The party’s total of 205 seats in a house of 545, is more than 50 better than in the previous Lok Sabha (house of the people). Congress will have no trouble in forming a government that should see out its five-year term.

The elections signalled two things: the steep decline—perhaps the end—of the old communist parties and the rise and rise of Rahul Gandhi, 39, the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru. Rahul won his seat in Uttar Pradesh with a larger majority than his mother, in a neighbouring seat, won hers. More important, he appears to have driven the party’s election strategy, including a calculated risk to contest all 80 seats in the vast northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where Congress was thought to be almost extinct. In fact, the party won 20 seats and can claim it is back in business as a north Indian party. (It had nine seats from UP in the previous Lok Sabha).

Indeed, Congress can again claim to be a truly national party with seats won from Gujarat in the west (10 out of 26) to Assam in the east (seven out of 14) and Kerala in the south (12 out of 20) and more than 50 won in the north Indian, Hindi-speaking belt.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which had been a powerful influence in the previous parliament, has been reduced from a government-threatening 45 seats to an almost meaningless 16. In West Bengal, where it has run the state government since 1977, its fortress cracked: cut back from 26 seats to nine by the wildly independent Mamta Bannerjee and her local Trinamool Congress, which won 19 seats.

Two women political leaders have been disappointed. The Bahujan Samaj Party, which rules in Uttar Pradesh under the imperious Mayawati, won only 20 seats, not the influential 30–40 that many observers predicted. And in the south, the governing DMK in Tamil Nadu more than held its own against ex-film star and ex-Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s AIADMK which, though expected to do well, managed only eight seats to the DMK’s 18 out of the state’s total of 39.

The results also signal the end of L K Advani, the 82-year-old leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. The party will elect a new parliamentary leader and will start planning for future national campaigns, probably around Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Why was the result so much stronger for Congress than expected? At the national, widely pervasive level, a redistribution of electoral boundaries made forecasting even more difficult than usual. The global financial crisis has not yet bitten India as deeply as the rest of the world,

particularly not rural India where 70 per cent of the seats are (though Congress and its allies won every seat in Delhi and Mumbai).

The government defused the issue of security, which, after the attack on Mumbai last November, was expected to be an issue that the BJP could exploit. And the combination of the young, energetic Rahul Gandhi and the old respected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (who is incapable as a stump politician of winning a Lok Sabha seat and has to be returned to the upper house) seems to have played well with tens of millions of voters.

In India’s various regions, this election was a dozen or more local campaigns, and the Congress on the whole fought these more sensitively than its rivals. The friends it made and the people it antagonised proved to be the right choices—something which will strengthen the hands of the people (Rahul Gandhi and associates) who devised the strategy.

Was it not Napoleon who said he liked lucky generals? For the time being, Rahul Gandhi can claim to qualify.

Business Alliance launches new Asia literacy initiative

A new group comprising many of Australia’s leading businesses and industry organisations has launched an initiative to promote Asia literacy to young Australians.

The Business Alliance for Asia Literacy launched the initiative at the Asia Education Foundation’s 2009 National Summit on 4–5 May.

The Alliance is made up of major corporations and peak bodies, including the Australian Council for Trade Unions and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia. Together they represent over 400,000 Australian businesses

In a statement, the Alliance said Australia’s future depended not only on its economic success but on its ability to solve fundamental global problems. Understanding the languages and cultures of Australia’s nearest neighbours was critical to this effort

The statement noted that within 20 years the region would have three of the four largest economies of the world, with the IMF forecasting the global economy to decline by 1.3 per cent, yet predicting growth of 4.8 per cent growth in developing Asia.

The Alliance called on schools, school communities, education systems and governments to ensure that Asia skills and Asian languages were a core part of Australia curriculum and that their delivery was adequately funded.

It also called for senior students to be given incentives to take up Asian studies and Asian languages and for teachers to be equipped and available to teach Asia skills.

‘Increasingly, Australian business leaders see Asia as a growth engine,’ the Alliance said. ‘Many companies are consequently investing in ensuring their talent base is Asia literate, able to leverage opportunities and minimise risk in this new economy.’

AEF Executive Director Kathe Kirby said that ‘new educational goals for young Australians, agreed to by all Education Ministers in late 2008, call for Asia literacy for all Australians and this would underpin the development of our new national curriculum’.

In her opening address to the summit, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education Julia Gillard reiterated the theme of the importance of Australia becoming a more Asia-literate nation.

Ms Gillard used her address to launch the Becoming Asia Literate: Grants to Schools program—part of the National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program (NALSSP).

The new program allows primary and secondary schools to apply for a grants of between $20,000 and $40,0000 to promote the teaching and learning of languages and cultures of the target countries—China, Indonesia, Japan and Korea.

Ms Gillard said there had also been a keen interest in the NALSSP’s Strategic Collaboration and Partnership Fund, with more than 100 expressions of interest being received for the first round.

Profile-Minako Sakai


Social anthropologist Minako Sakai says she is addicted to Indonesia—an addiction that began when, as a student aged 20, she visited Bali and Java.

‘I had some pen friends and wanted to visit them,’ she recalls. ‘I hardly spoke Indonesian at that time, and had to travel from Jakarta to Semarang by myself.

‘The bus driver was so kind. He bought me breakfast and made sure I made it to the right address in Semarang. The smell of kretek, food, people and pop music…I became addicted to Indonesia and wanted to know more about it.

Today, a senior lecturer with the Indonesia Program at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales at ADFA campus in Canberra, Dr Sakai has plenty of opportunity to indulge her addiction. She has conducted research on the process of Islamisation in the highlands of Sumatra and published on the impact of regional autonomy in identity politics in Indonesia.

‘I became interested in Indonesia when I was studying international relations and English at Sophia University in Tokyo in the early 1980s. Sophia University had just established the Centre of Asian Cultures and had a group of great Asian Studies scholars. I was bored with studying English and also realised that I hardly knew about Southeast Asia. So I took a class by the late Professor Nagazumi to know more about Southeast Asian history.

‘Sophia also offered a range of Asian languages as GEs, so I took Indonesian. My teacher was from Flores and showed us cultural documentaries while he was smoking kretek inside the class. That was very exotic and fascinating.’

Her decision to follow an academic career runs contrary to her family’s practice.

‘My family are all in business or are engineers, but I couldn’t stop my interest,’ she said. ‘So I did my Masters in Indonesian Studies at Sophia. After that I wanted to focus on anthropology, but my choices were limited in Japan. So I decided to study anthropology at the ANU, to work with Professors Jim Fox and Tony Reid in 1992 for my PhD. So my interest in Indonesia brought me to Australia, a brave new world.

As an anthropologist, Dr Sakai has lived in the Islamic areas of Indonesia.

‘I went to the South Sumatran highlands— to the town of Lahat, five hours by car from Palembang—for my fieldwork in 1994 and 1996,’ she said. ‘I had nearly two years in the field. Lahat and Palembang are known for violent crimes and some people say that it’s difficult to be accepted by the people.

‘However I was very lucky. I’d developed my contacts through ANU graduate students prior to my fieldwork in 1994 and was able to stay with their parents and friends, who introduced me to the key people in the region.

These contacts helped me immensely in getting to know the area. I now have several families in South Sumatra who regard me as their family member. Palembang is where I feel very home now.

Following on her regional affinity to Sumatra, Dr Sakai’s current area of research is in Pan–Malay identity politics in Sumatra She has just finished co-editing The Politics of the Periphery in Indonesia (NUS Press, 2009), which has contributions from prominent scholars on the political and cultural margins of Indonesia.

Another research Dr Sakai is conducting is the development of Islamic financial activism in Indonesia, which was funded by the Australia Indonesia Governance Research Partnership scheme in 2008,

‘I’ve been looking at Islamic micro-finance to examine what it means to develop an Islamic economic system,’ she said. ‘I see Islamic micro-finance as part of propagation of Islamic values, particularly establishing social justice in the economic system.

‘Even though the market share of Islamic micro-finance is still small in Indonesia, the impact of successful operations of Islamic micro-finance is influential in eliminating private money lenders, who are seen as a symbol of greed-driven capitalism in traditional markets in Indonesia. People who are working for Islamic micro-finance are also involved in propagation of Islam inside and outside their business.’

Her current research interests also include various forms of Islamic activism in mainstream Islam—for example, Islamic novels, and Islamic economy.

‘I interviewed a popular novelist, Habiburrahman El Shirazy , a couple of times last year about his ideas of Islamic business and entrepreneurship. I’m interested that Indonesian Muslims are taking action to implement what they believe are the core values of Islam in everyday life in Indonesia, and believe that they can make changes. I’ll present a paper on this line for the Indonesian Open Council in Sydney this July.’

Dr Sakai is concerned about the number of the students now studying the Indonesian language at the university level in Australia.

‘I came to Australia from Japan because it was the best place to study about Indonesia in the 1990s. I would say the current situation is not as great as before,’ she said. ‘This limits the pool of the Australian students who can undertake research in Indonesian significantly.'

‘It’s good to educate international scholars in Australia, but we need to keep on inspiring and encouraging the younger generations of Australians in understanding Indonesia and Islam. For this studying the Indonesian language is essential.'

Dr Minako Sakai is Secretary of the ASAA’s Presidents’ Prize Committee.

Student of the month-Ma Khin Mar Mar Kyi

Ma Khin Mar Mar Kyi teaches at the Faculty of Asian Studies course in Burmese at the Australian National University and is completing a PhD in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies.

Mar was one of 20 Australians to receive a national ‘Unsung Heroes’ award initiated by ABC TV and conferred to coincide with the inauguration of the new National Portrait Gallery in Canberra in December 2008. Her portrait appears in the ‘My Favourite Australian’ gallery.

Mar was born and grew up in Rangoon. After leaving Burma in 1990 because of her work with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, she lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Since moving to Australia, Mar has continued to work for her people, researching the issues of women and children trafficking and helping street and orphaned children on the Thai-Burma border and inside Burma.

Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to be in Australia?

It’s dangerous in Burma to be an intellectual and passionate about basic human equality. I believe in education, freedom, and equality. I have great respect for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and many others who sacrificed their lives for these issues. I hope I can fulfil my dreams here in Australia with intellectual enthusiasm and support for humanity.

You continue to work closely with the Burmese community in Australia and in Asia—can you tell us something about that work?

I’ve been working with street children and on the issues of trafficking in Burmese women and children for over 10 years. I’ve seen many—particularly women and children—who are vulnerable, abused, exploited and suffering, yet with nowhere to run and no-one to protect them.

Being an Australian, I’m very privileged and feel compelled to help those who are in need and less fortunate. I want to share with them what they’re lacking. It makes me feel good, and it makes me feel happy and useful. I’ve been working with and helping street children, orphanages and trafficked victims. HIV/AIDS along the Thai-Burma border

Since Cyclone Nargis I’ve been working with Burmese monks inside Burma to help cyclone victims who lost everything in the Irrawaddy Delta.

We’ve raised funds for them and have been delivering supplies directly into their hands since five days after the cyclone. With the generosity of Australian friends, we’ve saved thousand of lives and helped them restart new lives. Much more needs to be done though. With the help of Australian friends, I’m now working to set up a street-children program both inside Burma and on the borderlands.

Has being named a national 'Unsung Hero' helped you in your work?

I’m very, very grateful. It is recognition of the importance of helping someone. It’s not about the person who helps. Hopefully, it reminds me and others to contribute a little bit to those issues rather than be caught up in our own lives.

What is the subject of your PhD?

I’m looking at trafficking issues and the impact of militarisation on Burmese women. The numbers of trafficked victims are an assumption—nonetheless, the abuses, exploitation, and vulnerability of trafficked victims are well and alive, and extending.

The majority of trafficked victims are women from Burma, who are hidden in the lower of the lowest trafficked markets. Burmese are sold at the Thai-Burma border—boys for the fishing boats, and girls to the brothels. A 2009 US Department of State report, MMR,484f9a0741,0.html reveals that the Malaysian and Thai police are trafficking, transporting and exploiting Burmese women and boys. In Thailand, Burmese are also being sold as domestic workers, to work in fishing boats and to be beggars, in joint businesses between Thai police and trafficking gangs.

Recently 54 Burmese trafficked into Thailand in a seafood container died while another 64 people had to testify against a violent trafficker, and were then detained and deported to Burma. Also recently, Rogingya refugees from Burma who arrived in Thailand were beaten, and then sent back to sea without an engine on their boat or food (

Because of China’s one-child policy, today there is a demand for more girls, and many ethnic Kachin girls are being sold into China. In Shan state and five administrative divisions of Burma in the west, 1500 villages have been relocated, and many Shan people have been the victims of trafficking in Thailand and along the Thai-Malaysia borders.

Unlike others who are trafficked, Burmese victims are often taken from or near refugee camps, or from refugee-like situations, and have no homes to return to in Burma, or hope of survival if they return.

What are your plans once you obtain your PhD?

I’ve been making some documentaries on the issues of trafficking and street children that I would like to complete. Currently, I’m working as a consultant and advisor on trafficking and human security issues with AusAID, the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as with non-government organisations in Australia and overseas.

Website of the month

The National Digital Library [of Korea (ROK)] has three main purposes—to enlarge national information capacity through links with major domestic libraries; to promote balanced regional development; and to distribute national documents. The site has over 32,600 external links and is part of the Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library by Matthew Ciolek.

Interesting books of Asian interest

This month's selection includes a graphic novel for children inspired by the oldest Korean novel published, the scholarly work of the current ASAA president, Kathryn Robinson, and an attractive modern reprint of the Chinese Classics.

Calcutta. A Cultural and Literary HistoryCalcutta
Krishna Dutta
Maps, xxiv +243pp, black-and-white illustrations, index, paperback.
Signal Books, UK, 2009. ISBN: 9781904955467
Krishna Dutta explores the multiple paradoxes of this extraordinary city, giving personal insight into Calcutta's unique history and modern identity as reflected in its architecture, literature, cinema and music. $36.00

Memories of Life in Lhasa under Chinese RuleMemories of Life in Lhasa under Chinese Rule
Tubten Khetsun
xx + 318pp, index, dust jacket
Columbia University Press, USA. 2008. ISBN: 9780231142861
Born in 1941, Tubten Khetsun is a nephew of the Gyatso Tashi Khendrung, one of the senior government officials taken prisoner after the Tibetan people’s 1959 uprising. Khetsun himself was arrested while defending the Dalai Lama's summer palace, and after four years in prisons and labour camps, he spent close to two decades in Lhasa as a requisitioned labourer and ‘class enemy’. In his autobiography, Khetsun describes what life was like during those troubled years. In a detailed and readable first-hand description of Tibet under the Communist occupation, Khetsun talks of his prison experiences as well as the state of civil society following his release. He offers keenly observed accounts of well-known events, such as the launch of the Cultural Revolution, as well as lesser-known aspects of everyday life in occupied Lhasa. $69.00

The Chinese Classics with a translation, critical and exegetical notes, prolegomena, and copious indexes
James Legge
Five volumes in four. All hardbacks in dust jackets
SMC Publishing, Taipei. 2001 Reprint. ISBN: 9789576380389
Appropriately titled, The Chinese Classics were out of print for many years and the sets that came onto the market were expensive when they were available. This very affordable reprint is attractive and clearly printed. It contains: Confucian Analects, The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean, The Works of Mencius, The Shoo King or Book of Historical Documents, The She King or Book of Poetry and The Ch'un Ts'ew with The Tso Chuen. Text in English and Chinese. $175.00

The Tale of Hong Kil Dong. The Robin Hood of KoreaThe Tale of Hong Kil Dong. The Robin Hood of Korea
Anne Sibley O'Brien
Cartoon-style presentation, dustjacket.
Charlesbridge, USA, 2006. ISBN: 9781580893022
This award-winning graphic novel for younger readers is based on the 17th century Korean tale and pays tribute to the adventure story that became the first novel written in the Korean language. An exciting story and attractive book, ideal for catching the attention of reluctant readers. $36.95

Gender, Islam and Democracy in IndonesiaGender, Islam and Democracy in Indonesia
Kathryn Robinson
240pp, hardback. ASAA Women in Asia Series
Taylor & Francis Ltd, UK 2008. ISBN: 9780415415835
This book explores the relationship between gender, religion and political action in Indonesia, examining the patterns of gender orders that have prevailed in recent history, and demonstrating the different forms of social power this has afforded to women. It is a thorough investigation of the relationship between gender, religion and democracy in Indonesia and a vital resource for students of gender studies and Indonesian affairs.

Traditional Recipes of Laos
Phia Sing
192pp, bibliography, index, paperback
Prospect Books, UK, 2000, 2nd revised edition. ISBN: 9780907325604
Traditional Recipes of Laos contains a translation of the notebooks which Phia Sing, who served as Master of Ceremonies and Chef at the royal palace of Luang Prabang, wrote shortly before his death in 1967. Together with the translated notebooks is an explanatory introduction and notes on Lao ingredients and methods by Alan and Jennifer Davidson. The 124 recipes are preceded by information about Lao eating habits, utensils and ingredients, and the book is illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings by the Lao artist, Soun Vannithone. A fascinating and unusual book. $49.95

Did you know?

National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools—Becoming Asia Literate: Grants to Schools

The first of three rounds of the Becoming Asia Literate: Grants to Schools opened online on Monday 4 May 2009. Schools can apply for grants of $20 000 to $40 000. Applications close Friday 29 May 2009 at 5pm Eastern Standard Time.

Diary dates

KOREAN DREAMS: PAINTINGS AND SCREENS OF THE JOSEON DYNASTY, Sydney, 5 March - 8 June 2009. This exhibition is the first showing of traditional Korean painting at the Art Gallery of NSW. It will comprise Korean screens, hanging scrolls and album leaves dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. It will be accompanied by a Korean Dreams study day on 7 March 2009 (12pm - 5pm) in the Centenary Auditorium, Art Gallery of NSW, The Domain, Sydney. See

AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR ASIAN ART AND ARCHAEOLOGY SEMINAR SERIES AND PUBLIC LECTURES, Sydney, 1 June 2009. ‘Ateliers in the age of Angkor’. Seminar by Dr Martin Polkinghorne, Honorary Associate, School of Languages and Cultures, University of Sydney, 6.30pm, The Refectory, Main Quadrangle, University of Sydney (

CONFERENCE ON SECURITY SECTOR REFORM IN INDONESIA, Sydney, 12–13 June 2009. This conference will consider current developments in security sector reform (SSR) and the correlation between SSR and the democratisation process in Indonesia. It is being organised by Indonesian Solidarity, a non-profit human rights organisation, at the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street. Contact:

TRANSMISSION OF ACADEMIC VALUES IN ASIAN STUDIES workshop, Canberra, 25–26 June 2009. See Contact:

JIU: COMMEMORATION AND CELEBRATION IN THE CHINESE-SPEAKING WORLD, conference, Sydney, 9–11 July 2009. The biennial China Studies Association of Australia conference will be held at Women's College, University of Sydney. It adopts the theme of ‘jiu’, taking up the challenge of both celebrating and commemorating the achievements and hardships of the past century in the Chinese-speaking world. The call for papers and panels closes in March 2009. See

The China Node of the Asia Pacific Futures Research Network is offering 10 student accommodation scholarships for the conference. The scholarship holders are expected to attend a Postgraduate Workshop on 9 July. Registrants who are enrolled in a PhD at an Australian university and are not based in NSW should send 250 words explaining what they hope to gain from the networking opportunity and from the conference itself. Please send this and a supporting statement from a supervisor to both: and

THE 18TH NEW ZEALAND ASIAN STUDIES SOCIETY INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE 2009, Wellington, 6–8 July, 2009. This will be an open, multidisciplinary conference. Participants are invited to submit panel or paper proposals presenting original research on any Asia-related topic. For more information, please the see conference website.

JSAA-ICJLE 2009 Conference, Sydney, July 13–16, 2009. The Japanese Studies Association of Australia (JSAA) will host JSAA-ICJLE2009, a joint conference for the JSAA conference and the International Conference on Japanese Language Education (ICJLE) in Sydney. The conference will feature research and discussion in various disciplines of Japanese language and studies. The main theme of the conference will be ‘Bridging the gap between the Japanese language and Japanese studies’. The conference aims to provide a forum for Japanese language and studies academics and educators from around the world to meet and share ideas beyond and across their disciplines. See

MAJU BERSAMA The Australian Society of Indonesian Language Educators (ASILE) Biennial Conference, Sydney, 14–15 July, 2009. ASILE is now calling for expressions of interest for papers and workshops at the 2009 conference. This is an excellent opportunity to contribute to and participate in a conference with a national audience interested in directions for the future of Indonesian language education. Small teams of presenters working together on projects are also encouraged to register. Any queries, please contact: Andrea Corston, phone: (08) 8683 4751.

INDONESIA COUNCIL fifth Open Conference, Sydney, 15–17 July 2009'. The Conference provides a forum to present new and innovative work in all areas of Indonesian studies. One of its main aims is to bring new Indonesianists and postgraduate students together with established scholars of Indonesia and to facilitate interaction between them. For further information see.

WORKSHOP. ‘Gender and occupations and interventions in the Asia Pacific, 1945–2009, 10–11 December 2009, University of Wollongong. Sponsored by the Asia Pacific Futures Research Network (APFRN), CAPSTRANS and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Wollongong, this small workshop will bring together for the first time established scholars, ECRs, postgraduates and community members and activists to discuss issues related to gender, occupation and intervention. There are a few competitive places for sponsored positions (travel within Australia only and accommodation for two nights) for postgraduates and ECRs. For more information please see the workshop website: or contact the organisers: Dr Rowena Ward or Dr Christine de Matos.

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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 Asian Studies Review journal and holds a biennial conference. ASAA and the Centre for Language Studies at National University of Singapore.

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 ASAA and edited by Allan Sharp. The editorial board consists of Kathryn Robinson, ASAA President; Michele Ford, ASAA Secretary; Mina Roces, ASAA Publications officer; and Lenore Lyons, ASAA Council member.

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