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

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In this issue:

Message from the Editor

This issue covers a broad range of issues, from a new report from the Griffith Asia Institute warning that unless Australia invests heavily in improving its proficiency in Asian languages it faces a growing skills shortfall, to a behind-the-scenes look at why North Korea is now moving aggressively against its last remaining zone of economic cooperation with South Korea.

We take up again the issue of employment opportunities for Asian Studies graduates and postgraduates, and look at the Centre for Dialogue, La Trobe University, and its programs in response to the events of 9/11. Our student of the month tells how his work with tsunami-devastated communities in Thailand proved to be a formative personal and professional experience for him, and the winner of the 2008 ASAA President’s Prize, talks about his prize-winning thesis on Angkor.

Allan Sharp


Australia faces a growing skills shortfall—the ability to understand and operate in languages and cultures other than our own—a report by the Griffith Asia Institute Director Professor Michael Wesley has found.

Launched on 10 June, the report, Building an Asia-Literate Australia: An Australian Strategy for Asian Language Proficiency, says Australia needs to take decisive action to address this skills shortfall, and proposes an $11.3 billion Asian language literacy plan over 30 years.

‘At the core of Australia’s continued prosperity and security as a global nation must be a capacity to understand and operate in languages, cultures and mindsets other than our own’, the report says. ‘Over three-quarters of Australians speak English only—making Australia the third most monolingual developed nation in the world.

‘Within a generation, Australia needs over half of its population to be competent in a second language. Two-thirds of Australians under the age of 40 need to have either high-level, sound, or basic proficiency in a second language.’

The report outlines a strategy—the Australian Strategy for Asian Language Proficiency—built on five key principles:

    1. Implement a comprehensive, nation-wide, long-term strategy
    2. Teach Asian languages and cultures at all levels of education
    3. Build gradually with quality
    4. Build and maintain student demand for Asian languages education
    5. Build an adequate supply of world-class Asian language teachers and resources

As a first step, the report proposes establishing a national language institute based in Canberra that would establish collaborative relationships with all federal and state education departments as well as with all schools, colleges and universities participating in the strategy.

The report says a solid, sustainable program of Asia literacy must begin by initially teaching three target languages nationally: Japanese, Indonesian and Mandarin Chinese—the languages of our two biggest trading partners and our closest neighbour. Over time, it should expand the number of languages offered and the number of schools, colleges and universities teaching Asian languages, while maintaining close attention to quality and continuity of instruction.

The full report is available at


Dr Leonid Petrov


by Dr Leonid Petrov, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU

On the heels of the recent UN Security Council Resolution, which pursued tough new sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for blasting a long-range missile and detonating the second atomic bomb, North Korea has moved aggressively against the last remaining zone of inter-Korean economic cooperation, the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIP).

On 11 June 2009, the North Korean news agency KCNA announced the nullification of all contracts on rent, salaries and taxes adopted for the industrial park in Kaesong. Pyongyang wanted the minimum monthly wage raised four-fold (to $300 from $75) and demanded an immediate lump-sum land lease payment of US$500 million. It asked Seoul to empty the industrial estate unless the money was paid. This notification came after the two Koreas were wrangling over the release of a South Korean worker who was detained by the North Korean authorities for alleged anti-DPRK statements and inciting a DPRK citizen to defect.

Even without salary increases, the 106 companies that invested in Kaesong have been in economic trouble and have said they are considering asking the ROK government for support. Now they have started withholding wages to their DPRK staff in protest at the North’s demand for increased pay and tax rises.

What lessons can be drawn from the recent rise and fall of inter-Korean economic cooperation? Pyongyang blames the South's ‘extreme confrontation policy’ for destroying the foundation of the industrial park, adding that the future of the complex is up to the South. Restrictions imposed by the North on all jointly operated Special Economic Zones will inevitably lead to substantial losses for the South Korean government, which had guaranteed investors up to 90 per cent of their capital in case of forced closure or military conflict. North Korea will also lose a significant source of revenue, but since both the Kaesong Industrial Park and the Mt Kumgang tourist resort are physically on the North Korean territory, they will remain the DPRK property, even if closed or abandoned by investors.

There are no figures indicating the extent to which the South Korean side might have profited from these cooperation projects in monetary terms. Seoul has always subsidised Hyundai Asan and the companies investing in the KIP through direct and indirect channels, and the system of these subsidies was not particularly transparent. The South Korean government never wanted to tell taxpayers how much money it had spent on aiding the inter-Korean projects in Kaesong and Mt. Kumgang; moreover it must have had serious reservations about the future of this investment.

During the decade of Sunshine Policy (1998–2008), also known as the Policy of Peace and Prosperity, the Kaesong projects were frequently criticised by hawks in Washington and Tokyo, who saw them as yet another way to indirectly subsidise the North Korean regime. Indeed, Pyongyang was making good money out of economic cooperation in Kaesong, amounting to US$100 million a year.

So why did North Korea decide to close its economic cooperation so resolutely? Its official explanation about Seoul’s ‘extreme confrontation policy’ must be a pretext. Anti-DPRK propaganda can be disturbing and annoying, but it hardly constituted a direct threat to the regime. After all, Pyongyang had not been influenced by the much larger ROK propaganda efforts prior to 1998.

The real reason could be the Kaesong project itself. It created a stage where large numbers of North and South Koreans worked together for since the division of the country 60 years ago. This project provided a rare opportunity for unauthorised exchanges. The North Koreans not only learned modern technical skills, they also had a chance to see that their southern compatriots do not look or behave like they are normally portrayed by the DPRK propaganda.

Inside the Tongil farmers market in Pyongyang (2005)

Cautious political discussions cannot be ruled out, which in the long run could have a great impact on the internal situation of North Korea.

Anticipating this detrimental development, the North started cooperation with the South on the precondition of switching workers once a year, until realising this was impossible for technical reasons. Inevitably rumours about life in South Korea started circulating among KIP workers and their families. Illusions about the South became so uncontrollable among the people that the authorities could not bear this situation any longer. From Pyongyang’s point of view, each worker in Mt Kumgang and Kaesong was like a poster advertising capitalism that was most damaging to the socialist system.

At least 20 affiliates within the Kaesong zone of cooperation came under questioning for speaking highly of South Korea and capitalism. In 2007, there was a thorough cadre reshuffling in the Party to stop people talking about Kaesong or Mt Kumgang. North Korea also purged key officials who had pushed for reconciliation with South Korea.

All this must have been a crucial consideration for Pyongyang, as the survival of the North greatly depends on maintaining the myths about the ‘poor and desperate’ South, which starves under the yoke of American imperialism. In recent years, the spread of smuggled South Korean DVDs and first-hand communication with southerners in Special Economic Zones has made this propaganda image unsustainable.

In this context, the Kaesong and Mt Kumgang projects were a dangerous gamble from the outset. For 10 years the top bureaucracy tolerated cooperation with the South because the monetary rewards were handsome and the political risks manageable. Perhaps, when the principal decision was made in 1989 for Mt Kumgang, and in 2002 for Kaesong, they also wanted to check whether they could contain the spread of dangerous information. At that time North Korea was going through a period of unprecedented political relaxation and experimentation with reforms. However, this ended with the beginning of nuclear crisis in October 2002.

Since 2003, North Korean leaders have worked hard to turn back the clock. All news coming recently out of North Korea has been about greater control and tougher restrictions. Busy markets are a nightmare for Pyongyang retrogrades. The DPRK government is now confiscating land from individual tillers, Japanese-made buses and trucks are taken from small businesses and the sale of many consumer goods at the markets is restricted. The Public Distribution System, which dominated the country's economic life before 1996, has also been reintroduced.

In the last couple of years several instances of public unrest have made the North Korean government nervous, but it managed to retain control and prevent the mutiny from spreading. The November 2008 Cabinet Decision No. 61 stipulated that in 2009 all markets across the country should work only three days per month, similar to how they worked in medieval Korea. Currently, there are reports about government plans to close down the Pyongsong Market, the largest wholesale market in the country.

A picture drawn by a North Korean defector

Ruediger Frank and Sabine Burghart, in their report, ‘Inter-Korean Cooperation 2000-2008’, compare the inter-Korean cooperation with the East European experience. When analysing South Korea’s Sunshine Policy and describing its dangers for the North Korean regime, they remind us that ‘everyone who has lived under socialism in Europe can confirm how this slow ideological poison spreads like cancer, how these cells grow and how they finally unfold their destructive, lethal power, hollowing out the system from within’. In this connection, Frank and Burghart cite Kim Jong-Il himself, who is recorded as saying in 1995 that ‘the most serious lesson of the collapse of socialism in several countries is that the corruption of socialism begins with ideological corruption.’

North Korea cannot afford to emulate the success of China in transforming its economy as this would require a considerable relaxation of domestic police control. China has survived such a relaxation, but there is a great difference between North Korea and China. The PRC leaders did not have to deal with the existence of a rich and powerful ‘other’, where people speak the same language but enjoy significantly higher level of freedom and prosperity. The DPRK leaders believe that political unrest is unavoidable if their citizens learn how prosperous South Korea really is.
Over the past few years all this has made Kaesong and Mt Kumgang something of an anachronism. These two projects, which could function only with a greater level of openness and transparency than in the rest of North Korea, became too dangerous for Pyongyang to be tolerated and were put under direct control of the People’s Army. The era of relaxation and experimentation, which prompted the beginning of inter-Korean cooperation, is well and truly over. Nowadays North Korea is heading for a major retreat, back to military communism. Only those elements of market economy necessary to keep the country afloat are being preserved. It already looks as if the government has turned the clock back, restoring the system that existed before the 1990s.

Conservatives in Seoul might hope that this decision will deprive the North Korean regime of revenue and bring its end closer. But the truth is that the regime can survive much longer in isolation because poor and weak people do not have the energy or weapons to rebel, particularly when they have little knowledge and understanding of how different their life could have been. Therefore, by closing the borders and shutting the zones of inter-Korean cooperation, the North Korean elite is buying extra time to stay in power at the expense of the common people’s suffering.

The complexity of regional politics and the current state of global economy has also contributed to the early demise of inter-Korean economic experiment. Nevertheless, the last 10 years of the Sunshine Policy did make a difference and changed the Korean people’s perceptions of one another, making a new attempt at cooperation possible.




Asian Currents (May 2009) looked at the difficulties Asian Studies postgraduates face in finding suitable career opportunities. Dr Ian Welch, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU, argues there is no such thing as a certain career in Asian Studies, and that it may be time to look again at reconstructing the field.

The obvious first field for employment in Australia is within the universities. But the number of jobs in the specific area of 'Asian Studies' has always been limited, and every year there is a growing number of postgraduate students seeking those positions. This problem is compounded by the need for established academics to include substantial experience in postgraduate supervision and the production of sound theses in which the future employment opportunities of the student are not their concern.

Permanency is increasingly difficult, and I suspect many postgrads receive temporary appointments only to find that permanency and promotion are fading goals. By the time they make that awful discovery, their job market is restricted by the narrowness of their work experience and, all too sadly, advancing years.

The second field for postgrad employment has been the public sector, but few jobs specify postgrad qualifications in Asian Studies in the selection criteria. Even if students have a good degree and good intellectual competence, they lack public service-style research and writing skills undertaken for a quite different audience and purpose. Perhaps postgrads should include preparation for possible public sector employment at some point in their postgrad years. I don't think there is any such course available in any Australian university at the present time.

By the time postgrads start looking for public sector jobs, they’re usually competing with graduates who entered public sector employment years earlier, often as graduate recruits, and have gained appropriate experience and skills that give them a substantial edge over older but job-inexperienced postgrads. In a public sector almost entirely staffed by graduates the mere possession of advanced literacy and/or strong research skills no longer has the significance it had in past generations.

The third field is the private sector, where the challenges for postgrad employment are always difficult. Few Asian Studies postgrads are aware that their language skills and interests are often well removed from the everyday language of business, and even further removed from the language and culture inseparable from international business activities.

The bigger problem is the nature of the postgrad study the individual pursued, but unfortunately too many postgrads don’t consider their job future when embarking on the cloistered world of the academy.

It’s now several decades since we first saw the combination of degrees in Asian Studies with various kinds of vocational education. There is no evidence that this process produced any singular advantage for any Australian student whose first love is or was the study of Asia.

There are unlimited opportunities for teachers of Asian languages and cultures in our schools but not enough people to fill the jobs currently available. Sadly, pay-rates in school-teaching are insufficient to attract many people otherwise well suited to the work involved.

Most foreign corporations can employ Asians with excellent skills in English because Asian students seem to understand world economic circumstances far better than Australian students, and combine their language studies with vocational skills. A consequence of today's Asia-wide English language skills is that few Australian corporations make, or need to make, any serious effort to conduct their business in any language other than English. In many cases foreign corporate law requires Australian companies into local partnerships and the Asian partner provides the language bridge.

There is nothing new in the comments above. What has been absent for several generations is the reconstruction of 'Asian Studies' so that, from undergraduate to postgraduate, all students obtain vocationally relevant skills. I’m sure other correspondents will respond with examples of such opportunities and perhaps there is a way in which a list of suitable courses and the job opportunities they serve can be made readily accessible to each generation of students.

Wanted: PhD and work experience

Thank you for highlighting this issue in Asian Currents (May 2009).

In response to Kathryn Robinson’s comments: first, The Economist does advertise jobs, but mostly at executive level, requiring work experience (post-doc or otherwise). Second, the website appears to offer a large selection of jobs, but is a paid subscription service, as are several other websites that offer access their full jobs database.

The main issue is that the jobs require applicants to have a Masters or PhD, plus experience, and this is where I (and many Asian Studies postgrads) fall. I’ve heard from other PhDs that looking for a post takes roughly 6–10 months. Having a rough idea of how long it takes to find something might help postgrads plan accordingly.

Asian Studies postgraduate
Name supplied



Rising tensions between Islam and the West since 9/11 have been a focal concern of the Centre for Dialogue at La Trobe University, Vic. The Centre’s director, Professor Joseph A Camilleri, talks about the Centre’s programs.

How did the idea of a Centre for Dialogue come about?

The Centre was established in September 2005 in response to a rapidly changing national and international landscape: a globalising, yet turbulent and deeply divided world; the rise of religion, ethnicity and culture as decisive influences in social and political life both within and across borders; the changing face of human governance evident in the proliferation of regional and global institutional initiatives; the rise of non-Western centres of power and influence; and Australia’s unique position as it seeks to reconcile the constraints of its history and geography.

The Centre was formed in the post-9/11 context; as a result the tensions between Islam and the West associated with this period have been a focal concern for us. In meeting the challenges confronting international society, the most promising way forward appears to be through promoting encounters between the world’s major cultural and ethical traditions. We attempt to apply that insight to the study of conflict, both in the contemporary context and in its historical dimensions.

What have been the Centre’s notable achievements?

Our work has four key elements: research, education and training, policy development and community engagement, which we address at a local, national and international level. Our projects take into account both sets of interconnections. Herein lies the uniqueness of our approach. Our recent successes include the Dialogue Education Project, which placed intercultural education squarely on the secondary school agenda in Victoria, and the Leadership Training Program for Young Muslims, which has been run twice and helped to empower young Muslim men and women.

Our Dialogue Diaspora projects have facilitated dialogue between Australian diasporic communities affected by conflicts in their original homelands, including Sri Lankan, Cypriot, Jewish and Arab communities. The International Conflict, Religion and Culture: Implications for Southeast Asia and Australia Project has involved close cooperation between international organisations and resulted in a volume of selected papers and two international conferences. We’re also working to establish an Interfaith Intercultural Network in Melbourne’s northern region.

The Centre organises regular national and international events, including conferences, keynote addresses and public lectures by leading intellectuals, including former Iranian president Seyed Mohammad Khatami, Professor Hilary Charlesworth, Patrick Dodson and Justice Michael Kirby. We’ve also organised four major international conferences in collaboration with partner institutions and arranged visits by researchers from leading international institutions.

As well as publishing the biannual newsletter Connections and editing the academic journal Global Change, Peace and Security, we’ve published numerous chapters, books and articles in academic journals, and produce a Working Paper Series with contributions from eminent intellectuals.

The Centre has established a strong governing body that is representative of different religious, cultural and governmental bodies with former Victorian premier Steve Bracks as chair and former Justice Michael Kirby as patron.

Has the Centre been successful in developing international and national partnerships?

We’ve developed a wide-ranging set of local, national and international partnerships, including close collaboration with different culture and faith organisations. Government bodies have been an essential component in our local-based initiatives. The Centre has established solid partnerships and worked in collaboration with international research institutes and universities on different projects, including the International Conflict, Religion and Culture: Implications for Southeast Asia and Australia Project.

Through hosting noted visiting international scholars, we’ve fostered close relations with institutes internationally, particularly those located in the Middle East and Asian regions, and in May 2009 I visited the Middle East with Dr Luca Anceschi and Dr Michalis Michael from the Centre to explore the possibility of research partnerships with leading institutions in the region.

What is the International Conflict, Religion and Culture: Implications for Southeast Asia and Australia project?

This three-year project is examining the implications of recent international conflicts involving Islam on multi-ethnic, multi-faith societies. The focus has been on Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and how they’ve responded to international and domestic pressures arising from 9/11.

The Centre has led the project in collaboration with PPIM—Centre for the Study of Islam Universitas Islam Negari Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta; the Department of Politics and the Institute of Philippine Culture, the Philippines; and the Institute for Strategic and International Studies and the International Movement for a Just World, Malaysia. The project is funded by the Australian Research Council and the Toda Institute for Global Policy and Peace Research.

The Centre organised the first regional workshop, hosted by Ateneo de Manila University, in August 2007, and organised a second workshop in Jakarta in October 2008 that explored the opportunities for, and obstacles to, conflict resolution and dialogical strategies in each of the four counties.

Since 9/11 tensions between the Australian-Muslim community and the non-Muslim community have escalated. Do you see this as likely to continue, and if so, how much of a threat is it to the cohesion of our local communities?

The escalation of tensions depends primarily on two factors. The first relates to the international tensions and conflicts associated with the Middle East, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to a lesser extent Southeast Asia. Whether these conflicts move towards resolution or intensify cannot but impact on Australia, given its multi-ethnic and multi-religious social fabric.

The second factor revolves around the attitudes and actions of government, society and media in Australia. The key question here is whether we’re prepared to take the necessary steps to enhance our capacity to nurture and enhance the priceless capital of our cultural and religious diversity. How we position ourselves domestically and internationally will largely determine the future quality of life in Australia.

Student of the month

Jorge Gonzalez interviewing a local fisherman on the island of Koh Mouk, Trang Province, Southern Thailand in July 2007Volunteer work with tsunami-devastated communities in Thailand proved to be a formative personal and professional experience for Jorge Gonzalez, a student at the University of Technology Sydney, who is also working with Indigenous communities in the East Kimberley

Can you tell us something about your work with communities devastated by the tsunamis in December 2004?

Right after the tsunami I volunteered to go to Thailand but was offered a position to go to the Maldives instead, as part of the government’s tsunami disaster response. I spent three months working as a teacher and reconstruction worker. The idea was to give the children a sense of normalcy. We were encouraged to provide activities that would allow the children to express themselves.

Conditions were very difficult, and accommodation was at an absolute premium. Many people stayed in tents. Initially another Australian volunteer and I stayed in a tent, but a huge storm flushed us out and local authorities insisted that we stay with a local family. I was struck by people’s resilience. The place was a beehive of frantic recovery activity and the locals were the absolute driving force. I was impressed by their spirit of cooperation, participation and reciprocity in the face of such a disaster; all elements of social capital.

At the end of the three months I returned to Thailand to work for a year on a private contract. In that time I became interested in the local tsunami recovery effort and I made contact with some NGOs working in the affected communities. Once again, I was very impressed by the level of commitment, organisation and positive energy, and it was obvious to me that grassroots involvement was the essence of their success. And once again the elements of social capital were present in abundance. This experience inspired me to undertake this research.

What impact has this work had on you, both personally and as a researcher?

It’s been a formative experience for me, both personally and professionally. The dedication and commitment of people in the affected areas have given me a lot of food for thought in terms of priorities.

People recovering from the disaster had a sense of mission and seemed to thrive on the challenges. It was also a humbling experience in the professional-academic sense; they were practising what I was theorising about.

The experience also acted as a call to attention. I believe Australia is ill-prepared to deal with similar disasters. I don’t have an answer for how to prepare people for every eventuality, but building resilience, a spirit of cooperation, education as well as physical contingencies, such as having macro and even micro-strategic plans in each household, would go a long way towards minimising the effects of natural and man-made disasters.

What is the focus of your PhD thesis?

The study of social capital and sustainable development in a tsunami-affected community in southern Thailand.

Does your current area of research correlate in any way with work you’re doing with Aboriginal people in the East Kimberley?

Social capital is said to be a pre-requisite for the development of any community; it precedes wealth in its many forms. One of the striking aspects of Indigenous communities in some of the places I’ve worked, including Central Australia and some communities in the East Kimberley, is the lack of social capital. This is the essence of the dysfunction in many of these communities. I won’t go into the complex issues of cause and effect that have led to this situation here, mainly because at best I can give only an informed guess. But it seems obvious that without those elements of social capital, a lot of the resources and efforts going into developing those communities and improving the lot of their members will be like baling water out of a sinking boat with a sieve.

Can you tell us about your work in the East Kimberley?

I’ve been managing a project, funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, for a local Indigenous NGO for 18 months. Our brief is to develop a freely available internet-based resource that articulates a pathway to an employment model for Indigenous people living in remote and regional communities.

What do you intend to do once you have your PhD?

I’m exploring a number of possibilities, including working in disaster preparedness or similar fields in Australia or Thailand. I’m also contemplating returning to Thailand and re-engaging with the people I did my research among, and to making some contribution using my teaching skills. But right now I’m wrapping things up in the East Kimberley and preparing to concentrate on my PhD next semester.

ASAA President’s Prize



The doctoral thesis of the 2008 ASAA President’s Prize winner, Dr Damian Evans, presents an overview and collation of all of the previous archaeological surveys of Angkor over the past 150 years, and also makes an important new contribution. Dr Evans’s thesis was one of 11 nominations from Australian universities considered by the prize committee.

Dr Evans’s 2007 doctoral thesis, ‘Putting Angkor on the Map: A New Survey of a Khmer “Hydraulic City” in Historical and Theoretical Context’, was the culmination of 10 years of research and survey undertaken as part of the Greater Angkor Project.

Long understood by scholars and public alike as a collection of magnificent Hindu-Buddhist temples in northwestern Cambodia, Angkor had, until recently, not been systematically assessed as an inhabited landscape. In recent years, however, archaeologists involved the Greater Angkor Project have addressed this imbalance in the archaeological record, using methods ranging from conventional excavations to regional-scale studies of the landscape using emerging remote sensing technologies.

As well as presenting an overview and collation of all of the previous archaeological surveys of Angkor over the past 150 years, Dr Evans’s thesis also made an important new contribution by mapping the extended hinterland of the temples. The aim was to address some of the perennial debates about the nature of Angkor, including the perception of the site as the archetypal ‘hydraulic city’, and the role of the water-management system in the decline of urbanism in the area from the 15th century onwards.

Taking advantage of rare, unrestricted access to the administrative archives of the École française d’Extrême-Orient in Paris, Dr Evans traced the history of archaeological mapping and aerial archaeology in French Indochina. He assessed how competing research priorities, personal agendas and political considerations gave rise, in the colonial context, to the perception of Angkor as an assemblage of isolated and abandoned royal monuments about whose builders little could ever be known, in spite of anecdotal evidence to the contrary that came to light as early as the 1930s.

Dr Evans traced the emergence of the French archaeologist Bernard-Philippe Groslier and his ‘hydraulic city’ hypothesis. This held that the success and failure of the Khmer capital was due to a reliance on Angkor’s great reservoirs for rice surpluses.

Dr Evans’s thesis presented a critical assessment of the arguments for and against that now famous but still controversial theory from the 1950s to the 1990s, and set the stage for a presentation of new evidence. Although there was little evidence on hand to support Groslier’s theories about Angkor when he first began to elaborate them in the 1950s and 1960s, he understood that a large and multidisciplinary archaeological project—including, specifically, the production of a comprehensive archaeological map of the landscape around the temples—was required to prove or disprove the ‘hydraulic city’ hypothesis.

Although this agenda was set in motion in the late 1950s, decades of violence and civil strife in Cambodia prevented its completion, and it was only in the 1990s that scholars could resume the necessary fieldwork. The re-opening of Angkor to the world, and the rapid development of new spaceborne and airborne remote sensing technologies, presented enormous opportunities for landscape archaeology in Cambodia, and the Greater Angkor Project was formed to take advantage of existing French expertise in Khmer archaeology and Australian expertise in early urbanism and archaeological science, particularly in the areas of remote sensing and digital mapping.

Dr Evans was responsible for digitising all of the existing resources on Angkor, for systematically analysing new datasets such as airborne radar imagery acquired by NASA to reveal new occupation sites and canals, for verifying and documenting newly-discovered features on the ground, and for the production of a new digital mapping database of covering over 3000 km2.

Work on Angkor is continuing, but there were a range of significant outcomes from this work. Methodologically, it was proven for the first time that high-resolution airborne radar could be a valuable tool in certain environments for uncovering settlement landscapes which, even if uninhabited for a millennium and largely buried, could nonetheless be distinguished in the subtle variations in elevation, vegetation cover and soil moisture that radar is designed to illuminate.

Dr Evans, who is now a postdoctoral fellow within the Archaeology Department at the University of Sydney, is working on a three-year Australian Research Council-funded project to apply similar methods and theories to a range of early Khmer centres across Cambodia.

Website of the month

The Virtual Encyclopaedia of Portuguese Expansion/A Enciclopedia Virtual da Expansao Portuguesa has been developed by the Centre for Overseas History, an inter-university research unit of the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of the New University of Lisbon and the University of the Azores. The project makes available multimedia contents of a scientific, educational, and cultural nature on the history of the discoveries and the Portuguese expansion. It is meant for a broad audience both within and outside Portugal, including secondary school students, university students and researchers, social communication. 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

Contributed by Sally Burdon of Asia Bookroom

Win a copy of The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture

For anyone interested in what makes modern Japan tick, the recently published The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture is a must. Copies will be displayed at next month's JSAA-ICJLE 2009 conference (Japanese Studies Association of Australia and the International Conference on Japanese Language Education Joint Conference) in Sydney.

To celebrate the book’s publication, we’re giving away a copy to the first Asian Currents reader to email Asia Bookroom with the answer to the following questions:

  1. At what university is the JSAA-ICJLE2009 Joint Conference being held?
  2. Who is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture?

Our thanks to Cambridge University Press for their generous donation of the book as a prize. Asia Bookroom will send the winner this book free of postage charge to any Australian address.

Map of the Invisible World

Tash Aw

341pp, paperback, Fourth Estate, London, 2009. A beautifully written novel set in Indonesia in 1964. The writing is superb and the period fascinating. Highly recommended. $32.99



Shadow Falls. In the Heart of Java

Andrew Beatty

xvii + 318pp, index, paperback, Faber and Faber, London, 2009.

Andrew Beatty lived with his family for two-and-a-half years in a village in East Java. When he arrived, he was entranced by a strange and sensual way of life, an unusual tolerance of diversity and a place where mysticism, Islamic piety and animism coexisted peacefully. Java appeared a model for our strife-ridden world, a recipe for multiculturalism. But a harsh and puritanical Islamism, fed by modern uncertainties, was driving young women to wear the veil and young men to renounce the old rituals. The mosque loudspeakers grew strident, cultural boundaries sharpened. As a wave of witch-killings shook the countryside, Beatty and his family began to feel like vulnerable outsiders. Set among Java's rice fields and volcanoes, this is the story of how one of the biggest issues of our time plays out in ordinary lives. $35.



A History of Modern Burma

Michael W Charney

Maps, black and white photographic illustrations, chronology, xiii + 241pp, notes, bibliography, index, paperback, Cambridge University Press, UK, 2009
Tracing the highs and lows of Burma's history from its colonial past to the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, this is the first general history of modern Burma in over 50 years. By exploring key themes such as the political division between lowland and highland Burma and monastic opposition to state control, the author explains the forces that have made the country what it is today. $39.95

The Chinese Encounter with Opium. Dreams of Colored Clouds and Orchid Fragrance

K Flow

Colour and black and white illustrations, 426pp, notes, glossary, dustjacket. SMC Publishing, Taipei, 2009.
This beautifully illustrated book is divided into three sections: Opium and China; Opium Smoking; and Paraphernalia of Opium Smoking. Rather than just discussing the political side of the opium trade, which has been much written about elsewhere, this detailed volume looks at opium itself, the arts and crafts that surrounded its intake and the social side. It also includes a large amount of information on the tools used, the books written about it, etc. Packed with information and illustration. Recommended. $149.95

The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture

Yoshio Sugimoto (ed)

Tables, graphs, black and white illustrations, 413pp, paperback. Cambridge University Press, UK, 2009
This Companion provides a comprehensive overview of the influences that have shaped modern-day Japan. Spanning one-and-a-half centuries from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the beginning of the 21st century, this volume covers topics such as technology, food, nationalism and the rise of anime and manga in the visual arts. The 19 papers by leading scholars, together with an introduction by the editor, make this an authoritative introduction to this subject. Anyone with an interest in what makes modern Japan tick can ill afford to be without this book. $49.95

The Toss of a Lemon

Padma Viswanathan

619pp, paperback. University of Western Australia Press, Crawley, WA. 2009. Inspired by her family history, Padma Viswanathan brings us deep inside the private lives of a Brahmin family as the subcontinent moves through 60 years of intense social and political change. At the novel’s heart is Sivakami, a captivating girl-child married at 10 to an astrologer and village healer, who is drawn to her despite his horoscope, which foretells an early death—depending on how the stars align when their children are born. The Toss of a Lemon is heartbreaking and exhilarating, profoundly exotic and yet utterly recognisable in evoking the tensions that change brings to every family’s doorstep. It is also the debut of a major new voice in world fiction. $34.95

Positions vacant

The Faculty of Asian Studies, ANU, is seeking applicants for five positions from Level A to Level E. These include a Level E-D in Korean Studies; Level C (3-year term) in Taiwan Studies; Level B in Chinese Language and Linguistics; Level B in Asian Studies (generalist with a history or text research base); and Level A/PhD scholar in Japanese Studies or Language. This is to add to the 4 continuing appointments, 4 promotions (two to Level E), and 4 post-doc or partial appointments made over the past year. For the full range of positions, see

Lecturer in Asian Studies (A214-09AD), Centre for Asian Societies and Histories, Faculty of Asian Studies, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. Salary Package $74,447–$84,786 plus 17% superannuation. Closing Date 30 July 2009. Further information.


The following site offer career prospects for graduates and postgraduate in Asian Studies. If you know of other useful sites advertising jobs for postgrads in Asian Studies, please send them to advertises worldwide academic posts advertises academic posts worldwide, a free-to-access website run by The International Studies Association., a free service run by the United Nations to recruit for NGO jobs has a paid subscription service providing access to jobs worldwide in the international development industry.

Did you know?

The July edition of National Geographic Magazine has a feature on Angkor highlighting the University of Sydney’s Greater Angkor Project and climate change. The magazine should be on the shelves in Australia soon. In the meantime, check out the National Geographic website where there are also some animations of daily life in Angkor created collaboratively by Monash University and the University of Sydney.

Diary dates

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

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.

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, 9–11 July 2009. 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. Further information.

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 New South Wales 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

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. Further information.

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. Further information.

INDIAN MODERNITY: ONCE COLONIAL, NOW GLOBAL, keynote seminar, Sydney, 17 August 2009. Speaker: Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty, ANU, Chicago Centre for Contemporary Theory, School of Historical Studies University of Melbourne. Part of the seminar series organised by the Indian Ocean and South Asia Research Network (IOSARN), University of Technology Sydney. Further information: Devleena Ghosh.

WAR ART IN ASIA AND THE REPRESENTATION OF WAR, workshop, Sydney, 28 August 2009. Organised by the Australian Centre for Asian Art & Archaeology, University of Sydney, and the Research School of Humanities, ANU, the workshop will be held at Mills Lecture Theatre, R.C. Mills Building, University of Sydney. Booking essential. RSVP and enquiries:

‘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.

IN THE IMAGE OF ASIA: MOVING ACROSS AND BETWEEN LOCATIONS conference, Canberra, 13–15 April 2010. This interdisciplinary conference explores how ‘Asia’ has been imagined, imaged, represented and transferred visually across linguistic, geopolitical and cultural boundaries. It aims to challenge established assumptions (and consumptions) of cultural products of ‘Asia’, from arts, artefacts and film to performance. Proposals for papers are invited and should be submitted to the conference convenors, Dr Fuyubi Nakamura or Dr Ana Dragojlovic by 11 September 2009.

ASAA BIENNIAL CONFERENCE, Adelaide, 6–8 July 2010. The 18th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia will be held at the University of Adelaide. An organising committee consisting of members drawn from the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of South Australia has been formed with Professor Purnendra Jain as its convenor. The conference theme is ‘Asia: Crisis and Opportunity’. A conference website will be launched as soon as possible providing further details and calling for papers and panels.

DISPLACEMENT, DIVISION AND RENEWAL conference, Sarawak, Malaysia, 8–9 July 2010. The Curtin University Research Unit for the Study of Societies in Change (RUSSIC), in conjunction with Curtin University in Sarawak, is calling for panel proposals for its conference, which will be held at Miri, Sarawak, as a sequel to the conference ‘Crossing Borders’, held in Sarawak in 2007. Panel submission closes on 31 August 2009, and call for papers will open on 1 October 2009. A conference website with further registration and location details will open soon. Conference enquiries and expressions of interest can be sent to Dr Aileen Hoath.

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What would be useful for you? Human interest stories, profiles of successful graduates of Asian studies, more news about what's on, moderated discussions on topical issues? Send your ideas to Allan Sharp.

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.

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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