Bringing Southeast Asian Studies to Puget Sound

Over the last few weeks, you may have heard about some new opportunities to study Southeast Asia-related topics at Puget Sound, including Thai language. But just what’s going on with this program, and what can you expect to see in the future? Well, I’m glad you asked…

My first Indonesia trip at Puget Sound, with Professor Ben Lewin and SOAN (then CSOC) students including Delaney Height, Malorie Spreen, and Kadie Burton.

My first Indonesia trip at Puget Sound, with Professor Ben Lewin and SOAN (then CSOC) students including Delaney Height, Kadie Burton, and Kira Wilpone-Jordan. June, 2009.

Since I began teaching at Puget Sound in 2008, I have been taking groups of students on summer course-trips to Indonesia, where my research is based. I’ve been lucky to have had the help of SOAN professor Ben Lewin on three of these trips, which quickly became integrated into the curriculum back in Tacoma through SOAN 312, where we studied Southeast Asian cultural, linguistic, and environmental topics before departing to continue our coursework in-country. We’d also collaborated with Nick Kontogeorgopoulos in IPE to do a joint Indonesia-Thailand course trip. So when I heard from Associate Dean and SOAN professor Sunil Kukreja about an opportunity to apply for a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation that supported environmental initiatives in Asia, I immediately thought of the work we’d been doing, and the student excitement we’d encountered around faculty-led study abroad in Indonesia and Thailand.

Hang on there… what’s the Henry Luce Foundation?

Gareth Barkin in front of the Luce Memorial Chapel, on the campus of Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan.

Gareth Barkin in front of the Luce Memorial Chapel, on the campus of Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan.

The Luce Foundation was created by publisher Henry R. Luce to promote Asian studies, particularly in smaller, liberal arts institutions like ours. In prior years, the Luce Foundation provided grants to Puget Sound that created my position at the University, as well as that of Professor Kontogeorgopoulos, who conducts research in Thailand. So we knew they were supportive of Southeast Asian Studies on our campus, and that they valued the work we’ve done. When we learned of this new opportunity, Associate Dean Kukreja, Professor Kontogeorgopoulos and I collaborated with faculty from Environmental Policy and Decision Making to craft a proposal that focused on the expansion of our existing field-course model. This model involves a full semester of study on campus, including some language training, combined with an integrated abroad trip over the summer.

So they just gave you guys a big grant to continue doing that?

Students on the 2014 course-trip prepare to release some baby turtles who were part of a turtle 'head start' program. Tangkoko, June 2014.

Students on the 2014 course-trip prepare to release some baby turtles who were part of a turtle ‘head start’ program. Tangkoko, June 2014.

No, they did not. First, we applied for an exploration grant and undertook a pilot program to successfully demonstrate our concept, integrating a greater focus on environmental studies and collaboration with EPDM faculty. In addition to the pilot class, 2014’s SOAN 312, we started to explore some of the additional elements we wanted to bring to our program, and which we hoped the Luce Foundation would support. These included hiring a native speaker to teach the class Indonesian language, holding a workshop for faculty on experiential learning abroad, and bringing out guest speakers to engage the campus community in a discussion of Southeast Asian environmental topics. During the last week of the field course, Professor Peter Wimberger from the Biology Department and EPDM joined us in North Sulawesi, to help expand and strengthen our discussion of environmental and conservation issues.

This blog is already pretty long.. maybe just cut to the chase?

But there’s so much more to this story! Ok, fine, well the pilot project went really well, and we were even able to do a small-scale symposium, which will become a big part of our full implementation grant, which we were also awarded! Over the next four years, our new Southeast Asia Program will include a lot of great opportunities for SOAN majors, including:

  • Southeast Asian field schools—intensive student learning abroad, conducted with Asian partners and involving a full semester of on-campus study, plus three weeks of summer overseas research. Planned courses will fall in the SOAN, IPE, and EPDM departments.
  • Phased introduction of new Southeast Asian language courses, including Thai, Indonesian, and Malay, which currently are rarely taught as full-credit courses in Washington state, much less at liberal arts universities.
  • Grants for faculty members to explore and develop future Southeast Asian field schools or enhancements to the curriculum (which may influence your courses in the coming years)
  • An annual Southeast Asia Symposium that will draw international speakers and scholars from around the state, and that will be a resource center for Pacific Northwest partner colleges

What’s a symposium?

Southeast Asia Symposium

Students from the 2014 trip present their research at the first annual Southeast Asia Symposium. Participants included SOAN students Lenny Henderson, Chelsea Steiner, and Kasey Janousek.

Seriously? Okay, well this symposium is a forum that draws together the field schools, language classes, and faculty initiatives while placing a focus on reaching the campus community and infusing the knowledge gained from these programs throughout the university. In addition, symposia will bring together Southeast Asia scholars from around the Northwest along with speakers and artists from Southeast Asia in one three-day period that involves workshops, research panels, performances, and informational sessions. Organized around a central theme, the annual symposium compels students from our Southeast Asia field schools to reflect on and share their experiences and their research, to engage potential students with the next field school, and raise faculty interest in Southeast Asia.

Well, I’m sold! How can I take advantage of this tremendous opportunity?

SOAN major Elana Maslow shows off her freshly dried batik painting at BatikJolawe, Yogyakarta in February. Will there be batik at the 2015 Symposium? Come and find out!

SOAN major Elana Maslow shows off her freshly dried batik painting at BatikJolawe, Yogyakarta in February. Will there be batik at the 2015 Symposium? Come and find out!

That’s more like it. If you’re interested in Thailand, that will be next year’s focus, as Nick Kontogeorgopoulos leads a course-trip there in the spring/summer of 2016, and Thai language will be offered both fall and spring. There are still some spaces open in Thai 101 at the time of this writing, so consider enrolling!

Want to learn more? Come to the symposium this October 23-25, 2015! In addition to an exciting keynote talk and student presentations from Professor Wimberger’s course-trip to Malaysia that is currently underway, we’ll have panels with PacRim returnees who did Southeast Asia research, faculty participants from around the Northwest, and an information session for those interested in applying for the Thailand course. There will even be a tasty banquet and possibly some arts and/or crafts.

What if I’m really interested in these programs, but for some reason have no interest in Thailand?

Lucky for you, we plan to shift field-course destinations and topics as well as languages each year. In the next few years, we hope to return to Indonesia with SOAN 312 again, and to Malaysia, while offering Indonesian and Malay language courses on campus. For more information, be sure to check out the Southeast Asia Symposium & Programs website, and feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions.

See you at the Symposium!

Gareth

SOAN Senior Thesis Poster Session

SOAN Senior Thesis WordleHi all,

The ten SOAN seniors who pursued independent thesis projects over the last academic year will be presenting their work at the annual SOAN Senior Thesis Poster Session. Come explore their diverse and interesting projects! Food and drink will be provided, and the details are as follows:

SOAN Senior Thesis Poster Session
Friday, May 1, 2015
11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Location: Trimble Forum

We hope to see you there!

Andrew

Dr. Devparna Roy publishes a new article

Hi all,

A woman picking cotton in southern India. Photograph from The Hindu.

Manjula S. Maralappanavar, an Indian researcher who has struggled with a research agenda focused on public sector genetic modification of seeds.

In her newly published article in the excellent Journal of World-Systems Research, SOAN’s Dr. Devparna Roy explores the social, political, and ideological battle over genetically-modified seeds in contemporary India. The American conversation about GMOs has broached some unforeseen frontiers, but the battle in India is heated. In Devparna’s analysis, she charts how opposition to genetically modified seeds has brought together a constellation of traditionally-opposed political actors. Those actors are unified not by their opposition to capitalism, but rather by their opposition to corporate dominance of the genetically modified seed market — corporations based in what world systems theory refers to as core states (e.g. the United States, Western Europe, etc.). Her article is entitled Contesting Corporate Transgenic Crops in a Semi Peripheral Context: The Case of the Anti-GM movement in India, and is part of a special issue (edited by Mangala Subramaniam) containing articles that explore social movements in the world system. Here’s her abstract:

Market penetration by the hegemonic core state’s agricultural biotechnology firms has been preceded and accompanied by a vigorous anti-genetically modified seeds (anti-GM) movement in semi-peripheral India. To understand the extent of anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism exhibited by the Indian state, it is useful to investigate the character of democratizing forces— such as the anti-GM movement—which interact with and shape the state. I use primary and secondary data sources to analyze the anti-GM movement in India and argue that the movement is anti-corporate without being anti-capitalist. Further, it is counter-hegemonic but not anti- systemic. These four traits reflect the strengths and weaknesses of exemplary coalition-building between right-wing nationalists, centrists, and left activists. The Indian anti-GM movement suffered an early failure when the Indian state commercialized Bt cotton seeds in 2002, following the entry of unauthorized Bt cotton seeds and lobbying by farmers’ groups for legalization of Bt cotton seeds. However, an effective coalition between the right-wing, centrist, and left elements was built by about 2006. This was followed by a most significant victory for the anti-GM movement in February 2010, when the Indian state placed an indefinite moratorium on the commercialization of Bt brinjal seeds. A second, more qualified, victory was achieved by the anti-GM movement when the Indian state placed a hold on field trials of GM crops in July 2014. The anti-GM coalition has been successful in pressing ideologically different political parties to take steps against the multinational seed firms based in core states. Further, it has enabled the Indian state to move from a sub-imperialist to an anti-imperialist role regarding GM seeds. But until the anti-GM coalition in India resolves its inner contradictions and becomes resolutely anti-capitalist and anti-systemic, it will not be able to effectively challenge the anti-imperialist Indian state’s pro-capitalist stance regarding GM seeds and industrial agriculture.

Large transnational corporations also control access to many academic publications, but the Journal of World Systems Research is in the rebellious vanguard: all published articles are open access. Have a look at Dr. Roy’s paper here!

Best wishes,

Andrew

Summer Research Award for Alena Karkanias

Hi all,

Alena (left) at graduation for her sister Grace (right)

Alena (left) at graduation for her sister Grace (right)

Alena Karkanias also received good news last week regarding her AHSS research proposal. So I’ve cut-and-pasted this several times, but again: the University of Puget Sound offers students competitive Summer Research Awards. These awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. Several students in the department were successful this year, and I’ve asked each to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and stipend monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Alena has to say about the scope of her project:

In this research project, I will be investigating how the introduction of online and in-person sites of interaction have affected the relationship between fans and creators of media content, particularly regarding their beliefs about who among them has the authority to influence the future development of media texts. I am specifically focusing on the fan-creator relationship for the television show, Supernatural. I will be speaking to both creators and fans in order to understand the make-up of each party, their impressions of each other, their opinions regarding the idea of fan influence on the production of the show (specifically regarding the direction of the narrative and fate of the characters), and how they negotiate the changing relationship between fans and creators in light of these factors.

Supernatural’s fans and creators are unique for their overt, reciprocal affection for each other, having embraced the ability to interact with each other on sites like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, and at conventions. However, they have also seen intense conflict mostly arising out of confusion on either side about the make-up, desires, and intentions of the other party, which leave both sides unsure about how to interpret past and present interactions and approach future interactions. My goals in this project are therefore to explicate the points of dissonance between the parties involved and develop strategies to better negotiate their interactions and foster a more harmonious approach to the future production of the show.

Alena, we wish you luck as you explore this interesting social arena. Be careful, however: Supernatural fans have evidently irked P. Diddy, and you need to tread carefully when P. Diddy is angered!

Andrew

 

Summer Research Award for Kathryn Stutz

Hi all,

Kathryn and the statue of a (faceless) Lihyanite man from the Roads to Arabia exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Asian Art.

Kathryn and the statue of a (faceless) Lihyanite man from the Roads to Arabia exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Asian Art.

So sophomore Kathryn Stutz also received an AHSS Summer Research Award. My usual summary: as you many know, the University of Puget Sound offers students competitive Summer Research Awards. These awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. Several students in the department were successful this year, and I’ve asked each to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and stipend monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Kathryn had to say about her project:

This summer, I will be working with a collection of archival material from our university’s Slater Museum of Natural History. These letters, biological records, and other historical documents center around a significant event in the history of the modern environmental movement: the development and eventual rejection of ‘Project Chariot,’ a proposal by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to use nuclear blasts to create a harbor in northern Alaska.

Murray Johnson (left) and James Slater (right) with materials that became part of the Slater Museum collection.

Murray Johnson (left) and James Slater (right) with materials that became part of the Slater Museum collection.

Members of the native Alaskan communities, as well as several of the scientists hired by the AEC to conduct the Cape Thompson Environmental Impact Report, found ethical, ecological, and health-related objections to Project Chariot. I’ll be using anthropological and historical analysis to look at the interactions between the AEC leadership, the scientists, the US government, the media, and the native Alaskan communities, to see how Project Chariot fits into the social, political, and scientific context of the United States during the early 1960s. In particular, I will be examining the perspective of Murray Johnson, an adjunct professor of biology at the College of Puget Sound during the 1950s and 1960s, who organized the marine mammal research team for the AEC’s Environmental Impact Report, and how his political and cultural views impacted his relationships with the other people and communities impacted by Project Chariot.

What a fascinating project, Kathryn — one that’s interestingly interwoven with our university’s history, and one that takes the anthropological/sociological toolkit into a conversation with other disciplines. Good luck! We’re excited to hear about what you find.

 

Andrew

Summer Research Award for SOAN’s Rodger Caudill

Hi all,

Rodger and DoubleLift, a League of Legends professional.

Rodger and DoubleLift, a League of Legends professional.

Rodger Caudill is another of the SOAN students to receive the AHSS award this cycle. So as you many know, the University of Puget Sound offers students competitive Summer Research Awards. These awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. Several students in the department were successful this year, and I’ve asked each to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and stipend monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Rodger had to say about about his interesting project:

S4 worlds

The Season 4 League of Legends World Championship, with 40,000 in attendance

This summer I will be studying the online community of League of Legends, a five versus five competitive e-sport. With a population of players larger than the population of France, League of Legends is a massive e-sport that has its own culture and large scale competitive events. Within the game of League of Legends, I will be examining “what makes the dream-work”, or in other words, what the recipe is that allows five players from all across the world to cooperate in a task more strategically complex than any sport aired on ESPN. To do so I will be researching cooperation and altruism with a sociological lens in addition to interviewing key members of this young and growing e-sport in hopes that the knowledge in uncovering the source of cooperation and altruistic behavior in this e-sport can be applied to further cooperation and altruistic behavior in a globalized world.

We look forward to hearing about your findings, Rodger, and we hope this research allows you to amass a substantial cache of Influence Points.

Andrew

Summer Research Award for SOAN’s Elena Becker

Hi all,

Elena located a rope swing

Elena and a rope swing she located.

Here’s our second winner. More to come! So as you many know, the University of Puget Sound offers students competitive Summer Research Awards. These awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. Several students in the department were successful this year, and I’ve asked each to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and stipend monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Elena Becker (SOAN Sophomore) had to say:

This summer I’ll be exploring the cultural authenticity of tourism in Malaysian Borneo. I’m researching whether tourists there experience authentic indigenous culture, or if their encounters with the Dayak (indigenous people) are usually staged and curated by tour operators. Through this investigation I aim to shed light on the variety of cultural expectations held by tourists, tour operators and indigenous groups and the implications of these beliefs for indigenous cultural preservation. I’ll spend six weeks in Malaysian Borneo in the states of Sarawak and Sabah.

The department is proud of you, and we look forward to seeing the results of this project. Good luck, Elena. We’ll definitely be checking in with you for an update from the field! Andrew