Mai Van Tran (Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen)
Terese Virginia Gagnon (Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen)
We propose to organize a virtual mentoring series for junior Burmese researchers who are interested in pursuing graduate programs to study contentious politics. We define “Burmese” as anyone who self-identifies as a person from Myanmar, either living inside the country or abroad. We aim to recruit up to 15 participants and prioritize applicants from marginalized backgrounds, especially those based inside Myanmar and non-Western countries.
There are two components to the series: 1) expert-led discussion sessions and 2) participant-led relaying activities. First, the virtual discussion sessions will be led by Burma studies scholars whose work specializes in the country’s resistance movements and revolutions. The scholars will present their research and then provide advice on academic research and career development geared towards the participants.
For the second component, each participant is expected to relay what they have learned from the expert-led sessions to other junior Burmese researchers that they independently recruit. We will hold a follow-up meeting with the participants after they have completed their activities in order to allow them to share their mentoring experiences with one another, encourage further networking among the participants, and gather their feedback on our programming.
Our series is distinct from existing mentoring and academic initiatives targeting prospective Burmese researchers, including programs by Inya Institute, Virtual Federal University, Spring University Myanmar, Parami Institute, or Burma Studies Group. First, based on our targeted recruitment criteria, we are able to encourage participation by youth from marginalized backgrounds. Second, by focusing on a subject newly in high demand, contentious politics, our mentorship will engender recognizable value.
Finally, with the innovative component of participant-led relaying activities, not only do we empower the participants to become mentors themselves but we can also widen the series’ impact. For instance, while our discussion sessions are run in English, the participants can use their Myanmar language of choice to relay their knowledge to other junior researchers. In addition, the participants can also be creative in their communication methods to reach audiences who might be unable to securely take part in our virtual discussion sessions. Hence, our mentorship will be able to benefit many more youth beyond privileged, digitally-accessible groups. Additionally, we anticipate that the impact will be long-lasting as the participants and their audiences come to embrace the mentoring mentality themselves.
If this pilot series is successful, we will seek further funding from other sources to expand the model and potentially invite speakers on other topics for mentoring. We will construct the future version of the series largely based on the pilot participants’ feedback.
Sin Yee Koh (Universiti Brunei Darussalam)
Mai Thanh Truong (Mount St. Mary’s University)
We propose to organise a week-long online writing workshop for 20 early career Southeast Asian social science researchers studying Southeast Asia. Participants include those who are based in Southeast Asia as well as beyond. Participants will be selected from an open call for expression of interest (see project methodology for further details).
This project leverages on the team members’ complementary disciplines, experiences and networks.
- Sin Yee Koh is a human geographer with expertise in migration studies, urban studies and postcolonial geography. She has experience with academic publishing as author and editor of books, journal articles and journal special issues, and as associate editor and editorial board member for internationally reputable journals. She has co-organised a similar online workshop in December 2020 (http://www.miedecr.wordpress.com) and will be able to bring relevant experiences and insights to this project. In Southeast Asia, she has active scholarly networks in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Beyond Southeast Asia, she has active scholarly networks in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Europe, and the United Kingdom.
- Mai Thanh Truong is a political scientist with expertise in comparative politics, especially in social movements, protests, authoritarian politics, and Vietnamese politics. She has recently completed her Ph.D at the University of Arizona. Throughout her Ph.D, she has had experience in publishing peer-reviewed articles in internationally reputable journals. She also has experience in writing and co-writing grant proposals. She has active scholarly networks in Vietnam, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Mary Anne Mendoza (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)
Jangai Jap (University of Texas at Austin)
Some work on colonial legacies assume that politically relevant ethnic groups today were equally relevant during the time of independence. While this reading of an ethnic group as politically relevant across time fits into certain perspectives of nationalism studies, this is empirically incorrect. In addition, existing datasets such as the Ethnic Power Relations (EPR) Dataset include variables about a group’s status on the eve of independence. But this treatment is focused on access to central power. It does not consider how important colonial powers treated various ethnic groups. Our project proposes analyzing the actions of the colonizer, such as through missionary activity, as a better proxy for which groups were considered politically relevant at the time of independence & beyond.
This project examines the relationship between colonial legacies, identity formation, and civil war with data from the World Atlas of Christian Missions, published in 1911. In particular, we are interested in contextualizing the intensity of Christian missions. The funding would be used to hire student RAs who would go through the Atlas and geo-code information concerning the location, duration, and intensity of missionary work in several states in Southeast Asia during each state’s colonial period. Our RAs would work off of existing work that Jangai completed previously to scan the Atlas and input station information into an Excel sheet.
Jessica Soedirgo (University of Amsterdam)
Megan Ryan (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
Sol Iglesias (University of the Philippines)
Aim Sinpeng (University of Sydney)
This proposed project brings together an all-women team of scholars of Southeast Asia for a special issue on the actors and forces that have worked to compromise democracy in Southeast Asia. Papers in this proposed special issue explore cases of democratic reversals at different stages of democratization. Megan Ryan and Kikue Hamayotsu explore why democratic transitions stall and reverse using the cases of Myanmar and Malaysia respectively. Drawing on the Myanmar case, Ryan argues that transitions are more likely to reverse when countries transition out of military regimes and when the party linked to the military is electorally weak. Hamayotsu explores how identity politics and religious nationalism in particular can weaken transitions to democracy in the case of Malaysia’s party regime. Sol Iglesias and Jessica Soedirgo then look at backsliding in countries that were once viewed as the region’s democratic successes: the Philippines and Indonesia. Iglesias shows how state-sponsored, “anti-crime” violence during Duterte’s reign contributed to a process of democratic deconsolidation in the Philippines. Focusing on the role of illicit actors in elections, Soedirgo explores how gangs have weakened the rule of law, reduce political accountability, and eroded democratic norms in Indonesia. Finally, Aim Sinpeng looks at the case of Thailand, a country that has experienced several democratic reversals over the past several years. Sinpeng shifts the analytical lens to the role of the masses in democratic breakdowns, showing how conflicting visions of democracy gave rise to anti-democratic movements in Thailand, which facilitated military coups in the country.
We are applying for a WiSEASS Collaborative Grant to fund a 1-day workshop—specifically costs associated with room rental and meals—to take place in June or July 2022 at the EuroSEAS conference in Paris. At this workshop, special issue contributors would present revised drafts of their work and receive feedback from the special issue editors and fellow contributors. The editors will also present the special issue proposal for feedback at this workshop. This event follows a scheduled panel at the 2021 meeting of the American Political Science Association, where contributors will present initial drafts of their articles. To ensure that the papers are comparatively and theoretically situated, panel discussants—Rachel Beatty Riedl and Maya Tudor—are scholars of democratization who have regional expertise outside of Southeast Asia (Africa and South Asia). We plan to submit this special issue to a journal such as Democratization, Journal of East Asian Studies, Pacific Affairs, or Studies in Comparative International Development.
Melissa Yoong (University of Nottingham Malaysia)
Nourhan Mohamed (Alexandria University)
This study will examine first-person narratives from at least 10 women in Malaysia who have exited the workforce. Women in this country still do not have equal opportunities to pursue careers, income stability and the social protection that comes with formal employment. Although workforce participation has increased with each generation of women, millions remain outside the sphere of paid work. Various policies and programmes have been introduced to attract and retain women in employment, but the female labour force participation rate has hovered around 55 per cent since 2015, which suggests that women’s needs and realities are not adequately reflected in the measures taken. This study seeks to extend existing understandings about the experiences and aspirations of women who have left formal employment and the systems in play through a critical narrative analysis of their reflective stories. The research objectives are as follows:
1. To capture the complexity and nuances of the difficulties that women face in their attempts to participate in the workforce, and explore how these barriers can be removed
2. To analyse the personal identities and future selves that the women linguistically construct as they tell their stories
3. To assess how macro-level power structures, ideologies and geopolitical trends impact the women’s work trajectory and conceptualisations of identity.
This study will be used to gain funding for a larger research project capturing the complex lived experiences and projections of future selves of a broad range of women who have left their jobs and, from this, build better knowledge of what the women themselves need and desire. The aim of the wider project is to inform policy-makers, NGOs, HR practitioners and researchers on the issues and structural conditions that women face, as told from the viewpoint of the women themselves in their own voices, and re-evaluate how existing policies and programmes can be amended to enhance women’s wellbeing, equality and inclusion.
The outputs of this study are:
1. An international peer-reviewed journal article for submission to Discourse & Society, Gender and Language or Gender, Work & Organization
2. General talk for a non-specialist audience. The event will be conducted in person (if possible) and streamed online. A video recording will be made publicly available via the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) School of English’s social media platforms.
We also hope to build the written narratives and transcriptions of spoken narratives collected into a longer-term freely accessible dataset linked to the larger project mentioned above. This dataset can be expanded over time to trace how the challenges that women encounter shift across policies and with socio-economic changes. The corpus will be given full open access for all who decide to use it via a dedicated webpage hosted by UNM as part of the School of English’s pages. The data will be fully anonymised in compliance with the University’s research ethics policies. Consent will be sought from each informant before her story is added to the public corpus.
Vu Ngoc Quyen (Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences)
Melody Shum (Northwestern University)
We propose to conduct a comparative study of rural land reforms in Vietnam and China. In 2008, the three rural issues (“tam nông”), which refer to challenges related to agriculture (nông nghiệp), farmers (nông dân), and rural areas (nông thôn), were officially discussed in Resolution 26-NQ/TW at the 7th Congress of the 10th Central Committee of Vietnam’s Communist Party (Resolution 26). This document had proposed several policy measures aimed at modernizing agriculture, improving the socio-economic life of farmers, and building new rural areas. The same issues (“sannong wenti”) had actually been raised in China nearly a decade earlier. The Chinese government had responded to these issues by adopting a series of policies and measures that encouraged rural development, strengthened educational facilities, and promoted urbanization to decrease the proportion of rural population.
However, despite the continued implementation of the three rural policies, there are still many obstacles to the agricultural restructuring and building of “new rural areas” in Vietnam and the “new socialist countryside” in China. The interests of farmers, despite being the closest to the land, are barely addressed during the realization of rural policies. In Vietnam, it was farmers who had initiated the massive economic reforms (Đổi Mới), but had benefited the least from the reforms. Although the poverty rate among rural households has been reduced, it remains four times higher than those in urban areas. China, meanwhile, is still struggling to feed its huge population and to reduce multidimensional poverty, which persists in southwest, north-central, and northwest China, especially in the mountainous regions and plateaus. Both Vietnam and China believe that resolving the three rural issues is instrumental to improving the social welfare of the rural population, a top strategic priority in both of their 5-year plans that will last until 2035.
Investigating Vietnam’s ideological and practical association with China in terms of land policy is significance to understanding a number of unresolved rural problems faced by the two countries. Could restricted land ownership to farmers still promote agricultural and rural development in favor of farmers? This study hopes to answer this question by: (1) providing a comprehensive and dynamic picture of the impact that socialist land reforms have on rural communities in Vietnam in contrast to those in China; (2) explaining how the ideological thoughts regarding rural classes and development influence the formation and foci of rural policies; (3) identifying potential issues and challenges faced by these two countries, especially in term of the future development of rural areas in relation to improving the livelihoods of farmers. We hope to use this grant to explore possible solutions to Vietnam and China’s land issues.