Colourful tents

Asian Studies Association of Australia Conference 2018

3–5 July 2018

The 22nd biennial conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) was proudly hosted by the University of Sydney.

Co-organised by the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, the China Studies Centre and the School of Languages and Cultures, the 2018 biennial conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia brought together 1,142 academics with a shared interest in Asia.

The conference theme, Area Studies and Beyond, built upon traditional interdisciplinary fields of research within Asian Studies and moved beyond them, to celebrate the full breadth and depth of scholarly interest in Asia.


ASAA 2018 was a paper-free conference. All attendees were invited to download the conference app via email, which includes the whole conference program. 

Download the program here.

Download the book of abstracts here.


Plenary Session

Why it's a Great Time to be an Asianist

As we gather for the largest ever biennial conference of the ASAA, it is an opportune time to reflect on what it means to be an Asianist in Australia today. Join three emerging scholars of Asia as they reflect on what excites them about being Asianists in an Australian context, and how they juggle their disciplinary and Asianist scholarly identities within contemporary academia.



Jacqui Baker is a lecturer in Southeast Asian politics at Murdoch University and a Research Fellow at the Asia Research Centre. Her work examines the significance of the police and policing to political and economic regimes in Southeast Asia. She is currently writing a book on the rise of the police after Indonesia’s reformasi as well as a separate project on the dynamics of police shootings. Her 2014 ABC documentary, Eat, Pray Mourn, on police shootings in Jakarta, won a bronze award at the New York Festival. 

Thomas Baudinette is lecturer in Japanese Studies in the Department of International Studies at Macquarie University. Thomas’s scholarly research focuses upon the construction of desire within the Japanese gay media landscape. In recent years, Thomas has broadened his research focus to investigate the transnational circulation of queer Japanese popular culture throughout East and Southeast Asia. His work has appeared in such scholarly journals as Japan Forum, East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, Language and Sexuality, and ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies. He was awarded the 2016 Ian Nish Prize by the British Association for Japanese Studies.

Tanya Jakimow is a senior lecturer in Development Studies, UNSW, Sydney. Using ethnographic approaches, her research examines development practices, institutions and relations, with a focus on India and Indonesia. She was awarded an ARC DECRA (2013-17), and has published on topics such as NGOs, voluntarism, livelihoods, personhood, urban governance and women in local politics. Her latest book Decentring Development: Understanding Change in Agrarian Societies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) examines agrarian change in Telangana, India and Central Lombok, Indonesia. She is currently writing her next monograph examining how emotions and affect shape development configurations in Medan, Indonesia, and Dehradun, India. 

Thushara Dibley is the Deputy Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. She researches social movements in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Her recent research projects have focused on the role of NGOs in peace-building in Timor-Leste and Indonesia and on the disability movement in Indonesia. She is the author of Partnerships, Power and Peacebuilding: NGOs as Agents of Peace in Aceh and Timor-Leste (2014). 

Sub-regional Keynote Speakers

View the list here.


The ASAA Conference will include five roundtables on 'wicked problem' themes applied to Asia. Each roundtable will include 4-6 speakers discussing topical issues in relation to the whole region.

What’s in an urban lifestyle? Environmental, health and artistic interventions in Asian cities 

The process of urbanising Asia is taking substantially different forms in each country. Yet, in each one the result has been a polarisation of wealth and poverty, and a substantial change in the ways of life of individuals and families. The coexistence of wealth and poverty is a global urban phenomenon and this panel intends to discuss the different elements that are characterising approaches to governing the Asian city, from an environmental, health and artistic perspective. 


Pow Choon-Piew

Associate Professor, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore

Pow CP's research revolves broadly around urban geography with specific interests on urban social transformation in Asian cities. In particular, his work examines urban segregation and the spatial politics of middle-class lifestyle-enclaves in contemporary urban China. More recently, his research has moved towards addressing ecological governance and the ‘urbanization of nature’ with an empirical focus on flagship eco-city projects.

Melody Ding

Senior Research Fellow, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney

Dr Melody Ding currently holds a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship and a University of Sydney SOAR Fellowship. As an epidemiologist and population behavioral scientist, she works at the intersection of physical activity, epidemiology, behavioral medicine and chronic disease prevention. Her work on physical activity has been widely disseminated through international media. As a Chinese national, she remains a strong tie to China through collaborative research on public health.

Tammy Wong Hulbert

Lecturer, Schol of Art, RMIT University, Melbourne

Dr Tammy Wong Hulbert is an artist, curator and academic. Her research focuses on the expanded notions of curation, investigating cities as curated spaces. Her art and curatorial practice focuses on the complicated, multi-layered and fragmented spaces between cultures and recent projects involve a socially engaged community practice, addressing migration, belonging and how art can contribute towards an inclusive city. Tammy lectures in Curating Contemporary Art in the Masters of Arts (Arts Management) in the School of Art, RMIT University, Melbourne. 

Mu Li

Professor in International Public Health, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney

Professor Mu Li is a trained physician and global health practitioner. Grown up in China, she has a first hand experience of what was like living in China 30+ years ago. Her academic and research activities have taken her to many Asian countries, including China, to witness changes in many cities in recent decades. A major driver of childhood obesity, an emerging public health problem affecting millions of children and adolescents in Asia, is urban living.


Luigi Tomba

Director, China Studies Centre, University of Sydney

Born and educated in Italy, Luigi is a political scientist with almost three decades of China experience, having visited China for the first time in 1988. He has been teaching and researching Chinese politics and society at the ANU between 2001 and 2017, when he moved to University of Sydney. His work covers many aspects of China’s political and social change, with a particular interest in the consequences of China’s urbanisation on its society and governance. Luigi has also been, for a decade between 2005 and 2015, the editor of The China Journal, one of the best-known international research journal on post-1949 China. 

Heritage is at the centre of local, national and global cultural linkages, politics and economics in Asia. Governed by both internal concerns and international institutions, heritage is entangled in the dynamics of tourism, community and markets in culture, making it also an area of contestation. By looking at the way heritage is governed, supported, funded in museums and other institutions, and reshaped by different forces, we will examine the changing nature of heritage and the ways that it is studied. 


Wu-Wei Chen

Visiting Assistant Arts Professor at New York University, Shanghai

Professor Wu-Wei Chen, is Visiting Assistant Arts Professor at New York University, Shanghai. His focus is on the integration of digital imaging, design and body aesthetics into digital heritage research, including conservation, sculpting, and aesthetics of cultural objects. The cyber-archiving, through photogrammetry, of the deities at Dazu Rock Carvings further inspires his research into smart city initiatives. Professor Chen has worked in New York, Taipei, Hong Kong and Beijing. 

Vinod Daniel

CEO of India Vision Institute, IndHeritage and Daniel Heritage Services

Dr Vinod Daniel is the Chair of the Board of AusHeritage, Vice Chair of the International Council of Museums-Committee for Conservation, President of the Board for the Australian operations of the Centre for Environmental Education, CEO of India Vision Institute, CEO of IndHeritage and CEO of Daniel Heritage Services. He was a Board Member of the Australia India Council (2005-2011), and has previously worked at the Australian Museum and the Getty Conservation Institute. 

Marnie Feneley

Lecturer in Asian Studies, University of New South Wales

Dr Marnie Feneley is a lecturer in Asian Studies at the University of New South Wales and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Laboratory for Innovation in Galleries, Archives and Museums: Atlas of Maritime Buddhism. As an expert in Khmer sculpture, Dr Feneley has amalgamated archaeological and art historical expertise with new media art practice by creating a digital visualisation of this research. She is considered a pioneer in digital archaeology and heritage. 

Hélène Njoto-Feillard

Researcher, Nalana Sriwijaya Centre, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore

Dr Hélène Njoto-Feillard, is a researcher, Nalanda Sriwijaya Centre, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. She is also an associate at Centre Asie du Sud-Est and AUSSER Architecture Urbanistique Société (Paris). Dr Njoto specialises in Indonesian modern and contemporary Art and Architecture History, specifically the circulation of foreign art and architectural types in Java. Her NSC project questions cultural exchanges in Maritime Southeast Asia through the study of Early Islamic Art of the Northern Coast of Java (15th–17thc.). 


Natali Pearson

PhD Candidate in Museum Studies, University of Sydney

Ms Natali Pearson, PhD candidate in Museum Studies, University of Sydney, is currently researching underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia, in particular the roles and responsibilities of museums in collecting, displaying and interpreting this heritage. She is co-founder of Perspectives on the Past, a postgraduate research group interested in alternative perspectives on Southeast Asian histories and heritage. 

There has been a gradual decline in preference for democracy across Asia in the last decade. Even countries like Japan and the Philippines, we are witnessing a serious drop of confidence in the democratic system. What is happened to democracy in the region? This panel brings experts on contemporary politics of various countries across the region to critically discuss signs of concern and hope over democratic politics in Asia.


Nicole Curato

Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance, University of Canberra

Dr Nicole Curato is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra. She holds Australian Research Council's Discovery Early Career Research Fellowship for her work on participatory politics in post-disaster Philippines. She is the Editor of the Duterte Reader: Critical Essays on Rodrigo Duterte's Early Presidency (Ateneo de Manila University Press/Cornell University Press).

Niraja Gopahl Jayal

Professor for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Behru University, New Delhi

Niraja Gopal Jayal is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her book Citizenship and Its Discontents (Harvard University Press, 2013) won the Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Prize of the Association of Asian Studies in 2015. She is also the author of Representing India: Ethnic Diversity and the Governance of Public Institutions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) and Democracy and the State: Welfare, Secularism and Development in Contemporary India (OUP, 1999). She has co-edited The Oxford Companion to Politics in India, and is the editor/co-editor of, among others, Democracy in India (OUP, 2001) and Local Governance in India: Decentralisation and Beyond (OUP 2005). She is currently working on a book on the decline of the public university in India. She has held visiting appointments at, among others, King’s College, London; the EHESS, Paris; Princeton University; and the University of Melbourne. In 2009, she delivered the Radhakrishnan Memorial Lectures at All Souls College, Oxford. She was Vice-President of the American Political Science Association in 2011-12.

Edward Aspinall

Professor in the Department of Political and Social Change, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University

Edward Aspinall is a Professor in the Department of Political and Social Change, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University. He researches politics in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, with interests in democratisation, ethnicity, and clientelism, among other topics. He has authored two books, Opposing Suharto: Compromise, Resistance and Regime Change in Indonesia (Stanford University Press, 2005), and Islam and Nation: Separatist Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia (Stanford University Press, 2009) and co-edited ten others, the most recent being Electoral Dynamics in Indonesia: Money Politics, Patronage and Clientelism (National University of Singapore Press, 2016). He has also published about sixty journal articles and book chapters, most on aspects of Indonesian politics, and is the co-series editor of the Asian Studies Association of Australia’s Southeast Asia Publications book series with National University of Singapore Press.

Alisa Gaunder

Professor of political science at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas

Alisa Gaunder received her doctorate in political science, specializing in comparative politics and Japan, from the University of California, Berkeley in 2001. Her research interests include comparative political leadership, campaign finance reform in Japan and the United States and women in politics. She is the author of Political Reform in Japan: Leadership Looming Large (Routledge 2007) and the editor of The Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics (Routledge 2011). Her current research focuses on the obstacles that face women running for national office in Japan.


Aim Sinpeng

Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

Aim’s research interests centre on the relationships between digital media, political participation and political regimes in Southeast Asia. She is the co-founder of the Sydney Cyber Security Network and a Thailand country coordinator for the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. Aim has served as the Expert Contributor for Varieties of Democracy and Bartelsmann Transformation Index, which measure degrees and types of democracy, and is currently a Research Associate of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. Aim is also a regular commentator on Southeast Asian politics for the ABC, SBS, CBC, Channel News Asia, Al Jazeera, CNBC and Sky News.

No part of the planet will escape the impacts of climate change – not only the physical impacts, but the related impacts on knowledge, power, and governance. This roundtable will explore the implications of climate change for Asia, with a particular focus on the meaning of such change, how it impacts both livelihoods and knowledge systems, and the range of potential public responses – from elite and top-down to more bottom-up designs for ‘solidaristic flourishing’. 


Ann Hill

Assistant Professor of Education, University of Canberra

Dr. Hill is a Human Geographer and Diverse Economies scholar by training with specific interests in collective ethics and methods for living in a climate and resource-changing world. She is a member of the Community Economies Collective and a founding member of the Community Economies Research Network, both of which are international cross-disciplinary networks of academic and lay-researchers committed to diverse economic theory and practice. 

Phil Hirsch

Emeritus Professor of Human Geography, University of Sydney

Prof Hirsch specialises in natural resource management, rural change and the politics of environment in Southeast Asia. Phil leads the Mekong Research Group, which carries out engaged and collaborative research on a range of natural resource governance, livelihood and development themes in the Mekong region. He has been working on and in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia since the early 1980s.

Fiona Miller

Senior Lecturer in Geography and Planning, Macquarie University

Fiona Miller conducts research on the social and equity dimensions of environmental change in the Asia Pacific, notably Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as Australia. She has applied and theoretically-informed knowledge of society-environment relations, specialising in social vulnerability, society-water relations, resilience, adaptation and social impact assessment.

Paul Routledge

Professor of Contentious Politics and Social Change, University of Leeds

Prof Routledge’s research interests include critical geopolitics, climate change, social justice, civil society, the environment, and social movements. He has long-standing research interests concerning development, environment and the practices of social movements in the Global South, particularly South Asia and Southeast Asia, and in the Global North. In particular, his research has been concerned with two key areas of interest: the spatiality of social movements in the Global South and Global North; and the practical, political and ethical challenges of scholar activism.

Sophie Webber

Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Sydney

Dr Webber is a human geographer, who conducts research about the political economies of climate change and international development assistance, principally in South East Asia and the Pacific region. In particular, Sophie studies how 'truth' (knowledge claims and expertise), 'capital' (financial flows and investments), and policy packages structure relations between the minority and majority worlds.


David Schlosberg

Professor of Environmental Politics and Co-Director of the Sydney Environmental Institute, University of Sydney

Professor Schlosberg’s work focuses on environmental political theory, environmental and climate justice, climate adaptation planning and policy, and contemporary environmental movements. His current book project is on sustainable materialism, or the environmentalism of the practices of everyday life.

Tobacco kills 7 million people a year around the world, with over 87% of premature deaths from tobacco-related disease occurring in low and middle-income countries. Asia remains a market stronghold for the tobacco industry, with over half of the world's smokers living in the Asia-Pacific and over 121 million smokers in Southeast Asia alone.

The entry into force of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005 has accelerated countries' efforts to combat the tobacco epidemic in the region, in the face of the tobacco industry's aggressive campaign to undermine tobacco control policies.

This roundtable will discuss the key challenges facing tobacco control in the region, given the history of tobacco industry influence, current economic and social barriers, and the relevance of the FCTC in addressing health and development challenges in the era of the sustainable development goals.


Jessica Dunn

Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology, Sydney

In partnership with Dr Alexandra Crosby, Director of Interdisciplinary Design at UTS, Jessica brings UTS design students to Indonesia for an annual Global Design Studio that focuses on exploring some of Indonesia's most wicked problems. In recent years, Alexandra and Jessica have partnered with Vital Strategies (formerly the World Lung Foundation) to collaborate on highly localised design activism events that bring attention to the actions of tobacco corporations in Indonesia, how these actions exploit youth culture, and the long-term detrimental effects this has on the health and economy of Indonesia's people. Jessica is a PhD candidate in Design Innovation at the University of Sydney.

Aua-Aree Engchanil

Assistant Professor from Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Aua-aree earned her LL.B. from Thammasat University in Thailand before receiving her LL.M. and Ph.D. in Public Law (Public Finances) from University of Paul Cézanne (Aix-Marseille III) France. Her academic interests include public finance, rights and equality, and public health law. At Chulalongkorn University, she teaches courses in public law, for example Public Economic Law, Election Law, Seminar on Constitutional Law and Public Finances. She also has been appointed to be a legal consultant of Tobacco Control Bureau, Ministry of Public Health. Currently, she is the Associate Dean.

Becky Freeman

Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health, University of Sydney

Dr Becky Freeman is an early career researcher at the School of Public Health, University of Sydney. With fourteen years of experience working in the tobacco control field she is well versed in program and policy best practice. Dr Freeman was awarded her PhD, titled Tobacco control 2.0: Studies on the relevance of online media to tobacco control, in July 2011. As part of her PhD, she was the first researcher to publish papers on tobacco product promotions through the online social media websites YouTube and Facebook. Dr freeman is an established authority on the potential of the Internet to circumvent tobacco advertising bans and have pioneered research methods in tracking and analysing online social media content. She is also the Associate Editor of New Media for the international journal, Tobacco Control.

Evita Ricafort

Regional Coordinator for Asia, McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer

Evita Ricafort is the Regional Coordinator for Asia of the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, an organization based at Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. Evita’s work covers law and non-communicable diseases, with a focus on tobacco control. She leads the components of the McCabe Centre’s capacity-building programs pertaining to Asian countries in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia regions and provides technical support to governments. Evita has worked in public health policy development for over eight years and has experience in policymaking and public interest litigation to protect and promote law reform. Evita is based in Manila, Philippines.

Postgraduate engagement

The ASAA conference 2018 included a postgraduate workshop that focused on networking and getting a job in academia. The workshop took place on Monday 2 July 2018 and was led by the ASAA Postgraduate Representative, Ms Natali Pearson. 

Conference committee members