SSEAC Stories podcasts

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Catch up on some of the best talks on Southeast Asia!

Politics in Action 2024: Singapore Update

Dr Kenneth Paul Tan discusses the political situation in Singapore

Politics in Action is an annual forum in which invited experts provided an analysis of the current political situation in Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam, and discussed the broader implications of events in these countries for the region. After the event, each of the six speakers sat for a podcast to chat with Dr Natali Pearson and delve further into the political situation of their respective countries. In this podcast the presenter of the Laos update, Dr Kennth Paul Tan, discusses the political situation in Singapore. Kenneth Paul Tan is a tenured Professor of Politics, Film and Cultural Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. He teaches courses at the Academy of Film and Department of Government and International Studies, and conducts interdisciplinary research at the School of Communication, Global Communication and Power Research Cluster, and Smart Society Lab. His most recent books include Asia in the Old and New Cold Wars: Ideologies, Narratives, and Lived Experiences (Palgrave MacMillan, 2023), Movies to Save Our World: Imagining Poverty, Inequality and Environmental Destruction in the 21st Century (Penguin, 2022) and Singapore’s First Year of COVID-19: Public Health, Immigration, the Neoliberal State, and Authoritarian Populism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) He was the founding chair of the Asian Film Archive’s Board of Directors and the chair of the Board of Directors of theatre company, The Necessary Stage.

Politics in Action 2024: Laos Update

Dr Kesone Kanhalikham discusses the political situation in Laos

Politics in Action is an annual forum in which invited experts provided an analysis of the current political situation in Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam, and discussed the broader implications of events in these countries for the region. After the event, each of the six speakers sat for a podcast to chat with Dr Natali Pearson and delve further into the political situation of their respective countries. In this podcast the presenter of the Laos update, Dr Kesone Kanhalikham, discusses the political situation in Laos. Dr Kesone Kanhalikham is the Deputy Head of Division of the National University of Laos Council, Office of Post- graduate Studies, National University of Laos. She is also a lecturer in the International Development Studies Master program. Her primary areas of interest are development studies in urbanisation in Laos, urban-geography, livelihood adaptation, resilience and urban-environment, and the regionalisation of development in the Mekong sub-region. She has researched on urbanisation, foreign direct investment and the Laos-China Railway, and has promoted the intersection between social science and development. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering from the National University of Laos, and a doctorate in social science from Chiang Mai University.

Politics in Action 2024: Vietnam Update

Mr Layton Pike discusses the political situation in Vietnam

Politics in Action is an annual forum in which invited experts provided an analysis of the current political situation in Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam, and discussed the broader implications of events in these countries for the region. After the event, each of the six speakers sat for a podcast to chat with Dr Natali Pearson and delve further into the political situation of their respective countries. In this podcast the presenter of the Vietnam update, Mr Layton Pike, who spoke on behalf of the Australia Vietnam Policy Institute at Politics in Action, discusses the political situation in Vietnam. Layton Pike has been Executive Director, International at RMIT University since December 2022, overseeing the university’s global strategy and partnerships in the Asia Pacific region. Previously he was the Chief Global Adviser and Director Global Strategy at RMIT where he played a key role in enhancing the institution’s international engagement. Mr Pike co-founded the Australia Vietnam Policy Institute in 2022, a pioneering public policy hub fostering collaboration and impact in the Australia-Vietnam relationship. His expertise spans policy, development cooperation and legal affairs, supported by his legal qualifications and memberships in advisory boards. He also contributes to the University of Melbourne and the Australia Vietnam Young Leadership Dialogue.

Politics in Action 2024: Indonesia Update

Ms Navhat Nuraniyah discusses the political situation in Indonesia

Politics in Action is an annual forum in which invited experts provided an analysis of the current political situation in Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam, and discussed the broader implications of events in these countries for the region. After the event, each of the six speakers sat for a podcast to chat with Dr Natali Pearson and delve further into the political situation of their respective countries. Navhat (Nava) Nuraniyah is a PhD scholar at the Department of Political and Social Change, Australian National University. Her doctoral research focuses on how Islamist opposition groups in Indonesia respond to political repression and its broader implications for democratic decline. She was previously an analyst at the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), where she researched extensively on violent extremism, communal conflict and Islamist activism in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Prior to that, she was a researcher at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She has been published in academic journals and media such as Terrorism and Political Violence, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, The New York Times, and Sydney Morning Herald.

Building a More Inclusive Society: Disability and Work in Timor-Leste

What does an inclusive society look like? And what are the challenges and opportunities when the society in question, Timor-Leste, is one of the most resource-constrained in Southeast Asia?

This podcast's guest is interested in these questions of inclusion and participation, and argues that people with a disability are a key component of a truly inclusive society – and that employment can be a key policy lever for inclusion. With Timor-Leste recently ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), now is the time, she says, for building an evidence base for employment as a foundational right that has transformational potential not only for people with disability but for the broader community. Dr Kim Bulkeley from the Faculty of Medicine and Health joins Dr Natali Pearson to share the work she is doing ion disability and work in Timor-Leste. Dr Kim Bulkeley is a Co-head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for strengthening rehabilitation capacity in health systems, senior lecturer in the Sydney School of Health Sciences and a stream leader in the Centre for Disability Research and Policy.

Women’s Experiences of Workplace Gender-based Violence and Harassment in Cambodia’s Construction Industry

What is required to address the issues of gender based violence and harrassment effectively?

In Cambodia, the government and civil society organisations have paid significant attention to Gender-based Violence and Harassment, within both the domestic sphere and, increasingly, in the workplace context. A major driver behind this increased scrutiny of GBVH issues is the presence of international donors in Cambodia, and an expectation that international norms will be implemented in-country through policies and actions. Whilst greater attention of GBVH in Cambodia is both needed and welcome, there is also the question of how to address these issues effectively. Guests Professor Michele Ford and Vichhra Mouyly argue, to effectively eliminate GBVH from the workplace, we need to closely examine the way work is organised and controlled – to look at the day-to-day interactions on the production floor, and how the way in which work is managed contributes to the incidence of GBVH. They’re thinking about these issues in the context of Cambodia’s construction industry, and share their research on women’s experiences of GBVH in this sector.

Financial Access and Socio-Economic Development in Indonesia

How to generate economic participation in the world's largest Muslim country

Globally, 1.4 billion people are considered to be “financially excluded,” meaning they cannot safely access appropriate and affordable financial services. Muslim communities have particularly high levels of financial exclusion – for example, Muslim-majority countries have 24% lower participation rates in active borrowing from banks, and 29% lower rates of bank account ownership compared to other countries. In Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority country, the vast majority of financial enterprises are classified as small to medium enterprises and lack access to capital in the same way as larger corporations. President Joko Widodo has actively sought to promote Islamic finance-based development initiatives, through both grassroots support of Islamic microfinance as well as top-down policy support. Dr Tanvir Uddin is founder & CEO of Wholesum, an impact-focused investment platform that enables investors to support socio-economic development through a global portfolio of small and medium-sized enterprise and microfinance financing. He joins SSEAC Stories to discuss financial access and socio-economic development in Indonesia.

Bacterial Pathogens and Aquaculture

Use of Bacteriophages as Natural Antimicrobials to Manage Bacterial Pathogens in Aquaculture in Vietnam and Australia

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing protein production industry globally, with Vietnam one of the top producers and exporters of seafood products. In Vietnam, aquaculture is seen as a means of protecting rural livelihoods threatened by the consequences of climate change on agriculture. But climate change also drives the emergence of marine bacterial pathogens, causing considerable losses to aquaculture production. Traditionally, pathogen blooms have been treated with antimicrobials – but this has resulted in the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance in aquaculture settings. So how can we combat these bacterial pathogens without fostering antimicrobial resistance whilst also continuing to produce the seafood needed to meet the world’s protein needs? Dr Carola Venturini is an expert research microbiologist and lecturer at the Sydney School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Sydney. Her work investigates solutions to the crisis posed by the global rise in antimicrobial resistance in bacteria causing severe infections, with a particular focus on One Health/One World approaches. Her primary research areas are anti-microbial resistance transmission routes and mechanisms, impact of antibiotic use on gut health, and the design of bacteriophage-based applications against multidrug resistant pathogens, including in aquaculture settings in Australia and Vietnam.

Kawi Culture

Exploring Indonesia’s Classical Civilisation

Have you ever heard of Kawi? Much of what is considered “classical” in Indonesian history, such as the Borobudur temple complex or the kingdom of Majapahit, is a product of Kawi Culture. In fact, Indonesian society emerged from the ancient traditions of Kawi Culture, which stretch back over a thousand years. The symbols and ideas of Kawi Culture continue to define Indonesian identity, such as in Javanese wayang, Balinese temples, and even the national motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, which is quoted from a Kawi poem. So what is Kawi, and why is it the classical civilisation no one has heard of? To answer these questions, Dr Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan, joins Dr Natali Pearson. Jarrah is a historian who specialises in the premodern history of Indonesia. He has written and spoken widely on the history of Indonesia and Malaysia. His current research focusses on the development of social institutions and state formation in eighth- to tenth-century Java.

Anti-Microbial Resistance in Cambodia

SSEAC Cambodia Field School

In the last of our five special podcasts about from the recent SSEAC field schools to Southeast Asia, we will be hearing from students and staff from the field school to Cambodia, which looked anti-microbial resistance (AMR). This field school was offered to students from medical sciences, pharmacy, arts, international relations, media and communications, science, public health, vet science, and social work. Leaders Justin Beardsley and Leanne Howie are joined by two University of Sydney students – Sam and Alannah. The students consider many of the important aspects of their experience including: the value of transdisciplinary research, challenges, learnings, cultural differences and navigating these with sensitivity, and gaining insights into their own educational experience by moving outside their usual environment.

Disability and Work

SSEAC Timor Leste Field School

In the fourth of five special podcasts about from the recent SSEAC field schools to Southeast Asia, we will be hearing from students and staff from the field school to Timor Leste, which looked at disability and work. This field school was offered to students from health sciences, psychology, and social work. Leader Natali Pearson is joined by co-leader, Kim Bulkeley, and two University of Sydney students – Rosie and Alana. The students consider many of the important aspects of their experience including: what it’s like to meet a head of state, the value of learning transdisciplinary research methods, managing cultural differences, and gaining insights into their own educational experience and culture by moving outside their usual environment.

Disaster Risk and Resilience

SSEAC Philippines Field School

In the third of five special podcasts about from the recent SSEAC field schools to Southeast Asia, we will be hearing from students and staff from the field school to the Philippines, which looked at disaster risk and resilience. This field school was offered to students from Engineering, Architecture and Anthropology. Leader Aaron Opdyke is joined by co-leader, Emily Nabong, and two University of Sydney students – Oli and Sophia. The students consider many of the important aspects of their experience including flexibility in research goals, managing change, the value of transdisciplinary research, cultural differences and navigating these with sensitivity, and gaining insights into their own educational experience by moving outside their usual environment.

Social Justice

SSEAC Indonesia Field School

In the second of five special podcasts about from the recent SSEAC field schools to Southeast Asia, we will be hearing from students and staff from the field school to Indonesia, which looked at social justice. This field school was offered to students from law, political economy, geography, gender and cultural studies, Indonesian studies, and Asian studies. Leader Sonja van Wichelen is joined by co-leader, Dadung Muktiono, and two University of Sydney students – Bella and Sam. The students reflect on their learning, how to interact with the task at hand and research using methods from different disciplines, understanding the value of considering and applying the approach of students from faculties they don’t usually interact with, all while seeking to meet the needs of the local culture and situation The students consider many of the important aspects of their experience including: the value of transdisciplinary research, challenges, learnings, cultural differences and navigating these with sensitivity, and gaining insights into their own educational experience by moving outside their usual environment.

COVID Vaccination Rollout

SSEAC Singapore Field School

In the first of five special podcasts hearing from the recent SSEAC field schools to Southeast Asia, we will be talking with students and staff from the field school to Singapore, which was looking at the COVID Vaccination Rollout. This field school was offered to students from Pharmacy, Geography, International Relations and Health and Medical Sciences. Natali Pearson is joined by co-leader, Hoi Kay, and two University of Sydney students – Celia and Jie-Rui. The students consider many of the important aspects of their experience including: the value of transdisciplinary research, challenges, learnings, cultural differences and navigating these with sensitivity, and gaining insights into their own educational experience by moving outside their usual environment.

Working Children

The Luxury and Complexity of Childhood in Lombok, Indonesia

The International Labour Organization estimates that in Southeast Asia there are 30 million children engaged in paid work, 17 million in engaged in unpaid work and 50 million who don’t attend school. These figures can be a shock to people living in countries like Australia where childhood is typically a non-productive stage of life more readily associated with schooling and dependence on adults. What is the meaning of “childhood” in contexts of adversity where if you don’t work as a child, you and your family won’t survive? What does it mean where to attend school is to place your family in a precarious financial situation? To discuss these questions is Dr Maria Amigó, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney. Maria is a social anthropologist and has studied children and childhood in contexts of adversity for over 20 years.

Inequality as a Leading Cross-Cutting Development Issue: Indonesia and Beyond

Commentary from Zulfan Tadjoeddin

Inequality has always been key to understanding Indonesia’s development. But this is a multidimensional issue, and one that has manifested in vastly different ways in Indonesia over the years: from low and stable inequality, to the aspiration to inequality, to the relationship between inequality and collective violence. The way we understand inequality is contingent on what objects (of inequality) we are looking at, how it is conceptualised, and how it is measured. Zulfan Tadjoeddin, Associate Professor in Development Studies at Western Sydney University (WSU) shares the thinking he has on these issues. Inequality has been central to Zulfan’s research on political economy of development, about which he has published two books.

Why Consumers Choose Private Over Public Health Services in Vietnam

Reflective Accounts of Health Providers in Vietnam with Dr Mai Nguyen

Demographic changes, rise in disposable income, and steady economic growth has led to a growing demand for healthcare services in Vietnam. But the public healthcare system struggles to meet the diverse healthcare needs of the Vietnamese population. Within this context, the private sector in Vietnam fills an important gap left by the public sector. Today’s guest is interested in why consumers choose private over public health services in Vietnam, and in particular, the social factors that influence these choices, including word of mouth referrals, the patient-doctor relationship, the behaviour of healthcare staff, and marketing. To discuss these issues is Dr Mai Nguyen, a public health specialist with the Ministry of Health in Vietnam. Mai was a SSEAC Writing Fellow in 2022, and her article looked at how public and private healthcare providers interact with consumers to affect their choices.

Is Laos a Criminal State?

Kearrin Sims on the Current Status of Laos

There is a growing list of human rights abuses and acts of violence against those who have sought to promote political transparency and freedom in Laos. Laos has long been an authoritarian state with no tolerance for public criticism. Increasingly, however, it appears to be also becoming a criminal state, where corrupt elites have enmeshed themselves within the state apparatus for the purpose of accumulating wealth. To discuss whether Laos is now a criminal state, Dr Kearrin Sims, Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at James Cook University, joins Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories. Dr Sims researches the politics of development and regional connectivity within Mainland Southeast Asia, with a focus on ethical and inclusive development. His recent work examines the intersections between extractive development, criminality, and human rights.

Agricultural Shocks and Social Conflict in Southeast Asia

A Discussion with David Ubilava

In lower–income economies, a small change in people’s wellbeing may trigger a suite of behavioral responses, some of which may be unlawful as well as violent. In regions with high agricultural dependence, conflict can be linked with harvest-time windfalls. Agriculture is a crucial sector for employment and income generation in South East Asia, where poverty is relatively high, and civil conflict and social unrest have been defining features of the region’s politics. Associate Professor of Economics David Ubilava discusses harvest time violence and why this is occurring in South East Asia.

Locating Human Dignity in Cambodia

Prospects for Human Rights Education

The concept of human dignity is a foundational one within human rights discourses, and is commonly used in the context of human rights and sustainable development policies and programs. But the meaning of ‘human dignity’, and its role, have seldom been interrogated rigorously or systematically. Instead, there exists a widespread presumption of universality, despite growing evidence that the concept of human dignity can be understood in profoundly different ways in different socio-cultural and political settings. Dr Rachel Killean and Dr Natali Pearson discuss human dignity in Cambodia, and prospects for human rights education. Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

The Politics of Ethnicity in the Malay World

A Discussion with Tom Pepinsky

Malaysia is a classic example of a plural society, with a diverse population consisting of the indigenous peoples, collectively called bumiputera, and the descendants of immigrant populations from southern China, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe. In this multi-ethnic context, the question of identity, notably of Malay identity, has remained elusive and open to varying interpretations. Professor Tom Pepinsky contends that identity is not set in stone, but is emergent, situational and contingent. Focusing on the concept of ethnic identity in Malaysia, he argues that in contemporary Malaysia, the Malay identity is a socially constructed identity. To put it in simple terms, Malays did not make Malaysia; Malaysia made Malays.

Social Media Influencers and Digital Media Regulation in Vietnam

A discussion with Jonathon Hutchinson

In 2021, a famous Vietnamese businesswoman hosted a three-hour long Facebook livestream, in which she named and shamed celebrities for their controversial public behaviours. The case marked a turning point in Vietnam, forcing the government to contend with growing political activity in the online environment, and prompting new digital media regulation. Dr Jonathon Hutchinson joins SSEAC Stories to discuss this case and other examples of online socio-political activism in Vietnam, reflecting on the tension between social media influencing and digital media regulation, and highlighting its potential positive and negative effects.

A New Hope?

Japanese Retirement Migration to Malaysia

In post-growth Japan, some people are looking to Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia, as a source of new hope. A notable change in the recent pattern of global migration is the movement of people within Asia. Previous studies on Asian migration have mostly considered the movement of people from Asia to Europe and North America. Yet in recent years, countries in Asia have emerged as major receiving sites of intra-regional migration. Dr Shiori Shakuto takes a closer look at Japanese retirement migration to Malaysia, revealing some of the motivations for inter-Asian migration, and what that might tell us about their hopes and dreams for a different kind of life.

Shaping Civilisations: The Sea in Asian History

The ocean is more connective device than barrier, bringing together diverse topics, time-periods and geographies. It has linked and connected the various littorals of Asia into a segmented, yet at the same time, a unitary circuit over roughly the past 500 years since the so-called age of contact initiated a quickening of patterns and engagements that already existed. But despite the centrality of the maritime domain, there hasn’t really been a single study looking at Asia’s seas through a broad macro-lens. Drawing from his latest book, In Asian Waters: Oceanic Worlds from Yemen to Yokohama (Princeton University Press, 2022), Professor Eric Tagliocozzo provides a sweeping account of how the seas and oceans of Asia have shaped the region’s history for the past half millennium, leaving an indelible mark on the modern world in the process.

Making Sense of the 2022 General Elections in Malaysia

On 9 November 2022, Malaysia held its 15th General Elections. These elections took place within an unprecedentedly open and fragmented political landscape. Instead of the usual two main coalitions contending as frontrunners, Malaysia now has three main coalitions: Barisan Nasional (BN), Pakatan Harapan (PH), and Perikatan Nasional (PN). Not one of these coalitions won enough seats to form government, and it was only after much jockeying around that Pakatan Harapan, led by Anwar Ibrahim, was able to cobble together enough support to form the so-called unity government. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Azmil Tayeb unpacks Malaysia’s recent elections and its evershifting political landscape, discussing the return of ethnoreligious political parties, the future of coalition politics and the unexpected voting patterns of young Malaysian voters.

The ‘Domino Effect’

Global and Regional Climate Change Impacts on Food Supply Chains

There is a complex relationship between climate change and food systems. Food supply chains – in particular food transportation – result in global greenhouse gas emissions, and these emissions are known to be a driving force underlying climate change. But it also works the other way. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Arunima Malik discusses the wide-ranging impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on global regional food systems and supply chains, identifying potential cascading repercussions including job and income loss as well as a loss in nutrient availability and diet quality.

Safe and Sound?

On the Intersection of Child Protection and Child and Youth Residential Care in the Philippines

In the Philippines, unknown numbers of children are in institutional care. Commonly known as residential care or orphanages, these institutions have been established to fill a social welfare gap, and to better support child welfare and protection efforts. But what are the implications for the children in these institutions, and what does this system tell us about the monetisation of their welfare? Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Steven Roche discusses the risks to children’s safety and wellbeing when placed in unsuitable youth residential care institutions, and what policy changes are necessary to ensure child wellbeing and welfare in institutional care.

Public Participation and Contested Hydropower Development in the Mekong River Basin

Regional demand for renewable hydropower from the Mekong River and its tributaries in Laos is on the rise. In June 2022, Laos exported one hundred megawatts of hydropower to Singapore via Thailand and Malaysia – a historic milestone that further establishes Laos as the battery of Asia. However, these developments take place amid rising concerns for the ecological future of the transboundary Mekong River and the millions of people who depend on it. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Ming Li Yong exposes how further hydropower development on the Mekong River could negatively affect ecosystems, resulting in decreased food security and jeopardising livelihoods in the river basin. She also discusses processes of public consultation and how they fail to consider local communities’ opinions on these contested projects.

Sustainable Peatland Management and Transboundary Haze in Southeast Asia

How Indonesia can play a crucial role

Indonesian citizens, and those of neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, have long suffered recurring haze pollution caused by peatland fires in Indonesia. To avoid these forest fires, and reduce the environmental harm and negative health impacts that transboundary haze gives rise to, Indonesia needs to restore its degraded peatlands. President Joko Widodo started this task in 2016 when he established the Peatland Restoration Agency, tasked with rehabilitating 2 million hectares of degraded peatland. What has this ad hoc body achieved since then, and where will it go from here? In this episode, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Dr Rini Astuti to discuss why peatland fires are a particularly acute issue in Southeast Asia, and how Indonesia can play a crucial role in effectively mitigating transboundary haze in the region.

Civil Society, Capitalism, and Political Regimes in Southeast Asia

A Discussion with Garry Rodan

Working on Southeast Asia, one thing we tend to hear a lot of is the notion that civil society is shrinking, and that authoritarianism is on the rise. In fact the rise of anti-democratic and anti-liberal forces and ideas seems to be on the rise around the world, not just in the region. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Professor Garry Rodan argues that contrary to popular claims, civil society is not generally shrinking in Southeast Asia. It is instead transforming, resulting in important shifts in the influences that can be exerted through it. Drawing from his book Civil Society in Southeast Asia: Power Struggles and Political Regimes (Cambridge University Press, 2022), he argues that political and ideological differences in Southeast Asia have sharpened as anti-democratic and anti-liberal social forces compete with democratic and liberal elements in civil society.

Ethics, Utopia and Materiality

Glimpses of Everyday Creativity and Hope in Indonesian Papua

The Asmat are an indigenous people of Indonesian Papua and are renowned for their artistic carving flair and complex life-cycle rituals. They also have big ambitions that reach as far as the Vatican. Over the past five decades, pressures from the state, religious authorities, and the global art market, have led to profound cultural changes and a widespread sense of predicament, dysphoria and disempowerment among the Asmat. In this episode of SSEAC Stories, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Dr Roberto Costa to discuss the social changes experienced by the Asmat people, and the material and ethical alternatives they are developing in response to a wide range of socio-cultural, religious, and ecological predicaments. 📷 Photograph taken by Dr Roberto Costa of Asmat artist Daniel Ayas holding up Roberto's beautifully carved violin.

Social Media and Political Participation in the Philippines

We are all familiar with the spread of disinformation on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. But just when we thought we’d seen the worst of it, along comes TikTok. What started out as an app for dance challenges and musical duets has, in recent times, emerged as one of the most concerning tools for amplifying political propaganda and lies. What does this mean in a country like the Philippines, where there are more than 89 million social media users? Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Assistant Professor Maria Elize Mendoza analyses the influential role of social media in Philippine political affairs, revealing intricate webs of disinformation, propaganda, and citizen mobilisation, with colossal political ramifications.

Material Matters

Reflections on the History of Settlement Development Across Mainland Southeast Asia

Despite decades of research into the historic settlements of Mainland Southeast Asia, our understanding of the region’s long-term settlement history remains incomplete. We know, for example, that mainland Southeast Asia was home to the world’s most extensive pre-industrial low-density urban complex at the site of Greater Angkor in Cambodia – but we don’t know how the site, and its low-density configuration, fits within the broader settlement history of the region. Yet understanding these settlement histories is important not only for understanding what happened in the past, but also for how we interpret settlement patterns developing across the region today. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Ben Dharmendra takes us on a journey spanning millennia to explore the long-term history of settlement development across Mainland Southeast Asia.

Vietnam and China

Strange Bedfellows in the Era of Strategic Competition

As the Asia-Pacific becomes the central stage of the US-China rivalry, Vietnam has emerged as one of the key countries to watch. While Vietnam has positioned itself as a critical player in the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy, and Hanoi’s distrust of China has grown in response to Beijing’s increasingly aggressive stance in the South China Sea, the Vietnam-China relationship transcends mere geopolitical binaries. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Nguyen Khac Giang discusses Vietnam and China’s complex relationship, reflecting on the intimate ideological links, economic dependency, and security concerns that link the two countries. He discusses some of the key strategic challenges faced by Vietnam, how they can be negotiated, and whether it is possible for Hanoi to leverage relations with both China and the United States to minimise the potential geo-political risks associated with great power competition.

Edging Towards New Politics?

Reflections on Malaysia’s Democracy after GE14

After decades of authoritarian rule by the Barisan Nasional coalition, a new alliance, Pakatan Harapan, was voted in in 2018, marking Malaysia’s first-ever transfer of federal power through elections in what was widely heralded as the start of a democratic transition. But that new government collapsed within two years, and Malaysian politics has remained unstable ever since. With elections likely to be called soon, what accounts for the remarkable turbulence in Malaysian politics, and what does it say about how regimes are remade? Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Professor Meredith Weiss discusses the state of politics in Malaysia, reflecting on the promises, both fulfilled and broken, brought about by GE14, and, looking to the future, considering ways for Malaysia to continue moving forward.

East Timorese Politics

A New Dawn or Return to Business as Usual?

As the newest nation in Southeast Asia, Timor-Leste has been independent for just over 20 years. Timor-Leste is regularly ranked the most democratic nation in the region, and since reclaiming independence in May 2002, the country’s political situation has grown increasingly complex, with the emergence of new parties, new coalitions and new leaders. Yet the recent presidential election in April 2022 delivered the return of a familiar face: Jose Ramos-Horta, once an activist in exile, and now President of Timor-Leste for a second time with the powerful backing of politician Xanana Gusmão. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Professor Michael Leach analyses the implications of Jose Ramos-Horta’s return to the presidency in Timor-Leste, exposing two fundamental competing trends in national politics. On the one hand, the recent electoral campaign was testament to the dynamism of Timorese politics, with a broader field of candidates vying for the presidency. On the other, the ballots laid bare the continuing influence of the 1975 generation of male politicians on national politics. Looking forward, Professor Leach reflects on the significance of these results for the parliamentary elections to be held in early 2023.

Opposing Power

Building Opposition Alliances in Electoral Autocracies

On 9 May 2018, an ideologically diverse opposition alliance called Pakatan Harapan (PH) defeated the long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition which had dominated politics in Malaysia since the 1980s. This was the first regime change in Malaysia’s history. This outstanding development was shortly followed by a series of defections culminating in the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government in February 2020, after just 22 months in power. A new government was sworn in in March 2020, led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, but only lasted until August 2021, when another new government led by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yakoob was formed. As Malaysia gears up for its 15th general elections to be held in the second half of 2022, Professor Elvin Ong joins Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories to discuss the tumultuous state of Malaysian politics. Drawing on his book Opposing Power: Building Opposition Alliances in Electoral Autocracies (University of Michigan Press, 2022), Professor Ong reflects on the numerous challenges—structural, perceptual, and strategic—that can often undermine the opposition, and offers insights into what may happen at the upcoming ballot in Malaysia.

Reshaping the Politics of Science

Bioscience Governance in Indonesia

The last few years have brought to the fore the brilliant work of scientists as they worked to find a vaccine for Covid-19. But have you ever stopped to think about the role of biological materials in this and other science- and health-related research? In this episode of SSEAC Stories, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Associate Professor Sonja van Wichelen to take a close look at the complex world of global health governance, with a particular focus on biotechnology and bioscience governance in Indonesia. They discuss the crucial role of biological materials exchange for scientific research, what rules govern their use, and the history of inequality that has underpinned scientific use of biological materials. Taking Indonesia’s recent efforts to gain leverage in the uneven space of the global bioeconomy, they explore how bioscience governance mechanisms can perpetuate, or sometimes help address, global power inequalities in the way biological material is used.


Lessons from Singapore on How to Provide Universal Cheap Homeownership

While Australia prides itself on being an egalitarian society, and owning a detached house on fenced block of land plays a much-revered role in the Great Australian Dream, in practice, home ownership remains a luxury afforded to the few. As skyrocketing house prices have gradually locked millions out of the Australian real estate market, economist Dr Cameron Murray turned to our neighbour Singapore to find a solution to the housing affordability crisis. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Cameron Murray reveals how the small Southeast Asian island-state can teach Australia some valuable lessons on universal cheap home ownership. Inspired by Singapore’s successful policies to boost home ownership for 25-34-year-olds from 60 to nearly 90 per cent over the past four decades, he proposes a similar scheme, called HouseMate, that aims to offer home ownership to any eligible buyer who doesn't already own property, at a discounted price.

All Industry is Creative Industry

New Creativity and Innovation Practices in Vietnam

Recent economic development in Vietnam has seen a proliferation of manufacturing. At the same time, Vietnam has embraced creative innovation as part of its move towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Throughout the country, new creativity and innovation practices are emerging. These practices provide a creative outlet, but also connect to bigger themes around industry, wellbeing, productivity, and climate change. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Associate Professor Jane Gavan untangles some of these threads, explaining the relationship between creativity and manufacturing, and reflecting on sustainable, innovative ways of raising productivity and valuing creativity in Vietnam.

Boys Love and Japanese Queer Popular Culture across Southeast Asia

A Conversation with Tom Baudinette

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers across East and Southeast Asia have found themselves turning to Thai soap operas known as “Boys Love series” as a source of comfort and joy. Originally deriving from Japanese comic book culture, Boys Love, or BL, represents just one of many instances where the queer popular culture of Japan has transformed sexual culture in Southeast Asia through the development of new expressions of gender and sexuality. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Thomas Baudinette shines the spotlight on the influence of Japanese queer popular across Southeast Asia, highlighting how, across the region, young consumers – most prominently from sexual minority communities – have been turning away from Western media to draw upon Japanese popular culture in the ongoing search for affirmative representation and tools to not only make sense of their minoritised sexualities, but to also advocate for their emancipation.

Geopolitics in the Mekong Region

The Role of Chinese Energy Politics in Laos and Cambodia

Energy, and who controls it, has emerged as a major issue in Southeast Asia in recent years. Nowhere is this issue more evident than in the Mekong region, where China’s influence on the politics of energy has been steadily on the rise under the umbrella of its Belt and Road Initiative. China’s investments have supported Cambodia in being able to meet its increasing domestic energy demand, and are also helping Laos to fulfil its vision of becoming the ‘battery of Asia’. Meanwhile, renewed US commitment and additional funding to the Mekong region has been welcomed. Nevertheless, whether that translates into viable alternatives to Beijing’s massive trade and investment, and growing influence, remains to be seen. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Andrea Haefner unpacks the role of Chinese energy politics in Laos and Cambodia, and reflects on the impact of the recent economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Politics of Ethnic Integration in Thailand

Following the 2014 military coup in Thailand, major media outlets suggested that the coup could lead to ethnic tensions—and potentially civil war—between the Isan people of northeastern Thailand and the central Thai government. While this civil war never eventuated, there were genuine tensions between the Isan people and the Thai state. In this episode, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Associate Professor Jacob Ricks to discuss why these tensions never escalated into full blown conflict as predicted. Is this a sign that Thailand’s centuries-long effort to integrate diverse ethnic identities has been a success, and what cautionary tales might apply?

Greater Angkor and Global Urbanism

Cambodia is home to Angkor, one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia. Greater Angkor, the capital of the Khmer Empire, was a low-density city that covered about 1000 sq km and was the home of between 750,000 to 900,000 people in the 12th century CE. The urban complex was largely abandoned in the 14th and 15th centuries. Its central 300 sq km is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes the world-famous temple of Angkor Wat, one of humankind’s largest religious monuments which has continued in use to the present day. In this episode, world-renowned archaeologist Professor Roland Fletcher joins Dr Natali Pearson to examine the structure of Angkor’s social and spatial organisation; the way the urban complex operated in its environment. Reflecting on the metropolis’ demise, Roland argues that archaeological study of Angkor can teach us lessons about the vulnerability of modern-day urbanism in a time of increasing climate risk.

China, Buddhism and the Belt and Road Initiative in Mainland Southeast Asia

Launched in 2013 by Chinese President XI Jinping, China’s Belt and Road initiative has manifested throughout Southeast Asia in the form of multibillion dollar investments in transport infrastructure, industrial estates and other forms of “hard” development. This push for trade and hard infrastructure has been accompanied by a surge in various soft power initiatives, including the use of religion as a cultural resource. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Gregory Raymond sheds light on the use of religion, in particular Buddhism, within the great geopolitical strategy of China’s Belt and Road Initiative across mainland Southeast Asia.

Understanding the Drivers of Vaccine Acceptance in Southeast Asia

Vaccines have controlled or even eradicated some of the world’s most serious diseases. Throughout the last century and up until recently with the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of successful vaccines has widely been heralded a triumph to combat devastating virus outbreaks. The success of immunisations, however, has always been limited by issues of public acceptance. Understanding why people are or aren’t vaccinated is crucial to public health responses to diseases like measles and, of course, COVID-19. Many are concerned about the impact of anti-vaccination activism and misinformation on vaccine programs. But is vaccine hesitancy always due to misinformation, and how do we go about measuring it? Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Kerrie Wiley unpacks some of these issues, and discusses the various drivers of vaccine acceptance in Southeast Asia.

Architecture, climatic privilege, and migrant labour in Singapore

Migration and architecture have emerged as a new topic of research at a global level. Migrant worker dormitories in Singapore, for example, are sites where structural inequities in architecture and legal regulations have had a significant impact on the living conditions of migrant workers, and they hit the headlines in 2020 as sites for the rapid spread of COVID. Dr Jennifer Ferng joins Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories to talk about the relationship between architecture and labour, arguing that climate change, capital, and power intersect with the forced displacement of migrants to reinforce existing inequalities of ethnicity, class, and citizenship in Singapore.

For the Love of Translation

A Discussion of King Vajiravudh’s Translations of Western Literature in Early 20th-Century Siam

King Vajiravudh ruled over Siam from 1910 to 1925. He is widely known to Thais as a nationalist king who proposed an essential ‘Thainess’ through his myriad of writings. Yet contrary to popular expectations, King Vajiravudh’s attitude towards the West was nothing short of ambivalent. In fact, King Vajiravudh’s dynamic practice of translating works of Western literature into Thai points to strong bonds of affection towards Great Britain and France in particular. To explore this connection, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Dr Faris Yothasamuth who argues that King Vajiravudh’s fascination with the West and Western discourses heavily influenced his management of the Kingdom of Siam, and in doing so, shaped the country’s national identity.

Where the Wild Things Are

Reimagining the More-Than-Human City

Amidst accelerating environmental change and intense urbanisation, there is growing enthusiasm for building sustainable and ‘natural’ cities. Yet, when a flourishing eco-futuristic urban imaginary is enacted, it is often driven by a specific version of sustainability that is tied to high-tech futurism and persistent economic growth. In a Southeast Asian context, no city or country better encapsulates this than Singapore. But the pursuit of a singular narrative of progress has very specific consequences, particularly when that progress benefits some but not all beings. In this episode, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Dr Jamie Wang to shed more light on the implications of Singapore’s growth fetish, and its implications for humans and non-humans.

Speaking Bones

Unearthing Ancient Stories of Illness and Disease

From mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue to chronic bacterial infections such as yaws, Southeast Asia is home to a wide range of tropical diseases. For a long time, the arrival in the region of these and other dangerous tropical diseases was believed to be connected to the introduction of agriculture. But how long have these diseases really been around for? How are they connected to the region’s fluctuating social and environmental conditions? And how have they impacted the human populations of Southeast Asia over time? Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, bioarchaeologist Dr Melandri Vlok sheds light on the complex science of paleoepidemiology and its use of advanced analytical practices such as DNA ancestry, skeletal studies, and teeth calculus to uncover ancient stories of illness and disease. She explains that far from being mere remnants of the past, archaeological human remains can help us understand the evolution and spread of pathogens, and inform strategies to curb the spread of infectious diseases in human populations.

Export China

Reimagining Chineseness through the Ceramics Trade in Southeast Asia

In 2021, a team of divers sponsored by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute surveyed two historic shipwrecks discovered in the Singapore Strait, working for several months to bring their submerged cargos to the surface. Chinese trade ceramics found in these cargos date their demise to the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries – pivotal moments in the history of the globe-spanning China Trade. The most intriguing aspect of this salvage operation, however, is the discovery in the remains of the older vessel of the most substantial cargo of Yuan-dynasty blue-and-white porcelain yet found in Southeast Asian waters. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Alex Burchmore argues that these discoveries provide valuable insights into the complex interactions between China and Southeast Asia, allowing us to reposition Southeast Asia at the centre of historic trade narratives. Through the international trade of Chinese ceramics, Dr Burchmore invites us to reimagine the past, rethinking traditional narratives of Chineseness across the region, as well as Australia’s identity in the Asia-Pacific. Photo © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Storytelling State

Performing Life Histories in Singapore

Today, oral histories of everyday Singaporeans are more widely circulated in the nation’s mediascape than ever before. At first glance, storytelling in Singapore appears to have lost its monolithic quality, becoming diffuse and diversified. But as Dr Cheng Nien Yuan argues, Singapore has become a Storytelling State, marketing bite-sized pieces of consumable lives as authentic windows to the private self. The result is the use of personal stories within the neoliberal public sphere, mirroring a growing global phenomenon. To tell this story, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Dr Cheng Nien Yuan to discuss her award-winning research that charts Singapore’s development into a storytelling state over the last decade.

Hidden in Plain Sight

How Nalehmu is Disrupting Conventional Power Structures in Myanmar

In April 2021, three months into Myanmar’s most recent and increasingly more violent coup d’état, local residents managed to obstruct the junta by refusing to cooperate with military appointed officials. The junta had attempted to replace all local level administrators with those loyal to the military. But in one town in Shan State, the junta-appointed administrators were socially ostracized by the community to the point of resigning. With no one daring to take their place, every ward administrator position in town went unfilled. Across the country, Myanmar residents supported each other, and striking civil servants, by setting up donations of basic foodstuffs such as rice, oil, and onions. In this episode, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Dr Jayde Lin Roberts to discuss how these locally initiated direct actions are part and parcel of the ordinary practices of everyday life in Myanmar. In providing a space for informal, intimate, and relational economies, nalehmu not only fosters community-building, says Dr Roberts, but it also has the power to disrupt conventional power structures. Photo credit: Marcel Münch via Flickr Find out more in this article:

Shaking the World

How Geology Can Help Us Address the Big Challenges of the 21st Century

Southeast Asia is the most tectonically and geologically active region on Earth. These processes have enriched the mountains and basins with world-famous mineral and energy resources, fresh water, and highly productive soils. However, the same geological processes are responsible for incredible destruction – from the 1991 Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in the Philippines to the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. These natural hazards, coupled with the effects of human-induced climate change, are driving significant change. To talk us through these changes, Dr Sabin Zahirovic joins Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, exposing how climate change is amplifying existing vulnerabilities in Southeast Asia. He explains how understanding past and current geological process can help us reduce risks from natural hazards like earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, but also address the huge challenges faced by growing populations and increased vulnerabilities resulting from climate change.

The Politics of Public Prosecution in Malaysia and the Problem of Corruption

On 16 August 2021, Muhyiddin Yaseen resigned as Prime Minister of Malaysia, with Ismail Sabri Yaakub sworn in as the new Prime Minister a week later, making him Malaysia’s third Prime Minister in two years. This marked the return to power of UMNO, or the United Malays National Organisation, and the graft-tainted coalition that had been ousted from power in 2018. Meanwhile, another former Prime Minister, Najib Razak, is eyeing a return to Parliament, notwithstanding a conviction and 12-year prison sentence for abuse of power and ongoing trials for corruption. His wife Rosmah Mansur is also now facing three corruption charges. Associate Professor Salim Farrar joins Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories to talk about corruption and the politics of public prosecution in Malaysia, surveying the landscape of law and justice in Malaysia now and beyond, through a re-evaluation of Vision 2020.

Wonders of the Mekong

Rethinking Sustainable Development and Resilience in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake

Cambodia’s Tonle Sap is the largest inland lake in Southeast Asia. Each year, during the monsoon, this freshwater lake experiences an incredible hydrological phenomenon, in which it is inundated with swelling waters from the Mekong River, causing it to rise by up to tenfold in some places, before returning to its pre-monsoon level as the dry season returns. But Tonle Sap is facing a triple environmental threat: climate change, the damming of the Mekong River, and over-fishing, with devastating impact not only on the wildlife, but also on local floating village communities. To share more, Dr Josephine Gillespie joins Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories and invites us to rethink global environmental protection regimes in Southeast Asia. Taking Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake as a case-study, she argues that in order to maintain the ecological, cultural, and economic integrity of the most important river and delta system in the world, environmental management projects and policies must take into account people-place dynamics and local livelihoods.

From Animal Rights to Human Rights: Supporting Sustainable Farming Practices to Improve Livelihoods

Human Rights and Research in Southeast Asia Series

For the final episode in the human rights and research podcast series, Dr Thushara Dibley is joined by Emeritus Professor Peter Windsor who brings to light how research improving animal health and production is intrinsically linked to human rights issues. Reflecting on his extensive field-based research on transboundary livestock disease in the Greater Mekong Region, he argues that through training on biosecurity practices, animal vaccination programs and nutritional interventions, rural households were able to prevent disease transmission and increase their livestock productivity, making farm production more sustainable. With higher income levels, local families’ livelihoods were improved. This enables better access to human rights, such as access to safe housing, access to healthcare, and access to knowledge and education, amongst others.

Stepping in to Improve Women’s and Babies’ Lives

Human Rights and Research in Southeast Asia Series

Maternal and child health is the cornerstone of a life lived healthily. Healthy women grow healthy children, who then go on to have healthy children themselves. In resource poor settings, healthy families can influence the wider community. In this episode, Dr Thushara Dibley is joined by Associate Professor Camille Raynes-Greenow to discuss how research focussed on interventions in the (mostly) perinatal period can improve outcomes for women and children. Focusing primarily on Myanmar, Associate Professor Raynes-Greenow highlights the universal appeal of research that aims to improve maternal and newborn health, but also reveals that it can encounter challenges in contexts of severe wealth inequalities and political censorship.

Preserving Local Languages to Protect Cultural and Environmental Rights in Laos

Human Rights and Research in Southeast Asia Series

In the second episode of our Human Rights and Research series, Dr Thushara Dibley talks with Professor Nick Enfield about how the field of linguistics intersects with human rights. They discuss some of the impacts that major hydro-electric dam projects in Laos have had on local communities, not just in changing day-to-day life, but in decreasing interethnic interactions, thereby eroding multiculturalism and multilingualism. In disrupting local indigenous exchanges, Professor Enfield argues that large development projects risk impeding the transmission of significant cultural knowledge, including traditional knowledge of biodiversity and environmental sustainability. The study of languages thus becomes a tool for understanding a broader set of human rights, from cultural to environmental rights.

Grappling with the intersections of academia, advocacy and activism

Human Rights and Research in Southeast Asia Series

For the next four weeks, SSEAC Stories will be hosting a mini-series of podcasts exploring the role that research plays in understanding and advocating for human rights in Southeast Asia. To kick off the series, Dr Thushara Dibley is joined by Human Rights Watch Australia Director Elaine Pearson to discuss the interactions and tensions between academic research and investigation of human rights abuses conducted by human rights advocacy groups such as Human Rights Watch. Elaine Pearson gives an insight into some of the work conducted by Human Rights Watch across the region, highlighting the core role of research not just in understanding the problem, but in informing their advocacy approach to maximise impact. Together they reflect upon the different goals, methodological approaches, and challenges encountered by researchers, and delve into the ways that advocacy groups can break silos between academic research and real-world problems to progress human rights.

Spirits, Development and Chinese (Hydro)power

Ethnographic (Hi)stories from Upland Laos

In the extreme north of Laos, in Phongsali Province, lies a tiny village home to around 24 households. Until recently it was a monoethnic Khmu village. Khmu are autochthonous to northern Laos. Khmu have had a historically ambivalent relationship to the national majority in contemporary Laos. In recent years, Sanjing has also become home to a group of Akha, another ethnic group that have been described as state evaders seeking to avoid lowland politics and who migrated to northern Laos within the last two centuries. This small hamlet is a window into Laos’ march into a particular type of post-colonial modernity, where massive infrastructure projects, interethnic dynamics, spirit beliefs and animistic practices coexist and collide. Dr Paul-David Lutz joined Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories to share the stories of this hamlet, and reflect on the importance of “animist” beliefs and practices in shaping a culturally-specific sense of modernity in the uplands of far-north Laos.

Building Bridges Across the Seas

A Discussion of Australia-Indonesia Cooperation for the Preservation of Underwater Cultural Heritage

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic state, its waters home to hundreds, if not thousands, of shipwrecks. As maritime neighbours with both a common boundary and a shared history, protecting and preserving this maritime heritage is an important element of the Australia-Indonesia relationship. In recent years, government agencies from both countries have cooperated to manage the wreck of HMAS Perth (I), an Australian warship sunk off the coast of Java in World War II. However, efforts to engage the next generation have been limited. For this special episode, Dr Natali Pearson jumps on the other side of the mic and chats with Dr Thushara Dibley about her recent work building links between Indonesia and Australia to increase cooperation for the preservation of underwater cultural heritage. She notably discusses her recent initiative coordinating a capacity-building course in Indonesian maritime archaeology with funding from the Australia Indonesia Institute. Delivered through online learning modules and field site visits, the course brought together students from across the archipelago to learn more about the challenges and opportunities of managing and interpreting underwater cultural heritage in an Indonesian context, and paved the way for future cooperation across the seas to preserve the nation’s wealth of maritime histories.

Homeland Activists Without a Home

Why Proximity and Precarity Matter for Myanmar’s Refugees

February 2021 witnessed yet another military coup in Myanmar. Whether it was unexpected or entirely predictable is, perhaps, a matter of debate. But what is without a doubt different this time around is the way the population of Myanmar has responded, with younger generations in particular taking to social media to call for change, in a bid to avoid the suffering of their parents’ generation. Among those actors pressing for change are members of the diaspora, many of whom spent years in refugee camps and who continue to live proximate to Myanmar. For World Refugee Day, Dr Susan Banki joins Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories to discuss the political mobilisation of refugee and migrant populations from Myanmar seeking to enact change in their home country, arguing that the physical proximity of these diaspora communities is key to their empowerment, but has, until now, been relatively unexplored. Photo credit: UN Women/Allison Joyce via Flickr

Connectivity and Displacement in Laos

Exploring Intersectional Infrastructure Violence with Dr Kearrin Sims

More than anywhere else in the world, Asia is experiencing an infrastructure boom. Although it is driven by both internal and external factors, this boom has accelerated noticeably as a result of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to extends port, railway and other connections throughout and across Southeast Asia. But what is the cost of this aggressive infrastructure development? What do we know about the people and places that are negatively impacted by these large-scale projects? In Laos, the government has placed enormous emphasis on infrastructure expansion as a mechanism for driving economic growth and poverty alleviation. Yet this infrastructure rollout has come at severe social and environmental costs. Dr Kearrin Sims joins Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories to discuss how these large-scale infrastructure projects have led to increased political oppression and the repeated displacement of local communities in Laos.

Exploring the Diasporic Imagination in Recent Indonesian Popular Novels and Films (2000-2020)

A Discussion with David Reeve

Since 2000, there has been a boom in Indonesian popular novels and films set overseas, showing young Indonesians living in foreign countries and having life changing adventures there. In the last 20 years, there have been at least 150 such novels and films released – many more than in the first 55 years of Indonesian independence. In this episode, Associate Professor David Reeve speaks to Dr Natali Pearson about his latest project looking at Indonesian romance novels and films set overseas, discussing the reasons behind the rise of this literary genre and how it conflicts with the lived experiences of many in the Indonesian diaspora.

Pirates of the South China Sea

A Brief Introduction to Maritime Piracy in Southeast Asia with Professor Justin Hastings

Since the decline of piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa, Southeast Asia has re-emerged as the world’s hotspot for maritime piracy, with 85 reported attacks in the region in 2020 alone. Unlike much of the rest of the world, Southeast Asia has also seen a resurgence of sophisticated maritime piracy, beyond just simple robberies. Yet this recent upsurge in maritime piracy is no coincidence. Professor Justin Hastings spoke to Dr Natali Pearson about Southeast Asia’s long history of maritime piracy, highlighting how the region’s archipelagic geography, legacies from colonial rule, trade integration, contested maritime boundaries, political unrest, and weak governance have all contributed to the rise of maritime piracy, and explaining the many strategies pirates have adopted over time to respond to state crackdowns.

Keeping Lungs Healthy

A Discussion of Respiratory Health in Vietnam with Professor Gregory Fox

The COVID-19 virus has brought the spotlight to respiratory health. Over the past year, we have become more aware than ever of cough and cold-like symptoms, fevers, feeling tired, shortness of breath and any other indicators that our immune system is fighting off an infection. But COVID-19 is not the only health condition to affect the respiratory system. Tuberculosis is one of many infectious bacterial diseases that share a number of symptoms with COVID-19, and can also result in death. Professor Gregory Fox talked to Dr Natali Pearson about his work on infectious lung disease in Vietnam, and how his research is contributing to better respiratory health outcomes throughout the country.

Opening Australia's Multilingual Archives to Rethink Australian Identity in the Asia-Pacific

An interview with Professor Adrian Vickers

Australia has always been multilingual. Yet English language sources have dominated political and popular discourses over the last few centuries, overshadowing the significant contribution made by other languages and cultures in shaping Australian history and identity. Professor Adrian Vickers spoke to Dr Natali Pearson about his work as part of an ambitious new Australian Research Council Discovery Project that seeks to investigate and document how speakers of (mainly non-Indigenous) languages apart from English have recorded and represented Australia. As Professor Vickers explains, these languages include Indonesian, in which he specialises, as well as many other Asian and European languages. In examining Australia’s history from non-English perspectives, the project challenges dominant narratives of what being Australian means and asks how language both shapes and reflects notions of belonging in an Australian context.

Of Rice and Men

How Food Production is Driving Antimicrobial Resistance amongst Fungi in Vietnam

Fungal infections are amongst the leading infectious disease killers globally. They result in more deaths than malaria, and almost as many as tuberculosis. However, they are often overlooked, and receive less research attention and funding than viral or bacterial infections. Over the past decade, this has started to change as the emergence of resistance in fungal pathogens has caused global alarm. New, resistant organisms have emerged, and old familiar ones have become harder to treat - agricultural antifungal use is thought to be driving these trends. Dr Justin Beardsley spoke to Dr Natali Pearson about the problem of resistant fungal infections in Vietnam, describing how agricultural practices are contributing, and what can be done to mitigate the risks.

Tales of Unsung Heroes

How Thailand’s Village Health Volunteers Helped Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic

On 13 January 2020, Thailand confirmed the first known case of COVID-19 outside of China. As one of the world's most popular tourism destinations, with the majority of its travellers coming from China, this news came as no surprise. One year on, COVID-19 cases and related deaths have remained remarkably low in Thailand, and the country’s management of the pandemic has been hailed as a striking success. So what's the secret behind Thailand's COVID-19 response? Dr Anjalee Cohen joined Dr Natali Pearson to explore the many factors that have contributed to Thailand’s success in managing COVID-19 thus far, including the country’s long history of public healthcare, the overturning of medical elitism, the influence of certain cultural practices, and the critical role played by Thailand’s village health volunteers.

Back from the Barracks?

A Discussion of Civil-Military Relations and the Erosion of Philippine Democracy with Professor Aries Arugay

From drugs, communism and terrorism, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines under Duterte can been characterised as a rolling series of security threats. To manage these threats, the Duterte administration has relied heavily on the military. So what is the role of the military in Philippine politics under Duterte? How does it compare with the role of the military in other Southeast Asian countries? And what does it mean for democracy in the Philippines? Professor Aries Arugay joined Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories to discuss civil-military relations and the erosion of democracy in the Philippines under the Duterte presidency.

Decolonising Research Collaboration Practices in Indonesia

Research Partnerships in Southeast Asia Series

In the final episode in our mini-series of podcasts on research partnerships in Southeast Asia, Dr Thushara Dibley speaks with Dr Elisabeth Kramer about her collaboration with Indonesian partners on tobacco control in Indonesia, the challenges she encountered as an Early Career Researcher, and how she shifted her approach to academic research to focus on positive impact on real-world problems in Southeast Asia. Photo credit:

The Subject and the Partner in Malaysia

Research Partnerships in Southeast Asia Series

For the fourth episode in our mini-series of podcasts on research partnerships in Southeast Asia, Dr Thushara Dibley spoke with Dr Fiona Lee about a unique research project she's been managing on cultural archives in Malaysia, where her research partner is also the subject of her research. Photo credit: Malaysia Design Archive

Building Relationships in Vietnam from a Distance

Research Partnerships in Southeast Asia Series

For the third episode in our mini-series of podcasts on research partnerships in Southeast Asia, Dr Thushara Dibley interviewed Associate Professor Jeffrey Neilson about a new collaborative project investigating sustainable agricultural production in Vietnam. He talks about the challenges of building relationships with partners you’ve never met before, beyond language barriers and closed international borders, and how this has had unexpectedly positive consequences for the project.

Delving into the Unknown in Myanmar

Research Partnerships in Southeast Asia Series

For the second episode in our mini-series of podcasts on research partnerships in Southeast Asia, Dr Thushara Dibley interviewed Professor Michael Dibley about a collaborative project looking at food security and malnutrition in Myanmar - a country he had previously never worked in before, and where he had to rely on local partners to navigate an array of complex challenges.

Working with Government in Timor-Leste

Research Partnerships in Southeast Asia Series

In our first episode of a mini-series of podcasts on research partnerships in Southeast Asia, Dr Thushara Dibley speaks with Associate Professor Jenny-Ann Toribio about a ten-year long research collaboration that she’s developed with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Timor-Leste to combat animal diseases.

Exploding the Archive: A Reimagining of Archival Records in Malaysia

What exactly is an archive? Who and what are involved in the making and naming of memory projects as archives? What kinds of stories become told through archives, and what stories are muted? Dr Beth Yahp chats with Dr Thushara Dibley about her work with Malaysia Design Archive, exploring the inner workings of the archive-making process, and inviting us to pay closer attention to the everyday stories of objects around us. This conversation is based on Beth’s participation in a series of Living Archives workshops developed in collaboration with Dr Fiona Lee from the Department of English and Ezrena Marwan and jac sm kee from Malaysia Design Archive.

Rethinking Rural Livelihoods and Food Security in Myanmar

After decades of economic and political isolation, Myanmar’s rural economy is rapidly shifting from a narrow reliance on low-productivity agriculture, to a more diverse array of farm and non-farm activities. Despite some gains, poverty, landlessness, access to non-farm job opportunities, and food insecurity remain significant challenges for rural Myanmar. Assistant Professor Mark Vicol caught up with Dr Thushara Dibley to discuss his work investigating the changing relationships between livelihood patterns, land, poverty and food security in Myanmar, arguing that in order to create impactful change, we need to rethink our approach and adapt to the local context.

A Thai Contemporary Artist on Identity, Power, and the Space In-Between

As a Thai-Australian woman artist, Phaptawan Suwannakudt has long battled prejudice and discrimination relating to her gender. This disappointment with society’s dictates features at the heart of Phaptawan’s artistic practice. Spanning more than four decades, Phaptawan’s rich body of work includes paintings, sculptures and installations, informed by Buddhism, women’s issues and cross-cultural dialogue. Now her talents are on display on the global stage once again, in ‘The National 2021: New Australian Art’. Phaptawan Suwannakudt chats about identity, power, and placemaking in the space in-between, recounting how she overcame hurdles to her artistic education and practice in what was once a male-dominated art scene, to become one of Australia’s and Thailand’s most prominent women artists.

Decolonising Conservation Practices and Research

Around the world, orangutans are widely recognised as an iconic species for environmental and wildlife conservation efforts. The rainforest in the Malaysian state of Sarawak is one of last remaining habitats of the nearly extinct Bornean orangutan. While conservation efforts have made the region a top priority for protecting orangutans, these efforts often sideline the indigenous peoples who live along the great apes. Dr June Rubis speaks with Dr Natali Pearson about her lifelong work in orangutan conservation, and reflects on mainstream conservation narratives, politics, and power relations around orangutan conservation in Sarawak and elsewhere in Borneo.

Combating African Swine Fever in Timor-Leste

Since it first arrived in Asia in 2018, African swine fever virus has caused a devastating pandemic resulting in more than a quarter of the global pig population being killed by this disease. As there is currently no vaccine or treatment for this disease, which has a nearly 100% mortality rate in infected pigs, a strong focus has been placed on preventative biosecurity measures. But this strategy has proved particularly challenging in Timor-Leste, where pigs often roam freely around villages. In this episode, Associate Professor Paul Hick speaks to Dr Thushara Dibley about his work reducing the impact of African swine fever and other animal diseases on local livelihoods in Timor-Leste.

Reducing Poverty through Digital Finance Schemes in Myanmar

Financial inclusion has been one of the most prominent issues on the international development agenda in recent years, as access to payments, remittances, credit, savings and insurance services have been shown to improve economic resilience and livelihoods. While bank account access remains low in many developing countries, widespread access to mobile phones is providing a platform to push financial access even into remote areas. The Covid-19 pandemic has only reinforced the importance of digital finance, which provides a safe, socially-distanced means to transact, including for distribution of social assistance transfers. Dr Russell Toth talks to Dr Thushara Dibley about his work on digital finance schemes and how owning a mobile phone can help lift people out of poverty in Myanmar.

Trading Birds of Paradise: A Brief History

Long praised for their splendid plumage, birds of paradise are a rare sight only to be found in the remote rainforests of New Guinea and associated islands. They are among the earliest animals to have the inglorious honour of obtaining legal protection against their trade. While the trade in the species is more than a millennium old, it was only in the late 19th century that globalisation pushed some bird of paradise species towards extinction. In this episode, Dr Jude Philp, Senior Curator at the Chau Chak Wing Museum, explores the dark history of the trade in birds of paradise, the destruction of their habitat, and the ways in which local people have tried to protect the species.

COVID-19 and Migrant Workers in Southeast Asia

COVID-19 has had such far-reaching impacts that it can be, and has been, studied from the perspective of almost any academic discipline. For geographers, the ways in which COVID-19 affects place, space and movement is particularly consequential. It is at once a global phenomenon, yet it also ties us to localities in a way not experienced for a very long time in our increasingly mobile and interconnected world. In Southeast Asia, the impact of COVID-19 has been particularly severe for migrant workers, who have found themselves un- or under-employed and sometimes stranded as economic activity has shut down and borders have closed. On the occasion of International Migrants Day on 18 December, Emeritus Professor Philip Hirsch spoke to Dr Natali Pearson about the impact that the pandemic has had on migrant workers in mainland Southeast Asia, and how we can better protect this vulnerable community.

Beating Plastic Pollution in Timor-Leste

As environmental emergencies go, the explosion of plastic waste is right up there. With global plastic production exceeding 300 million tonnes each year, the world has generally looked at it as an unsightly menace to be removed, but Professor Thomas Maschmeyer has gone beyond that idea. His work challenges our perceptions of waste, by turning plastic into an asset that people actively seek out to recycle because it can make them money. What he created might just clean up the planet and lift people out of poverty. Professor Thomas Maschmeyer speaks to Dr Thushara Dibley about his ground-breaking work developing catalytic technology that can recycle any kind of plastic and turn it into a valuable resource, and how he is helping Timor-Leste become the world's first plastics-neutral country.

Transforming Breast Cancer Diagnosis in Vietnam

Globally, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, with over 1 million cases detected annually. The disease is particularly worrisome in Vietnam, where breast cancer incidence has more than doubled over the last two decades, making it the leading cancer among Vietnamese women, ahead of cervical and uterine cancers. Professor Patrick Brennan talks to Dr Natali Pearson about his decade-long work on improving breast cancer detection in Vietnam.

Projectland: Life in a Lao Socialist Model Village

Associate Professor Holly High talks to Dr Natali Pearson about her decades-long anthropological fieldwork in rural parts of Laos, recounting little-known stories of life in a remote village in Sekong Province. She explores the role of the State in shaping local aspirations, world views and beliefs, as well as discusses notions of gender and how socialist values of equality, unity and independence have influenced the lives of women in one of Laos' model villages.

Social Media, Grassroots Activism and Disinformation in Southeast Asia

Dr Aim Sinpeng and Dr Ross Tapsell discuss their new book, 'From Grassroots Activism to Disinformation: Social Media in Southeast Asia' (ISEAS Publishing, 2020), with Dr Thushara Dibley, and explore some of the more recent controversies surrounding social media use in Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asian Performance, Ethnic Identity and China’s Soft Power

Dr Josh Stenberg talks to Dr Natali Pearson about Sino-Southeast Asian self-representation in performance arts, and challenges essentialist readings of ethnicity or minority. In showing the fluidity and adaptability of Sino-Southeast Asian identities as expressed in performance and public display, Dr Stenberg enriches our understanding of Southeast Asian cultures and art forms, Southeast Asian Chinese identities, and transnational cultural exchanges.

Improving Food Security in Laos and Cambodia: A Farmer’s Perspective

Associate Professor Russell Bush talks to Dr Natali Pearson about his work towards improving livestock health and food security in Laos and Cambodia, and describes how better livestock management can have a transformative impact on livelihoods.

Myanmar’s Disciplined Democracy and the 2020 Elections

Myanmar is scheduled to hold general elections in November 2020. While the country has experienced political liberalisation since 2011, the latest Freedom House Report ranked Myanmar as “not free.” Dr Roger Lee Huang talks with Dr Natali Pearson about Myanmar's ongoing regime transition, arguing that the country’s "disciplined democracy" contains features of democratic politics, but at its core remains authoritarian.

Lost Temples of the Jungle: A History of Mrauk-U

Dr Bob Hudson speaks to Dr Thushara Dibley about the remote archaeological site of Mrauk-U in Rakhine State, its turbulent history, and how attempts to have it recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site are contributing to peacebuilding efforts in a region torn by civil conflict.

The Street and the Ballot Box: How Indonesia’s Labour Movement Rose from the Ashes

As Indonesia erupts in violent protests over the passing of a controversial new jobs law, Professor Michele Ford reflects on the history of Indonesia’s labour movement, exploring how international support, the post-transition political opportunity structure, and unions’ tactical creativity combined to reinvigorate the labour movement, leading to substantial rises in the minimum wage and some policy success.

Fighting for Social Justice: The Politics of Aid and Gender-Based Violence in the Workplace

Dr Kristy Ward chats with Professor Michele Ford about her research into conflict dynamics and the politics of representation, delving into the disruptive impact of development aid, and the ways in which women in Cambodia and India have sought to negotiate agency and combat gender-based violence in the workplace.

Fighting for Inclusion: Disability Activism in Indonesia

Traditionally and historically, disability has widely been seen and treated as a medical impediment. But in recent years, activists have challenged this notion, emphasizing that 'disability' is the result of the interaction between people living with impairments and an environment filled with physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers. Dr Thushara Dibley chats with Dr Natali Pearson about disability activism in Indonesia, highlighting the success of local activists in changing Indonesian law and shifting attitudes in the broader population.

Storms and Shipwrecks: The Story of the Tang Treasures

In this episode, Dr Natali Pearson gets on the other side of the mic and chats with Professor Michele Ford about the Tang Shipwreck, how its underwater treasures were salvaged from looting in Indonesia, and the controversies it stirred in the world of maritime cultural heritage.

Wild Cities, Smart Cities: Building a Sustainable Future through Urban Governance

Dr Sophie Webber speaks with Dr Natali Pearson about urban governance, and how urban resilience is being rolled out as a policy solution for cities such as Jakarta and Semarang in Indonesia, that are trying to adapt to the many shocks and stresses associated with urbanisation and climate change.

Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand

Professor Duncan McCargo speaks to Dr Aim Sinpeng about the world of Thai judges: how they were recruited, trained, and promoted, and how they were socialised into a conservative world view that emphasized the proximity between the judiciary and the monarchy.

Addressing Environmental and Social Harm through Global Governance

Professor Susan Park chats with Dr Natali Pearson about global governance and Multilateral Development Banks, with a specific focus on accountability mechanisms in the Asian Development Bank.

The Dilemmas of Post-War Reconstruction in the Sino-Burmese Borderlands

Dr Andres Rodriguez talks to Dr Natali Pearson about the ways in which both China and Burma sought to ‘decolonise’ this ethnically diverse border area, and how its inhabitants presented their own interpretation of emancipation, equality and modernity for the region.

ASEAN Forum 2020 Panel Discussion: Responses to COVID-19 across ASEAN

In this panel discussion, our experts delve deeper into how ASEAN and the countries it comprises have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic at a government level, economically, and in terms of health and livelihoods. They'll be discussing topics ranging from the role of religion in responding to the crisis, how fake news and conspiracy theories have played out in the region, the role of China in combating the pandemic, and more!

The Impact of COVID-19 on People's Livelihoods around ASEAN

As part of SSEAC's annual ASEAN Forum, Associate Professor Jeffrey Neilson (University of Sydney) sat down with SSEAC's Deputy Director, Dr Thushara Dibley, to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people's livelihoods around Southeast Asia.

Health Responses to COVID-19 across ASEAN

As part of SSEAC's annual ASEAN Forum, Associate Professor Gregory Fox (University of Sydney) sat down with SSEAC's Deputy Director, Dr Thushara Dibley, to explore the current and ongoing healthcare impacts of COVID-19 across Southeast Asia.

Weathering Typhoon COVID: The Economic Consequences of COVID-19 for ASEAN

As part of SSEAC's annual ASEAN Forum, Dr Sandra Seno-Alday (University of Sydney) sat down with SSEAC's Deputy Director, Dr Thushara Dibley, to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on economies around Southeast Asia.

Government Responses to COVID-19 across ASEAN

As part of SSEAC's annual ASEAN Forum, Dr Aim Sinpeng (University of Sydney) had a chat with SSEAC's Deputy Director, Dr Thushara Dibley, about government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic around Southeast Asia.

Death and Taxes: Indonesia's Smoking Problem

Indonesia has one of the highest smoking rates in the world and a poor record for implementing the public health measures needed to see these rates fall. Smoking is estimated to kill more than 225,000 Indonesians per year and contributes to many more deaths. Yet tobacco regulation has been highly contested in recent years. Dr Elisabeth Kramer chats with Dr Thushara Dibley about tobacco regulation in Indonesia, delving into the myriad of challenges to tobacco control in the country, from cultural to economic factors, and short-term political agendas.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Mental Health Care in Indonesia

Professor Hans Pols chats with Dr Natali Pearson about the stigma surrounding mental illness, community advocacy efforts and government policy to overcome stigma and eradicate controversial practices used to isolate people with mental illness from the community, and the future of mental health services in Indonesia.

Overcoming Motor Neuron Disease in Malaysia

Motor neuron disease (MND) is a devastating disease with no effective cure, where the dying-off (degeneration) of motor nerves results in muscle weakness affecting an individual’s ability to move, speak, swallow, perform daily activities and breathe. Professor Marina Kennerson and Professor Nortina Shahrizaila chat with Dr Natali Pearson about MND and their efforts to develop a research program for MND screening in Malaysia, which will pave the way for obtaining invaluable information of this lethal genetic disease across Southeast Asia.

Bringing Justice to Victims of Wartime Sexual Violence in Cambodia

For the last 10 years, Dr Rosemary Grey's work has focused on making gender-based crimes more visible in international war crime trials in order to increase justice to victims, especially women and girls. In this podcast, Dr Rosemary Grey talks about the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, which sexual violence and gender-based crimes it did or did not prosecute, as well as the role of art as a tool for justice and healing for these crimes.

The Plain of Jars of Laos: Past, Present and Future

For centuries, thousands of stone jars lay in splendid isolation, admired by villagers and the occasional European explorer. Nowadays the jars are viewed as a unique megalithic manifestation in Mainland Southeast Asia, rather than vessels “made by angels to drink liquors from”. What are the future prospects for these mysterious creations and what is the level of preparedness for the increased tourist visits that follow a UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination? Dr Lia Genovese talks about the Plain of Jars of Laos and its future following its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.

Disaster Resilience and Humanitarian Response in the Philippines

The Philippines is one of the most natural hazard-prone countries in the world. With the social and economic cost of disasters in the country increasing due to population growth, migration, unplanned urbanisation, environmental degradation and global climate change, disaster resilience and management are more important than ever. Dr Aaron Opdyke chats with Dr Natali Pearson about his work in disaster risk reduction and humanitarian response in the Philippines.

Supporting Sustainable Farming Practices in Cambodia

Associate Professor Daniel Tan chats with Dr Natali Pearson about his lifelong work supporting sustainable farming practices in Cambodia, including through targeted capacity-building programs and the development of image-rich mobile phone applications to assist Cambodian farmers with insect pest identification and crop management.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Southeast Asia's Relations with China

Dr Pichamon Yeophantong looks at the impact of COVID-19 on Southeast Asia's relations with China, with a particular focus on the garment manufacturing industry and its implications on human rights.

Life under COVID-19 in the Philippines

Associate Professor Nicole Curato chats with Dr Natali Pearson about life in the Philippines amid one of the world's toughest coronavirus lockdowns, unpacking the Duterte government’s policies, the impact of the pandemic on Filipino diasporic communities, community responses to the crisis, and how COVID-19 has exacerbated human rights issues in a vastly unequal country.

COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS in Indonesia

Associate Professor Sharyn Davies and Dr Najmah met up with Dr Natali Pearson over Zoom, to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on healthcare in Indonesia, with a focus on the LGBTIQ community and people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Paradox of Risk in an Interconnected World

As the world struggles with the global repercussions of local events, debates around internationalisation have become ever more relevant. Dr Sandra Seno-Alday sat down with Dr Natali Pearson to explore how different models of international business and economic networks may have distinct implications on economic risk within integrated regions, such as the EU and ASEAN.

Sex, Cyanide and CCTV: A Review of the Jessica Wongso Case

Professor Simon Butt discusses whether Jessica Wongso got a fair trial in Indonesia’s criminal justice system, and debates the influence of the media on criminal trials.

The Materiality of History-Writing in Premodern Java

Jarrah Sastrawan chats with Dr Natali Pearson about the materiality of writing in Indonesia. He argues that the physical conditions of historical documents, such as their durability, the circumstances of their storage, and their capacity for reproduction, have powerfully influenced the development of Javanese historiography as a whole.

The Bearded Turtle - A Discussion of Historiography and Ethnography

Dr Jesse Grayman shares his thoughts on The Bearded Turtle, winner of the 2018 Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa prize in the prose category. As an anthropologist, but not a historian or literary critic, Dr Jesse Grayman speculates on the possibilities and limits for using such an unwieldy text in contemporary ethnographic analyses of Aceh and Indonesia more broadly.

Cyberconflict and ICT Security in the ASEAN Region

Mr Bart Hogeveen discusses the malicious use of Information and Computer Technologies (ICTs) by state and non-state actors, and how cybersecurity is managed in the ASEAN region.

Digital Technology, Climate Change and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Dr Michael DiGregorio explains the transformative impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and how digital financial services and new technologies can be used to empower vulnerable communities and improve climate resilience in Southeast Asia.

The Role of History Education in the Development of the Singapore Story

Dr Yeow-Tong Chia chats with Dr Natali Pearson to explore the role of education in the formation of the Singapore developmental state and how it provided a source of inspiration for China’s early modernisation strategies.

Fake News and Freedom of Speech in Singapore

Kirsten Han looks at the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, and how this law could actually cause further harm to public trust and increase society’s vulnerability to “fake news”.

Who is Left Behind in the Digital Revolution?

Dr Petr Matous discusses his research into the roles that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and social networks play in contexts with less-efficient institutions and infrastructure, with a view to restructuring such programs to ensure more equitable access.

Social Media and Elections in Southeast Asia

Dr Aim Sinpeng presents her research on online political engagement in Southeast Asian elections, and the role of social media in shaping voting behaviour.

Malaysia 2020: Regime Change, Hope and Democracy in Crisis?

On 19 March 2020, SSEAC hosted an online event discussing the short-lived Pakatan Harapan government and the possible return of kleptocracy in Malaysia. This podcast is an edited audio recording of the event.

The Sino-Malay Literary Tradition (1870-1949)

Dr Tom Hoogervorst speaks to Mr Jarrah Sastrawan about the Sino-Malay literary tradition in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Agribusiness, Anthropology and Activism: An Interview with Dr Chao

Dr Sophie Chao discusses her anthropological research in West Papua, reflecting on the challenges of conducting anthropological research, her transition from activist to academic, and the palm oil industry's impact on the Marind communities of West Papua, Indonesia.

Culture, Food and Environment: Indigenous Experiences of Hunger in West Papua, Indonesia

Dr Sophie Chao speaks to Dr Natali Pearson about the interconnections between processed food, hunger and Indigenous sovereignty in West Papua.

In Conversation with Laksmi Pamuntjak - On Storytelling, Identity and Food

Laksmi Pamuntjak speaks to Dr Natali Pearson about her career, the storytelling process, the challenges of translation, publishing, identity, women's rights and food, among others.

In Conversation with Laksmi Pamuntjak: Fall Baby

Laksmi Pamuntjak speaks to Dr Natali Pearson about her third novel, Fall Baby, and about the intricacies of art, religion, politics and history in a troubled Indonesia, but also about family, identity, motherhood, and the sisterhood of women.

Disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Asia-Pacific

The Asia-Pacific is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. While some processes are in place to develop disaster risk reduction, some communities remain left out of the process. People with disabilities are often some of the hardest hit when disasters occur due to inadequate policies. Dr Emma Calgaro speaks about her work on promoting disaster risk reduction policies that are inclusive of people with disabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Tigers, Sloths, and Sawfish: Using Flagship Species to Conserve the World’s Mangrove Forests

As the world becomes increasingly concerned with the effects of climate change and deforestation, research and protection efforts have tended to focus on a few iconic animals and habitats. But what other innovative strategies can we develop to increase funding and awareness for environment conservation projects? Dr Benjamin Thompson talks about his research into how charismatic megafauna can be used as flagship species for mangrove forest conservation.

ASEAN Forum 2019: Dr Crystal Abidin

Dr Crystal Abidin discusses her research on young people’s relationships with internet celebrity, self-curation, and vulnerability.

Timor-Leste: 2019 update with Prof Clinton Fernandes

Professor Clinton Fernandes sat down with SSEAC's Deputy Director, Dr Elisabeth Kramer, to discuss recent political developments in Timor-Leste.

Malaysia: 2019 update with Tricia Yeoh

Tricia Yeoh discusses Malaysian politics one year on from GE14.

Singapore: 2019 update with Hoe Yeong Loke

Hoe Yeong Loke talks about the recent political developments in Singapore.

Indonesia: 2019 Update with Prof Ed Aspinall

Professor Edward Aspinall sheds light on the historic Indonesian elections and what they mean for the future of democracy in Indonesia.

The Journalisms of Islam: Contending Views in Muslim Southeast Asia

Janet Steele discusses Islamic journalism in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Philippines: 2018 update with Jayeel Cornelio

Jayeel Corenelio talks to Natali Pearson about the political situation in the Philippines.

Malaysia: 2018 update with Bridget Welsh

Bridget Welsh explains the details behind the 'story of the year', Malaysia's GE14.

Cambodia: 2018 update with Lee Morgenbesser

Lee Morgenbesser talks the death of democracy, media censorship and dictatorship in Cambodia.

Indonesia: 2018 update with Charlotte Setijadi

Charlotte Setijadi talks Indonesian politics after Ahok and the way forward for Jokowi.

Planet versus profit: striking a balance

A multidisciplinary panel of experts examines the role and responsibilities in balancing environmental sustainability and economic growth in Southeast Asia. What part can – and should - Australia play in negotiating the tensions between economic growth and environmental sustainability?