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Organizer: Carlyle A. Thayer, University of New South Wales
Chair: Laura J. Summers, University of Hull
Discussants: Vincent K. Pollard, University of Hawaii, Manoa; Carlyle A. Thayer, University of New South Wales
The study of state systems has been challenged in recent years by scholarly focus on non-state political processes. Although scholars are now more aware that the state cannot be regarded as the natural focus of political and historical analysis, states remain a most complex and expansive form of human organization.
This panel seeks to explore relationships between, on the one hand, power systems and ideologies promoted by state elites and, on the other, the concerns and priorities of the people over whom states claim authority. It will focus on points of intersection and resistance, exploring the complex processes by which political cultures and systems of power are continually contested by dissent and opposition, giving rise to altered conceptions of authority and community. A particular focus will be the extent to which popular concerns both constrain the development of state-sponsored ideologies and engender their transformation.
The panel will bring together scholars from history, political science, and anthropology, presenting diverse case studies such as the importance of semangat in nineteenth-century Sarawak and contests over ideology and state power in contemporary Vietnam. Participants will draw on a number of methodological approaches in their analyses.
The panel aims in this way to contribute to the understanding of political community and legitimacy in Southeast Asia.
Contesting State Ideologies in Nineteenth-Century Sarawak: Semangat, Hikayat Panglima Nikosa and the Sarawak Gazette
John Walker, Australian Defense Force Academy
James Brooke sought to explain his position in Sarawak to European audiences by claiming to protect Bidayuh from Malay excesses, to contain and overcome Iban piracy, and to regenerate the Brunei Sultanate. To his English readers, Brooke emphasised Sarawaks economic and strategic potential for the British empire, inviting comparison with Stamford Raffles and attracting British naval support in his confrontations with his rivals and enemies.
Increasingly throughout the 1840s and 1850s, however, Brookes position as Rajah of Sarawak required him to enact ritual elements of southeast Asian leadership, presenting himself as a source of semangat essential to the prosperity of indigenous peoples. In Webers terms, his regime demonstrated important charismatic elements, with James Brooke being constructed by Bidayuh and other indigenous groups in supernatural or ritual terms.
James Brookes successor as Rajah, Charles Brooke, was uncomfortable with the charismatic basis of the Brooke state, seeking in the 1870s to establish bureaucratic, rational sources of legitimacy and action. These developments can be reconstructed, through the close analysis of debates in the Sarawak Gazette, and the representation of authority and society in the 1870s Malay text, the Hikayat Panglima Nikosa. Although details of Malay and Dayak reaction to Charles efforts to transform the basis of his own authority remain obscure, there is evidence to suggest that indigenous groups resisted Charles initiatives, continuing to construct his rulership in ritual terms, and seeking new and more subtle ways of engaging his semangat. From the later writings of Charles wife, Margaret Brooke, it appears that the second Rajahs regime was constrained eventually to accept indigenous constructions of his authority.
Toppling the Pillars to the Beat of a Tong-Tong: Eurasian Memory Work in the Netherlands, 19571961
Andrew Goss, University of Michigan
I propose a paper discussing the 1950s dissidence movement in the Netherlands formed by repatriated Eurasians from Indonesia. The first part of my paper introduces "pillarization," the official sociological framework by which the Dutch controlled and measured post-World War II society. Both sociologists and politicians advanced the theory that a peaceful democracy could only operate when leaders from the four autonomous pillarsRoman Catholic, Protestant, Socialist, and Liberalcooperated at an elite level. Not just a historical model, the logic and language of pillarization was used in everyday social actions, including the forced assimilation of 300,000 colonial repatriates.
The second half of my paper examines the crisis to pillarization following Sukarnos 1957 ordered expulsion of all Dutch citizens still remaining in Indonesia. During this political emergency, the leaders of the Dutch state, including the queen, newspaper editors, and parliament members, cautioned the Dutch public to accept the repatriates as long-lost, but juvenile members of the Dutch nation. I argue that the governments retreat from its pillarization language allowed the repatriates to establish their own historical model of the Dutch nation. Using historical photographs, the independent journal Tong-Tong engendered a politicized community which transformed the narrative of Dutch history. After a decade of being forgotten, the colonial experience returned as a historical reality. In conclusion, I examine the effects of this colonial remembering on current Dutch identity.
Public Spaces/Public Disgraces?: Crowds and the State in Vietnam
Mandy Thomas, University of Western Sydney
This paper argues that a semantic shift in the crowd in Vietnam over the last decade has allowed public space to become a site through which transgressive ideologies and desires may have an outlet. At a time of accelerating social change, the state has effectively delimited public criticism yet a fragile but assertive form of Vietnamese democratic practice has arisen in public space, at the margins of official society, in sites previously equated with state control. Official state functions attract only small audiences, and rather than celebrating the dominance of the party, reveal the disengagement of the populace in the partys activities. Where crowds were always a component of state(stage)-managed events, now public spaces are attracting large numbers of people for supposedly non-political activities which may become transgressive acts condemned by the regime. In support of the notion that crowding is an opening up of the possibility of more subversive political actions, the paper presents an analysis of recent crowd formation and the states reaction to them. These events include religious festivals, street celebrations after football matches, public gatherings outside law courts, and the massing of the public at the funeral of a popular young actor. The analysis reveals the modalities through which popular culture has provided the public with the means to transcend the constraints of official, authorized, and legitimate codes of behaviour in public space. Changes in the use of public space, it is argued, map the sets of relations between the public and the state, making these transforming relationships visible, although fraught with contradictions and anomalies.