Research Workshops and Conferences

Research workshops, convened by academic staff, bring together teams of scholars, experts, and graduate research students to explore a variety of research topics. Often inter-disciplinary, always critical, these workshops are opportunities for academic staff to lead wider research collaborations, build new networks and contribute to enhancing knowledge of pressing issues of the day.


2017: Populism in Asia: Contours, Causes, Consequences

15 - 16 November, 2017, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leaders: Assoc. Prof. Marco Bünte (Monash University Malaysia) and PD Dr. Andreas Ufen (GIGA)

The rise of authoritarian populists is one of the most dangerous trends in international politics today. Asia is no exception here: The rise of Erdogan in Turkey, Modi in India, Duterte in the Philippines or Prabowo in Indonesia illustrate that populism in on the rise here as well. However, populists do not have a chance in the long-standing democracies of Japan, Korea or Taiwan. How can we explain this and what are the causes and consequences of the rise of populist leaders in Asia?

Our two-day workshop on the 15. and 16. November 2017 brings together 15 scholars from Asia, Australia and Europe to discuss these questions. The workshop is co-organized by the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and Monash's GA21 resarch platform.

Populism in Asia


2017: The State of Malaysian Literature in the 21st Century: An ASIATIC Symposium

3 November, 2017, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leaders: Prof. Mohammad Quayum (IIUM) and Assoc. Prof. Andrew Ng (Monash University Malaysia)

Sedentary at best in its development since the country's independence, Anglophone Malaysian literature has become quite significant in recent years on a global level with local-born writers getting published by renown international presses and winning major literary prizes. As such, the objective of this symposium is to assess the state  of Malaysian Literature in the 21st Century.  Its aim is to cover literature in all the major languages in the country, but with an emphasis on Anglophone writings. The papers presented by participants from Singapore, Australia, Japan and, of course, Malaysia, will contribute towards of a special issue of  ASIATIC, an internationally well-regarded peer-reviewed journal that focuses on Southeast Asian cultures and literature.

ASIATIC Group Photo


2017: Genderworks: Dialogue and Action across Our Differences

8 July, 2017, Monash University Malaysia
Conference Conveners: A/P Dr Sharon A. Bong, Dr Joseph N. Goh and Dr Thaatchaayini Kananatu

The inaugural conference for undergraduate students is aimed at facilitating collaboration across disciplines on how genders and by extension, sexualities operate in our everyday lives. Differences that matter—sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, class, social-cultural contexts, religious affiliations—are interpreted to encompass diversity and inclusion rather than singularity (through omitting these differences) and exclusion. It is intended to provide an intellectual and safe space for young minds to critically and reflexively consider the ways in which gender works in their lives and the institutions that they inhabit, e.g. family, education, cultural-religious, work, etc. The synergy between theory and practice, dialogue and action (e.g. activism) is particularly encouraged.


2016: Film Stardom in Southeast Asia Workshop

24-25 November, 2016, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leader: Dr Jonathan Driskell

All across Southeast Asia film stars have attained an important place in popular culture, appearing in magazines and newspapers, on billboards and cinema marquees, at public events and premieres, and now on the internet. These stars often possess the general features of stardom commonly noted in film scholarship, such as glamour and charisma, while at the same time offering nationally (or even regionally) specific inflections of the phenomenon, embodying local tastes, values and ideologies. Many have reached stellar levels of fame, with Mitr Chaibancha in Thailand, P. Ramlee in Malaysia and Nora Aunor in the Philippines, for example, all attaining legendary status in their respective countries.

This workshop brought together eleven film scholars to discuss film stardom in Southeast Asia, with papers covering a wide range of topics (including, amongst others, Indonesian "sex bombs", Vietnamese stardom during the 1960s and 1970s, and contemporary Philippine “love teams”), time periods (from the 1950s to the present day), and national cinemas (the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaya/Singapore).


2016: Workshop on Protest Spaces and Social Movements in Asia

14-15 January, 2016, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leader: Prof Kuah Khun Eng

Asia is experiencing social and political ferment. Arguably, this can be attributed to the deepening connectivity, flows, and integration of capital, people and ideas catalysed by the heterogeneous agents of neo-liberal economic globalisation, regionalisation and localisation. They range from global financial systems, regional governance bodies, and the media and entertainment industries to the work of transnational and local civil society and NGOs. On the one hand, state governments have to negotiate with and manage these myriad forces in order to maintain a semblance of state sovereignty, autonomy, and social control. On the other hand, an increasing number of ordinary citizens are exerting their democratic aspirations through direct social engagement with state authorities and transnational entities. These range from well-organised large-scale protest rallies to the rallying calls and acrimonious debates found in the spaces of social media. Bringing together scholars located in Malaysia, Southeast Asia, China and the United States, this workshop explored the theme of contemporary 'protest spaces' in a variety of settings and scales mobilized by different actors across Asia.


2015: Workshop on Internet in Southeast Asia: Power and Society

3-4 December 2015, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leaders: Dr Julian Hopkins and Dr Tan Meng Yoe

The inaugural “Internet in Southeast Asia” workshop was held on the 3-4 of December, 2015. Led by Dr Tan Meng Yoe and Dr Julian Hopkins, the workshop theme on Power and Society explored how the internet affects negotiations of power in social, cultural, and political dimensions in the Southeast Asian region. The workshop attracted the interest of researchers from reputable institutions worldwide working in the area of internet and society. The range of topics presented was diverse, and over two days, participants listened to and engaged in issues of politics, religion, and popular culture, among others. Dr John Postill, the VC Senior Research Fellow from RMIT University Melbourne gave the keynote address on the subject of Internet Struggles in Southeast Asia: An Ethnographic Account of RightsCon 2015, Manila.


2014: Workshop on Transnational Private Regulation and Multi-level Governance in Southeast Asia: Investigating the Possibilities and Limitations for “Progressive” Governance

8-9 December 2014, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leaders: Associate Prof Helen Nesadurai and Prof Shaun Breslin (Warwick) 

Funded by a grant from the Monash-Warwick Strategic Alliance, this workshop saw eight scholars from Warwick and Monash universities (Malaysia and Clayton campus), led by Prof Shaun Breslin (Warwick) and Assoc Prof Helen Nesadurai (SASS), to explore how rules and standards developed by non-state actors such as private firms, NGOs and experts/scholars, among others, may be helping to advance a range of rights (such as human, labour, and land rights) and a set of good governance practices (such as accountability, transparency, sustainability) in various economic sectors across the region. While paying close attention to transnational private regulation’s “progressive” governance potential, the project was also alert to its limitations and the challenges faced, including official resistance to private governance and their possible capture by self-interested parties (states, firms).


2011: International Young Scholars’ Conference

14-15 November 2011, Monash University Malaysia
Conference Leaders: SASS Graduate Research Students

The two day international conference, organized primarily by PhD students from the School of Arts and Social Sciences, brought researchers from around the world to discuss social issues, trends, and discoveries within the Southeast Asian region. International participants included researchers from the Southeast Asian region as well as young scholars from England, Germany, and Australia, among others. A wide range of research topics were presented and discussed in the nine panels that took place. The 23 research papers presented discussed ASEAN trade and navigational policies, religious issues, internet studies, arts and literature, as well as unique cultures and people groups in various Southeast Asian nations. Professor Edmund Terence Gomez of University Malaysia and Dr. Kathryn Barker, a consulting futurist at Monash University, set the tone for the conference through their respective keynote addresses, which encouraged and challenged participants to approach research from innovative and unique ways that are not necessarily influenced by dominant Western frameworks and to enjoy the learning and discovery processes that are an integral part of the research and PhD journey. For the PhD cohort from SASS who were involved in organising the conference, the year-long effort served as a valuable training ground for future careers, whether in academia or in other careers. The conference provided practical experience for PhD students in networking with the larger intellectual community as well as honed their organization skills.


2010: Workshop on Malaysian Literature in English

December 2010, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leader: Dr Andrew Ng 

This one-day workshop brought together five experts, including two international scholars, to discuss the state of contemporary Anglophone Malaysian literature and the local arts/literary scene. They explored various themes on this topic but tried to avoid the frequently treaded terrains of nationalism and race that beset much scholarship on Malaysian literature written in English. Although these issues cannot be avoided altogether, because they are deeply embedded in the ideological imaginary of this country and invariably shape its literature, they were deliberately given minimum emphasis in this workshop so that other equally important, but less, discussed features could be foregrounded. Participants explored a variety of major genres: novels, poetry, autobiography, short stories and plays.


2010: International Conference on Trauma, Memory and Transformation: The Malaysian and Southeast Asian Experience

22-24 June 2010, Monash University Malaysia
Conference Leader: Mr Benjamin McKay

This conference tapped into the growing cross-disciplinary interest in both trauma and memory in the humanities and social sciences. Trauma is seen as a moment of profound alteration and change in the lives of both individuals and communities, which may be triggered by the effects of war, terrorism, state violence and natural disaster through to the more personal traumas such as illness and being a victim of crime. The study of memory has also been an important development in the humanities and social sciences. Memory studies, which complements more traditional historical discourse by offering alternative pathways to an assessment of personal and shared experience, provides subaltern communities with a distinctive opportunity to have their recollections and memories considered as a part of living history – revealing narratives that might be alternative to the grand narratives of national and regional historic discourse(s). Against this disciplinary backdrop, the conference was aimed at exploring localised Malaysian and Southeast Asian responses to trauma through examining a variety of case studies that are informed by memory and that reveal patterns of transformation. Key questions addressed include: How is trauma overcome? What roles do reflections play in the process of transformation? What particular features do the Malaysian and Southeast Asian experience of a range of traumas add to our understanding of trauma and memory on a more global scale?

The School would like to acknowledge the valuable contribution of Benjamin McKay, the Conference leader, who sadly passed away a month after the Conference but whose memory lives on in the volume of selected conference papers edited by Sharon A. Bong and published by SIRD.


2009: Cross-Campus Workshop on Research in Arts and Social Sciences

February 2009, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leaders: Prof. James Chin and Dr Pieter Duvenage (Monash South Africa) 

Academics from the School of Arts and Social Sciences (SASS) from Monash University Malaysia and the School of Arts from Monash South Africa met on the Malaysia campus in February 2009 to exchange research ideas, findings and perspectives. Led by their respective heads of school, James Chin and Pieter Dauvenage, eleven academic staff discussed a wide range of topics including affirmative action experiences, identity politics, ethnic distrust, sexuality and religion, the digital divide and development, regional governance, sidewalk vending and city spaces, and gothic and horror literature. The workshop culminated in close discussion on future research and education collaboration possibilities between the two campuses of Monash University.


2008: International Forum: Diversity Matters Malaysia: Diasporas in the Commonwealth

19-21 November 2008, Monash University Malaysia
Forum Partners: The Australian Multicultural Foundation, the Commonwealth Foundation, the Monash Institute for the Study of Global Movements, Monash University Malaysia, The Statesman (India), and Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI)

Diversity Matters Malaysia, the fifth in a series of Commonwealth Forums held every two years since 2001, was titled Diasporas in the Commonwealth, and hosted at the Monash University Malaysia campus in Bandar Sunway. The Forum attracted a distinguished list of speakers presenting wide-ranging analyses and discussions on diasporas in the Commonwealth. The conference was particularly honoured in having His Royal Highness Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, Crown Prince of Perak Darul Ridzuan present the keynote address. The thought provoking presentations spearheaded the lively exchanges at the Forum’s four workshops producing several practical and achievable outcomes and recommendations for the Commonwealth. The recommendations are expected to inform future Commonwealth discussions, including the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Malaysia, June, 2009, and the Commonwealth People’s Forum in Trinidad and Tobago, November 2009.