We are proud to announce the two keynote speakers at the EuroSEAS conference 2017 in Oxford: Professor Kasian Tejapira (Thammasat University, Bangkok) and well-known Indonesian poet and novelist Laksmi Pamuntjak.
Kasian Tejapira: 'The Sino-Thais’ Right Turn towards China'
Thailand’s drastic political and economic twists and turns over the past two decades have increasingly inclined the Sino-Thais (Jeks or Lookjins i.e. Thais of Chinese descent) who predominate its business and political elite and constitute the plurality of its established urban middle class, to the political right as well as towards China. From the main supporters and mass base of pro-Western democratization and free-market economy against the threat of communist dictatorship from China and its allies in the Cold War period, they have turned in recent years into rightwing royal-nationalists who mistrust and oppose U.S.-led economic globalization, Western liberal values, and majoritarian democracy. In this dramatic shift, China has become the magnetic pillar of a new regional axis whose economic clout, cultural values, and alternative model of political and economic development the Sino-Thais find congenial and appealing and are oriented towards.
Kasian Tejapira is a professor of political science at Thammasat University in Bangkok. He is the author of numerous academic publications and a score of books in both Thai and English. He is also a noted columnist, burgeoning poet, and was formerly a radical political activist in northeastern Thailand
Laksmi Pamuntjak: 'Between Hope and Despair: On “living with difference” in Indonesia'
The business of formulating today’s troubled world—as writers, as public intellectuals—has become ever trickier. The rise of right-wing populism, bigotry, and what David Frum calls “repressive kleptocracy” has made the need for critical thinking, new language, and fresh ways of moving forward all the more urgent.
In Indonesia, a country long celebrated for its pluralist traditions, the persecution of minority groups such as the LGBT community and Islamic movements deemed deviant has become more blatant, with women’s rights routinely undermined. There is growing intolerance towards divisive subjects such as the anti-Communist massacre of the 60s. Religious conservatism is on the rise, and a steady mainstreaming of the fascist Right seems to be the order of the day. There is a sense of fear that Indonesia—that great and continuous lesson in living with difference—is rudderless and crumbling.
In these uncertain times, there is a notable shift in Islamic critical thinking, and it is taking place in that unlikeliest of sites—social media. As popular, self-styled religious preachers known as ‘infotainment/celebrity ustadz” thrive by selling piety and prosperity to the middle classes, a counterculture of progressive, epistemologically sound, and equally media-savvy Islamic scholars has emerged, and is steadily gaining popularity. Not only has this new breed of intellectuals—with their potent mix of solid Islamic theological background, theoretical sophistication, and ferocious wit—revived serious intellectual debate but it has also shrewdly utilized social media to suit their purposes: as a new battleground of ideas. Meanwhile, in the realm of contemporary literature, more writers are transcending borders. While the extent of their influence remains to be seen, there exists a glimmer of hope: that people can turn to writers and public intellectuals to guide, provoke, and stimulate them.
Laksmi Pamuntjak is a bilingual Indonesian novelist, poet, essayist, journalist, and food critic. Amba/The Question of Red, her bestselling first novel, won Germany’s LiBeraturpreis 2016 and was named #1 on Germany’s Fall 2015 Weltempfaenger list of the best works of fiction translated into German from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Arab world. The novel was also shortlisted for the Khatulistiwa Literary Award 2012 and appeared on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Top 8 list of the best books of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015.Pamuntjak, who co-founded Aksara Bookstore in Jakarta, was selected by an international panel headed by Sir Simon Armitage as the Indonesian representative for Poetry Parnassus at the 2012 London Olympics. In addition to being a jury member of the Amsterdam-based Prince Claus Award between 2009 and 2011, she is also the author of Indonesia’s first, award-winning independent good food guide series to Jakarta, known as The Jakarta Good Food Guide. Pamuntjak’s latest book, There Are Tears In Things: Collected Poems and Prose (2001-2016) by Laksmi Pamuntjak, was published in November 2017. Her bestselling second novel, Aruna and Her Palate, will be published in the US in Fall 2017. She writes opinion articles for the Guardian and divides her time between Berlin and Jakarta.