Asia Institute - Theses
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Belonging and Trust in the Inter-Media Society: The Case of the 3.11 Disaster
The 3.11 disaster in Japan is an epitome of an unexpected, highly complex and intrinsically disruptive media event, and remains an ongoing concern even after eight years. The complexity of the triple disaster not only brought destruction to the surrounding environment but also reconfigured many people’s sense of place, security and communal belonging. In addition to the material reconstruction in the aftermath of disasters, it became equally essential to understand the social aspects of disasters, including how different media forms can aid recovery by strengthening connections with self, family and society. In the context of the sense of communal belonging and perceptions of trust in media, significantly shaped and reconfigured by the 3.11 disaster, this study expands the scholarship on the role of media in disaster communication to focus predominantly on individual media usage patterns and behaviour within contemporary Japanese society. Examining individual media usage experiences utilising various media forms, from traditional mass media forms such as television and newspapers to new, digital players, social media platforms and online news websites, this study looks specifically at how individuals experience their sense of communal belonging and trust in the context of the complex, inter-media environment of the 3.11 disaster. Based on in-depth interviews and social media data from Japan, this research examines the role of traditional mass media and non-traditional online media in evoking and amplifying a sense of belonging to spatial and relational communities. Here, the study elaborates on the role of online media in disaster communication and challenges they impose on traditional mass media use. Furthermore, this research looks at changes in individual perceptions of media credibility in a disaster context and present day, elaborating how shifting trust in media intersects with the changes in the way individuals use and rely on media. Main findings of the study suggest that in the wake of the disruptive media event, Japanese media users move from using traditional mass media as a sole source of news to personalised, inter-media environment which supports the emergence of affective connection to a community. The intensified sense of communal belonging further facilitates the practice of seeking and evaluating information and media credibility through new media forms of connectivity.
Overseas Chinese Communities in Transition: Capable Agency, Translocal Positioning, and Community Re-organisation
The rapid growth of China-born immigrants around the world has attracted intense attention from researchers, the public, and policymakers. However, much understanding of this population is clouded by speculation and misinformation, thus resulting in heated debates and even social anxieties. This research seeks to inform these debates concerning overseas Chinese communities by presenting an empirical case study conducted in Victoria, Australia. It argues that the significant influx of China-born immigrants since the late 1980s and early 1990s has seen an ongoing community reorganising process. Although this process has been influenced by convoluted forces at macro-, meso-, and micro-levels, the thesis demonstrates that it is more endogenous than exogenous. In other words, the process is fundamentally driven by Chinese immigrants who have strong inclinations and capabilities to self-organise for personal advancement and collective betterment. This research is grounded in offline and online ethnographic fieldwork spanning over three years. It is also informed by Chinese and Australian government reports, Australian national censuses, archival resources generated by the local Chinese community, as well as historical and cross-sectional comparisons. The five discussion chapters of this thesis identify and elaborate on the following key manifestations of the reorganising process respectively: a parallel rise of (1) homeland-engaging (transnational) and (2) hostland-embedding (local) activism, (3) heightened community engagement activism, (4) a feminisation turn, and (5) a redrawn organisational landscape. Addressed in this thesis is an under-researched and under-theorised topic central to the study of Chinese Overseas. This research also problematises state-centric analysis and demonstrates how a community-focused perspective can effectively illustrate and account for the dynamism and mechanism of immigrant community development. The co-evolutionary model developed in this research has proved constructive to unpack these convoluted and dynamic processes. In addition, this perspective also sheds light on the lived experiences of transnational mobility, the promises and pitfalls of accelerated transnational migration, and changes unleashed by accelerating globalisation. In so doing, it offers new avenues to studies on international migration and globalisation.
The state of disorder: Non-state violence in post-authoritarian Indonesia
This thesis examines the proliferation of non-state violence groups in post-authoritarian Indonesia. It argues that non-state violence characterises the workings of predatory forms of capitalism in the way understood by Marx as primitive accumulation. The persistence of non-state violence in different political settings is due to the significance of predatory capitalism, characterised by the use of extra-economic means in the accumulation of power and wealth. Within this context, non-state violence is not an obstruction, but instrumental for accumulation process, constituting the state of disorder. This argument criticises Weberian notions of the state in which it is defined as an entity that monopolises the legitimate use of violence. The existence of non-state violence is neither an indicator of the weak capacity of the state, thus enabling militias, gangsters or vigilante groups to take up certain state functions, as argued within institutionalist perspectives, nor the result of the fragmentation of power, as argued in the Migdalian state-in-society approach. As shown in the Indonesian case, non-state violence is endemic to predatory states as part of their purpose of facilitating capital accumulation.
A Grammar of Lakkja, South China
This thesis proposes to present a synchronic investigation of the Lakkja language which is spoken in South China with approximately 9,000 speakers. It aims to offer a full descriptive grammar of Lakkja by observing, documenting and analysing the language as manifested in its sound system, lexicon and grammar, not only to provide valuable data for typological and comparative studies but also help to preserve a precious cultural heritage for mankind. Adopting a functional-typological approach, this study begins with an introduction of the language and its people, including the topography, demography, ethnographic issues and sociolinguistic situations in Lakkja-speaking area, along with the typological profile of the language, the background, significance and methodology of this research, followed by an account of the phonological properties and changes before giving a description of the internal structure of words and morphological processes. The forms and functions of the noun phrase are discussed, as are the characteristics and functions of the verb phrase, as well as the semantic and syntactic properties of adjectives and adverbs. Serial verb constructions are treated in some detail, along with the temporal-aspectual system. An overall account of sentence types are explored. Grammatical relations between verbs and its arguments concludes the thesis from morpho-syntactic perspectives. The sound system of Lakkja generally follows the principles of historical phonology in Tai-Kadai languages. Lakkja by and large preserves the historical voiceless and voiced distinction in tonal selection. The sound system is not stable and undergoing a tendency of being simplified as a result of language contact. Monosyllabic words constitute the majority of Lakkja words, while loan words from local Chinese are disyllabic or polysyllabic. Word formation in Lakkja is characterized by affixation, compounding, reduplication and phonological alternation. A significant number of noun classifiers and lexical words may function as prefixes and suffixes to signify a specific entity or to mark gender, case and number, among others. A few typological features such as circumfix are found in Lakkja, which is quite unusual cross-linguistically. Compounding is typically derivational, head-initial and endocentric, with noticeable exceptions. Complex semantic properties and syntactic behaviours are noted in the noun phrase and the verb phrase. Constituent order determines the semantic relations and syntactic functions to a great extent. There is a continuum between morphology and syntax in certain lexical items, blurring the boundary between adjectives and adverbs, between nouns and verbs. A considerable number of Lakkja words have dual or multiple membership, with some in the process of being grammaticalized. Lakkja clauses include simple and complex clauses as well as simplex, subject-less and verbless clauses. Intonations and clause-final particles play a significant role in differentiating various types of sentences. Although Lakkja may be described as having an SVO (AVO) word order, the semantic, syntactic and thematic relations between arguments present a more complex picture. Lakkja holds a key to Kam-Tai. It is hoped that this study may shed some light on our understanding of the internal structure of Kam-Sui and Tai-Kadai, contact-induced language change, and more importantly, the relationship between Tai-Kadai and Austronesian.
Organisational Relations of Kurdish Political Parties and their Evolution
Since the separation of the Middle East after World War One, the Kurds have found themselves to be minorities spread over four states. Within each of these states – Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria – the Kurds have organically organised themselves into political groups and organisations. To differentiate themselves, the organisations’ have generally followed one of two ideologies: Socialists, who are Marxist in orientation, and nationalists, who are more conservative. Both ideologies have, in time, gained traction in each state and although the specific rhetoric of the individual groups is regionally focused, they still all loosely follow the two main ideological figurehead groups: the socialist PKK from Turkey or the more traditional KDP from Iraq. The Kurd’s ideological divisions have left a legacy of violence and mistrust. When this mistrust is combined with the pressure from their parent states to conform to the government’s sanctioned status quos, the Kurds have had their rights diminished then fought over the issue. Recently, the rise of the Kurdish autonomous areas in Iraq and Syria have challenged this ideological stalemate. The ability to express their ethnicity has given the groups the room to operate in a more democratic fashion that idealises discussion over violence. The opinions Kurds have of their own groups are also important in determining how indentured the biases are throughout their society. By utilising ethnographic research, it becomes clear that the ideological contention between the groups has become part of the ‘norm’ for Kurds and even though they have come a long way towards reconciliation, there is still much to do.
Liberated women, enlightened men: discourses on the 19th century Arab Renaissance in Egypt and Syria
Arab scholarship of the history of the Arab world's relationship with the West has typically been characterised by a narrative of struggle against Western hegemony and colonial domination. This narrative has failed to give sufficient recognition to the fact that in the nineteenth century, numerous Arab intellectuals, important members of the elite and significant segments of the general public were positively receptive and admiring of Western ideas. Significant segments of the general public embraced these ideas with open arms and seemed, initially, to be quite accepting of the apparatus of colonialism. European influence on nineteenth century Arab culture was more substantial than originally understood by Arab writers. A more nuanced perspective of Arab engagement with the West, adopted in this research, shows how Arab intellectuals who were fascinated by the West's achievements tailored Western Enlightenment ideas to suit their own society. The impact of the Western Enlightenment and early modernity on nineteenth century Egyptian and Syrian society and on women's education was profound. The focus of this study is on educational reforms which empowered women and allowed Arab women to enter the intellectual life of the nineteenth century. The emergence of female Arab writers and journalists affected not only women's domestic lives and the development of their consciousness regarding their rights, but also enabled women to participate in other spheres of public life. The establishment of women's literary societies and salons led to the development of a social consciousness that later allowed women to secure key legal, educational and marital reforms at the national level. This study illustrates the lasting influence of Western ideas on Arab society in the nineteenth century, particularly with regard to the education and advancement of women.
Towards strengthened primary care in China: an early evaluative study of the government’s role between 2003 and 2015
Since the early 2000s, the Chinese government has significantly increased its subsidies for health care and made new promises. Among different reform areas, primary care has been prioritised. This thesis evaluates the Chinese government’s role in strengthening primary care between 2003 and 2015. Two main research questions are addressed: 1. What has the Chinese government done to strengthen primary care? and 2. What were the outcomes of these efforts? In order to answer these research questions, data were drawn from both secondary research and fieldwork conducted in China between October 2016 and March 2017. More specifically, data were collected from the China Health Yearbook and China Health Statistical Yearbook, relevant policy documents and academic publications. During my fieldwork, primary data were obtained from semi-structured interviews and observations. These data were analysed using a framework developed from the existing literature. The strengthening of primary care was considered both as a goal in itself and as a means to improve the Chinese health care system. When considered as a goal in itself, the strength of primary care was broken down into structures and processes, which were then further divided into eight dimensions/features. Under each dimension/feature, the Chinese government’s intentions were described, followed by what the government did and intervention outcomes. The major findings of this study can be summarised as follows. To strengthen primary care, the Chinese government has relied heavily on increasing requirements for public primary care facilities and injecting more subsidies. The government has been successful in increasing the inputs of primary care facilities and meeting its own quantitative targets. Primary care facilities have become more spacious, better equipped and staffed by more people. They have delivered a large quantity of essential public health services free of charge, offered essential medicines at wholesaling prices and provided many medical services at below-cost prices. However, problems also exist. The quantitative targets set by the government are not always well justified. The effectiveness of various government efforts has been compromised by a mismatch between targets and funds, weak monitoring and a poor data foundation, compounded by the fragmented administrative structure. The strengthening of primary care facilities has been further complicated by their competitive relationship with hospitals. In the past 15 years, hospitals expanded rapidly, and the relative market share of primary care facilities dropped. The government has realised that diverting patients from hospitals to primary care facilities requires a more comprehensive approach. More recently, the government has further stepped up its efforts to strengthen primary care. Some promising initiatives have been initiated. However, the problems identified in this study have not yet been fully addressed, and these may continue to pose challenges for the government to achieving its intended goals.
In search of hegemony: Islamism and the state in Indonesia
In post-authoritarian Indonesia, but particularly following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Islamism has become a contentious matter of scholarly debate. The prominent accounts emerging from security and democratisation studies place much analytical weight on ideology and culture by often portraying the relationship between Islam and politics in essentialist fashion, associating the dynamics of Islamism with interpretations of Islamic doctrine or the contest between moderate and radical Muslims. The institutionalist literature, on the contrary, explains the rise of Islamism as the result of the weak capacity of the state following the fall of the centralised New Order authoritarian regime. Another variant draws attention to the moderation of Islamic politics as the result of participation in democratic processes, especially electoral politics. Yet, such linear and teleological explanations obscure the complex circumstances that establish the different trajectories of Islamism. They also fail to comprehend how the prevalence of Islamist discourse on power struggles in the current democracy can produce a more conservative and illiberal form of Islamism. In contrast, this thesis utilises the politics of hegemony approach as developed in the traditions of political discourse theory. By looking at Islamism and state transformation, this study is concerned with analysing the way various political struggles organised under the banner of Islam shape, and are being transformed by, the distinct configurations of power in specific historical conjunctures. It asks about the social conditions and contradictions that enable the articulation of dissent and demands through the narrative of Islam and how these relate to different forms of Islamist political projects. In particular the thesis addresses the way contestations and social coalitions forged throughout a process of struggle are constitutive for Indonesian politics and the practices of Islamism. This thesis argues that the dynamics and trajectories of Islamism have been shaped by broader socio-political changes and political contestation both within and beyond Islamists in specific historical conjunctures. This study identifies three central discursive settings in which the relations between Islamism and the state in Indonesia have been constituted and contested, namely anti-colonialism and nation-state formation (1900s-1965), developmentalism (1966-1998) and democracy (1998-present). It is shown that the building of different Islamist political projects, as a mode of articulating diverse demands and dissent of social groups for the purpose of reshaping a given social order has influenced the reconfiguration of their interests, identities, subjectivities and relationships. By highlighting the logic of political contingency, this study explains the ways Islamists’ hegemonic struggles constitute distinct forms of contestation and coalitions which have significantly affected Indonesian politics and Islamism itself. The main insight of this thesis is to offer a non-essentialist reading of Islamic politics by linking distinct socio-political conditions and the discursive formation of Islamism within the evolution of Indonesian political history.
Beyond the hinterland: exploring the international actorness of China’s Yunnan Province
This study analyses the international relations of subnational governments, a phenomenon conceptualized as paradiplomacy. The scholarly literature on paradiplomacy tends to focus overly on subnational governments in federal systems, rather than those in unitary and centralized countries whose subnational governments have been increasingly proactive in international relations. China is one of these countries. Among the limited numbers of works on Chinese paradiplomacy, the majority are framed within the central-local interactions on foreign affairs and pay inadequate attention to how these provinces have participated directly in external cooperation, in line with their local interests. This body of works also displays a geographical bias, showing more interest in the prosperous coastal regions of China than its inland and border regions. This study, therefore, seeks to address the question of how Yunnan, a border province in the southwest of China, has become an international actor by exploring its international actorness. The thesis develops an original analytical framework. In contrast with previous analytical paradiplomacy frameworks, it combines the concept of paradiplomacy with the theory of actorness. After reviewing the relevant scholarly works, four dimensions of actorness have been considered: motivation, opportunity, capability, and presence. First, this study argues that, in the face of profound domestic developments and a complex external environment, Yunnan has been motivated to engage in cross-border cooperation and to consolidate its external affairs powers. This is followed by a discussion of how external affairs powers have enabled Yunnan to leverage three broad instruments to incentivise neighbouring countries to cooperate with it: infrastructure development, economic statecraft, and diplomatic efforts. Lastly, it is argued that the increased external powers of Yunnan have propelled its role as an international relations actor towards recognition by both neighbouring countries and the Chinese central government. The primary empirical data informing this study was collected through qualitative interviews with those involved in the implementation of Yunnan’s foreign agenda, representatives from province-owned enterprises, universities, and think tanks, and officials and experts from the neighbouring countries of Yunnan. Relevant information was also collected from official documents, gazettes, almanacs, and media reports. Participant observation was conducted as a complement to interviews and content analyses. Consequently, this thesis contributes to the paradiplomacy literature by providing in-depth insights into the international actorness of an under-researched border Chinese province. It has contributed to the extant paradiplomacy literature by proposing a new analytical framework that provides an opening to explore the international actorness of a subnational government. Among previous works, few analytical frameworks have been able to account fully for the evolution of the paradiplomatic activities of subnational governments, whether in federal or unitary states. Through this analysis, therefore, this study demonstrates that a Chinese case can, for the most part, fit within the broader context of paradiplomacy scholarship based on Western cases.
Negotiated securities, contested spaces, changing identities: the socio-economic and socio-cultural tools of China’s ‘War on Terror’
This research examines how the Chinese government reasserts its control and management of public spaces as part of its overall counter-terrorism strategies, and what the implications of its strategies have been. It also interrogates whether the current critical perspectives on terrorism provide adequate insight into these problems. This research argues that in their approaches to understanding the state’s control of public spaces as a counter-terrorism approach, a large part of Critical Terrorism Studies lacks sufficient self-critique in three aspects: 1) a lack of material reference to critical analysis; 2) a lack of attention to the ‘negotiated’ and ‘hidden’ forms of resistance against state power; and 3) a lack of research on China’s counter-terrorism in regard to the aspects of the state’s innovations in counter-terrorism and the localized citizens-led responses. The dissertation studies three different cases of control/resistance associated with the state’s effort to manage material, social and/or digital public spaces as remedies to terrorism and ethnic unrest in China: the redevelopment project of Kashgar—the ‘home’ of Uyghur culture—from 2001 to 2017; the forging of local partnerships with potential agents (referring to the local cadres and Imams in Xinjiang) as part of the process of implementing counter-terrorism policies; and online posts about international terrorism that appeared on Sina Weibo in China between 2011 and 2016. Using securitization theory as a theoretical framework, this study establishes links between human geography and critical terrorism studies, as well as advancing the understanding of non-confrontational forms of resistance. Everyday spaces have been used as socio-economic and socio-cultural tools of securitization in China’s effort to control public spaces, and that the process of space-making of securitization has produced certain socio-political consequences (for example, the local discontent and unrest) that, in turn, have reshaped the way in which securitization has been interpreted, concretized and spatialized in the context of counter-terrorism in China. Following the new strategies of counter-terrorism that invite social participation, local citizens, motivated by their own survival and interests, have sought to negotiate, reacted to and capitalized on the processes surrounding the security-driven development policies in local societies; but this has often challenged the ability of the state to rule. In addition, with the state’s efforts to manage public opinions on terrorism, some elements of the securitization of Islamic terrorism have been utilized by local netizens in China to create a counter-discourse that has disrupted, delayed or reversed the global discourse of the war on terror. This thesis seeks to focus attention on the binary relationship between the securitizing agency of the state and counter-securitization agency of ‘terrorists’, while also exploring the manner in which other societal forces interact with these processes.
The writer and the written: literary exchange and political campaign in the People’s Republic of China, 1955-58
This dissertation is concerned with the relationship between political campaign and literary exchange in the early People’s Republic of China. In contrast to narratives that characterize literature as a political tool wielded by Mao Zedong and the CCP leadership, or as a mode of dissent deployed by literati opposed to the regime, I suggest a model in which patterns of literary circulation, as well as bureaucratic discipline and charismatic mobilization, were central to the playing out of political campaigns in the Mao era. Through a study of the Hundred Flowers and Anti-Rightist campaigns, I show that intellectuals across the political spectrum met in textual exchanges and circulation that constituted, rather than lay in tension with, the ongoing campaigns. The first chapter traces the adoption, propagation, and mutation of the slogan “let a hundred flowers bloom” over the period 1951-1957, showing the creative input of both Party and non-Party intellectuals from disparate fields in the proliferation and evolution of the campaign slogan in its passage from the literary canon, to political discourse, and back again. Chapter two examines what happened when this febrile system of linguistic and literary circulation became appropriated by a heterodox voice through the example of Fei Xiaotong’s essay “The Early Spring Weather of the Intellectuals.” Here, I show both the ability of an individual to exert influence on the discursive spaces formed in the campaign, and, in the Party’s response, its acknowledgement of the importance of controlling key literary tropes that had become politically charged. In chapter three, I explore the Hundred Flowers and Rectification campaigns as experienced by the Sichuanese writers, Liu Shahe and Shi Tianhe. Though the story of Liu’s poem “Pieces on Plants,” I argue that in some cases, ostensible “rightists” fell out of favour in 1957 not for political or ideological opposition to the Party, but conversely for being overzealous in their rush to act on signals from Beijing. Here, I also note how the campaigns of the year transformed both the way the Chinese writer approached their craft, as well as the way the Party apprehended its relationship with literature. Chapter four explores the literary-political dynamic in the period between the Anti-Rightist campaign and the Great Leap Forward. I argue that contestation over key images during early 1957 charged these images with heretical connotation and left behind challenges to the literary production seen by Mao and the Party as central to propaganda efforts. I discuss attempts by writers left standing after mid 1957 to tease out and resolve the heterodoxy injected into the imagery of the campaign by work such as Fei’s “Early Spring” and Liu’s “Pieces on Plants.” Here I also explore the experiences of those writing in the new climate through the diary and letters of the Sichuanese scholar of comparative literature, Wu Mi. Finally, in the conclusion, I reflect on the relationship between political campaign and literary practice and argue for a view of the “uses” of literature that reflect agency on the part of the writer as well as the state.
The Avicennian moment: separation and the science of being (qua being) in Aristotle and Avicenna
This thesis considers the fundamental conception of first philosophy (metaphysics) in the Metaphysics of Aristotle and its reception–reform in a major work of Abū ‘Alī al-Husayn Ibn-Sīna (Avicenna): the Metaphysics of the Healing (al-Ilāhiyyāt: al-Shifā’). Specifically, it examines some of the main theoretical features that underpin both the conception and programme of first philosophy (understood as a study both of being qua being and of immaterial being) in these works, including the notions of ‘separation’ and ‘abstraction’, which both Aristotle and Avicenna employ pervasively. In doing so, this thesis seeks to show, first of all, how each thinker solves the problem of the relationship between the ontological and theological dimensions of first philosophy, and how their solutions, and the arguments they depend on, both reflect and are reflected in their wider views on being and the nature of scientific enquiry. It is argued that while the notion of separation as independence is fundamental for Aristotle (as seen, for example, in his treatment of the aporiai of Metaphysics B), by contrast, for Avicenna, the notion of abstraction as immateriality, is central. Similar points of comparison are presented, such as the very notion of a notion or meaning which Avicenna employs constantly, as in his unique treatment of the problem of the homonymy of being; and it is argued that the conception of meaning that Avicenna uses here is not, as such, found in Aristotle, who instead relies on a notion of logoi. These differences, then, represent some of the main sources of disagreement between the two philosophers with respect to their accounts of being. Finally, the preceding questions are also examined in connection with the problem of whether we find a distinct notion of existence in Aristotle, such as we find in Avicenna, and if so, how this notion is treated in the context of his scientific investigation of being and its divisions. In this way, this thesis seeks to illuminate, from one perspective, what separates and connects these two key moments in the history of philosophy and the reception–history of the Metaphysics.