vrijdag 12 juli 2013

7th Euroseas: First impressions

Between 2-6 July 2013 I was in Lissabon for the bi-annual meeting of the European Association of Southeast Asian Studies. Its venu was the new campus of the Technical University of Lissabon. A huge compound at the north-western border of the town, exactly the end of the town and in the hot, sunny atmosphere making a rather desolate impression.
We came with some 650 people who earn their money with traveling, writing and teaching on things related to Southeast Asia, all of us with a paper. There were in total 96 panels, some cancelled, some with only 2-4 presentation. I was in panel 81with 11 papers! Besides a few general sessions, it was a supermarket where it was sometimes difficult to find the proper rooms, the exhibitions of new books and the places to talk a little more quietly with many old colleagues.

On the building of the faculty of social and political sciences (Sospol is the Indonesian abbreviation) there was a great sign: we value people. Does this mean that here science cares for people, of that this science judges and evaluates people? The new bureaucrats are educated here, politicians, people who are to talk and write, probably.

The opening session was a disaster: the most important speaker would be José Ramos Horta. together with Bishop Belo the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. [I discussed with Freek Colombijn this strange combination: an absolutely secular, Marxist oriented activist, and the conservative, rather shy priest, ordained bisop of Dili. The Vatican diplomacy must have been active in promoting this peace prize and must have seen also its own profit by doing this. While the Catholic Church can be very stubborn, dogmatic and rigid, it also is able to be realistic and even opportunistic. But the aftermath of Belo is a shame. Removed to Portugal, later to Mozambique for reasons that were never disclosed openly. Colombij once had an interview with Ramos Horta and with struch by the elegant diplomacy of this warm personality.] Anyway Ramos Horta did not turn up and the second speaker, Jorge Sampaio, former president of Portugal and once the UN High Representative for the 'Alliance of Civilizations' spoke to the audience in the right way: scholars of Southeast Asia are no longer (like the generations of Hans Teeuw, Jan van Baal, Coolhaas) close to the civil administration and to the great business companies, but they are close to the NGOs. Sampaio hopes that mediation will be the new policy: not the army but the social scientists and their NGOs must choose the way of mediation and so found ways for peace and properity.
Above (below) Mieke Schouten and Gerrit Knaap, just some of the more the 25 Dutch scholars I met here in Lissabon. Just one quote: 'soft power has to play a role!'

My own panel 81 was on Friday 6th July, and for the first two days I made a selection of various other groups. I was first in Pale 11 on the colonial prejudices against other races. Then in Panel 67 on community driven development with the question about foreign workers in NGO: are they a good alternative for the local population? Can they also earn money? In Panel 89 James Fox gave a masterly presentation of  his long-term research project of ritual language in Roti: To speak in Pairs. There were some talks about Hizbut Tahrir: not concentrated on a specific person, but more as a nearly anonymous organization with some power and threat to society in Indonesia, where it preaches the international caliphate but also has some local interests. Above we we a photograph of Choong Pui Yee (working in Singapore at Nanyang University). She talked about the difficult situation of Christians in Malaysia who have to give in to the dominent Muslim Malaysian community, are not allowed to receive conversion and even must prevent the use of Allah for God.

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