Four UCLA students receive support for research in Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
The University of California Pacific Rim Research Program (PRRP) has awarded grants to four UCLA graduate students. These grants, totaling $62,674, will help fund these students research in 2006-2007. The students are from three departments and each plans fieldwork in Southeast Asia. The students and abstracts of their projects are listed below. Some awardees have also received other grants to support their research.
The UC PRRP was created in 1986 and since then has provided support for more than 600 projects, involving over 450 University of California faculty, 120 graduate students, and well over 300 scholars from institutions on both sides of the Pacific and in both northern and southern hemispheres. Its priorities are: (1) comparative investigation across national, cultural, linguistic and/or regional boundaries; (2) focus on interactions, flows, or major issues affecting the Pacific Rim region and specific to it; (3) collaboration of scholars in different countries and, where appropriate, different disciplines. Multi-disliplinary, multi-region research is encouraged.
The Asia Institute serves as the UCLA coordinator for the program. In 2006, twenty-two UCLA faculty and students submitted applications for consideration by the campus nominating committee. Twelve projects were nominated for consideration by the systemwide committee.
Recreating Communities of the Faithful?: Negotiating Gender, Religion and Feminism in Malaysia and Egypt
Gender reform in Islam remains highly contested in the globalization process. While Muslim women are increasingly visible and vocal in these contestations, the impact of their active struggles to reclaim religious discourses, spaces and self-identification is still under-studied. My comparative project investigates why and how Muslim women intellectual-activists in two NGOs in Malaysia and Egypt employ “indigenous mediation” strategy to challenge conventional religious discourses in order to advocate for gender reform in Islam. Members of these two NGOs reread Islamic cultural history and Islamic sources (e.g. Qur'an) from a woman-centered perspective to construct alternative understandings of religion. At this juncture in history, there is a crucial need for a comparative analysis of the diverse manifestations of Islam in local contexts to de-essentialize discourses on gender in Islam and on Muslim women. To understand women’s agency, resistance, and gender power relations, I explore three interrelated questions: How are women transforming Islamic discourses of gender locally and transnationally through their engagement with religion? How is women’s relationship to self, community, and the state reconfigured when religion is politicized? Can indigenous mediation provide a viable transformative space for feminist struggles to re-imagine the faith-based Muslim community (Ummah)? Using a combination of participant-observation, semi-structured interviews, structured focus groups, textual analysis and archival research, my cross-cultural project investigates the intricate ways postcolonial states have compelled Muslim women to seek creative and contradictory strategies to structure their struggles. My anticipated results will further our understandings of gender politics and religious activism both within and between Muslim communities, which is increasingly important given the contemporary resurgence of religion as a political and cultural motivation, and will highlight distinctive variants of Southeast Asian Islam. My project will also contribute to literatures on gender and religion, postcolonial and social movement theory.
Land Classification and Allocation on the Edge of Vietnam's Protected Forests
This study will examine the political factors that drive how forest land is classified and allocated in the buffer zone surrounding Vietnam's Tam Dao national forest. The problems of forest protection and poverty alleviation are deeply intertwined in Vietnam, as much of the population dependent on forest resources is extremely poor. In an effort to combat both deforestation and poverty among forest users, Vietnam has been establishing protected forest areas and allocating other forest land to households, granting them various forms of use rights over this land. Numerous local government entities manage these processes and may have competing interests in how the land is classified and allocated. As household use rights are contingent upon this process of classification and allocation, this study asks: what factors drive forest land classification and allocation at the local level in Vietnam? This study will employ a household survey and interviews, interviews with the various local government authorities involved in land classification and allocation, and examination of land use planning documentation and maps to construct an explanation of how forest policy is made and property rights are defined on the edge of one of Vietnam’s protected forests. As similar community-based forest management schemes are being implemented in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Laos, the question of what factors determine local land policy is of central importance to questions of sustainable natural resource management and economic development across the Pacific Rim. -- click here for a summary of a presentation by Ms. Coe
Economy of Style: Youth, Class, and Consumer Culture in Post-New Order Indonesia
The proposed research is a comparative project, examining youth style and consumer preference across class lines in an Indonesian city. Through a year of ethnographic fieldwork in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in collaboration with the Center for Language and Cultural Studies at the Indonesian Islamic University, I will analyze the relationship between young Indonesians’ consumption of music, media, and fashion, and changing social and economic conditions in Indonesia. This research will focus on the consumer practices of a range of Indonesian youth (between the ages of 14 and 24), utilizing the methods of participant-observation, structured interviews, open-ended interviews, and textual analysis to assess the role that class background and the desire for upward mobility play in the formation of youth-specific styles, and how these styles, in turn, help shape the structure and meaning of social classes in Indonesia today. Specifically, my research will address the following question: how, and to what extent, are the consumer practices of Indonesian youth related to the changing dynamics of social class in Indonesia? What I expect to find through this research is that young people’s tastes in music, media, and fashion are neither arbitrary nor trivial but reflect instead their class affiliations and social/economic aspirations. Moreover, I hypothesize, young peoples’ practices of consumption are an important component of class formation in Indonesia today, helping establish the terms and conditions of class membership. My project, then, will help shed light on the contributions of young peoples’ everyday practices to larger social transformation in one of the Pacific Rim’s most populous, and rapidly industrializing nations. As such, it will contribute not only to the literature on media and youth culture in Indonesia, but also to a broader understanding of the processes of globalization and social change in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Rim, and industrializing nations more generally.
Sacrifice as Virtue in Vietnamese Family Life
The proposed dissertation project is a holistic ethnographic study of family life in Hue, Central Vietnam, exploring the Vietnamese cultural ideals of hy sinh (sacrifice) and nghia (virtue/duty/ devotion) as everyday moral practices that organize individuals’ social relationships and dispositions. Integrating the methods and perspectives of psycho-cultural and linguistic anthropology, I examine at the personal, interactive level how household members of different generations and genders interpret, narrate, and experience a morality of sacrifice and duty across their life spans, and how this value is transmitted or altered across changing historical epochs and in light of transforming socio-economic conditions. In addition to augmenting the literature on Central Vietnam in particular and Southeast Asia in general, my research contributes to wider issues in social science, including the socio-cultural patterning of sacrifice, individuals’ experience of kinship relations, and the relation between narrative, self, and culture. The study will be conducted under the auspices of Professor Tran Xuan Binh at Hue University of Sciences – Center for Social Sciences and Humanities, building connections between UCLA and Hue University. Ultimately, the research aims to refine theoretical formulations of sacrifice, and to contribute to comparative studies of family and household life in Asia-Pacific and beyond.