Interdisciplinary Curriculum and International Collaboration in Liberal Arts Education for Future Asias

Dr. Jie Zhang1, Dr.  Haili  Kong2, Dr.  Jin  Feng3, Dr.  David  Ribble4, Dr.  Katharina  Yu5

1Trinity University, San Antonio, United States, 2Swarthmore College , Philadelphia , USA, 3Grinnell College , Grinnell , USA, 4Trinity University , San Antonio , USA, 5Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College (UIC), Zhuhai , PRC

Roundtable chair: Professor Jie Zhang


This panel features three path-breaking models of Asia-focused curriculum in America’s higher education. Specifically, it explores how faculty members across different disciplines (Chinese/Biology/Environmental Studies/International Studies/Russian) and geographical boundaries (US/China/Hong Kong/Taiwan/Japan/Vietnam/Russia) work collaboratively to offer students a global experience that combines cultural immersion, comparative inquiries, and experiential learning. All presenters are established scholars and administrators with an extensive international education background. They share their insights in curricular innovation, institutional strategies, and international partnerships. Together, they reflect how hundreds of American students experience multiple sites of Asia within and beyond the American liberal arts curriculum in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

The Future of #MeToo in Asia: A conversation with Youngmi Choi

Chair: Dr Jay Song 

(Sponsored by the Korea Foundation) 

In this special roundtable, we invite Ms Youngmi Choi, a prominent feminist poet and leading figure in Korean literature, to hear about her work as well as her fight against sexism in South Korea. Ms Choi’s first collection of poems published in 1994 instantly became a bestseller in Korea. Her own background as a student activist against military dictatorship in the 1980s sheds light on contemporary South Korean politics and society. Join Jay Song, Senior Lecturer and Convenor of Korean Studies at the Asia Institute of the University of Melbourne, in conversation with Youngmi to learn about her poetry, revelations of sexual harassment and what it means for the MeToo movement in Korea and Asia.

Youngmi Choi is a poet and novelist from Seoul, Korea. Her poem, Monster (괴물), ignited the #MeToo movement in Korea in 2018. Youngmi holds a BA in Western History from Seoul National University and an MA in Art History from Hong-ik University. Faced with the military dictatorship of 1980s, she joined student protest demanding for democracy. As a result, she was detained and suspended from university. Her first volume of poems At Thirty, the Party was Over (1994) was recognised for her delicate but bold expressions and piercing satire on the capital and authority. She has published six poetry collections (Treading on the Pedals of Dream, To the Pigs, Life that has yet to Arrive, Things Already Hot, and What will not come again) and penned two novels (Scars and Patterns, and The Garden of Bronze). Youngmi has received the 2006 Isu Literary Award and the 2018 Sex Equality Award.

New spatio-political-economies of Asia

Chair: Prof. Anoma Pieris1
Presenters: Dr. Amanda Achmadi1, Dr. Sidh Sintusingha1, Karina Putri1, Jayde Roberts2 
Discussant: Prof. Jeff Hou3 

1 University of Melbourne, 2 University of New South Wales, 3 University of Washington

This roundtable discussion presents observations of the interplay between spatial practices and the transforming political and social landscapes in 21st century Asia. It considers how spatial practices – ranging from formations of mega-infrastructure development to emergences of community based-design activism – are unfolding and are being recast as Asia embraces its urban century. The rise of urban middle classes, fluid labour movements, increased mobility across the region, social media and e-commerce further complicate the unresolved tension between democratisation, identity formation and state politics. All these unravel through the contrasting social and urban landscapes of Asian cities. Productions of built urban spectacle driven by the neo-liberal dream of becoming ‘global’ are presented as the future while their operations remain dependent on the resilient practices of informal urbanism, whether of governance, housing or economy. The roundtable speculates implications of the contrasting scales of spatial practices and poses the question whether this will further reinforce or weaken synergistic-juxtapositions of socio-economic extremes, ubiquitous many Asian cities?


The future of historical justice in Southeast Asia

Rachel Hughes1, Lia Kent2, Ken Setiawan3, Lisandro Claudio4

1 University of Melbourne
2 Visiting Fellow, Australian National University
3 Lecturer in Asian and Indonesian Studies, The University of Melbourne
4 Assistant Professor, University of California

From cases of colonial violence reaching back more than a century such as the Philippine American War or the Aceh War through to contemporary cases of state violence which took place in the larger context of the Cold War and the dominance of military regimes, people in the region of Southeast Asia continue to deal with the legacies of violence. In the last twenty years there have been extraordinary efforts from within these societies, particularly in Cambodia and East Timor, to demand and sometimes receive forms of historical justice such as legal redress or state recognition or apologies for cases of past violence. Yet there is also a sense that that many cases of violence have either been inadequately addressed or deliberately ignored by state authorities in the context also of fears about claims for justice for more recent cases of state violence. This panel brings together leading experts on the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and East Timor to consider whether the process of achieving or implementing historical justice across the region is complete or considered complete and by whom and why or why not. What future might historical justice have in this region based on contemporary trends?

The Uncertain Future of Highland Asia: The Cultural, Environmental and Political Transformation of The Himalaya

Dr Alexander Davis1, Dr Ruth Gamble2, Professor Duncan McDuie-Ra3, Dr Georgina Drew4, Dr Mona Chettri5, Dr Stephen Morey6, Dr Lauren Gawne2, Dr James Leibold7

1 Lecturer in International Relations, University of Western Australia, 2 Lecturer, La Trobe University, 3 Professor of Urban Sociology, The University of Newcastle, 4 Senior Lecturer, University of Adelaide, 5 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Western Australia, 6 Senior Lecturer in the Department of Languages and Linguistics, La Trobe University, 7 Head Of Department Of Politics, Media And Philosophy, La Trobe University

The Himalaya lives politically as a minoritized borderland of India, China and Pakistan alongside small landlocked states of Bhutan and Nepal. A combination of GDP-led development, massive infrastructure projects enabling greater connectivity, state-to-state military tensions and growing nationalism is producing a profound cultural, political and environmental transformation of the region. To make matters worse, the region’s watershed, which provides water to roughly half of humanity, is experiencing global warming at twice global averages. This round table is an interdisciplinary and interactive discussion of the interlinked challenges facing the Himalaya with leading Australia-based scholars studying the region. It includes perspectives from political science, international relations, sociology, political geography, anthropology, linguistics and environmental history. The participants will examine the effects of climate change, urbanisation, militarisation, development, and the role of states and military tension in sustaining and producing critical threats to the region’s fragile environmental, cultural and political balance.

The purpose of the round table is partly to launch the recently formed Australian Himalaya Research Network, an interdisciplinary group of social sciences and humanities scholars across Australia, engaging with and studying the extreme challenges faced by the Himalayan region.

Politics of the unseen: visual practice, spirituality and resistance in contemporary Indonesia

Dr Intan Paramadhita1, Dr Wulan Dirgantoro2, Dr Edwin Jurriëns3, Ms Naomi Srikandi4, Mr Garin Nugroho5, Ms Arahmaiani Feisal5, Mr Gustaff Hariman Iskandar6

1 Lecturer, Macquarie University, 2 McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow, The University of Melbourne, 3 Senior Lecturer in Indonesian Studies, The University of Melbourne, 4 Peretas Network,
5 Independent, 6 Common Room Foundation

The roundtable discussion will examine the intimate connection between spirituality, creative practices and social empowerment through the perspective of leading Indonesian cultural producers. As the rest of the world experiences the impact of global populism, neoliberal policies and most devastatingly, climate change, Indonesia is also not immune to these issues. The panel will discuss the possibilities of agency for Indonesian society in the present as well as in the broader context of future Asias, through a renewal of traditional knowledge. The discussion will engage in practical ways of learning both from the past and the present within various communities from West Java to Papua. Rather than making a priori distinction between modern and non-modern, the speakers will discuss not only cosmologies but also on the ground observations and from varied historical and cultural points of view in contemporary Indonesia.

Student mobility: new paradigms and outcomes for future Asia

A/Prof. Beatrice Trefalt1, Dr Bodean Hedwards1, Dr Jeremy Breaden1, A/Prof Andy Jackson1, Dr Hui Huang1, Ms Natassia Bell1, Ms Elicia O’Reilly1

1 Monash University

In recent years, student mobility has moved away from the traditional ‘semester abroad’ model to include a wider variety of experiences, including short study tours, workplace internships and language intensives. This diversification has had important benefits for student: work-integrated learning opportunities have grown, and short-term study abroad has allowed greater and more equitable access to an overseas study experience. At the same time, the trend raises questions on the ability of short-term programs to provide a sound basis for in-depth learning, threatening the kind of comprehensive knowledge required for area studies in the Humanities especially. This panel discussion builds on the 2019 Japan Foundation report on recent trends in student mobility to Japan, but broadens the reflection out to Asian Studies in general. To what extent does short-term mobility threaten, or enhance, our students’ knowledge of Asia and the future of Asian studies in Australia?

Asian Australian studies as a subject for future Research and teaching


Dr Samia KhatunDr Samia Khatun1 2Ms Chunyan Zhang, 3Dr Amrita Malhi, 4Ms Farzana Yesmen Chowdhury

1 Senior Lecturer, Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London, 2RMIT University, Melbourne Victoria, 3Australian National University Canberra, Australia, 4 University of Queensland, Australia 


Asian Australian Studies is a difficult subject to place within the various disciplines in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. It is a conundrum often pose (faced) by academics who research in this field and would like to also teach the subject. For example, how does it sit within a teaching curriculum in an Asian Studies major with a focus on area studies and languages such as Indonesian, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese or Korean? Can an Asian Australian research project be considered for the newly proposed Australian Research Council funding (though not mentioned in the description) on Australian history, culture, and its people?  This roundtable panel will discuss research and teaching experiences in Asian Australian Studies; what works and what does not work in terms of research project funding application and teaching within the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. We would like to also ask those attending for their input on how those working in the fields of Asian Australian Studies and Asian Studies in Australia can mutually benefit and collaborate, and how Asian Australian studies might be positioned within the association.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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