ASAA Plenary Keynote Speaker

Dr. Samia Khatun
Senior Lecturer, Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London

Samia Khatun is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Gender Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She is a feminist historian of the British Empire, focussing on the life worlds and experiences of colonised peoples. Tackling the central role of the discipline of modern history in constructing myths of the superiority of white man, her research and writing develops methodologies to engage colonised peoples’ intellectual traditions to tackle gender, race and class oppressions and their intersections with environmental destruction in the colonial modern era. In doing so she take aim at a racist assumption that profoundly shapes contemporary scholarship about Asia and its diasporas: The claim that the knowledge traditions of Enlightened man have superseded the epistemologies of peoples colonised by European empires.

Before joining SOAS, Samia was Associate Professor at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), where she was developing one of the first undergraduate history programs in the burgeoning private university sector in Bangladesh. Prior to this role, she was a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Melbourne and has held visiting research positions at the Zentrum Moderner Orient (Berlin), the University of Otago (Dunedin) and Jadavpur University (Kolkata). Her documentaries on Muslim migration, race relations and white nationalism have screened on Australian national broadcasters ABC-TV and SBS-TV and her first monograph Australianama: The South Asian Odyssey in Australia was published in 2019.

Regional Keynotes

Ayesha Jalal
South Asian Studies Association of Australia, Tufts University

Ayesha Jalal is the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University. After majoring in history and political science at Wellesley College, she obtained her doctorate in history from the University of Cambridge. Jalal has been Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge (1980-1984); Leverhulme Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge (1984-1987); Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C. (1985-1986); and Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies (1988-1990). From 1998-2003 she was a MacArthur Fellow.

Her publications include “The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan,” “The State of Martial Rule: the Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defence,” and “Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia: a Comparative and Historical Perspective.” Jalal has co-authored “Modern South Asia: History, Culture and Political Economy” with Sugata Bose. Her study of Muslim identity in the subcontinent, entitled “Self and Sovereignty: the Muslim Individual and the Community of Islam in South Asia since c.1850.” Her most recent book is “Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia.”

Jeffrey Hou
University of Washington, Society of Architecture Urban Historians of Asia
Jeffrey Hou, Associate Professor/Chair, Landscape Architecture

Jeffrey Hou is Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington, Seattle. His work focuses on community design, civic engagement, and public space. In a career that spans the Pacific, he has worked with indigenous tribes, farmers, and fishers in Taiwan, neighborhood residents in Japan, villagers in China, and inner-city immigrant youths and elders in North American cities. Hou is recognized for his pioneering writings on guerrilla urbanism and bottom-up placemaking, with collaborative publications including Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities (2010), Transcultural Cities: Border-Crossing and Placemaking (2013), Messy Urbanism: Understanding the “Other” Cities of Asia (2016), Design as Democracy: Techniques for Collective Creativity (2017), and City Unsilenced: Urban Resistance and Public Space in the Age of Shrinking Democracy (2017). He was a recipient of the Great Places Book Award and the CELA Excellence in Research and Creative Work Award. Hou was appointed as the City of Vienna Visiting Professor at TU Wien in 2013 and was a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan in 2015. For the past 18 years, he has worked with community organizations in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District to renovate and develop new community open spaces and streetscapes while building community capacity. More recently, his work has focused on civic urbanisms in East Asia, examining new models of community building and civic actions.

Michael Barr
Flinders University, Malaysia and Singapore Society of Australia

Michael Barr was awarded his PhD in History by the University of Queensland in 1998 for his thesis on the development of Lee Kuan Yew’s political thought. He received a national award from the Asian Studies Association of Australia for his dissertation and then won a Queensland University of Technology Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, which he used to continue his research on Singapore politics while writing a book on the ‘Asian values’ debate. He subsequently accepted an ARC postdoctoral research fellowship, which he took at Queensland University. The second fellowship was dedicated to continuing his research on Singapore. In 2007 he joined Flinders University as a lecturer in International Relations and became the director of several degree programmes and majors. He has been an Associate Professor since 2014.

From 2012-2017 he was Editor-in-Chief of Asian Studies Review, flagship journal of the Asian Studies Association of Australia and now he is Associate Editor of that journal. Articles accepted and managed under his editorship appeared from 2013-2018.

He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2018.

Michael has written 5 books and co-edited 2 volumes of collected essays, along with dozens of journal articles and individual book chapters – mainly on Singapore politics and history. He is a regular commentator on Singaporean and Asian affairs, and his commentary and op-eds have appear in many media outlets including the BBC, ABC (TV, radio and online), Wall Street JournalFinancial TimesAustralian Financial Review, CNN (online), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Straits Times (Singapore), Lianhe Zaobao (Singapore), Washington Post and The New York Times.

Kam Louie
Honorary Professor at UNSW and HKU, China Studies Association of Australia

Kam Louie FHKAH FAHA was Dean of the Arts Faculty (2005-13), MB Lee Professor of Humanities and Medicine at Hong Kong University (HKU) and President of The Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities (2011-13). He is currently Honorary Professor at UNSW and HKU.

His research interests cover interdisciplinary studies of gender, history, language, literature, and philosophy in China. He has published 18 books and about 80 articles, on diverse topics such as Inheriting Tradition: Interpretations of the Classical Philosophers in Communist China, 1949-1966 (Oxford University Press, 1986) and Theorising Chinese Masculinity: Society and Gender in China (Cambridge University Press, 2002).

He studied at Sydney University, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Peking University, and spent 1992 as Professorial Fellow at the Center for Chinese Studies, Taipei. He has taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Nanjing, Auckland and Murdoch Universities. He has also served as Professor of Chinese Studies and Head of Department at University of Queensland and Australian National University.

As well as serving on various committees such as the Australia-China Council, Cultural and Educational Advisory Committee of the Queensland-China Council, he was Chief Editor of Asian Studies Review and is an Editorial Board member of various scholarly journals.

Swee-Lin Ho
National University of Singapore, Japanese Studies Association of Australia

Associate Professor Swee (Swee-Lin) Ho joined NUS in 2012 after spending four years in South Korea as a Korea Foundation Research Fellow and Assistant Professor in the School of International Studies at the Catholic University of Korea.

She worked for many years after completing her undergraduate studies in Philosophy at NUS, as auditor, financial journalist and Vice President (of Business Development, Mergers & Acquisitions, and Corporate Communications) in China, Hong Kong, Japan and the UK, before obtaining an MA in Comparative Culture (Sociology) from Sophia University (Tokyo), followed by MSc and PhD in Social Anthropology at University of Oxford.

Swee’s teaching and research focus on the transformations of urban economic life that are being shaped by changing work patterns in the neoliberal era of flexible labour. She is particularly interested in examining how new work opportunities and challenges are shaping self-perceptions and self-identities; gender dynamics; attitudes towards and management of money; career choices and trajectories; marriage practices and family formations; friendship ties; leisure and consumption patterns; conceptualisations of time; and transfigurations of urban space.

To date, her publications comprise ethnographic studies on love hotels in Japan; the extramarital experiences of Japanese women; after-hour drinking practices of women with professional careers in Tokyo; the work-related friendship networks of women managers in Japan; the re-invention of the gendered self among Japanese women as fans of Korean popular idols; and the conflicted desires of parents in South Korea in grooming their children to become global K-pop idols.


Garin Nugroho
Independent Filmmaker, Indonesia Council

Garin Nugroho is a pioneer of a new generation of Indonesian filmmakers that emerged in the 1990s. His films have screened at international film festivals, including Cannes, Venice and Berlin, and have won multiple awards. He began his career as a film critic and documentary filmmaker.

Nugroho’s debut film Love Is A Slice Of Bread (1991) was selected as the Best Young Director at the Asia Pacific International Film Festival. Letter For An Angel (1994) won Best Film at the Taormina Film Festival and the Tokyo International Film Festival. His film Leaf On A Pillow (1998) won the Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 1998 and screened at Cannes Film Festival 1998. In celebration of 250 years of Mozart (2006) he was selected as one of the six ‘innovative directors’ to make a film to mark this anniversary. The result, Opera Jawa, was based on the Ramayana and produced by Simon Fields and premiered in Venice 2006. Opera Jawa was nominated for Best Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2007. The Mirror Never Lies (Laut Bercermin) produced by Nugroho and Nadine Chandrawinata won the APSA Best Children’s Feature film in 2012. His most recent film Memories of My Body (Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku) won the APSA Cultural Diversity Award under the patronage of UNESCO at the 2018 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

Philip Hirsch
University of Sydney, Association of Mainland Southeast Asia Studies

Philip Hirsch is Emeritus Professor of Human Geography at the University of Sydney and is a research affiliate at Chiang Mai University. He has published extensively on environment, development and agrarian change in Southeast Asia and has carried out rural fieldwork in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia over a period of three and a half decades. His recent books include the Routledge Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia (Routledge 2017); (with Ben Boer, Fleur Johns, Ben Saul and Natalia Scurrah), The Mekong: A Socio-Legal Approach to River Basin Development (Earthscan/Routledge 2016); and (with Derek Hall and Tania Li), Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia (NUS Press/University of Hawaii Press 2011).

Stephen Epstein
Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand

Stephen Epstein is Associate Professor of Asian Studies at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and a former president of the New Zealand Asian Studies Society (2013-14). At VUW, he directs the Asian Languages and Cultures Programme, and his research and publications focus on contemporary Korean society, literature and popular culture. He has also co-produced two documentaries on the Korean underground music scene with Timothy Tangherlini (Our Nation: a Korean Punk Rock Community, 2001; Us and Them: Korean Indie Rock in a K-pop World, 2014) and translated several works of Korean and Indonesian fiction. Recent books include The Korean Wave: A Sourcebook, co-edited with Yun Mi Hwang (Academy of Korean Studies Press, 2016) and his translation of Intan Paramaditha’s novel The Wandering: A Red Shoes Adventure (Harvill Secker, 2020), for which he won a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant. His co-edited volume with Rumi Sakamoto, Popular Culture and the Transformation of Japan-Korea Relations, will appear with Routledge later in 2020.


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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