Research Workshops and Conferences

Research workshops, convened by academic staff, bring together teams of scholars, experts, and graduate research students to explore a variety of research topics. Often inter-disciplinary, always critical, these workshops are opportunities for academic staff to lead wider research collaborations, build new networks and contribute to enhancing knowledge of pressing issues of the day.

2017: Genderworks: Dialogue and Action across Our Differences

8 July, 2017, Monash University Malaysia
Conference Conveners: A/P Dr Sharon A. Bong, Dr Joseph N. Goh and Dr Thaatchaayini Kananatu

On Saturday, the 8th of July 2017, Monash University Malaysia hosted its very first Gender Studies conference for undergraduates. A joint effort by the School of Arts and Social Sciences as well as the School of Business, Genderworks 2017: Dialogue and Action Across Our Differences was convened by Associate Professor Sharon A. Bong, Dr Joseph N. Goh and Dr Thaatchaayini Kananatu to celebrate the establishment of the major in Gender Studies offered by the School of Arts and Social Sciences in 2016. It was also organized in partnership with private institutions that form the Gender Equality Initiative, set up by the Association of Women Lawyers and the Bar Council, Malaysia, which comprises INTI International University, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Brickfields Asia College, Advance Tertiary College and Monash University Malaysia. Revolving around the theme of Gender Studies, the conference called for papers by undergraduates that tackled issues pertaining to how gender manifests itself in our everyday lives, which includes, but is not limited to, the law and human rights, culture and religion, as well as in texts such as films. 

The auspicious event was launched by the President and Pro Vice-Chancellor (interim) of Monash University Malaysia, Professor Andrew Walker, who commended the team on the strategic partnerships forged through the organisation of this conference. He also liked the multi-layered interpretations of the conference theme, believing that Genderworks has at least two meanings, with the first being that “gender, as we know, is a work in progress, for all of us”. Throughout our lives, we grapple with our own particular style and form of gender which is not, of course, left untouched by social, political, cultural and economic forces, hence highlighting the malleability of our identities. The second meaning Professor Walker identified is that while we have “gender diverse societies, we certainly don’t have gender equality”. As such, we have to keep working to achieve gender equality.

Following his speech was keynote speaker Dr Shanthi Thambiah’s, who went on to echo the need to keep working to achieve “equality for diversity” and stressed the importance of conferences such as this, despite, and because of, widespread beliefs that feminism is no longer necessary because, in reality, there is still much to be done.

Thematic panels of the sixteen papers selected pre-conference include Gender, Technology and Film; Gender, Capitalism and Labour; Gender, Equality and Justice: History and Institutions and finally, Gender, Equality and Justice: Relationships and Values. The authors of these papers, who come from three different institutions, INTI International University, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, and Monash University Malaysia, were each given 10 minutes to present their findings, followed by a Q&A session. Among those present was Sheena Gurbakhash, from the Association of Women Lawyers, who served as a judge for the best oral presenter. At the end of the day, both Agnes Ong from Monash University Malaysia and Elizabeth Eu from INTI International University shared this honour, despite the fact that everybody was only expecting one winner. 

But the paper that topped all sixteen came from Communication major Chelsea Teoh, who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences at Monash University Malaysia. Teoh, who wrote about simulated relationships and the Cyborg-Otaku, articulated that her paper was inspired by her personal interest in Japanese pop culture and video games. She explained that she thought it would be interesting to explore the video gamer who is usually seen through a communications lens as a product of digital/mobile media, and with gender as a main analytical lens, as a hybrid body. The other four papers that made up the top five include Monash’s Krisha Raveendran Vishinpir’s “Rising Trend of Kkotminam Masculinities in South Korean Contemporary Culture”, Kan Wai Min’s “Interrogating the United Kingdom’s Implementation Gap in the Provision of Asylum on the Basis of Sexual Orientation”, Agnes Ong’s “Commentaries on Singapore’s Christian and Cultural Attitudes Towards a Gay Eschatology” and Saw Ray Mond’s “An Analysis of Malaysian Women Under Capitalism”. 

Teoh added that this conference served as a platform to showcase that gender permeates all spheres of life, and “draws attention to the aspects that we take for granted because they are so deeply entrenched in the way we live that we are not even aware of it”. Indeed, one aim of Genderworks 2017 was to open eyes to how genders and sexualities operate in our everyday lives and, more academically, across different disciplines such as law, global studies, film studies, and, of course, gender and sexuality studies. In addition to this, Kan also liked that Genderworks challenged the status quo and provided a platform to “tackle issues that are not always or openly discussed” which he deems important to “protect and promote social justice for all”. These issues which include the many differences between us such as sex, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and socio-cultural contexts, differences that seem irreconcilable, were constantly highlighted during the conference. But instead of ignoring or excluding them, which happens more often than not, Genderworks 2017 accepted, acknowledged, and privileged this diversity.

Finally, while this conference also provided an intellectual and safe space for young minds like Teoh’s and Kan’s to critically and reflexively consider the ways in which gender works in their lives and the institutions they inhabit, it also had an effect on those of us who are not entirely new to this field. For us, Genderworks 2017 served as a reminder to keep going, no matter how long we have been at it, no matter how far we have come and no matter how far we still have to go. To quote Dr Alicia Izharuddin, a lecturer in Gender Studies at the University of Malaya, who was addressing the aspiring undergraduates who were not sure if their papers would change the world, Gender Studies was started to change the world—and that is what we will continue doing, one tiny step—or one paper—at a time. 

Written by Laura Eva Wong

2016: Film Stardom in Southeast Asia Workshop

24-25 November, 2016, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leader: Dr Jonathan Driskell

All across Southeast Asia film stars have attained an important place in popular culture, appearing in magazines and newspapers, on billboards and cinema marquees, at public events and premieres, and now on the internet. These stars often possess the general features of stardom commonly noted in film scholarship, such as glamour and charisma, while at the same time offering nationally (or even regionally) specific inflections of the phenomenon, embodying local tastes, values and ideologies. Many have reached stellar levels of fame, with Mitr Chaibancha in Thailand, P. Ramlee in Malaysia and Nora Aunor in the Philippines, for example, all attaining legendary status in their respective countries.  

This workshop brought together eleven film scholars to discuss film stardom in Southeast Asia, with papers covering a wide range of topics (including, amongst others, Indonesian "sex bombs", Vietnamese stardom during the 1960s and 1970s, and contemporary Philippine “love teams”), time periods (from the 1950s to the present day), and national cinemas (the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaya/Singapore). 

2016: Workshop on Protest Spaces and Social Movements in Asia 

14-15 January, 2016, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leader: Prof Kuah Khun Eng 

Asia is experiencing social and political ferment. Arguably, this can be attributed to the deepening connectivity, flows, and integration of capital, people and ideas catalysed by the heterogeneous agents of neo-liberal economic globalisation, regionalisation and localisation. They range from global financial systems, regional governance bodies, and the media and entertainment industries to the work of transnational and local civil society and NGOs. On the one hand, state governments have to negotiate with and manage these myriad forces in order to maintain a semblance of state sovereignty, autonomy, and social control. On the other hand, an increasing number of ordinary citizens are exerting their democratic aspirations through direct social engagement with state authorities and transnational entities. These range from well-organised large-scale protest rallies to the rallying calls and acrimonious debates found in the spaces of social media. Bringing together scholars located in Malaysia, Southeast Asia, China and the United States, this workshop explored the theme of contemporary 'protest spaces' in a variety of settings and scales mobilized by different actors across Asia.

2015: Workshop on Internet in Southeast Asia: Power and Society 

3-4 December 2015, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leaders: Dr Julian Hopkins and Dr Tan Meng Yoe

The inaugural “Internet in Southeast Asia” workshop was held on the 3-4 of December, 2015. Led by Dr Tan Meng Yoe and Dr Julian Hopkins, the workshop theme on Power and Society explored how the internet affects negotiations of power in social, cultural, and political dimensions in the Southeast Asian region. The workshop attracted the interest of researchers from reputable institutions worldwide working in the area of internet and society. The range of topics presented was diverse, and over two days, participants listened to and engaged in issues of politics, religion, and popular culture, among others. Dr John Postill, the VC Senior Research Fellow from RMIT University Melbourne gave the keynote address on the subject of Internet Struggles in Southeast Asia: An Ethnographic Account of RightsCon 2015, Manila.

2014: Workshop on Transnational Private Regulation and Multi-level Governance in Southeast Asia: Investigating the Possibilities and Limitations for “Progressive” Governance 

8-9 December 2014, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leaders: Associate Prof Helen Nesadurai and Prof Shaun Breslin (Warwick) 

Funded by a grant from the Monash-Warwick Strategic Alliance, this workshop saw eight scholars from Warwick and Monash universities (Malaysia and Clayton campus), led by Prof Shaun Breslin (Warwick) and Assoc Prof Helen Nesadurai (SASS), to explore how rules and standards developed by non-state actors such as private firms, NGOs and experts/scholars, among others, may be helping to advance a range of rights (such as human, labour, and land rights) and a set of good governance practices (such as accountability, transparency, sustainability) in various economic sectors across the region. While paying close attention to transnational private regulation’s “progressive” governance potential, the project was also alert to its limitations and the challenges faced, including official resistance to private governance and their possible capture by self-interested parties (states, firms). 

2011: International Young Scholars’ Conference

14-15 November 2011, Monash University Malaysia
Conference Leaders: SASS Graduate Research Students

The two day international conference, organized primarily by PhD students from the School of Arts and Social Sciences, brought researchers from around the world to discuss social issues, trends, and discoveries within the Southeast Asian region. International participants included researchers from the Southeast Asian region as well as young scholars from England, Germany, and Australia, among others. A wide range of research topics were presented and discussed in the nine panels that took place. The 23 research papers presented discussed ASEAN trade and navigational policies, religious issues, internet studies, arts and literature, as well as unique cultures and people groups in various Southeast Asian nations. Professor Edmund Terence Gomez of University Malaysia and Dr. Kathryn Barker, a consulting futurist at Monash University, set the tone for the conference through their respective keynote addresses, which encouraged and challenged participants to approach research from innovative and unique ways that are not necessarily influenced by dominant Western frameworks and to enjoy the learning and discovery processes that are an integral part of the research and PhD journey. For the PhD cohort from SASS who were involved in organising the conference, the year-long effort served as a valuable training ground for future careers, whether in academia or in other careers. The conference provided practical experience for PhD students in networking with the larger intellectual community as well as honed their organization skills.


2010: Workshop on Malaysian Literature in English

December 2010, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leader: Dr Andrew Ng 

This one-day workshop brought together five experts, including two international scholars, to discuss the state of contemporary Anglophone Malaysian literature and the local arts/literary scene. They explored various themes on this topic but tried to avoid the frequently treaded terrains of nationalism and race that beset much scholarship on Malaysian literature written in English. Although these issues cannot be avoided altogether, because they are deeply embedded in the ideological imaginary of this country and invariably shape its literature, they were deliberately given minimum emphasis in this workshop so that other equally important, but less, discussed features could be foregrounded. Participants explored a variety of major genres: novels, poetry, autobiography, short stories and plays. 


2010: International Conference on Trauma, Memory and Transformation: The Malaysian and Southeast Asian Experience

22-24 June 2010, Monash University Malaysia
Conference Leader: Mr Benjamin McKay                                          

This conference tapped into the growing cross-disciplinary interest in both trauma and memory in the humanities and social sciences. Trauma is seen as a moment of profound alteration and change in the lives of both individuals and communities, which may be triggered by the effects of war, terrorism, state violence and natural disaster through to the more personal traumas such as illness and being a victim of crime. The study of memory has also been an important development in the humanities and social sciences. Memory studies, which complements more traditional historical discourse by offering alternative pathways to an assessment of personal and shared experience, provides subaltern communities with a distinctive opportunity to have their recollections and memories considered as a part of living history – revealing narratives that might be alternative to the grand narratives of national and regional historic discourse(s). Against this disciplinary backdrop, the conference was aimed at exploring localised Malaysian and Southeast Asian responses to trauma through examining a variety of case studies that are informed by memory and that reveal patterns of transformation. Key questions addressed include: How is trauma overcome? What roles do reflections play in the process of transformation? What particular features do the Malaysian and Southeast Asian experience of a range of traumas add to our understanding of trauma and memory on a more global scale? 

The School would like to acknowledge the valuable contribution of Benjamin McKay, the Conference leader, who sadly passed away a month after the Conference but whose memory lives on in the volume of selected conference papers edited by Sharon A. Bong and published by SIRD.

2009: Cross-Campus Workshop on Research in Arts and Social Sciences

February 2009, Monash University Malaysia
Workshop Leaders: Prof. James Chin and Dr Pieter Duvenage (Monash South Africa) 


Academics from the School of Arts and Social Sciences (SASS) from Monash University Malaysia and the School of Arts from Monash South Africa met on the Malaysia campus in February 2009 to exchange research ideas, findings and perspectives. Led by their respective heads of school, James Chin and Pieter Dauvenage, eleven academic staff discussed a wide range of topics including affirmative action experiences, identity politics, ethnic distrust, sexuality and religion, the digital divide and development, regional governance, sidewalk vending and city spaces, and gothic and horror literature. The workshop culminated in close discussion on future research and education collaboration possibilities between the two campuses of Monash University.  


2008: International Forum: Diversity Matters Malaysia: Diasporas in the Commonwealth

19-21 November 2008, Monash University Malaysia
Forum Partners: The Australian Multicultural Foundation, the Commonwealth Foundation, the Monash Institute for the Study of Global Movements, Monash University Malaysia, The Statesman (India), and Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI)  

Diversity Matters Malaysia, the fifth in a series of Commonwealth Forums held every two years since 2001, was titled Diasporas in the Commonwealth, and hosted at the Monash University Malaysia campus in Bandar Sunway. The Forum attracted a distinguished list of speakers presenting wide-ranging analyses and discussions on diasporas in the Commonwealth. The conference was particularly honoured in having His Royal Highness Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, Crown Prince of Perak Darul Ridzuan present the keynote address. The thought provoking presentations spearheaded the lively exchanges at the Forum’s four workshops producing several practical and achievable outcomes and recommendations for the Commonwealth. The recommendations are expected to inform future Commonwealth discussions, including the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Malaysia, June, 2009, and the Commonwealth People’s Forum in Trinidad and Tobago, November 2009.