Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School: Modern asian Thought. By Hilmar Farid

Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School: Modern asian Thought

Speaker: Hilmar Farid

Hilmar Farid is a scholar, historian, and cultural activist from Indonesia. He is a founding member of Jaringan Kerja Budaya, a collective of artists and cultural workers in the early 1990s, and also the Institute of Indonesian Social History in 2000. He taught history and cultural studies at the Jakarta Arts Institute and University of Indonesia for several years. He received his PhD from the National University of Singapore and wrote his thesis on Pramoedya Ananta Toer and the politics of decolonization in Indonesia. He has been an active member of the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives (ARENA) and the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society. On 31 December 2015, after a long selection process, he was appointed as the Director General for Culture at the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia under President Joko Widodo’s administration (2015-2019).

In the 3rd Biannual Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society (IACSS) Summer School, in collaboration with the Modern Asian Thought project initiated by Inter-Asia School, that held in Hsinchu, Taiwan (July 1-15, 2014), Hilmar Farid talked about his Oral History Project in Indonesia in addressing issues in “Modern Asian Thought”. His discussion is part of the response to Prof. Nandy’s presentations. In that project, they collects interview of hundreds of former political activist in the 1960s that live in prison for years without trial. The project aimed to collect initial history of their suffering in order to construct alternative version of history. This project was the reflection of 1965 massacre in indonesia, where Indonesian Army accused Communist group (including party, follower, supporter, and etc.) responsible for the death of 6 Army Generals. On October 1965, 6 army generals murdered by a group of army led by Colonel Untung that are communist supporter. Soeharto took over the army leadership and retaliated the death of 6 army generals by scapegoating communist.

The oral history project is to look at back at the memory, not aimed to help them to restore the memory. But collected memory aimed to construct alternative version of history. At the end, he addressed question to audiences, scholar in humanities, and especially to scholars in history; is study of memory possible?


爭奪公共空間 – 社會性藝術的政治實踐 藝術介入與社會批判: 亞際知識對話 Artistic Intervention and Social Critique: A Dialogue in the Inter-Asian Context. By Hong-Bin Zheng

爭奪公共空間-社會性藝術的政治實踐 藝術介入與社會批判:亞際知識對話

Artistic Intervention and Social Critique: A Dialogue in the Inter-Asian Context

Speaker: Zheng Hong-Bin

Date: 8th December 2017

What do you think about arts? Are they aesthetic practices? Perhaps, it may be as social movement or political practices. Any junction between aesthetic practices and political practices? Artisans, as the producer of sensible and sensibility, in the milieu of changing society, is there any special existence for them? Not only the distribution of space, but also its relationship between the audience,  two subjects (arts and people) involved in the conversation what chemical reaction happens?

Zheng Hongbin currently is the curator of Xi’an Art Museum. He has worked at Guangdong Times Museum as the project coordinator. He would like to share about his experience of three art projects that he has curated and organized include: On Practice: the Instruction Nearby (2016), Promised Land: the Park Xing Qing Gong (2016), Co-production (2017), Launch of ‘Resident’ Project (2017)

藝術, 算不算藝術?也可以從這裡當作出發點, 或許會被質疑是這算是公民行動嗎? 那它有何聯繫?主題還是從藝術家出發, 作為感性和感知,‘sense’的生產者,  他們在環境的改變和社會事件上,是否有特殊性的存在呢?特別是接觸到人,那不僅僅只是空間,那會產生出怎樣的效果?主體對主體用藝術作為對話的時候,那又會產生怎樣的能動性效果?

鄭宏彬策展人,曾任廣東時代美術館 – 黃邊站的專案統籌,目前現任西安美術館策展人。他在此分享三個計畫項目,他於北京的城市邊緣空間跟藝術家調研,另外就是居民-硃砂腳的城市問題在城市圈討論,街區蹲點共同製作計畫。他主要是談及中國的大部分都在討論涉及民間話語的問題, 不管是城市跟農場,還是農場跟官方,或者是官方到民間都有言論的不對等,或者是言論傳播的不對等。


Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School- Gandhi and Maoism. By Chih-Ming Wang

Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School – Gandhi and Maoism

Speaker: Chih-Ming Wang

Date: 4th July (Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School)

Chih-Ming Wang addresses two main problematics in his presentation. The first one is the problematic of modernity, and he tries to find the question to how can India experience modernity, especially in its relation to British colonialism, and how after independence a nation can still be interdependent in the realm economy with the former colonial master. Secondly, he focuses on the idea of India. The author went once to India and found out that in order to go do it a foreigner requires a lot of preparation, due to the amount of different languages and different cultures in the country. Only in this way we can study and comprehend the complex situation of India.

The author focus then about the image of Gandhi. There speech turns around the practices of nonviolence and non-cooperation introduced by Gandhi and how they can resonate in current social movements. For Chih-Ming, the value of Gandhi goes beyond India. We think about resisting as acting, but Gandhi emphasizes passive resistance. He asks himself how is that possible and comments into Gandhi’s ideas and actions.

India was once “one nation”, but in 1905 British plans for the partition of Indian changed the statu-quo: it had implications in national sentiments and independence.

Gandhi’s went to make salt to the Ocean side as a form of social demonstration against the oppression. The act of making salt by hand shows the idea of self reliance, survival in “our own terms”. So we can also run the government by ourselves, we do not need to be ruled by the colonials masters. He then discusses with the audience about the image of Gandhi and what it means to them. For him, Gandhi, in a photo that he showed, looks like suffering peacefully, suffering as a weapon.

TThe technology was an important element in Gandhi’s thinking, precisely because technology is equated with modernity. Similarly, the Internet can help us to engage with the social movements in a easier way than the generation of Gandhi could.

During the independence struggle, the younger generation of Indians wanted more revolution, with violence, but for Gandhi, it was a weakness. As a weakness, he also talks about the tendency to demonize the other. Gandhi prevent us from using that other kind of indirect violence.


完全關於空間! 藝術介入與社會批判: 亞際知識對話 Artistic Intervention and Social Critique: A Dialogue in the Inter-Asian Context. By Kim Jun & Le Thuan Uyen

藝術介入與社會批判: 亞際知識對話
Artistic Intervention and Social Critique: A Dialogue in the Inter-Asian Context
Speaker: Kim Jun from Gim Jungi
Speaker: Le Thuan Uyen

This is a session of the workshop on “Artistic Intervention and Social Critique: A Dialogue in the Inter-Asia Context” held by the International Institute for Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University in December 2017. The video includes two talks about art practices and art environment, given by two artists from Korea and Vietnam. The question of how artists and curators define the artistic practices in the contemporary context could be answered differently here, but both speakers shared certain similarities in their thoughts.

“Activist Artist in Korean Social Art”

The first lecture,“Activist Artist in Korean Social Art”, focused on social arts within the relations of social practice and artistic practice. Artist Gim Jungi, who gave the speech, is now Director of Jeju Musem of Art, Head of Jeju Biennale. He believes that there is an absence of contact between society and art, thus the necessity of art, especially social art, in order to narrow the gap. According to Gim, social art comprises of community art and activist art. While the former relates to cooperation and coexistence, the latter revolves around participation, intervention and changing society. Minjung Art Group, an artistic organization emerged during the 80s, was an exemplar of the second form, as they not only used art to describe the daily life of people around them, but also invited these people to collaborate and create art. This kind of on-site (現場) art would utilize any space deemed suitable, thus it is not just limited within exhibitions and galleries. It is also worth noticing how social movements during the 80s generated energy for minjung art in the Korean society.

“It Is (NOT) All about the Space!”

In the second part of the video, “It is (Not) All about the Space”, Vietnamese researcher/curator Le Thuan Uyen introduced the history of art space development in Vietnam and raised the question of rethinking about space. Under the influence of the dominant Communist Party in Vietnam, it is usually realism art that depicted and honored patriotism and socialism that is recognized and allowed to be displayed in public. Art and culture were considered other battlefields in the fight for independence. Before 1988, there was governmental restriction on opening art space, since the government maintained their control through arm-length institutions. Even until today, strict censorship is still imposed upon art practices, and art almost existed outside of public life. The urgent needs for medium grounds to introduce contemporary art to people has motivated young artists and curators like Le to seek and utilize available spaces: from studios opened at home to interactive art on the streets or even art event held in a hospital, and non-physical space for video artwork display thanks to the emergence of digital platforms lately. Therefore, when we think about space, it is not all about “space”, or more specifically, physical space, but also non-physical space.

In summary, we see how artists responded to in challenging situations in the talks given by Gim and Le. Artists play an intermediary role in connecting art with the society. In several situations, it is usually the artists who shoulder the responsibility of producing art and bringing art closer to the public. Moreover, repression and constraint usually lead to resistance, as in the case of Minjung Art Group in the movements for democracy in Korean, or Vietnamese artists trying to establish their own space despite the cultural policies of the government. In fact, one may ask whether the vitality of art could still be maintained in a place free of social conflicts and political issues, or maybe certain kind of disruption is necessary to maintain the energy of artistic production.


National Culture

by Professor Wang Xiaoming

Wang Xiaoming was born in June 1955, Shanghai. He is a Professor and Dean of the Department of Cultural Studies at Shanghai University and the Director of the Center for Contemporary Chinese Culture Studies. He is also the Zijiang Chair Professor of Department of Chinese Studies at East China Normal University and Chairman of the Committee of the Chinese Modern Literature Information and Research Center. His research interests focus on contemporary China literature/thought, and also contemporary cultural studies.


The seminar entitled “Nationalism Culture” presented by Professor Wang Xiaoming focusing on China during the 19th century. A strong nation with the highest position of total economic volume at that time and made up of four billion numbers of populations, starting to face various crises that extends from internal bureaucracy, corruption and external imperialism invasion.

China at that time never experienced such situation and eventually, these crises had lead China to be separated by various imperialist forces, which contribute to pessimistic social mood thus provoke the intellectual circles to seek solutions out of the woes.

Professor Wang Xiaoming describes the emergence of contemporary thought at that time as revolutionary attempts and means in creating a new China. With the outlook of a new world, it sparks different thoughts and problematizations. In here, emerges three different schools of thought which attempt to answer the complex question of “How do we treat the West”?

In 1870, Wang T’ao ( 王韜 ), a prolific thinker of his time and also the first person in China to publish the modern newspaper. His critique of the Western culture, where it is being perceived to be heavily focused on competition and expansion; although these means can strengthen the nation, it will ultimately lead to world scale war between nations and conflicts in the Eastern part of the world.

Yan Fu(嚴復) is a scholar who studies in England during the end of the 19th century. He has actively engaged in a prolific translation works and also the first President of Beijing University. He attempts to compare the Eastern and Western countries from the perspective of its culture. In here, he has develops an ambiguous view of the State where it is hard to determine the nature of a ‘good’ State. This has been contributed to the Western countries formation which rely heavily on the human agency and allow unlimited human expansions process which will create an imbalance with the natural world. On the other side, although Eastern culture has stressed the importance of natural relationship and tends to make a decision that can be characterized as profound and lasting, but paradoxically, this habit contribute to the weakening and uncompetitiveness of China as a country. Although he advocates learning from the Western culture and technology in order for China to survive, but he is equally perplexed of whatl China will be after that.

Yang Duo (楊度) also shares his thought regarding this complex time. He started by describing that the 19th century world is ‘ a barbaric world ruled by the civilized nation’. The statements propagates the meaning that internally the civilized nation; which he refers to as the Western nations such as England, France and American treat their citizens with rights and liberty, but externally through the logic of competition and expansion, where he conceptualises it as two phenomena from the two-side of a coin. He emphasizes that Westernization is merely a first step where there is a need of something novel in order to supplant the barbaric side of the civilized nations.

By explaining this background, Professor Wang Xiaoming highlights the importance of the intellectual circle in their attempt to change the China society at that particular period. Although there are different schools and methods, they have gathered a small number of intellectuals that develops such consciousness and depend on these groups to change the population. The goal is to build a new China and overtly emphasizing on conceptualising political movements, which directly linked to the Communist’s movements at that time in serving the revolution.

In here, he also discusses the famous author, Lu Xun (魯迅). In his youth, Lu Xun is highly optimistic of China future, only to become more pessimistic and complex when he is getting older. Prominently known as an author, Professor Wang Xiaoming also highlights Lu Xun’s ability to offer critical thinking where he emphasizes and problematize several phenomena of his period, the first one is the relationship between the enlightener and enlightened and secondly, the person’s will to continue fighting on even when it is all dark and utterly pessimistic condition.

Professor Wang Xiaoming also provides us with new ways to interpret Lu Xun’s famous works entitled Madman’s Diary and The True Story of Ah Q. In Madman’s Diary, Professor Wang Xiaoming said that we need to dissects three themes. Firstly, the relationship between the protagonist in the novel and the cannibalism environment he is in. Secondly, the protagonist relationship toward the children; specifically when the protagonist said he saved the children at the end of the novel, but in the middle of the novel, he was very frightened by the evil glare of a children. Finally, we need to interrogate the novel’s introduction, where Lu Xun wrote that the protagonist was finally being cured and being a bureaucrat which directly bores the meaning the he lives in the cannibalistic environment that he loathes.

In “The True Story of Ah Q”, Professor Wang Xiaoming did mentioned about the misinterpretation of the novel where the protagonist is seen to be winning in its spiritual sense, but there are certain elements in the novel that needs to be further questioned. For examples, how does the main protagonist  becomes a revolutionary. In here, the environments of the main protagonist concerning his economic and cultural position needs to be put into perspective. Secondly, how does the protagonist acquires his knowledge structure and its production? It is worth to observe the relationship between the mainstream and alternative thought that he is developing.


Modern Asian Thought Annual Lecture

July 14, 2014


Ashis Nandy is an Indian political psychologist and social theorist. His critiques on European colonialism, development, modernity, cosmopolitanism, and secularism has been popular worldwide. He served as a faculty and later the Director of Center for the Study of Developing Studies(CSDS), in Delhi.  He also served as a Research fellow in some prestigious Universities in the U.S.A. He authored and co-authored various books, on crucial contemporary issues in India. He is the recipient of Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2007.


Ashis Nandy mainly starts by talking about ‘memory work’. He points out that we have surpassed the time where ideas were considered sacred and were certified as scriptures. While citing the examples of genocide in the 20th century and afterward, he opposes the idea of nationalism and blames the role of modern nation-states behind the mass destruction of humankind.

He argues that several communities hold memories of their past and future, such as their self-definition, formations, creations, challenges, and hardships. The small marginalized cultures are focused, those were not recorded in writings and scriptures, yet it is possible for these cultures to survive, sustain and grow; there are still some areas of cultures that are not covered by literature.  In all such culture, a secret self is created by these memories which the speaker terms as ‘mnemonic memories’. The sheer memories that he mentions are the ones those protect vulnerable communities in private autonomous and violent space, outside the domain of space and outside authoritative professional historical constructions of the past. And, there are some cultures those are completely memory based. These spaces less encumber by ideological demands, political correctness, and reliable empirical basis. Talking about memories, he says that the checks and cross-checks of memories give rise to a world of multi-polar memories. And then,  the rises of ‘other cosmopolitan’, in which some societies in Asia and Africa still continues to live, and terms this as ‘silk route cosmopolitanism’. He notes it as a cosmopolitanism that is more radical and thus hosts the otherness of others. Next, the speaker contradicts to the power relationship between the memory based and the text-based by saying that the more we try to marginalize the memory based knowledge, the deeper we push it down in our awareness. Since we cannot forget these memories, they return and haunt us during uncomfortable moments. That survival of memories challenges our beliefs and self-definition, thus seek to redefine our collective self.  We remain fearful and anxious while facing the threat because it challenges us. Collected memories are a part of everyday life that refuses to fade away, they exist in the form of alternate emotions and social criticism.

The modern nation-states projects ideologies of progress, development, national security and monolithic ideas of national hiring and include it in the disciplinary conventions. The speaker regrets pretentious ideas of these refurbished memories that are not being captured in texts and audiovisual records. He presents various examples of Indian history to explain his arguments and thoughts about human genocides and blames the policies of the nation-states for this destruction. He terms the Russian, Chinese and the Indian as three great presenters of the world, who were independent, immovable, resilient where only a century ago, becoming blind, and depends on experts, policymakers, global market and multi-national corporations. They are back broken, their self-confidence wiped out.  While providing the example of Indian ‘music culture’, he points out how Indian memory has remained memory dependent. He believes that victims of societies, if not the nation-states that have to impose responsibilities on victims once they emerge empowered and triumphant from their audit. A society rises from its sufferings when it tries to rise out of other similar societies with similar suffering.

The contemporary population possesses a sense of omniscience when it comes to the question of ‘knowledge’. A culture of knowledge and learning has been generated where information processing has become more important than information creation. In the contemporary knowledge learning process, the universities equip us very well for a professional knowledge but did not prepares us with the fundamental question of knowledge itself, and this gives us to what the speaker terms as ‘black holes’ of knowledge in every discipline.

Lastly, the speaker criticizes the European knowledge of social sciences that answer and reflect the historical events of genocide and European colonization. He provides brief examples of the discovery of America and European colonization to justify his critique. He blames the European colonizers of dividing and emphasizing the Asian and the African population based on borders of religion. And thus questions: what knowledge was produced by Europeans? What did they do to that knowledge and how did they utilize it that is rearing others’ life? He opposes the concept of history because it freezes the past since history prioritizes in archives and does not do justice to knowledge.  While concluding, the speaker says that history should be used to modernize ourselves and move forward from memory based knowledge.