Remembering Anthropologist Joel S. Kahn


June 6, 2017

Remembering Anthropologist Joel S. Kahn

http://www.newmandala.org/remembering-joel-s-kahn/

 

Joel S. Kahn passed away after a long illness on 1 May, 2017.

Joel had a remarkable career, one marked by an enduring commitment to anthropology, Southeast Asian studies, and comparative social sciences. In recognition of his achievements, Joel was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 1995.

Foremost in our minds, though, remains his commitment to the nurturing of young scholars in the field. His considered advice and counsel, dispensed with wisdom and farsightedness, marked his impact on students. As a supervisor he was the calm captain steering PhDs, sometimes at the risk of going astray, back on course to successful completion. Joel’s generosity of ideas and professional support continued beyond our PhDs, as Joel maintained close intellectual and personal ties with many of his former postgraduates.

Joel received his own PhD in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1974. He taught briefly at Goldsmith’s College, London from 1972-1974, and at University College London from 1974 to 1986, before moving to Australia to take up the Chair of Anthropology at Monash University from 1986 to 1992. He was appointed Professor of Anthropology at La Trobe University in 1992, a post he held until his retirement in 2007.

As an anthropologist he was always ‘at home’ in multiple places and his fieldwork took him to Indonesia and Malaysia often. In Southeast Asia he found academic collaborators and students to work with him, making lasting friendships and leaving intellectual legacies. In addition, Joel held a number of visiting positions, including Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sussex (1998-2000), Visiting Professor, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (2004), Visiting Professor in the Department of Sociology and William Lim Siew Wai Fellow in Cultural Studies, National University of Singapore (2010), as well at Humboldt University, Berlin, and Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Anthropology can be a solitary endeavor and Joel was blessed to have found a partner in life and academic pursuits in Maila Stivens. From the early work amongst the Minangkabau in Sumatra to later work in urban Malaysia, they managed to work together, travel together, and remain together.

 

After his retirement, Joel was appointed Emeritus Professor of La Trobe University and Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne from 2011-2016.

He never stopped working, or pursuing the great questions of our time. Joel’s scholarship was marked by a critical, comparative approach to modernity. An abiding concern in his work was the need to apply a critical and comparative approach to the analysis of the social and cultural constitution of modernity. Joel did not spare anthropology and modern social theory from his critical gaze; emblematic of his writing is an appreciation of how anthropology is implicated in the culture of modernity and its exclusionary dynamics. His critique of universalising logics, concepts and rights was a hallmark of his work. This lead on to further endeavors to make room for alternative worldviews, be they based on class, race or cultural differences.

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These themes are apparent across the spectrum of Joel’s writings and were a uniting thread across the breadth of interests apparent in his monographs. In general, Joel’s writing can be grouped under the following themes: critical, comparative studies of class and economy (Minangkabau Social Formations: Indonesian Peasants and the World Economy, Cambridge University Press (1980)); the anthropology of modernism and modernity (Constituting the Minangkabau: Peasants, Culture and Modernity in Colonial Indonesia, Berg (1993); Culture, Multiculture, Postculture, Sage (1995); Modernity and Exclusion, Sage (2001)); cosmopolitanism and nationalism (Other Malays: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Malay World, Asian Studies Association of Australia in association with Singapore University Press, NIAS Press and University of Hawaii Press) (2006)) and modernity and religion (Asia, Modernity, and the Pursuit of the Sacred: Gnostics, Scholars, Mystics, and Reformers, Palgrave (2015)).

Joel helped shape a path forward for anthropology to be critical and situated firmly within its ethnographic field, putting the onus on anthropologists to engage seriously with their interlocutors in an intercultural field or interstitial space we create together. His call for a cosmopolitan anthropology has been heeded and anthropology continues to push the boundaries of what that can mean. Many of Joel’s writings on this subject have had a profound impact on Southeast Asianists and projects to rediscover cosmopolitan histories in times of heightened national and exclusionary discourses. His focus on the quotidian rather than elite cosmopolitanism also redirects how anthropologists in the region have thought about identity and multiculturalism. More importantly, it drew attention to the long history and continued ability of ordinary people to transgress state sanctioned identities.

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Joel was a prolific writer. In addition to publishing 60 journal articles and book chapters, he wrote six sole-authored monographs and edited six books, including (with J.R. Llobera) The Anthropology of Pre Capitalist Societies, Macmillan (1981); (with F. Loh) Fragmented Vision: Culture and Politics in Contemporary Malaysia, Allen and Unwin (Asian Studies Association of Australia series), US edition, University of Hawaii Press (1992); and Southeast Asian Identities: Culture and the Politics of Representation in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (jointly published with Taurus, UK and St Martins Press, USA) (1998).

 

Joel has left a rich and deeply textured set of writings that will continue to resonate and provide insight in the future. His profound knowledge of anthropology, social theory and popular culture gave rise to Joel’s singular ability to see their entanglement in the social and historical processes of modernity both here in the global North as well as the global South.

Joel’s former postgraduates and colleagues will miss his generosity, support, and intellectual acuity. Our lives, too, will be duller without his sense of humour and keen, wry observations on life. Our deepest sympathy go to Joel’s wife and fellow anthropologist, Maila Stivens, as well as to their daughters, Sophie and Jess. Joel cherished his family and, in recent years, the addition of two young grandchildren brought him great joy.

Pictures reprinted with kind permission of Maila Stivens

Dr Gerhard Hoffstaedter is Senior Research Fellow (DECRA) at the University of Queensland.

Dr Wendy Mee is Senior Lecturer and Convenor of Sociology at La Trobe University.

The Passing of An American Foreign Policy Strategist and National Security Adviser of The Jimmy Carter Era– Zbigniew Brezinski at 89


May 27, 2017

The Passing of An American Foreign Policy Strategist  and National Security Adviser of The Jimmy Carter Era– Zbigniew Brezinski at 89

A Tribute to a Common Soldier and Patriot on Memorial Day


May 24, 2017

A Tribute to a Common Soldier and Patriot on Memorial Day

Received by e-mail

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I trust an ordinary solider  who puts his life on the line in defence of our country  and the Malaysian on main street who irks an honest living than a politician who promises and breaks them at a moment’s notice, and a Malaysian Prime Minister who steals RM2.6 billion from our Treasury and calls that stolen money a donation from a Saudi Prince. I despise idiots around him who try to defend him. What is worse is that that Prime Minister gets away with it. Honor cannot be bought with money; it is earned by sacrifice, sweat and toil. In the ordinary Malaysian soldier and patriot honor resides.– Din Merican

There are several incorrect versions of this poem circulating the web; below you’ll find the original text.


For years the poem has been broadcast nationally every Memorial Day on American radio. The American Legion has posted it throughout their many branches, the Australian Legion included it in their video tribute, Victory in the Pacific. In 2009, the Royal British Legion sought and gained permission to use Just a Common Soldier as part of its annual Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal campaign.  On July 4, 2008 it was carved into marble for an American Veteran’s Memorial at West Point.

 
 
 For a Soldier Died Today (with Tony Lo Bianco)
UST A COMMON SOLDIER
(A Soldier Died Today)
by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

He was getting  old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,

All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
 
He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.
 
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
 
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
 

A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives

Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.

While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,

Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.

 
It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.
 
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
 
He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
 
If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.

 

Rock ‘N’ Roll Legend Chuck Berry Dead at 90


March 19, 2017

Rock ‘N’ Roll Legend Chuck Berry Dead at 90

 

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The Iconic Chuck Berry dead at 90. RIP and thanks for the memories, my soul brother Chuck.–Din Merican

Chuck Berry, a music pioneer often called “the Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” was found dead Saturday at a residence outside St. Louis, police in St. Charles County said. He was 90.

A post on the St. Charles County police Facebook page said officers responded to a medical emergency at a residence around 12:40 p.m. (1:40 p.m. ET) Saturday and found an unresponsive man inside.

Unfortunately, the 90-year-old man could not be revived and was pronounced deceased at 1:26 p.m.,” the post said. “The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry.”

Berry wrote and recorded “Johnny B. Goode” and “Sweet Little Sixteen” — songs every garage band and fledgling guitarist had to learn if they wanted to enter the rock ‘n’ roll fellowship.

Berry took all-night hamburger stands, brown-eyed handsome men and V-8 Fords and turned them into the stuff of American poetry. By doing so, he gave rise to followers beyond number, bar-band disciples of the electric guitar, who carried his musical message to the far corners of the Earth.

Some of his most famous followers praised him on social media.Bruce Springsteen tweeted: “Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock ‘n’ roll writer who ever lived.”

Fond Farewell to my good friend, Phang Tat Cheam


March 9, 2017

Fond Farewell to my good friend, Phang Tat Cheam

I was shocked and saddened today to learn on Facebook of the passing of Phang Tat Cheam. He was 82. My friendship with Phang goes back a long way to the 1960s when I was with Ismail Md. Ali’s Bank Negara.

We kept in constant touch as I used to meet up with him  at the Lake Club and the Royal Selangor Golf Club. He was a keen golfer and fierce competitor on the links. He enjoyed listening songs of Fifties and Sixties. His favourite female vocalist is Joni James, who is also mine. He enjoyed Dean Martin, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Cliff Richard, and others of our generation.

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Phang, you will be missed. So today, in my tribute to your memory, I am honored to present Joni James with some of her popular tunes.

May you rest in peace,my dear friend and fellow Malaysian. You and I never let our ethnicity and religion come between us. I know how sad you are to see a divided nation as you leave this world. You and I never expected to witness our country  become a failed and corrupt nation under Prime Minister Najib Razak. That said Phang, I will never forget you for your counsel, compassion, generosity and optimism.

To his bereaved family, my wife Dr. Kamsiah Haider and I convey our heartfelt condolences on the untimely demise of Phang Tat Cheam.–Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican

The Passing of a Legendary Actor, Director and Film Maker–Tan Sri Dr. Jins Shamsuddin


March 3, 2017

The Passing of a Legendary Actor, Director and Film Maker–Tan Sri Dr. Jins Shamsuddin

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Approximately 1,000 people turned today up to bid farewell to legendary actor Jins Shamsuddin at his funeral.

According to Bernama, family members, fellow artistes and friends converged at the cemetery to pay their last respects to the Malay film hero.

The late movie veteran was buried at 10.30am at the Masjid Al Ridhuan cemetery, Hulu Kelang, after preparations at his residence in Kampung Pasir and prayers at the mosque.

Utusan Online reported that veterans in the entertainment field, such as DJ Dave, Norman Hakim, Yusof Haslam, Ahmad Nawab, Fauzi Ayob, Zaiton Sameon and M Nasir, were present. Also present at the cemetery was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri.

Jins, 81, died yesterday at a clinic in Taman Melawati, according to his son Putera Hang Jebat. Putera Hang Jebat said his father complained of difficulty breathing when having tea at home and was rushed to the clinic at 5.45pm.

Jins leaves behind a wife, Halijah Abdullah and three sons, Jefri Jins, Putera Hang Jebat and Putera Hang Nadim.

‘Strict, but also loving’

Putera Hang Jebat, 30, described his father as a strict disciplinarian when dealing with his children.

“My father was serious about matters involving our education. He was strict, but was also loving,” he told reporters when met at the cemetery, Bernama reported.

Putera Hang Jebat said Jins had always hoped that more local artistes would further their studies in the arts to take the Malaysian arts industry to a higher level.

“My father wanted local artistes to be knowledgeable,” just like him, who has a PhD degree.

Meanwhile, actor Zul Ariffin, 31, described the death of Jins Shamsuddin as a big loss to the Malaysian film industry. “I learned a lot of acting from him, although we never acted together. Jins Shamsuddin is my mentor,” Zul added.

Film hero who became politician

Mohamed Jins Shamsuddin was born on November 5, 1935, in Taiping, Perak. The Malay film hero subsequently went into politics and was a two-term senator, from 2004 to 2011.

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He was awarded the Seniman Negara (National Artiste) by the government in 2009 for his contribution to the development of the Malaysian film industry.

The late actor starred in more than 40 movies, including ‘Sarjan Hassan’, ‘Gerak Kilat’, ‘Si Tanggang’, ‘Bukan Salah Ibu Mengandung’ and ‘Sumpah Wanita’.

Among his directorial efforts are the classics ‘Bukit Kepong’, ‘Ali Setan’, ‘Menanti Hari Esok’, ‘Esok Masih Ada’ and ‘Balada’. Jins career took off in 1950 and lasted until the 70s. In his early years, Jins received the support of national legend P Ramlee.