News

Publishing New Asia Scholarship December 18, 2015 10:43

Paul Kratoska and I co-wrote this article which was published in the Autumn edition of The Newsletter of the Institute for International Asian Studies, a stimulating issue that looks at the big trends in Asian Studies.

This year’s twelve-title shortlist for the ICAS Book Awards on social sciences and humanities included three books first published in Asia (two by NUS Press). For the new EuroSEAS Nikkei Book Awards given in Vienna in August this year, five of six finalists originated in Asia. And in March this year, the US Association of Asian Studies (AAS) awarded its Kahin Prize to M.C. Ricklefs’ Islamisation and its Opponents in Java: A Political, Social, Cultural and Religious History, a book originated in 2012 by NUS Press at the National University of Singapore. Remarkably, this was the first time any book published in Asia received an AAS book prize.

It took a long time to reach this particular milestone, and it is useful to explore what it might mean.

Does it tell us anything about the shifts in Asian Studies? About new Asia scholars? Despite many predictions over the years that the centre of Asian Studies would shift to Asia, why is so much of Asian Studies scholarship still published outside Asia? And does that matter?

The past few decades have brought an explosion of scholarship on Asia carried out by scholars at Asian universities. The greater part of this research is published in local languages and receives little attention outside of the countries where it appears, and like scholarship in other parts of the world, it tends to come out in the form of journal articles rather than monographs.

Asian-language scholarship often deals with issues of particular concern to the countries where it originates, and is part of a conversation that does not actively invite participation by outsiders. Many universities, research centres and other institutions in East and Southeast Asia publish scholarly periodicals that handle this material. A rough calculation suggests that there are more than 40,000 such publications, many of them fully funded by Asian institutions.

However, the major universities in Asia now expect scholars to publish research articles in internationally recognized journals covered by major citation indexes, in effect requiring them to write and publish in English. When Asian scholars do this, their audience shifts. Potential readers include scholars in the West, but also scholars based in other Asian countries who may well find parallels with their own research concerns. (Recent work that fits this model deals with topics such as regionalism and Asian identity.) As a publisher based in Asia, we look to for opportunities to nurture this second audience.

Recent initiatives such as the Consortium for Southeast Asian Studies in Asia (SEASIA) launched in 2013 suggest that institutions and scholars will increasingly work within widespread networks, electronic and personal, that extend across national borders. Technological advances in the production and distribution of books are creating a global book market. While traditional library  markets in the West are under severe pressure, it is possible for publishers in Asia to reach them with greater ease.

Asian markets are becoming more open and transparent in response to a growing demand for access to information. The more savvy publishers from the West are originating more works from Asia, basing commissioning editors in the region and commissioning more local peer reviews.

Manuscripts written by Western authors are often written to explain Asia to the West, and adopt an “outside-looking-in” perspective on matters of great import to audiences in the region.

Frequently these manuscripts represent solid scholarship, but they position their discussion within the theoretical concerns currently engaging scholars outside of Asia and for a publisher like NUS Press, whose primary market lies in Asia, they have limited appeal. When referees in Asia indicate that the substance of a manuscript is well known within the country concerned, and that the  material is not pitched appropriately for Asian readers, our conclusion is that the author should probably seek publication opportunities elsewhere.

At the same time, more and more younger scholars from all parts of the world see social science research as a co-creation of knowledge. If they do Asian Studies they wish to speak to Asian audiences, and while their books and articles may reach readers in institutions around the world, they also become embedded in local discourse.

The book prizes mentioned at the start of this piece reflected a noticeable shift in the geography of publication of Asian studies. Whether this shift becomes a long-term trend remains to be seen, but the remarkable output of research by Asian scholars cannot be ignored, even if publishers are grappling with new forms of “publication” and new channels for delivering knowledge.

Peter Schoppert is Director and Paul Kratoska is Publishing Director at NUS Press


NUS Press attends SEASIA 2015 Conference December 10, 2015 13:36

NUS Press was pleased to be part of the "Southeast Asian Studies in Asia" conference held in Kyoto, Japan, on December 12-13, 2015The conference was an attempt at exploring new directions in re-contextualizing and re-conceptualizing Southeast Asia and Southeast Asian Studies, particularly the legacy and transition of such studies after the Cold War period. 

We displayed our 2015 publications, including shortlisted and award winners. 

Here’s a highlight of some titles:

 

Peter Schoppert, Director of NUS Press and Dr Paul Kratoska, Publishing Director attended the Conference, supported by our Japanese partners Hotaka. Dr Kratoska convened a panel entitled "Writing for Publication: What Editors Look For, and Common Mistakes by Authors" on 12 Dec, 3 to 5 pm, at Room 104.

Highlights of the event included keynote addresses from Prof Wang Gungwu and Prof Pasuk Phongpaichit, both coincidentally NUS authors. Another favourite moment was when Barbara Andaya name-checked Jacques de Coutre as a source in a presentation on the importance of the orang asli in history.


Book Launch of Walter Woon’s The ASEAN Charter: A Commentary November 19, 2015 14:31

from left: Former Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo, Professor Walter Woon, Professor Tommy Koh, former Senior Minister S. Jayakumar, and NUS Press Director Peter Schoppert.

Professor Walter Woon’s The ASEAN Charter: A Commentary was launched on 13 November 2015 at the NUS Faculty of Law.

The ASEAN Charter comments on the provisions of the 2008 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Charter, which established ASEAN’s legal status and institutional framework. Professor Woon, a Member of the High Level Task Force that drafted the Charter and Singapore’s former Attorney-General, crafts an insider’s perspective on the making of the Charter, elucidates how its provisions came to be drafted, and how they relate to diplomatic practice. As both former Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo and Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh eulogised during the launch, The ASEAN Charter is a very important and useful reference text for ASEAN officials and scholars, as well as members of the public who are interested in the organisation.

George Yeo on the “magic of ASEAN”

Graced by the likes of former Senior Minister S. Jayakumar as well as numerous members of the legal community, the launch of The ASEAN Charter commenced with a few words from George Yeo in praise of ASEAN. Highlighting Myanmar's National League for Democracy’s latest victory at the polls, Yeo attested that this outcome was in part a “triumph of ASEAN”. Indeed, such is the “magic of ASEAN”—a space that allows room for disagreement, evolution, and provides time for the branch to gradually bend, Yeo affirmed. Continuing in this positive vein, Yeo concluded that that despite criticisms, ASEAN has not only kept the peace in the region, but is also a historical necessity that will hold together with time.

ASEAN: Rolls-Royce ambition, Volkswagen model

Less sanguine about ASEAN was Professor Woon in his professorial lecture on the imperative to build a rules-based ASEAN community and strengthen the association’s centre.

Professor Woon stressed that ASEAN is “in essence not a legal institution”, having begun its life as a confidence-building mechanism for bickering countries and continued with an “ASEAN way” of being ad hoc. Accordingly, the formal rules that the ASEAN Charter intends to set in place do not sit well with ASEAN practice. Seen from this perspective then, ASEAN appears to have the “ambition to create a Rolls-Royce organisation, but fit[s] it with a Volkswagen model with dodgy software”. Professor Woon ultimately compared the Charter to a camel, being serviceable but inelegant.

What could upgrade ASEAN to become a full-fledged Rolls-Royce vehicle then? Professor Woon flagged a few areas that could be improved. Firstly, a proper legal service with international lawyers was needed to establish a rule-making centre that would also ensure the coherence of and compliance with such rules. Another aspect that a rules-based organisation requires is a proper dispute settlement system, with ASEAN’s current system being designed to be ineffective, Professor Woon lamented. The fact that the ASEAN High Council has never been convened was cited as evidence of such ineffectiveness. Moreover, the bringing of disputes to political settings like the ASEAN Summit—as has been done—is fatal to ASEAN’s credibility as a rules-based organisation. Ending on a more ambiguous note, Professor Woon pondered the possibility of being able to celebrate this rules-based element in time with ASEAN’s jubilee year in 2016.

A camel on shifting sands: Tommy Koh on ASEAN

Professor Tommy Koh was able to draw the book launch to a more buoyant close. Picking up on Professor Woon’s earlier camel metaphor for the ASEAN Charter, Professor Koh defended the association by extolling the importance of the animal to the audience’s amusement. To be sure, the camel might lack elegance, but in Professor Koh’s words, the anatomy of its hoofs, for instance, allows it to walk across shifting sands—likewise then for ASEAN, in its ambitions and efforts over the years.

 

The ASEAN Charter: A Commentary is now available at NUS Press.


Goenawan Mohamad at the Singapore Writers Festival 2015... November 09, 2015 15:19

It was NUS Press' pleasure to host Goenawan Mohamad in Singapore for a few days, in particular for his keynote speech at the Singapore Writers Festival special programme on Indonesia, "17,000 Islands Dreaming..."

Thanks for everyone who came along for the speech, which we thought was fascinating, and for the excellent questions from the audience.  The event was well attended, and the Straits Times gave it a fine write-up: ‘Goenawan Mohamad: "I write to liberate the language’:

"At his hour-long talk at the Singapore Writers Festival on Saturday 31st October, Goenawan, 74, charmed the 125-strong audience at The Arts House Chamber with his unwavering faith in the power of writing and his unexpected humour.

"At first glance, he is perfectly unassuming: a narrow-shouldered gentleman scholar who speaks of Plato and Russian literature with ease and authority, half-vanished under a roomy black jacket.
"But when he speaks, there is a fire to him. When the topic turns to writing in Indonesia, where language and the freedom of expression cannot shake off government scrutiny, Goenawan's first response is: 'When I write, the first urge is to liberate the language'."

A few days later, the Straits Times followed up with a book review of Faith in Writing:

"This is Goenawan's charm: grounding weighty insights into politics and power by relating them to the mundane and quotidian.

"In these short, powerfully composed essays - most are two to three pages long - his voice and force of personality ring through."
Thanks to Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh for the excellent write-up. And thanks to the Singapore Writers Festival for creating such a good platform for readers to meet writers.

Alfred Russell Wallace the “forgotten” hero: Why is Darwin more famous than Wallace? October 02, 2015 17:01

Ask the man on the street about natural selection, and you are bound to hear the name Charles Darwin. Indeed, it would be easy to conclude from this that Darwin is the de facto founder of natural selection as a concept. Yet, in recent years many have pointed to the concomitant, independent discovery of natural selection by Darwin’s contemporary, Alfred Russell Wallace, and lament the paltry amount of credit accorded to him.

Dr John van Wyhe, a historian of science at NUS and the editor of The Annotated Malay Archipelago, debunked this apparently “forgotten” reputation of Wallace as Darwin’s equal at a lecture given at the Singapore Science Centre on 26 September 2015. Dr van Wyhe’s Annotated Malay Archipelago is the first ever fully annotated version of Wallace’s classic account of his travels in Southeast Asia to appear in English, updating the original text with explanations, a bibliography of related material, and an in-depth introduction. Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago was an immediate success following its publication in 1869. Captivating generations of audiences with its descriptions of places and people, the book even inspired the likes of Joseph Conrad and David Attenborough. 

Wallace the “forgotten” hero: Why is Darwin more famous than Wallace? 

Dr van Wyhe opened the lecture with the very question that many have recently posed in response to the independent discovery of natural selection by both Darwin and Wallace, namely – if this phenomenon was something that the pair had discovered (albeit separately), why is Darwin so much more famous than Wallace?

As an inquiry that began in the 1950s, this has since spiraled into claims – according to Dr van Wyhe – that Wallace was not only unjustly “forgotten” but also the “victim of a conspiracy”. Some have even put forward that Darwin had plagiarized Wallace’s work. In fact, the more books are written about Wallace, the more firmly his status as a “forgotten” hero seems to be cemented, Dr van Wyhe observed. Exaggerated statements thus abound about Wallace being “the greatest field biologist”, and even Black Books comedian Bill Bailey has exclaimed with injustice that natural selection “was known as a joint theory [by Darwin and Wallace] for decades!”

We might perceive Wallace to be unfairly left out of the limelight then, only because we have been told that this is so, Dr van Wyhe argued. Additionally, this “forgotten” descriptor of Wallace may perhaps have been arrived at with the false impression of Wallace’s relatively “humble background” that persuades one of his deserving better recognition. Wallace was certainly no peasant, having been sent to a school for gentlemen in his youth, for example.

The real, historical Wallace

If not a “forgotten” hero, who could the real Wallace be? After his school days and a voyage to the Amazon, Wallace arrived at Singapore in 1854, Dr van Wyhe delineated. It was here that Wallace made expeditions to Bukit Timah, trips which would form part of his material for The Malay Archipelago. Wallace’s influence as a naturalist still resounds among parts of the island today, with roads and nature trails named after him, for instance. 

Southeast Asia was also where the idea of natural selection first came to Wallace in 1858. Penning down his thoughts on the subject, Wallace decided to first send these off to Darwin, who he felt would be sympathetic to ideas of such a nature. (These notions had previously also occurred to Darwin 20 years ago in 1838, though nothing had been published by him at that point.) Upon reception, the choice was made to have Darwin’s and Wallace’s ideas published together in a paper. However, very few took notice of this scholarship at that time. 

With this piece of information, some might clamour again for the rightful recognition of Wallace’s role in discovering natural selection. Yet, more importantly, as Dr van Wyhe put it, the household recognition of only Darwin’s name today is quite simply because it was his book which had convinced people of the verity of natural selection. Wallace’s discovery notwithstanding, Darwin’s The Origin of Species still contained other numerous ideas that Wallace had never conceived of, a fact that the latter freely admitted to. Indeed, Wallace was even part of the flurry of voices commending Darwin’s unprecedented work at that time. Rounding things up, it may perhaps be more accurate then to view the Wallace-Darwin relationship as one filled not so much with animosity, but academic camaraderie, Dr van Wyhe concluded.

 

The Annotated Malay Archipelago is now available at NUS Press.


Book Launch of Clinical Psychology in Singapore September 22, 2015 13:41

Dr Gregor Lange and Dr John Davison’s book, Clinical Psychology in Singapore: An Asian Casebook, was launched at the Brahm Centre in Ren Ci Hospital, on 17 September 2015. 

As an unprecedented look into clinical psychology and its practices in Singapore, the book offers case studies based on Singaporean clients, and sheds light on how psychologists deal with the different cultural and ethical issues encountered in their work here. These case studies encompass a range of mental health problems ranging from pyromania to depression, and span across age groups as well. Notably, the casebook came together with contributions from numerous members of Singapore's psychology community, many of them being present among that evening's audience of academics, practitioners, and members of the general public.

The launch was an occasion packed with as many laughs as there were moments of more sombre reflection – this perhaps being not unlike the ups and downs faced in engaging with clinical psychology in Singapore so far.

Q: What is the state of mental health in Singapore? A: Stateless

Dr Ong Lue Ping, IMH's Principal Clinical Psychologist, kicked off the event with his talk on the state of mental health in Singapore.

His pronouncement was – in Dr Ong’s own words – most “provocative”, for he went on to declare Singapore’s state of mental health as being, in fact, “stateless”. Though this was met with some amusement from the audience, Dr Ong lamented the real dilemma encountered in this. On one hand, psychologists in Singapore hospitals are still expected to “defer” to doctors and psychiatrists. Yet, on the other hand, independent psychologists working outside of this system are often simultaneously seen by the public as being “atas”. Undeterred by this, Dr Ong rounded things up by proposing three factors that had to be attended to equally in clinical psychology – namely accessibility, quality, and affordability – in order to rectify existing flaws in practice.

Merlion on the couch

 

A streak of joviality was picked up again in Dr Lange’s address. Regaling the audience with how he and Dr Davison had edited Clinical Psychology in Singapore together, Dr Lange sent people up in laughs by joking that one of the more exciting titles actually considered for the casebook was none other than Merlion on the Couch

Such irreverent humour aside, Dr Lange also spoke about why he and Dr Davison decided to embark on such a book. While teaching psychology at NUS, it was a revelation for the both of them that case studies to be used always took place in the US or other parts of the West. This difference in setting – which could range from the usual Hollywood celebrity gone mad profile to the scenario of a cocaine-taking young adult in downtown LA, Dr Lange explained animatedly – was something that students here frequently could not relate to. Yet, there was a dearth of resources in the local context that could be utilized in class. The need for a casebook designed for Singapore thus arose.

Of paradoxes and paychecks

Next was an expert panel on the future of clinical psychology in Singapore, including Ms Jennifer Teoh, Director and Senior Principal Forensic Psychologist at MSF’s Clinical and Forensic Psychology branch, Dr Simon Collinson from NUS, and Mr Timothy Leo, Director of the Psychological & Correctional Rehabilitation division at Singapore Prison Service. 

Intriguingly, Dr Davison asked the panel about a paradox that seems to play out in Singapore - that is, the fact that it is often difficult to involve the client’s family in therapy, despite how Singapore is ‘supposed’ to be a country rooted in collectivism. To this, Ms Teoh shared that the MSF started a functional family therapy scheme a year ago that would enable the whole family to be seen together outside of working hours, thus perhaps resolving the practical complications that contribute to this situation. Dr Collinson further suggested that there has to be an improvement in the training offered in family therapy, so as to better ease families into being engaged throughout the process.

Besides this, Mr Leo also remarked that the biggest challenge for psychologists in the next five years should concern the respect for psychology as a science. Making the timely observation that psychologists like Dr Daniel Chan were involved in the media as commentators on the recent elections here, Mr Leo commented that such screen time should be seen as good opportunities for the discipline, and more psychologists could follow suit to step up to the plate in terms of advocacy.

Finally, closing the discussion on a lighter note, Dr Davison fired a series of quick questions at the panelists, one of these being on whether psychologists in Singapore should be paid more. To which all three panelists chorused in unison: “Yes.”

Clinical Psychology in Singapore: An Asian Casebook is available at NUS Press and Kinokuniya Singapore Main Store. Clinical Psychology in Singapore is a unique resource on the practices and principles of clinical psychologists in Singapore. An ideal complement to abnormal, counselling or clinical psychology courses, it is the textbook for PL3236 Abnormal Psychology at the National University  of Singapore and will be a supplementary text for Temasek Polytechnic’s Abnormal Psychology module by April 2016. Please email sebastian_song@nus.edu.sg for all enquiries on textbook adoption and review copies. 


Blue Skies and Busy at the BIBF... September 03, 2015 23:47

Skies were blue the last week of August in Beijing, bluer than in Singapore which suffered some Sumatran smoke-haze. Beijingers call these skies "parade ground blue"...

We modest book publishers celebrated the fine weather by spending our time indoors at the Beijing International Book Fair. NUS Press was happy to attend as part of the Singapore national delegation, organized by the Singapore Book Publishers Association. The Singapore stand received lots of attention, both from parents looking for bilingual books for their children, and from Chinese publishers keen to reach out along the new Maritime Silk Road...

NUS Press was very happy to meet Colleagues from many Chinese and other Asian publishers.

from left: NUS Press Consulting Editor Lin Shaoyu (林少予) with Mr 文輝 湯 of Guangxi Normal University Press; Shaoyu, NUS Press Director Peter Schoppert and Ms 沂紋 郭 of China Social Sciences Press;

from left: Peter  with Mr Zhou Yongkun of Yunnan University University Press; Shaoyu, Peter and  Ms 宋文艳 of Xiamen University Press.

In addition to the publishers pictured above, we met representatives from : University of Tokyo Press, University of Hawaii Press, University of Hong Kong Press, Peking University Press, Foreign Language Teaching & Research Press, China National Publications Import & Export Corporation, Amazon China, China Educational Publishers Import & Export Corporation, People's Fine Arts Publishing House, among others.

There was great interest from the Chinese publishers in forging closer links with Southeast Asia, and in subjects related to China's maritime links with the region. Chinese publishers were also wishing to sell more copyrights overseas, and see if Chinese viewpoints can get more airtime in the English discourse. So with this context, you can imagine that we had plenty to discuss. Look for more news on our first translations from Chinese (forthcoming) and some Chinese editions for our books on the region.


NUS Press attends 22nd Beijing International Book Fair August 25, 2015 15:12

NUS Press will be attending the upcoming Beijing International Book Fair from 26 to 30 August 2015. The Fair will be held at the China International Exhibition Center (Shunyi), featuring five exhibition halls with 66,000 square meters of exhibition space. 

NUS Press will be part of the Singapore contingent, displaying our books at East Hall 2 (E2) Booth J20. Director of NUS Press, Peter Schoppert, will be attending the fair so do drop by our booth to find out more about NUS Press and to browse our selection. 

Here’s a highlight of some titles:

 

We look forward to seeing you. 


Conjuring Dublin and Singapore in Goh Poh Seng's work August 24, 2015 14:03

The Irish Ambassador Geoffrey Keating and his wife generously hosted a reception on 14 August 2015 to celebrate the publication of Singapore literary pioneer Goh Poh Seng’s Tall Tales and Misadventures of a Young Westernized Oriental Gentleman, a vivid and evocative memoir of the author’s time in Dublin as a student in the 1950s. The evening was convivial, and a testament to the power of words to make one hear, feel and see cities and persons anew. 

Joined by guests from academia, the embassy, and government agencies, as well as publishers, writers and personal friends of Goh Poh Seng, a few words about his memoir were said by Ambassador Keating, NUS Press Director Peter Schoppert, NTU Professor Koh Tai Ann, and Northern Irish-Canadian writer George McWhirter through Irish editor and writer Rosemary Lim.

Worlds Within World

“I loved the book”, his Excellency stated plainly. “To me, as a Dubliner, it is extremely and deeply evocative. And even though the city Dublin has changed so much over the past 60 years, the city he describes is almost instantly familiar and recognizable.”

  

Goh, he mused, was lucky to have made his way into the artistic and literary circles of 1950s Dublin. Indeed, one of the central stories in Tall Tales is an intense discussion with Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh over what it means to be a poet. His Excellency suggested a literary pilgrimage to the UNESCO City of Literature, enticing us to see the traces of Wilde, Beckett, and Shaw, as well as walk the paths of Joyce’s Stephan Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. In fact, Dublin prides itself on having produced the most Nobel Prizes for Literature than other city in the world.

The Reinvented Man 

Next was Professor Koh Tai Ann, who was also a personal friend of Goh’s and was one of the persons responsible for the republication of Goh’s first novel with NUS Press. She regaled the audience with the insider information about its publication – and its rejection by Paul Theroux’s publisher for being “too local” – and other aspects of his life, such as the poetry slams and supper club at his establishment Rainbow Lounge, and his foresight with building conservation and tourism. But Prof Koh also pointed out that his idealism and pluck was accompanied by an overreaching and a lack of business sense.

 

Highlighting that the memoir was titled “Tall Tales”, she wondered about which parts were fact and which fiction. Nonetheless, Goh’s first poem was written in Ireland and the form of Goh’s first novel If We Dream Too Long had parallels to Joyce’s The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: as Joyce’s characters trek through Dublin, Goh’s tracks 1960s Singapore from Changi to Chinatown, to Esplanade and Tanglin Club, capturing in print both the physical landscape of the time and, through the stream of consciousness, its zeitgeist.

A Star-Lovely Art 

Northern Irish-Canadian writer, and Vancouver’s first Poet Laureate, George McWhirter’s reflections on the publication were read out by Rosemary Lim, an Irish writer and editor who also also conducts literary tours of Singapore.


Like his Excellency, McWhirter enjoyed the way Goh brought Dublin to life, “Like Heinrich Böll’s Irish Journal, Goh Poh Seng’s book lets me see Ireland with other eyes and feelings for my native land that are intimate and ironical, loving and leery, spliced from something very Celtic and Chinese in the braided history that brings Poh Seng and binds him to the island. The book also has his very own way of looking, his young bucko’s oriental, will o’ the wisp in the eye. Full of cheeky curiosity, he loves theatre and goings-on, and is blessed to find himself in a city where every room and street is a stage, and there’s always something going-on. ”

Drawing the event to a close, his Excellency thanked all present and announced that dinner was served, along with free-flow Guinness, and – to hearty cheers – whisky from both parts of Ireland! Certainly an apt way to affirm that home can come to us in more ways than one.

Thanks

NUS Press would like to thank Ambassador Geoffrey Keating, his wife and the Embassy of Ireland,  for their hospitality; Neil Murphy for making the connection; and Koh Tai Ann, George McWhirter and Rosemary Lim. 

Notes 

Goh intended to write a three-volume memoir, but unfortunately passed away before he could complete it. Margaret Goh, the wife and literary executor of Goh's estate – and once director of Singapore University Press, the former NUS Press – passed away in 2014. Their children now manage the estate. 

Tall Tales and Misadventures of a Westernized Oriental Gentlemen and If We Dream Too Long are available at NUS Press.


Philip Taylor wins 2015 Nikkei EuroSEAS Social Science Book Prize: Five NUS Press titles shortlisted August 19, 2015 16:40

We are pleased to announce that Philip Taylor has won the inaugural Nikkei EuroSEAS Social Science Book Prize awarded by the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies at a reception at the University of Vienna on 12 August 2015.

The Social Science Prize was awarded to Taylor for his The Khmer Lands of Vietnam: Environment, Cosmology and Sovereignty. "In this meticulous, absorbing and often poignant book, Philip Taylor draws on years of fieldwork to take us among the appealing, resilient and ecologically gifted Khmer speaking minority in southern Vietnam. This is the first book in any language to treat these beleaguered men, and women with the sustained, sympathetic attention that they deserve." - David Chandler

The prize was accepted on behalf of the author by Gerald Jackson, of NIAS Press, which co-published the European edition of the book. (You can just make him out in the photo at left...)

Khmer Lands was just one of five books originated by NUS Press which made the EuroSEAS shortlist, in both the social sciences and the humanities categories. We are greatly honoured by the nominations and would like to thank everyone for their continual support. The additional shortlisted titles are mentioned below:

Shortlisted for the Humanities Book Prize

Surabaya, 1945-2010: Neighbourhood, state and economy in Indonesia’s city of struggle by Robbie Peters
"This is a brilliant book, a must read for anybody wanting to understand the Asian city...Peters has written what I believe is the best study of any Indonesian kampung. Few scholars have managed to do such close and complex ethnographic and oral history research - gaining the trust of people from the lowest to the highest levels of a seemingly chaotic urban society." - Lea Jellinek

Squatters into Citizens: the 1961 Bukit Ho Swee fire and the making of modern Singapore by Loh Kah Seng
"This excellent book - located at the intersection of history, ethnography and sociology - makes a major contribution to our understanding of the social history of post-war/post-colonial Singapore, and more generally to the interdisciplinary field of disaster studies." - James Francis Warren


Shortlisted for the Social Science Book Prize

Mobilizing Gay Singapore: rights and resistance in an authoritarian state by Lynette J. Chua
"Mobilizing Gay Singapore fills a void in foreigners’ understanding of gay issues in Singapore. It will remain for some time the standard work on the subject and is a very welcome addition to the LGBT canon."
- Nigel Collett

 

 

 

Fields of Desire: poverty and policy in Laos by Holly High
"In this beautifully composed ethnography on poverty reduction programs in Laos, Holly High uncovers the ambivalence with which rural people regard state power. Her meditation on the ambiguity of desire in state-society relations is path-breaking and offers new insights into the nature of rural citizenship in Southeast Asia and beyond." - Philip Taylor



We are greatly honoured by the nominations and would like to thank everyone for their continual support.

 


NUS Press attends 8th EuroSEAS Conference August 10, 2015 09:00

NUS Press is pleased to be part of the upcoming EuroSEAS conference at the University of Vienna  in Vienna, Austria from 11 to 14 August 2015. The 8th EuroSEAS conference has invited scholars and PhD students from all academic disciplines with an interest in Southeast Asia to join panels that explore relevant research topics from an interdisciplinary perspective as well as discuss theoretical and methodological aspects of research generated in the field of Southeast Asian Studies. 

NIAS Press is representing NUS Press at the event. NUS Press will be displaying our books, including our five shortlisted titles for the inaugural EuroSEAS Book Prizes. For those who are unable to attend, we are offering a special 20% off these featured titles from 11 to 23 August.

Here’s a highlight of some titles:

 

Do drop by to find out more about NUS Press and to browse our selection.
We look forward to seeing you. 


ICAS BOOK PRIZE 2015 Citations and Accolades August 03, 2015 12:00

At the 2015 International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS), in Adelaide, two NUS Press titles, shortlisted for the ICAS Book Awards, were given lovely citations by the judging committee. We were pleasantly surprised to be awarded the Ground Breaking Matter Accolade as well.

The Khmer Lands of VietnamShortlisted for the ICAS Book Prize 2015 for Best Study in the Social Sciences.
Philip Taylor, The Khmer Lands of Vietnam. Environment, Cosmology and Sovereignty
"A rich ethnography of in-between peoples in an in-between space, The Khmer Lands of Vietnam explores the life-worlds of the Khmer Krom community within and across state boundaries. By drawing on Khmer Krom cosmology and its relationship to ways of conceptualizing and adapting to a rapidly changing ecology in the lower-Mekong, Taylor locates a small community at the epicentre of a bold scholarly challenge to the ways sovereignty, displacement, and identity are commonly understood and studied. In doing so the book uncovers sacral and symbolic imaginaries in the mapping of territory, borders, and nation."


SIngapore and the Silk Road of the SeaShortlisted for the ICAS Book Prize 2015 for Best Study in the Humanities.
John N. Miksic, Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea 1300-1800.
"Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea 1300-1800, published by the National University of Singapore, is a ground-breaking study of Singapore and its role in the regional long-distance maritime trade during the pre-colonial period. An archaeological-historical study, it draws on a vast range of written and material sources (many uncovered by the author), to create new understandings of the past and indeed the present. Miksic presents a rich and detailed body of information concerning the economic and social history of the region and skilfully applies this to his analysis. In adopting the image of the “Silk Road” from Central Asian studies he provides an immediately comprehensible model that makes this work accessible to those from different disciplines and those seeking comparative insights. Personal recollections and biographical sketches enliven the narrative and the work is well-illustrated and presented. It is a work of lasting scholarship."

Ground-Breaking Matter Accolade 
Lynette J. Chua, Mobilizing Gay Singapore. Rights and Resistance in an Authoritarian State
"In a political climate known for paternalism and civic restrictions, Singapore’s gay activists pursue a pragmatic form of activism, often at significant personal cost. Pragmatism embeds activism in a cultural and legal context that requires challenge from within; a much less spectacular case to analyze but one that resonates deeply with social movements across Asia."

 


NUS Press attends ICAS Adelaide 2015 July 03, 2015 12:07

NUS Press is attending the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) in Adelaide, Australia from 5 to 9 July 2015. This biennial convention is the largest international gathering of scholars in the field of Asian Studies.

We are pleased to announce that two of our books – The Khmer Lands of Vietnam and Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea – have been shortlisted for ICAS Book Prize 2015.

NUS Press is also exhibiting our books at Booth 23. If you are in Adelaide, drop by Booth 23, browse our Southeast Asian books and learn more about NUS Press. We hope to see you.


NUS Press attends AAS-in-Asia Taipei 2015 June 17, 2015 14:52

NUS Press is pleased to be a part of the upcoming AAS-in-Asia conference at Academia Sinica in Taipei from 22 to 24 June 2015. The AAS-in-Asia conference brings together scholars and specialists on Asia to stimulate discussions on visions and trends in Asian studies. 

Our distributor B.K. Norton is representing NUS Press at Booth 24. NUS Press will be displaying our books on Southeast Asia at AAS-in-Asia Taipei. Here’s a highlight of some titles:

Dr Paul Kratoska, Publishing Director of NUS Press, is also acting as the chairperson of an AAS-in-Asia workshop on publishing. The workshop titled "Writing for Publication: What Editors Look for, and Common Mistakes by Authors" will be held on 24 June. 

Do drop by Booth 24 to find out more about NUS Press and to browse our books. We look forward to seeing you. 


Of Whales and Dinosaurs book talk with author Kevin Tan June 03, 2015 16:00

NUS Press held a book talk at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum on 29 May 2015. Dr Kevin Tan, author of Of Whales and Dinosaurs: Singapore’s Natural History Museum, was present to give a talk about the museum's natural history collection. 


Full house at NUS Press book event with Dr Kevin Tan 

In his talk titled “Singapore’s Natural History Collection: A Perilous Prologue”, Dr Tan took the audience through the long and perilous 127-year history of the Raffles Zoological Reference Collection. He shared anecdotes of the brave individuals and past curators who managed to keep the collection mostly intact through two world wars, numerous financial and leadership crises, and the damning hand of modernisation and progress after Singapore’s independence.

Notably in 1942 when Singapore was occupied by Japan during World War II, the fate of its cultural heritage and natural history collections was uncertain. After Singapore’s surrender, E. J. H. Corner, the assistant director of the Botanic Gardens, had a “crazy idea” to “approach the Japanese to preserve the [collections]”. Dr Tan recounted how Corner approached the Japanese authorities with a note signed by the Governor to request them to protect the cultural properties.

Corner was joined by Hidezo Tanakadate, a professor from the University of Japan, who proclaimed that he had come to “conserve the cultural heritage”. Many years later it was discovered by Corner that Tanakadate had no real military authority to take over Singapore’s cultural heritage; he only had the rank of a sublieutenant. Dr Tan emphasised that it took the courage of such individuals who recognised the importance of the natural history collection and endeavoured to preserve it. The dedication and efforts of these stalwarts are duly recorded in Of Whales and Dinosaurs.

Mrs Yang Chang Man, former curator of the natural history collection, was also present at the book event to show her support. Mrs Yang and her team kept the collection from disintegration in the early 1970s when the government’s nation-building focus marginalised natural history and placed priorities elsewhere.


Dr Tan and Mrs Yang (both in pink) with the NUS Press team 

During the Q&A session, Dr Tan took a question from an audience who asked about the legal protection for cultural heritage.

"I’m afraid there’s no real legal protection [in Singapore] but the [natural history] collection does belong to [National University of Singapore] now. I’m quite sure the university has insured the collection and I think it’s probably in the safest hand possible.”

Another audience posed the question on the possibility of retrieving the whale skeleton which was given to the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur in 1974. Dr Tan shared the possible legal and diplomatic complications in recovering the mounted whale skeleton:

“It’s not a problem of money if the [skeleton] is for sale because it is a matter of national pride. But it’s not so direct [to retrieve it back]…since the skeleton was given to the federal government, not to the state government.”

Dr Tan addressed the last question on the damage incurred by the collection before Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum was established and the possibility of expansion for the new museum.

“Very little [of the collection] was actually lost, thanks to Mrs Yang [Chang Man] and her team. Specimens do deteriorate over time so you have to throw [them] away. That’s [inevitable] given our weather and the [poor storage conditions]...The museum did lose two of the biggest things: the whale skeleton (given to Malaysia) and the skeleton of the elephant which was shot by the Sultan of Johore in 1909.

...I’m sure there’s room for expansion. In fact the museum never ceases to grow. Many of the specimens here are post-1970s. The museum scientists continue to go on expeditions. In terms of biodiversity the sea life is richer and much more unexplored [in Singapore]...For instance the fish collection has grown a lot. Peter Ng, director of the museum, is also one of the leading experts in crabs so the crab collection is amazing.”

Thank you for your support for Of Whales and Dinosaurs. Do visit the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum to learn more about Singapore’s rich biodiversity and natural history.


Two NUS Press titles make the shortlist for ICAS Book Prize 2015 May 29, 2015 12:00

We are pleased to announce that two of our books – The Khmer Lands of Vietnam and Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea – have been shortlisted for the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) Book Prize 2015. The ICAS Book Prize is awarded biennially to outstanding English-language works in the field of Asian Studies. NUS Press will also be attending the convention held in Adelaide, Australia from 5 to 9 July 2015. Details of our booth will be announced closer to the date.

The Khmer Lands of Vietnam is shortlisted for the Best Study in the Social Sciences. This groundbreaking work by Philip Taylor uncovers the intricate lifestyle of the Khmer Krom who have to deal with their ambiguous political identities and adapt to living at the Mekong river delta. 

Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea has made the shortlist for the Best Study in the Humanities. In this book John N. Miksic synthesises 25 years of archaeological research to reconstruct the 14th-century port of Singapore in greater detail than is possible for any other early Southeast Asian city.

And please show your support by voting for your favourite title in the ICAS Colleagues' Choice Award. The poll will be open until 16 June 2015. We thank you for your enthusiasm and support for our books.


Portrait of the artist as a young man April 27, 2015 13:30

Goh Poh Seng with his wife, Margaret, on the front steps of their home in Vancouver. Image courtesy of the Estate of Goh Poh Seng.

The Business Times' write-up on Tall Tales and Misadventures of a Young Westernized Oriental Gentleman:

GOH POH SENG was a literary pioneer. He wrote Singapore's first novel If We Dream Too Long (1972) which depicts the hopes and frustrations of young people in the newly independent country.

He also wrote the 1966 play about family life titled When Smiles Are Done, which represents an early attempt to capture Singlish on stage. To do that, he spent a year and a half "hanging around public places with a tape recorder and listening to how people spoke".

Goh died in 2010 at the age of 73. But even though he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1995, he continued to write short stories, a number of which appear in this new book published posthumously by Ridge Books of NUS Press.

Tall Tales and Misadventures of a Young Westernized Oriental Gentleman is a collection of stories about his student days in 1950s Ireland where he had been sent at the age of 16 by his Malaysian family to study towards becoming a doctor.

It appears that it was in Ireland that Goh truly came of age. Bright, curious and cocky (he refers to himself as a "sexy fellow"), he led a bohemian lifestyle despite having earlier converted to Catholicism "on account of acute loneliness and homesickness".


Our author Loh Kah Seng on the history of public housing in Singapore April 22, 2015 09:00

NUS Press author Loh Kah Seng weighs in on Singapore's public housing policy and why it might not be advisable as a model for Taiwan over at Thinking Taiwan.  

Via Thinking Taiwan:

"Most Singaporean commentaries on public housing show a limited grasp of history. In the standard account, the pre-history is a caricature of insanitary slums and squatter areas. The 'housing crisis' is, then, vanquished by the HDB's success in building low-cost housing for the people. This narrative ignores, however, the larger historical context.

Public housing did not begin with the PAP but was shaped by global developments. The HDB's efforts drew upon ideas of state-planned housing from Britain and the U.S. after the Second World War. To the Western powers, state intervention in housing was crucial to make developing countries safe for decolonization and from communist subversion. The PAP's 1963 slogan of an all-out assault on the five 'ogres' of a 'subservient society' — poverty, disease, ignorance, squalor, and idleness — was lifted out of the pages of the foundational document of the British welfare state, the 1942 Beveridge Report. As the language of squalor made housing an arm of the state, so where one lived became a matter of national policy."

Pair this article with Loh's book Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore, which argues that the fire was a catalyst for Singapore's emergence as a modern state.


Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum opens; Of Whales and Dinosaurs on its history April 20, 2015 09:00

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum was officially opened by Dr Tony Tan, Singapore President and Chancellor of NUS, on 18 April 2015. Over 250 guests attended the official opening to commemorate this significant occasion for Singapore's first and only natural history museum.

Dr Tan was presented with the book Of Whales and Dinosaurs: The Story of Singapore’s Natural History Museum written by Kevin Y. L. Tan. Of Whales and Dinosaurs traces how the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum came into being. It recounts the 127-year history of the natural history collection that now forms the core of the new museum. The book highlights the dedication and efforts of the stalwarts who overcame the odds to protect Singapore's natural history heritage.

Of Whales and Dinosaurs retails at NUS Press for $46. It is also available at leading bookshops in Singapore.


NUS Press at the 4th Southeast Asian Studies Symposium April 17, 2015 09:00

NUS Press participated in the 4th Southeast Asian Studies Symposium held in Kuala Lumpur back in 20 to 24 March 2015.

Organised by Project Southeast Asia, the symposium is the world’s largest annual Southeast Asian Studies conference focusing on critical issues such as sustainable development, environmental change and infectious diseases.

We were pleased to display our Southeast Asian titles at the symposium. Here's a highlight of the books:


NUS Press and author Peter Borschberg at KLRCA seminar April 15, 2015 10:00

NUS Press was delighted to attend Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCA) seminar on 13 March 2015 titled 'The Reconciliation of Norms in International Relations'.

Represented by our distributor, we displayed three of our maritime classics: China as a Sea Power, 1127-1368: A Preliminary Survey of the Maritime Expansion and Naval Exploits of the Chinese People During the Southern Song and Yuan Periods, Hugo Grotius, the Portuguese and Free Trade in the East Indies and Pedra Branca: The Road to the World Court.

Peter Borschberg, author of Hugo Grotius, the Portuguese and Free Trade in the East Indies, shared the writings of Hugo Grotius and how Grotius shaped modern thinking and norms in international relations. Together with Professor Lee Poh Ping and Professor Anthony Milner, Peter led a discussion on the relevance of this historical experience to current contests in the Asia Pacific.

Watch the full coverage on the interesting talk below or on KLRCA youtube channel.


Goh’s last work, Tall Tales and MisAdventures of a Young Westernized Oriental Gentleman, provides intimate insights into his formative years April 14, 2015 10:00

In the upcoming Tall Tales and MisAdventures of a Young Westernized Oriental Gentleman, Singapore’s English-language literary pioneer Goh Poh Seng records the trials and tribulations of his first steps as a poet. As an impressionable young medical student in the Ireland of the 1950s, Goh struggled between his family’s expectations that he should become a doctor and his passion for writing. While it concerns his early writing career, Tall Tales was composed in Goh’s last years, and it shows in the fluency of his mature style. The book forms a poignant finale to Goh’s literary legacy – he passed away in 2010, from complications due to Parkinson’s disease, while working on the memoir.

A giant of Singapore’s literary and arts scene, Goh set up Island Press, founded the literary magazine Tumasek, and also formed Centre65 to promote the arts. He was Singapore’s third Cultural Medallion recipient for literature and the vice-chairman of the Arts Council from 1967 to 1973.

The memoir tells one of the common stories of the 20th century – the young colonial sent to the metropole for an advanced education – but in this case in the words of an uncommon young talent, whose ambitions for his own education went far beyond attending medical school. The nine chapters chart the awakening of Goh’s love of words and provide insights into his self-discovery. The book also reveals the extraordinary characters that shaped Goh’s literary journey. In particular he was deeply influenced by the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh and the Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett. Memorable encounters with these writers are recorded in the chapters “A Star-Lovely Art” and “Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?”.

Tall Tales is available through NUS Press’s Ridge Books imprint. It retails for S$25.68 including GST at Books Kinokuniya and leading bookshops in Singapore. Goh’s first novel If We Dream Too Long is also available at NUS Press.

In support of local literature, NUS Press is proud to present Tall Tales at The London Book Fair 2015 from 14 to 16 April.

Of Whales and Dinosaurs documents the 127-year history of Singapore’s natural history collection April 13, 2015 10:00

In the first book – Of Whales and Dinosaurs: The Story of Singapore’s Natural History Museum – to record the story of the Zoological Collection that forms the core of the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Kevin Tan recounts a century-long saga of struggle and change.

Beyond the sleek exterior of its new museum building lies the extraordinary 127-year history of the collection. The collection of biological specimens survived mostly intact through the multiple challenges of the nineteenth century, the devastation of World War II, and its potential disintegration in the 1970s. During the first two decades of Singapore’s independence, it was nearly consigned to oblivion, when the government’s nation-building focus marginalised natural history and placed priorities elsewhere.

It was only through the dedication and efforts of a few stalwarts that the collection was cared for, even in the midst of sometimes appalling conditions. The creation of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is the result of the tenacity and courage of the individuals who looked to the long-term, and overcame the odds to protect Singapore’s natural history heritage.

Of Whales and Dinosaurs will be available at leading bookshops in Singapore and NUS Press from 18 April. It retails for S$49.22 including GST.

Members of the public are invited to a special gallery tour and talk by author Kevin Tan on 29th May at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, on the near disappearance of Singapore’s natural history collection and how civil society helped in saving this element of our heritage. Event details and registration at https://www.eventbrite.sg/e/singapores-natural-history-collection-a-perilous-prologue-tickets-16513211460


Prof. M.C. Ricklefs wins the George Kahin Prize March 18, 2015 13:50