Saturday, June 28, 2008

Southeast Asia Lecture Series in UP

Focus on the Global South*
UP-Department of Political Science
Third World Studies Center and the Philippine Political Science Association

invites you to


with Jim Glassman
Department of Geography
University of British Columbia

1 July 2008
10:00 to 11:30 am, Palma Hall 207
University of the Philippines Diliman
"The Provinces Elect Governments, Bangkok Overthrows Them": Urbanity, Class, and Post-Democracy in Thailand

Urban social movements are often associated with what are considered "progressive" causes, and most activists involved in such movements are inclined to describe themselves in such terms. The Thai coup of September 2006, and the ongoing street demonstrations of the People's Alliance for Democracy in 2008, pose problems for any such easy identification. Though executed by the military, on behalf of royalist interests, the coup was supported by an array of primarily Bangkok-based and middle class groups, many of them associated with organizations such as NGOs and state enterprise unions, and such groups have again been at the center of the 2008 demonstrations. Although some of these groups claim anti-neoliberal political orientations, their support for the coup, and now for the ouster of the government elected in 2007, effectively places them on the side of forces opposed to populist spending policies and in favor of specific forms of neo-liberalism—at least for Thai villagers. This lecture explores this development by focusing on the Bangkok/up-country and urban/rural divisions in Thai politics—which, though socially constructed, have taken on political substance, in part because of their grounding in regionally differentiated class structures.

2 July 2008
10:00 to 11:30 am, Palma Hall 207
University of the Philippines Diliman
"Southeast Asia between China and the US: Neo-Liberals, Neo-Conservatives, Rising Powers, and Resurgent Militarists"

After September 11, 2001, the administration of George W. Bush showed renewed interest in Southeast Asia, putatively because of the presence within the region of "terrorists" connected to the attacks on the US. However, as during the Cold War period, US interests in Southeast Asia are shaped heavily by US interests in Northeast Asia—especially Japan and China. US interests are also conflicted, involving different political blocs, with different interests and ideologies, grounded in different specific class groupings. These blocs, sometimes called "neo-liberal" and "neo-conservative, " have agendas that overlap but also contain significant tensions. Those tensions shape not only US policies towards Northeast Asia, but Southeast Asia as well, with varied consequences throughout the latter region. I explore and analyze some of the tensions in US policies with the help of ideas from Nicos Poulantzas, whose conception of the state as part of the social division of labor can be expanded to help specify relations between US neo-liberals and neo-conservatives, as well as to indicate the reasons for limited changes in US policies over time, in spite of the tensions.

3 July 2008
2:30 to 4:00 pm, Palma Hall 207
University of the Philippines Diliman
"The Greater Mekong Subregion: Regionalization or Spatial Fix?"

The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)—a project of transborder economic integration between Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan province (China), funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB)—has been portrayed by the ADB as reflecting the natural geographic expansion of market processes after the end of the Cold War and the re-orientation of Communist Party regimes. I argue that a better interpretation of the development of the GMS is that it reflects a power-laden struggle by different investors and states to procure a "spatial fix" for problems of overaccumulation. Among other things, this means (1) that the GMS is not a "natural" market area but is socially produced as a space of investment by various political economic processes, (2) that large-scale capitalist forces from both inside and outside the GMS are central to its production and do less to integrate it internally than to selectively integrate key sites within the GMS into a broader East Asia regional economy of which they are a part; and (3) that the entire process is marked by conspicuous forms of socio-spatial uneven development, rather than by the equal opportunity for betterment sometimes suggested in neo-classical and neo-liberal literature on the GMS.

4 July 2008
2:30 to 4:00 pm, Palma Hall 207
University of the Philippines Diliman
"Global Poverty and Inequality: Measuring Trends, Interpreting Implications"

The recent explosion of studies by economists on global measures of poverty and income distribution has received somewhat less attention from non-economists and social activists than it should. There are various problems with measures of either poverty or inequality, but there are also tentative conclusions that can be drawn from the empirical evidence regarding both long-term and short-term trends.

Interpretation of the evidence, however, also depends upon the goals and assumptions of the interpreters. In this talk I argue that for groups involved in social movements favoring redistribution of wealth and income, the implications are important and point to the necessity of shifting strategies in response to shifting geographies of global inequality.


Jim Glassman is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia. He received his PhD in Geography from the University of Minnesota in 1999. His main research interests include political economy of development in Southeast Asia; regionalization in the Greater Mekong sub-region; geo-politics and social conflict in East and Southeast Asia. He has written on topics ranging from Thai democracy and politics to globalization and US foreign policy in the region. He is the author of Thailand at the Margins (Oxford, 2004), a study of uneven development and the transformation of labor processes in Thailand since the Second World War. His current research is on socio-spatial uneven development in the Greater Mekong Sub region.


*This lecture is part of Focus' Deconstructing Discourse and Activist Retooling Program (DDARP). The Deconstructing Discourse and Activist Retooling Programme (DDARP) is a project that aims to revisit debates on contemporary development issues, ideologies and paradigms and introduce new frontiers in analyses and perspectives to contribute to knowledge production, critical discourse and political action. The DDARP features programmatic short-term courses (lecture series) and one-time public lectures/roundtable discussions by nationally and internationally acclaimed scholars that are leading experts in their respective fields.

The DDARP courses/lectures are designed to be broad based, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary. Visiting lecturers come from a wide range of disciplines and traditions in the social sciences, and with varying experience and background as public scholars. The main audiences are students and the youth; the lectures are also intended to appeal to the academe, media, government officials and activists who are at the forefront of today's political debates.

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