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Teaching Australian studies at Southeast Asian universities

1996-11, Blackburn, Kevin

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Research into practice: Tuning in to the “chorus of history” through the use of oral history in the classroom

2012, Baildon, Brady, Blackburn, Kevin

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The heritage battles of Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Melaka in Malaysia

2012, Blackburn, Kevin

This paper examines the political battles over heritage in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Melaka since Malaysian independence. These preceded the successful listing of George Town in Penang and Melaka as World Heritage in July 2008, helping raise public consciousness on the value of built heritage in Malaysia. The decision to make George Town and Melaka World Heritage cities was taken in 1998 by the Malaysian government in conjunction with the Penang and Melaka State governments after a long succession of heritage battles led by Malaysian Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The key heritage battles include the 1984 galvanising of the Chinese community against the development of Bukit China in Melaka. For Penang, the focus is on the protest against rapid urban redevelopment in George Town during the real estate boom of the early 1990s. According to architect and Vice-President of Badan Warisan Malaysia (the Malaysian Heritage Trust), Laurence Loh, speaking in 1996, ‘More old buildings have been knocked down in Penang in the last five years than in the last 30 years’. The paper traces the role of NGOs in these heritage battles. The creation of the Badan Warisan Malaysia (BWM) in Kuala Lumpur during 1983 and the Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) in 1985 are examined. The paper also surveys the heritage battles in the 1970s and 1980s before the creation of the BWM and PHT. These were fought by other NGOs, such as the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP), formed in 1969, Institut Masyarakat (the community institute), organised in the mid-1970s, and Aliran, founded in 1977. These Malaysian NGOs pursued heritage conservation as part of a broader agenda of what they referred to as ‘sustainable development’. They rejected the model of development advocated by Malaysian councils and state governments, as well as property developers that meant destroying what the NGOs saw as heritage areas and replacing them with modern shopping complexes, office towers, and tourist theme parks. The paper evaluates the impact of the Malaysian heritage NGO’s ideas of ‘sustainable development’ across several decades.

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Armies of collaboration and resistance in Southeast Asia

2021, Blackburn, Kevin

The book delivers a thematic analysis of the many ways in which study of the Second World War can take place, considering international, transnational, and global approaches, and serves as a major jumping off point for further research into the specific fields covered by each of the expert authors. It demonstrates the global and total nature of the Second World War, giving due coverage to the conflict in all major theatres and through the lens of the key combatants and neutrals, examines issues of race, gender, ideology, and society during the war, and functions as a textbook to educate students as to the trends that have taken place in how the conflict has been (and can be) interpreted in the modern world. Divided into twelve parts that cover central themes of the conflict, including theatres of war, leadership, societies, occupation, secrecy and legacies, it enables those with no memory of war to approach it with a view to comprehending what it was all about and places the history of this conflict into a context that is international, transnational, and institutional. This is a comprehensive and accessible reference volume for anyone interested in the most up to date scholarship on this major conflict.

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War memory and nation-building in South East Asia

2010, Blackburn, Kevin

This article analyses why some countries in South East Asia have set aside a national day to remember the Japanese Occupation in the cause of nation-building and why other countries have tended to choose not to remember the Japanese Occupation because for them it does not further nation-building. Singapore, the Philippines and Burma have all remembered their experience of struggle and sacrifice during the Second World War to further national unity. However, most South East Asian countries have chosen at a national level not to commemorate this undoubtedly major watershed in the region’s history.

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The comfort women of Singapore in history and memory

2022, Blackburn, Kevin

"Comfort women" or ianfu is the euphemism used by the Japanese military for the women they compelled to do sex work in the Second World War. It has become the term generally used in English to discuss the subject. The role of comfort women in history remains a topic of importance — and emotion — around the world. Most scholarship concentrates on Korean comfort women, with less on their counterparts in Japan, China, Taiwan and even less on Southeast Asia. It is well-known that an elaborate series of comfort stations, or comfort houses, were organised by the Japanese administration across Singapore during the Occupation from 1942 to 1945. And historians have recorded eyewitness accounts from Korean comfort women who served here, and from managers of Singapore comfort stations.So why did no local former comfort women come forward and tell their stories when others across Asia began to do so publicly in the 1990s? To understand this silence, the book details the sex industry serving the Japanese military during the wartime occupation of Singapore: the comfort stations, managers, procurers, girls and women who either volunteered or were forced into service and in many cases sexual slavery. Could it be that no former comfort women remained in Singapore after the war? Blackburn shows through a careful weighing of the different kinds of evidence why this was not the case. The immediate post-war years, and efforts to repatriate or ‘reform’ former comfort women fills in a key part of the history. The author then turns from history to the public presence of the comfort women in Singapore's memory: newspapers, novels, plays, television, and touristic heritage sites, showing how comfort women became known in Singapore during the 1990s and 2000s. Blackburn brings great care, balance and sensitivity to a difficult subject.

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The decolonization of history at the universities of Malaysia and Singapore

2022, Blackburn, Kevin

Providing coherence in understanding the role that education and higher education played in the colonizing purposes of the rich nations of the North, this book draws from multiple geopolitical spaces across the world to consider how epistemic injustice has characterized colonial higher education systems. Within this text, carefully chosen international contributors explore how colonialism, coloniality, and colonization have impacted indigenous people’s ways of knowing, feeling, behaving, valuing, being, and becoming in fundamental ways and how the West’s idea of education and schooling have been used as key instruments in the project of world domination and subjugation. Beyond these key entry concepts, chapters use ideas of modernity, post-modernism, globalization, internationalization, and neo-liberalism to examine how higher education in colonial and post-colonial societies still answers to a colonial narrative and what can be done to decolonize the system. Unpacking the historical and philosophical antecedents of higher education and critically examining the intentions and impact of colonial assumptions behind higher education in different parts of the world, this is suitable reading for postgraduates and scholars in the field of higher education, as well as senior management teams in universities and practitioners who work directly in the field of transformation in government, and university departments.

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Four Corners television history: Gallipoli and the fall of Singapore

2007, Blackburn, Kevin

This article analyses how the Australian current affairs programme, Four Corners, which follows a style modelled on the BBC programme Panorama, has represented Australian military history in two of its programmes, Gallipoli: The Fatal Shore and No Prisoners on Australian deserters at the fall of Singapore. Chris Masters was the reporter on both programmes. These historical documentaries claim to investigate Australian Anzac mythology. Four Corners is noted for its rigorous pursuit of issues in current affairs. Programmes construct argument that the journalists steadfastly pursue in order to ‘expose the truth’. Rather than neutrally representing both sides of a debate, the programmes tend to take the side that the journalists perceive to be in the public interest. Examining how Four Corners has applied its own style of investigative journalism to the Anzac mythology is explored by outlining whether the programmes follow Ken Burn’s ideas of documentary-makers as ‘tribal story-teller’ crafting stories that uphold national identity or Bill Nichols’ view that documentary is an argument that is representative of reality rather than reflects reality. Examining the history of Gallipoli and the fall of Singapore in the Four Corners programmes tends suggest that the journalists working on the programmes preferred to reaffirm the assumptions of the Anzac legend, but attack or ignore historians and evidence that questions it. The programmes appear to be a mixture of Burns’s and Nichols’ ideas of documentary making.