University of Nottingham Malaysia
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

The Pleasures and Perils of Fieldwork: Triple Book Launch

Three new books by FASS faculty members were launched at a special event held on campus last week (6/2/2020). Moderated by Assoc. Prof. Sumit Mandal (PHIR), the three authors discussed their work in the context of researching overseas and in countries under-going political transition and marketisation. 

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One common theme identified by Sumit Mandal was the centrality of the market, widely conceived, in the three books despite their different countries of interest. All three countries have experienced a process of marketisation whereby the market, rather than the state, plays an increasingly important role in shaping opportunities, lives, allocation of resources, and outcome. In South Africa this was expressed in the ways public services are provided to residents not as a right but as a paid-service. In Indonesia, this has meant the growth of cinema as pop culture, and its subjection to market forces such as consumer demand. This is a double edged sword for cultural producers whose success or failure is often dependent on market response. 

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DERICK BECKER (Neoliberalism and the State of Belonging in South Africa, Palgrave, 2020) spoke of the joys of accessing an archive with original, handwritten work by Nelson Mandela, and being able to physically touch a piece of such momentous history. But spoke of the ways in which South African state continues to be shaped by apartheid era racial segregation. Like the others he too recalled the feeling of wandering off to a new country, walking out of the airport, and just trying to figure out 'what now?'. 

GAYATHRY S VENKITESWARAN (Myanmar Media in Transition: Legacies, Challenges and Change, ISEAS, 2019) co-edited her book on Myanmar with other researchers, bringing together a range of voices into the edited collection, the first on Myanmar media. The book breaks away from the norm by including in it the study of filmmaking, fiction, social movement media and social media. Gayathry Venkiteswaran spoke, among other things, about negotiating a media landscape in which the coverage of certain issues was challenging. 

THOMAS BARKER (Indonesian Cinema after the New Order: Going Mainstream, HKU Press, 2019) explained how researching cinema in Indonesia was made easy by the fact that filmmakers themselves were looking to discuss their ideas and experiences in a serious way. But the project did not begin as a study of the film industry, rather Thomas Barker had intended to research film piracy and hung out in Glodok in North Jakarta, trying to access production facilities to understand the trade. 

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All panelists enjoyed the lively exchange with staff and students who attended.

Posted on 18th February 2020

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