Redefine the possible.
space Future students Current students Faculty & staff Alumni Visitors York crest

York Centre for Asian Research Updates                    Issue 68, Friday, November 17, 2006

In this issue

Academic Events

 YCAR director to talk on emergencies, insurgencies and forestry in Southeast Asia
  Seminars/Conferences  Filipino indigenous activist delivers Dame Nita Barrow distinguished visitor lecture

Internship Opportunities

 York International Internship Program (YIIP) wins national award

Research Competitions

 MRI opens up competition for Early Researcher Award (ERA) Program

Asian News Analysis

 Vietnam: Higher education reform and world class universities

YCAR director to talk on emergencies, insurgencies and forestry in Southeast Asia

Peter Vandergeest will present a talk at the Asian Institute Southeast Asian Seminar Series today from 2-4 pm at 208N North House at the Munk Centre for International Studies, 1 Devonshire Place. Dr. Vandergeest has been conducting research in Southeast Asia for 20 years. The paper on insurgencies and forestry is the product of collaborative research with Nancy Peluso, and the most recent of a series of articles on the making of professional forestry and political forests in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He is also working with a network of colleagues in research on contemporary agrarian transitions in Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on the cultural politics of agrofood transformations.

We are also pleased to announce that UBC Press has published Development’s Displacements, edited by Peter Vandergeest, Pablo Idahosa, and Pablo S. Bose. Should this book be of interest to you or another member of your faculty for course consideration, please complete the secure online exam copy request form at; it is not necessary to enter a discount code, simply click the ‘Purchase in Canada’ button. Your courier address, including phone number is required for shipping.  Should you wish to purchase this title for research/personal use, the UBC press is pleased to offer a 20% discount. For purchases, please see visit

Reminder: Applications for YCAR Directorship effective July 2007 due on Monday, November 20. Applicants are expected to be members of the full-time faculty at York University, and to have a distinguished record of scholarship and interdisciplinary research interests in Asia or Asian diasporas. The Director is expected to administer the financial, organizational and academic activities of the Centre, to develop external funding sources, and to maintain an active individual and collaborative research program. Applications and nominations (including curriculum vitae and the names of three referees who may be contacted) should be sent to Phyllis Lepore Babcock, Executive Officer, Research, Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, 200 York Lanes.

CRC conducts workshop on the modern evolution of Shanghai
Today, Room 204, YorkU Scott Library, 9:30-3:30 pm

10:00  Meng Yue, University of Toronto, "Shanghai and Edges of Empires: The Repositioning of Chinese Cosmopolitanism, 1800-1927"

Joshua A. Fogel. York University, "The Voyage of the Senzaimaru to Shanghai (1862) and the Revival of Sino-Japanese Relations"

2:00 Christian Henriot, Universite de Lyon, "Virtual Shanghai: Exploring New Ways in Urban History"

Everyone welcome to attend and participate! Please contact Canada Research Chair (CRC)/Professor of Modern Chinese History, Dr. Joshua Fogel at (Photo credit: Shanghai-ed/SinoMedia Ltd, Shanghai).

YCAR Brownbag presents Aparna Sundar, Assistant Professor in Political Science, Ryerson University
"Meeting emergency with patience": Lessons from the resistance to "disaster capitalism" in post-tsunami Sri Lanka
Monday, November 20, 12-1:30 pm, Rm 270B York Lanes

Abstract: The Sri Lankan state's plans to profit from tsunami reconstruction by turning Sri Lanka into "a world class tourism destination," while rendering coastal residents homeless, typifies what Naomi Klein has called "disaster capitalism." This poses a specific dilemma for international solidarity in disaster relief - if disaster has been enlisted as an opportunity for expansion, what kind of intervention can we (as Northern publics) make at a time of loss and need that does not play into this larger project? This paper seeks to think through this dilemma, arguing that this can best be done by learning from the local resistance to the project. Aparna Sundar is Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University. Her research and training has been in the areas of comparative politics, international development and postcolonial politics, and political economy. Her current research interests cover: social movements in the Global South, working-class immigrant organizing in Toronto, and international and transnational social movement organizing, as well as the impact of globalization and economic restructuring on welfare in postcolonial societies. She has also worked in a number of capacities with the Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson, including as Coordinator of the 2003 Toronto Social Forum.

Open Lecture and Book Signing: The Oligarchy and Continuing Philippine Human Rights Crises
Monday, November 27, 4-7pm, Rm 208N, Munk Centre for International Studies/UofT, 1 Devonshire Place

Asian Institute in association with Rizal Society of Ontario, Filipino Students Association at UofT and York and YCAR presents an open forum/book signing on Dr. Dante Simbulan's book relating to the Philippine oligarchy and continuing human rights crises in the country (Photo credit: Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).

DANTE C. SIMBULAN earned his doctorate in Political Science from the Australian National University. He taught Politics, Government and Sociology at the University of the Philippines, Ateneo, Maryknoll, and the Philippine Military Academy. He was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines when Martial Law was declared by Ferdinand Marcos. Dr. Simbulan was arrested and detained for two-and-a half years without charges and adopted as a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International and other international human rights groups. While in exile, he taught at Montgomery College, Maryland and lectured at several universities in the U.S. and Canada. He served as the first executive director of the Church Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (based in Washington, D.C.) that worked for the termination of US military and economic support to the Marcos dictatorship. Dr. Simbulan will be on hand to sign copies of The Modern Principalia, Historical Evolution of the Philippine Ruling Oligarchy, his finally published 1963 watershed thesis on the 20th century Philippine ruling elite which influenced two generations of Filipino political activists.

Filipino indigenous activist delivers Dame Nita Barrow distinguished visitor lecture
Tuesday, November 21, 2006, 7:00 p.m., George Ignatieff Theatre

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, 10th Dame Nita Barrow Distinguished Visitor, is an indigenous feminist and activist from the Philippines and is Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She will speak on campaign strategies used by indigenous women against the violence caused by extractive industries and new technologies. Globalization, which is fuelled by corporate greed has spurred new resistance strategies by indigenous women all over the world. They are actively challenging corporations not only at the local level but also at the national and global level. The lecture will highlight the gains of and the obstacles to such campaigns and the links of these issues and struggles to feminists in Canada. Actions and proposals from governments and corporations on corporate social responsibility and access and benefit sharing will be analysed and critiqued from an indigenous women's perspective. She will present specific proposals on how to strengthen solidarity relationships between indigenous women and feminists in Canada and also between indigenous peoples from the South and those from the North. The 10th Annual Dame Nita Barrow Lecture is made possible through a grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada. DAME NITA BARROW DISTINGUISHED VISITOR LECTURE (poster)

CERIS sponsors public seminar on how “earlier” skilled immigrants from Mainland China experience acculturation, employment challenges, and mental health issues
Friday, November 24, 2006, 12-2 p.m.

Presenters: Izumi Sakamoto, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto; Yi Wei, M.Ed., Adult Education and Community Development; Jane Ku, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Women’s Studies, Trent University; Lele Truong, Past President, Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter and Coordinator, Policy Roundtable Mobilizing Professions and Trades (PROMPT)

This study focuses on the experiences of “earlier” Mainland Chinese skilled immigrants who have been in Canada for 4 to 10 years. In a qualitative study using grounded theory, Mainland Chinese skilled immigrants articulated their experiences of difficulty finding professional employment, language barrier, pressures to acculturate, feelings of “luocha” (falling down), and subsequent mental health issues. A representative from the community partner agency (Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter) will contextualize the psychosocial issues in the larger structural aspect of immigration and settlement, specifically focusing on the barriers to successful employment, foreign credentials and skills recognition. Some of the successful practices in addressing the issues as well as the recommendations for social services and social policy will be discussed.

Location: 246 Bloor St. West, 5th Floor, Room 548 (St. George subway station, Bedford Street exit). This seminar is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to  or call (416) 946-3110. Seminar presentations are posted on the website after the event. To view please visit:

Variety Crossing invites you to attend its 8th edition of Multilingual Anthology
Date: November 25, 2006 at 6.30 pm Place: Hart House, University of Toronto, Music Room

Special guests: The Korean Consul General, George Elliott Clarke, and Bruce Meyer. Other writers and poets from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds will also be in attendance. The mission of Variety Crossing is to encourage as many ethnic groups to contribute their literature to our multicultural publication. The pages of our anthology, Variety Crossing, is a celebration of the diverse colours of Canada's cultural fabric. Variety Crossing embodies what it means to be Canadian. For any additional info, please email or visit their web site at  

York International Internship Program (YIIP) wins national award

York and three other Canadian universities have won national awards for excellence in internationalization. The Scotiabank-Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada Award (AUCC) for Excellence in Internationalization recognizes Canadian university initiatives that foster understanding of an increasingly global world. York Vice-President Academic Sheila Embleton accepted York's award at a ceremony Oct. 25 at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre.

York won the award for its international internship program, which has placed undergraduate and graduate students in studies-related, non-credit internships around the world for the past three summers. "This is important recognition of the work York has been doing recently," says Adrian Shubert, associate VP international. "The Scotiabank-AUCC award is the most prestigious in Canada for international initiatives among Canadian universities."  The York University International Internship Program was created three years ago as part of the University’s commitment to internationalization, spearheaded by Embleton. This summer, York sent 53 students from every Faculty to 34 countries.

York has won four Scotiabank-AUCC awards, more than any other Canadian university, since they were created 10 years ago, says Shubert. Schulich's East-West Enterprise Exchange Program and its International MBA Program won in 1997 and 1998, respectively, and Glendon's International Studies Program won in 2004. York has won other awards for its international initiatives. Last year, the Canadian Bureau of International Education recognized Embleton for leadership in internationalization and the York International Internship Program for outstanding international programming (see YFile, Oct. 3, 2005).

Scotiabank-AUCC 2006 awards also went to the University of Alberta's Global Education Program in peace and governance; McGill University's international courts and tribunals program; and the University of Western Ontario's Western Heads East program. "Scotiabank understands the value of a global perspective and that's why we're proud to recognize the achievements of Canadian universities in preparing students – Canada's next generation of political, social, cultural and business leaders – for a global future," said Scotiabank chief executive Rick Waugh. "These Scotiabank-AUCC Award winners underline the important role universities have in preparing Canadian students for today's global world," said Claire Morris, AUCC president. (Source: YFile, Nov 2, 2006). The deadline to apply for YIIP's Summer 2007 internship placements is January 5, 2007.

MRI opens up competition for Early Researcher Award (ERA) program

The Office of Research Services (ORS) would like to bring to the attention of York’s research community a funding program administered by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI) entitled the Early Researcher Award program (ERA). Program guidelines, application instructions and application forms can be obtained from  Potential applicants should contact Steven Mataija (Manager, Government Research Initiatives Programs) at ORS at x22507 or

OBJECTIVE: The Early Researcher Award program (ERA) aims to help promising, recently-appointed Ontario researchers build their research teams of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research associates. The ERA will cover the following expenses for research associates, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students carrying out the research: salaries and benefits; essential and reasonable travel and expenses related to conferences, workshops or seminars; and essential and reasonable travel and expenses related directly to offsite research activities. Applicants are required to connect youth with researchers and may use up to 1% of the ERA award to undertake annual youth science and technology outreach activities.

ELIGIBILITY: The ERA program is open on a competitive basis to researchers who are: full-time faculty or principal investigators based at an eligible institution; actively involved in conducting research, and their research must be supported by peer-reviewed funding; and by July 1, 2006, no more than five years from having started their independent academic research career. Applications will be accepted from researchers in all research disciplines; however, emphasis will be given to those in the following targeted economic sectors: agriculture; materials and advanced manufacturing; information and communications technology; life sciences; environmental technologies; energy technologies; and emerging technologies.

VALUE: Each award to a leading researcher is a maximum of $100,000 and must be matched by an additional $50,000 from the researcher’s institution and/or a private sector partner.

DEADLINES: The Round 3 application deadline is January 31, 2007. Draft for review to Office of Research Services: January 17, 2007. For more info, contact: Office of Research Services, 214 York Lanes, York University,, Tel: 416-736-2100, Fax: 416-736-5512.

Vietnam: Higher education reform and world-class universities, Asian Analysis, November 2006

Asean Focus Group logoRecent calls for education reform in Vietnam have become increasingly more public, more organized and more intensive. A typical example of this movement is the Education Reform Seminar headed by Professor Hoang Tuy, an internationally renowned Vietnamese mathematician. While serious problems can be found at all stages of the Vietnam's education system, reform discussions have typically been focused on the higher education level. This is easy to comprehend for a number of reasons. Firstly, the majority of Vietnamese individuals who engage in the education reform debate are university academics. Secondly, the university is the final and most visible stage of the education process. Thirdly, higher education is, relative to the region, perhaps the weakest stage of education in Vietnam. Fourthly, and most importantly, university reform represents possibly the most viable short-cut education reform strategy from a cost-benefit perspective.

After former PM Phan Van Khai's visit to Harvard University in June 2005, the term 'world-class' university, in spite of its ambiguous meaning, has appeared at regular frequency in the Vietnamese press. Following this visit, the Vietnamese Government invited the Vietnam Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government to prepare a proposal for developing top-tier universities in Vietnam. This proposal for discussion was submitted to the PM in October 2005 by Professor Thomas Vallely, the director of the Harvard Vietnam Program. Independently, a more detailed and comprehensive plan for establishing one or two high-quality universities in Vietnam by a group of six overseas Vietnamese intellectuals (including the author) was also presented to the PM at roughly the same time.

In February 2006, the Vietnamese Government formally set up a Working Group in charge of the preparation of a plan to establish world-class universities in Vietnam. Following the report of this Working Group, former PM Khai issued, approximately a year after his Harvard visit, Decision No. 145/2006/Q_-TTg setting out the Government's guidelines and directions for the construction of world-class universities in Vietnam. According to this Decision's timetable, the Working Group is expected to present the preferred model of a world-class university to the PM in early 2007. The main points in the draft proposal of the Working Group include:

i) The Government's initial funding will be about US$100 million over three years;

ii) Government funding will constitute a major part of the university's recurrent budget, especially in the first 10 years;

iii) The cooperation of leading international universities, especially those in the US, will be sought.

iv) Academic staff will consist of leading teachers/researchers in Vietnam and a sizeable proportion of academic staff will be world-class overseas scholars, including overseas Vietnamese.

v) The university will offer degrees at bachelor, master and doctoral levels. In the first five years, total student numbers will range between 1,000 and 1,500 in each year.

vi) The university will initially focus on a small number of strategic areas relating to the natural sciences and industry. Courses will be taught in Vietnamese and English.

Sadly, however from the way in which 'world-class' is defined, it is apparent that past errors are being repeated during the planning phase of this project. The first obvious problem relates to the announced time frame. The draft proposal suggests that Vietnam would be able to build a university that is internationally competitive within 10 years. This is exactly the sort of over-optimistic and unachievable time target that was announced when the National Universities in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City were first set up by merging various local universities. This historical lesson must be learnt and what is important now is to articulate a time frame that is consistent with the fact that no Vietnamese university is seriously ranked within ASEAN, let alone East Asia. A more realistic and achievable time frame would be 10-15 years to become the top university in Vietnam, 20-30 years to be ranked in the top 10 of ASEAN universities, etc.

The second and more serious problem is concerned with the construction of the world-class university. Is this going to be a newly built university with new staff or is it going to be formed by combining and upgrading some existing, reputed universities and research institutes? The common sense approach is to build a new university because (a) the physical facilities and infrastructure of existing institutions are relatively small, outdated and separated; (b) the organizational structure and management at existing universities are too rigid, (c) there are too many vested interests in the current system, and (d) it would be too difficult to deal with those existing staff who do not qualify to work for this world-class university. This prevailing view is confirmed in the Working Group's draft proposal, which indicates that a world-class university will be built on a new campus of 100 ha. However, in a subsequent media interview, Mr Tran Xuan Gia, the then Head of the Working Group, indicated that the construction of a new campus is only a possibility, not a certainty. This situation again demonstrates the inertia of the Vietnamese university system and the influence of certain interest groups within the sector.

The third problem is concerned with the role of the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) in the leadership, organization, management and monitoring of the proposed university. For a variety of historical reasons, the MOET currently wields considerable power over curricular and personnel matters in the structure of Vietnam's education system, even at university level. It is well known that academic excellence tends to be positively associated with university autonomy and academic freedom. Thus, the development of a world-class university in Vietnam necessarily calls for a more decentralized governance model in which the university enjoys a much higher degree of autonomy than now. Such a model of decentralization is by no means guaranteed under the Working Party's draft proposal. In fact, since the establishment of a world-class university can be regarded as an experiment, one may even argue for a more extreme model in which the university is practically independent of the MOET (this means university funding must come directly from the Government); and, reports directly to the PM.

There are of course other relevant issues such as whether a one-off grant of US$100 million is adequate for one world-class university, or how does the new university attract a sufficient number of world-class staff. However, these problems are less serious than those discussed above and, thus, are more surmountable. - Associate Professor Binh Tran-Nam, Atax, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales.

WATCHPOINT: Whether an entirely new 'world-class' university is built or not will indicate the strength of Vietnam's commitment to higher education reform.

York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR). For more information, contact
Ste. 270 York Lanes, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3. Web: