Monday, December 22, 2008

Things I Studied Before Going

Warning: This post may be boring, as it is simply a list of the things I read, studied, and talked about with Dr. Schatz in preparation for this study abroad trip. But just in case it interests anyone:

· Read and discussed Sharing the Nation: Faith, Difference, Power and the State 50 Years After Merdeka by Norani Othman, Mavis C. Puthucheary, and Clive S. Kessler. This book asks very controversial and sensitive questions pertaining to both the original and current social contract in Malaysia and the constitutional position of Islam. The titles of the book's four articles are: 1) Malaysia's 'Social Contract': The Invention & Historical Evolution of an Idea, 2) Religion, Citizenship Rights, and Gender Justice: Women, Islamization & the Shari'a in Malaysia Since the 1980s, 3) Islam, the State and Desecularization: The Islamist Trajectory During the Badawi Years, and 4) 'A Shared Nation': Constitutionalism, the 'Social Contract', Mutuality & the 'Negotiation of Belonging'
· Read and discussed "Structural transformation and rural development in Sarawak, Malaysia, 1963-2006" by Dr. Richard Schatz
· Read and thoroughly edited Dr. Richard Schatz's forthcoming article about the remarkable transformation that has taken place over a span of three generations in the families of the students he taught from 1966-1968 in Lawas Town, Sarawak, Malaysia
· Read Sarawak 1839-1963 by Joan Rawlins, a fascinating historical account of this Malaysian state whose history and identity are quite distinct from the rest of Malaysia. Only Sarawak was ever ruled by a dynasty of White Rajahs. The book was written in 1965 and feels slightly ethnocentric.
· Read and discussed C. Hudson Southwell's Uncharted Waters, the autobiography of a missionary who deserves much of the credit for the Christianization of the native peoples of Sarawak
· Read, outlined, and discussed National Geographic article "Borneo's Moment of Truth," subtitled "The majestic forests are vanishing in smoke and sawdust, but there's still hope for the island's fabled biodiversity – if the palm oil rush can be slowed"
· Completed 24 lessons of an online Malay language course ( and possess Malay vocabulary of roughly 200 words
· Kept up with current events in Malaysia using a subscription to the online publication Malaysiakini ( and Economist newsmagazine. Read special reports, articles, editorials, and opinion pieces
· Read Ministry of Foreign Affairs mission statement regarding Malaysia's foreign policy ( and several press releases and public statements highlighted on their homepage
· Read and highlighted CIA World Factbook and Britannica Online Encyclopedia entries for Malaysia
· Gained greater knowledge of the geography of Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia, and Southeast Asia overall
· Learned about Malaysian holidays, key dates since independence, and special landmark places to visit in Sarawak
· Watched PBS Frontline Special Islam (2003) which contains 15 minutes of video about family law and sharia courts in Malaysia
· Met with Dr. Richard Schatz on Fridays, 3-4PM