JUNIOR SEMINAR: ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
2011/2012, Semester 2
Non-Faculty-Based Departments (Tembusu College)
Modular Credits: 4
Environmental processes and their representations through science have come to occupy a central position in how we think about societies. This course explores the changing relationship of society and environment in Southeast Asia from prehistory to the present. It asks the following questions. How have environments and societies shaped each other? How have past societies produced knowledge about nature? How have the various ways of producing knowledge influenced the organization of society? Although there are many important perspectives on nature, this course will concentrate on engaging with various scientific approaches to nature. This course surveys historically important phenomena such as monsoons and deforestation as well as more recent concerns, including global climate change and biodiversity conservation efforts.
This course has three main objectives: (1) introduce environmental history; (2) understand some of its methods; (3) think about how to apply environmental history to decision making. By meeting these objectives, these students will gain the tools necessary to critically assess claims made about the environment, especially those used to justify social interventions by individuals, organizations, and governments. At the end of the course students will be able to:
(1) Identify and access sources of knowledge produced about past environments.
(2) Describe the ways that historians have narrated the interactions between environments and human societies in the past.
(3) Apply these models to analyze claims about the environment made currently by individuals and societies.
(4) Evaluate what knowledge is needed to understand past and current environmental phenomena, including global climate change.
(5) Create written, oral, and visual narratives that adopt an historical approach to explain such processes and their effect on human societies.
Each week will consist of a short lecture on background information and a review of the basic science. The majority of in-class time will be spent on student presentations, discussions of reading materials, and preparation for final project.
This 13-week course is divided into five major sections.
1. Introduction, Origins, and Early State Formation, ca. 500 to 1400. Review with students the general aspects of environments in Southeast Asia. Introduce environmental sciences and the use of science in writing about early states in Southeast Asia. Discussions might include the use of rainfall patterns as determined by tree rings in order to explain the historical experience of the Angkor civilization.
2. Early Modern Period, 1400 to 1870. Examine patterns of relationships to the environment established during this period. These relationships included extraction of spices for trade, trading networks created by Chinese merchants, explorations by European explorers, etc. Continue discussion of the use of science and "scientific" data to write about Southeast Asia, exploring what food, disease, and population can tell us about history. Field trip 1: To Singapore Botanical Gardens. Week 6 will include a discussion of climate change that breaks with the chronology but will be a very useful example of environment and policy to help with writing the papers.
3. High Colonialism, 1870 to WWII. Examine in more detail the role of colonialism in environmental history. Issues might include exploitation of fisheries in Southeast Asia, further intensification of metal and agricultural production, deforestation, reduction of the number of species of fauna and flora, but also the beginning of conservation of resources.
4. "Asian Tigers" and Environmental Consciousness, WWII to present. Continue examination of current environmental issues and the science underlying the construction of these problems. Consider the environmental challenges that have arisen after World War II, including the effect of war on the environment during the Cold War. Examine the years of rapid economic growth after 1970, including Singapore's role as a hub in global trade and the consumption of energy entailed by air and sea transport. Explore the predicted consequences of global climate change and the effects on various segments of society. Field trip 2: To Marina Barrage.
5. Student Presentations.
What is environmental history? Approaches, methods, and sources
Course Introduction: Cover syllabus and course materials.
Sörlin, Sverker, and Paul Warde, eds. 2009.
Nature's end : history and the environment
. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Introduction, pp. 1-19.
Weiner, Douglas R. 2005. A Death-Defying Attempt to Articulate a Coherent Definition of Environmental History.
10 (3): 404-21.
Assignment: Map exercise, identify places dealt with in course next week.
Origins I: Science and pre-historical environments
Discuss Carbon 14 dating, dendrochronology, strengths and weaknesses
Boomgaard, Ch. 1, 2.
Neustadt and May 1.
Thomas, Richard, and Ronald McLauchlan. 2006. Dating Vietnamese Prehistory: Towards the Establishment of a Secure Database for Archaeological 14C Measurements. In
Uncovering Southeast Asia's past : selected papers from the 10th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists : the British Museum, London, 14th-17th September 2004
, edited by E. A. Bacus, I. Glover and V. C. Pigott. Singapore: NUS Press, 184-95.
Assignment: Comment 1, everyone.
Origins II: Water management and civilization
Lunar New Year.
Boomgaard, Ch. 3, 4.
Neustadt and May 2.
Day, Mary Beth, David A. Hodell, Mark Brenner, Hazel J. Chapman, Jason H. Curtis, William F. Kenney, Alan L. Kolata, and Larry C. Peterson. 2012. Paleoenvironmental history of the West Baray, Angkor (Cambodia).
PNAS Early Edition
Assignment: Propose a research topic.
Early Modern Period 1400 to 1870, I: Disease and Population
Discuss internal factors affecting environmental change.
Boomgaard, Ch. 5.
Xenos, Peter. 1998. The Ilocos Coast since 1800: Population Pressure, the Ilocano Diaspora, and Multiphasic Response. In
Population and history : the demographic origins of the modern Philippines
, edited by D. F. Doeppers and P. Xenos. Madison, WI: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin.
Colonial Pathologies: American Tropical Medicine, Race, and Hygiene in the Philippines
. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006, selections.
Assignment: Annotated bibliography.
Early Modern Period 1400 to 1870, II: State, Economy, and Trade
Discuss external factors affecting environmental change.
Boomgaard, Ch. 6, 7.
Reid, Anthony. 1999. Economic and Social Change, c. 1400-1800. In
The Cambridge history of Southeast Asia
, edited by N. Tarling. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 116-63.
Field trip 1: To the Botanical gardens to think about the role of plants in economics, trade, and environmental change.
Assignment: An outline and initial argument.
(Un)natural disasters: Climate change
Guest lecturer: Dr. Jerome Whitington. Discuss climate change and energy policy.
Guest lecturer: Dr. Jerome Whitington.
Assignment: Continue work on topic, bibliography, outline, and argument.
Spring Break, February 18-26
High Colonialism 1870-WWII, I, Agricultural involution or revolution?
Discuss industrial agriculture and the environment.
Boomgaard, Ch. 8.
Moon, Suzanne. "Empirical Knowledge, Scientific Authority, and Native Development: The Controversy over Sugar/Rice Ecology in the Netherlands East Indies, 1905-1914."
Environment and History
10, no. 1 (2004): 59-81
Dove, Michael. 1998. Living rubber, dead land, and persisting systems in Borneo: Indigenous representations of sustainability.
Bijdragen Tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde
Assignment: Drafted 2 pages.
High Colonialism 1870-WWII, II, Forests and Conservation
Discuss the relationship between empire, forestry, and conservation.
Boomgaard, Ch. 9.
Cleary, Mark. 2005. 'Valuing the Tropics': Discourses of Development in the Farm and Forest Sectors of French Indochina, circa 1900-1940.
Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography
Biggs, David. "Managing a Rebel Landscape: Conservation, Pioneers, and the Revolutionary Past in the U Minh Forest, Vietnam."
10, no. 3 (2005): 448-76.
Assignment: Continue with first draft.
Early Independence, WWII-1970s, I, Environment and War
Discussion: Agent Orange, Saving lives or chemical warfare?
Neustadt and May 3.
Stone, R. (2007). Agent Orange's Bitter Harvest.
Assignment: Finish first draft.
Early Independence, WWII-1970s, II, Return of the Native
Discuss indigenous knowledge, bureaucratic management, and the environment.
Boomgaard, Ch. 10.
Neustadt and May 4.
Li, Tania. "Articulating Indigenous Identity in Indonesia: Resource Politics and the Tribal Slot."
Comparative Studies in Society and History
42, no. 1 (2000): 149-79.
Field trip 2: Marina barrage to think about the role of engineering in current environmental management and the importance of water management.
Assignment: Presentation abstracts.
Early Independence, WWII-1970s, III, Environmental Awareness and Biodiversity conservation
Discuss the depletion of natural resources, pollution, biodiversity conservation, and the rise of environmental awareness.
Guest lecturer/ Film: BBC Planet Earth.
Boomgaard, Ch. 11.
Assignment: Prepare for presentations, revise final paper.
April 2, 5: Student Presentations
Assignment: Prepare for presentations, revise final paper.
April 9, 12: Student Presentations
Final papers due.
This seminar is graded on a 50-50 basis meaning that 50% of the grade will be based on
(including short writing assignments) and 50% of the grade will be based on a
at the end of the semester. Students will submit papers through the IVLE site, so please make sure you are familiar with how the site works. The class is offered on a pass/not pass basis but students will be given letter grades (or number marks) on their assignments and classroom participation. These marks are meant to give students an idea of how they are doing in the class and to have a distribution of grades at the end of the semester. The specific breakdown of grades is as follows:
(5%): Students will be asked to identify important locations in Southeast Asia during the Thursday section of the 2nd week of class. These locations will be mentioned throughout the course and students should have a general idea of where they are on a map.
(15%): Students are assigned 3 short (about 1 page) comment papers to each of the week’s themes. The students should engage with the assigned readings in their papers by critically reflecting on the author’s argument or using the readings as a basis for further musings. The first short paper will be due before the Monday section of the 3rd week. This week is assigned for all of the students in order to give feedback for what I'm looking for in a comment. Afterwards, students will be assigned 2 comments sometime between week 4 and week 11.
(30%): Students are required to participate each week by showing that they have prepared for the discussion section on Thursday. There are 10 weeks that will be graded (weeks 2-11) on the basis of 0-3. Marks are as follows: 0 = student did not show up to class. 1 = student showed up but showed little signs of life other than a pulse and breath. 2 = student showed up and engaged in an acceptable manner, asking a few questions, offering a few comments. This is the standard mark for a week. 3 = student excelled by offering insightful analysis, penetrating questions, and other signs of active interest and engagement with the material.
Research paper and Oral presentation
In addition to teaching students about environmental history in Southeast Asia, this seminar aims to encourage students to learn how to use historical cases when faced with current-day policy decisions. Towards this end, students will be required to turn in an 8 to 10 page research paper on a current environmental issue in Southeast Asia.
(35%): Students will be asked to venture outside (at least intellectually) of the classroom and the final project will be a policy paper advocating a position on an environmental debate that includes a scientific aspect. Students are encouraged to explore issues specific to Singapore's landscapes in their projects, though proposals on issues throughout Southeast Asia are welcome. There are a number of graded deadlines throughout the semester that are meant to help students through the research and writing process. These include a proposed topic (Week 4, 5%), an annotated bibliography (Week 5, 5%), an outline and initial argument (Week 6, 5%), and a drafted section (Week 8, 5%). Of course during the course of research arguments, and even topics, may change and I am open to this very real possibility but students must come to talk with me first. A first draft of the paper will be due on Week 10 (5%). Based on my comments students will submit a revised paper the final week of class (10%).
(15%): Public speaking is a crucial skill for students and the final two weeks of the course are reserved for presentations of students' findings. These presentations will be aimed at an audience of policy makers and will advocate for a course of action on a particular environmental problem. During Week 11, abstracts (no more than 1 page, 5%) for the presentation will be due. Based on these abstracts, we will form panels of roughly matching topics for the two weeks of presentations. The presentation itself will last approximately 15-20 minutes, including 10-15 minutes for presenting (10%), and 5 minutes of question and answer.
, i.e. using someone else’s work and claiming it as your own, is unacceptable. We will talk about plagiarism in class but please see me if you have any questions about what is and what is not plagiarism. In general, you will have points reduced, up to a "0" mark for any work that is plagiarized, and such incidents will necessitate a meeting to discuss causes and consequences of such acts.
Participation and Performance
If you have a conflict between an academic requirement and any religious observance, please notify me of the specific dates concerned within the first two weeks of the course and I will find an alternative means for you to fulfill the requirement. Such requests are confidential.
If any problems arise, either academic or personal, that might jeopardize your performance in the course, you must try to inform me of the problem at the next available office hour, by email or telephone, or by leaving a message with the Department. I am sensitive to any learning disabilities, e.g. dyslexia, that students may encounter. I ask that anyone with such a situation please talk to me and we can make individual arrangements. Finally, please communicate by email or telephone if you have to miss classes or a deadline due to illness.
Workload Components : A-B-C-D-E
A: no. of lecture hours per week
B: no. of tutorial hours per week
C: no. of lab hours per week
D: no. of hours for projects, assignments, fieldwork etc per week
E: no. of hours for preparatory work by a student per week