Ear to Asia

Ear to Asia is a podcast series produced by Asia Institute and is hosted by Clement Paligaru.

From Japan to Turkey, from China to Indonesia, and to many places in between, Ear to Asia talks with our researchers who focus on Asia - in all its diversity of peoples, societies and histories. If you'd like to feast your ears on in-depth conversations about the world’s most populous and dynamic region, we encourage you to subscribe to Ear to Asia.

You can find all episodes and subscribe on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, or other podcast apps.

Episode 15: The Purchasing Power of Piety in Indonesia

Media expert Dr Inaya Rakhmani explains the connection between neoliberal capitalism and the increasing religious conservatism of Indonesia’s burgeoning Muslim middle class.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 15.

Episode 14: Mulla Sadra: The Persian Islamic thinker’s take on the nature of reality

Philosopher Dr Muhammad Kamal talks about the writings of preeminent 16th century Muslim philosopher, Mulla Sadra, who grappled with concepts of change and constancy. Mulla Sadra, who lived and worked in Persia, sought to answer questions like “Is everything changing continuously?" and “Why do we continue to recognize people and objects as if there were unchanging identities attached to them?”.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 14.

Episode 13: Fleeing North Korea

Human migration expert Dr Jiyoung Song talks about North Korean citizens who choose to leave their homeland, putting themselves and family members they leave behind at risk. She discusses their arduous journeys across China and Southeast Asia to reach South Korea or countries in the West, how they fare in their new homes, and how their reasons for fleeing have changed over time.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 13.

Episode 12: China’s smouldering volcanoes of social discontent

Veteran China watcher Prof Martin K. Whyte explains why Chinese citizens remain unfazed by the enormous income and wealth disparity created by market-oriented economic reforms that in less than 40 years have made China the world’s second largest economy. He also outlines the sorts of social injustices that pose even greater threats to the stability of Chinese society.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 12.

Episode 11: Celebrity Chef Adam Liaw on Life at the Intersection of Nearly Everything

On this episode of Ear to Asia, celebrity chef, author and lawyer Adam Liaw gets behind the microphone to discuss his work, philosophy of life, his love affair with Japan, and how living at the intersection of cultures and nations have shaped him. We recorded this interview with Adam when he was visiting the University of Melbourne to celebrate a century of Japanese language education in Australia.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 11.

Episode 10: Translation as Performance Art

Professor John Minford is a specialist in translating Chinese literature into English. On this episode of Ear to Asia, John talks about the practice of translation and how to train others in the art. He shares with us the challenges and triumphs of rendering classic Chinese texts for contemporary Western readers.

John Minford is primarily known for his translations of Chinese classics such as The Dream of the Red Chamber, and The Art of War -- as well as their reading companion guides. In November 2016, he was awarded the inaugural Medal for Excellence in Translation by the Australian Academy of Humanities, for his translation of I Ching.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 10.

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Episode 9: Kuwait: Walking the Sunni-Shia Tightrope

In 2015, a lone terrorist from an affiliate of Daesh or Islamic State (often referred to as ISIS) bombed a mosque in Kuwait City where the majority of where the majority of worshippers were from the Shia sect. While the overt motive for this act of terrorism was payback for Kuwait’s opposition to Daesh, the attack introduced sectarian violence to a country where the Sunni majority and the rather large Shia minority co-existed in relative harmony.

In the wake of the mosque bombing incident, the Kuwaiti government passed several anti-terrorism laws. But some observers like Human Rights Watch claim the laws are designed to suppress political dissent. So how effective are these laws at reducing the risk of terrorist attacks in Kuwait? Are such laws the way to maintaining social harmony in a multicultural, or at least, a bi-sectarian population?

Dr Kylie Baxter, a specialist in middle-east and Islamic politics from Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne, answers the above and other questions about the fallout from the Arab Spring.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 9.

Episode 8: Is it back to the drawing board for Indonesia’s education system?

Despite having more than 3 million teachers, manageable class sizes, and spending on education that amounts to a whopping 20% of national and local budgets, Indonesia continues to seriously lag behind in educational outcomes on a range of international measures.

Political economist Professor Andrew Rosser discusses the factors that prevent Indonesia from bringing its children up to par in the education stakes and concludes that significant shifts in Indonesia’s politics and society are needed.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 8.

Episode 7: Saving the songs of China's Yangtze delta

Chinese literature expert Anne McLaren joins Ear to Asia host Clement Paligaru to discuss her research into the folk ecology of the lower Yangtze delta, including the folksongs of this fascinating region. And she explains how these vanishing oral traditions shed light into how people of a bygone era lived.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 7.

Episode 6: All under heaven: China's often misunderstood approach to sovereignty

Political scientist Dr Sow Keat Tok discusses China's unique view of territorial sovereignty, its creative approaches to sovereignty issues in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea, and how it can come into conflict with conventional models of sovereignty originating in the West. Presented by Sen Lam.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 6.

Episode 5: A tale of two diasporas: Indians in the global workforce

Economist and demographer Professor Binod Khadria joins Ear to Asia host Sen Lam to discuss the huge global movement of skilled and unskilled Indian workers in its surprising diversity, the conditions they work under in destination countries and their persistent ties to Mother India.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 5.

Episode 4: Sexual citizenship and same-sex relationships in Japan

Queer studies researcher Dr Claire Maree joins Ear to Asia host Sen Lam to discuss the plight of people in same-sex relationships in Japan. Despite Japan having a reputation for tolerance of sexual minorities, rigid legal and social barriers are leading same-sex couples to seek creative workarounds to obtain a degree of recognition and rights.


Read more about Dr Claire Maree.

Episode 3: Memories of '65: Young Indonesians go digital to shine a light on a massacre denied

Dr Ken Setiawan, Indonesian civil rights specialist, explains how a new generation of Indonesians are using digital and social media platforms to keep the memory of the genocide of 1965-1966 alive as successive government administrations stall on uncovering the truth. Presented by Sen Lam.

Read more about Dr Ken Setiawan.

Episode 2: Lost in translation? Foreigners on trial in Japan and the language divide

Linguistics expert Dr Ikuko Nakane joins Ear to Asia host Sen Lam to discuss language and interpretation in criminal trials in Japan, and in particular how defendants who aren't native speakers of Japanese may be aided or disadvantaged by the language divide.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 2.

Read more about Dr Ikuko Nakane.

Dr Ikuko Nakane's book: Languages and Identities in a Transitional Japan: From Internationalization to Globalization; Routledge, 2015.

Episode 1: Modernity's Broken Promise and the Rise of a New Islamic Populism

Veteran researcher of Indonesian politics Prof Vedi Hadiz examines the phenomenon of contemporary Islamic populism in Indonesia, Turkey and Egypt, how it fares at the ballot box and how it fits into western notions of democracy. Presented by Sen Lam.

Further reading

Download the transcript of Episode 1.

Read more about Professor Vedi Hadiz.

Professor Vedi Hadiz' book: Islamic Populism in Indonesia and the Middle East; Cambridge University Press, 2016.

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About the hosts

Sen Lam is a veteran journalist and broadcaster, with over thirty years' reporting experience in the Asian region. As a young newscaster, Sen hosted the nine o'clock news on Singapore television, before joining the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1988, where he remained for over twenty five years. Among other roles, Sen hosted the Asia Pacific program on ABC Radio Australia, Radio National and NewsRadio, before it ended in late 2014. Sen has since left the ABC and continues to write. He has reported from a variety of Asian countries, including Burma, East Timor, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. He was an inaugural member of the 2013 UNAIDS AsiaPacific media network formed in Bangkok. Sen is a proud alumnus of Lancaster University, UK.

Clement Paligaru is an Asia Pacific specialist with over twenty years of cross-media experience. After graduating with a BEc (Hons) degree, Clement joined the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the mid 1990’s to host radio programs for international audiences, focussing on Australia and Asia. His roles have since spanned producing, reporting and presenting across ABC networks including Radio Australia, RN, NewsRadio, triple j, Australia Network and Australia Plus TV. Clement’s work has taken him to China, Indonesia, India and most Pacific countries. Most recently, he was Head Asia and Head of Multiplatform Content at ABC International. Clement is an alumnus of the Asialink Leaders Program. He enjoys occasional travel writing and has contributed to Lonely Planet Publications.

Get in touch

For questions and comments about Ear to Asia, please contact Asia Institute's School Manager, email Rachael Ballamy.