Ear to Asia

Asia Institute

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 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.

Episode 0: Teaser

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.