March of hegemonism? Probing political function in the higher education of Brunei Darussalam.
When the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam opened its first university in 1985, the political authorities issued explicit warnings about limits on academic freedom, and most of the expatriate academic staff took this to heart. However, compliance on their part helped to reassure the authorities that higher education was not inevitably destabilizing, and this led in the course of a decade or so to a measure of political relaxation, as seen in the introduction of Western sociology/anthropology; the appointment of a modernist Islamic scholar, once linked to the nationalist Parti Rakyat Brunei, as Vice Chancellor; and, most recently, recruitment of a Burmese political activist to UBD's new Institute of Asian Studies. The question principally proposed, nevertheless, is whether symptoms of dysfunctionality emerged for the political system, not least for the ideology of Brunei Malay hegemony vis-a-vis the native, non-Muslim minorities, and whether such challenges, or perception thereof, resulted in a dialectical reversion to more conservative "default" positions in higher education. The integration of the Secretariat for the state ideology, M.I.B., into the University's structure had been both a factor for reassurance originally, but could ultimately become a reactionary agent too, in face of inroads by liberalism and secularism.
For reasons partly connected with its minute proportions, the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam has defied a number of political norms of the modem region, most strikingly in avoiding the prevalent international pressures of the late twentieth century for elections to a national legislature. The well-worn term "soft authoritarianism" does not properly fit this case, since there is no democracy to be qualified by reservations about infringement of democratic rights by an authoritarian, yet not brutal, Executive. On the other hand, an absolute monarch who under some current criteria would be counted a "dictator" is perhaps more fittingly termed a "benign despot," given the state's ability, thanks to oil wealth and a small population, to fund an unusually high standard of living not only for the lower strata but for the bureaucratic personnel in its employ, and in this way to head off resentment about profligacy at a higher level, which, indeed, the wealth also seems able to sustain. (2)
But another notable type of disbursement is on ideological production and propagation in support of regime maintenance. So intensive and continuous has the propaganda onslaught been since Independence from British "protection" on 1 January 1984, that the regime gives a strange impression of subjective vulnerability despite its assets. Two specific areas where symptoms manifest themselves are the development of higher education and the historical legacy of non-Muslim cultures in the interior. The two are quite intimately linked, insofar as (a) the national university is not only kept under close scrutiny for any deviation from official doctrinal requirements, but has itself been mobilized as one agent of inculcation of the national ideology of "M.I.B." (that is, Negara Melayu Islam Beraja or "Malay Islamic Monarchy"), both through teaching and inventing/developing it; and (b) this ideology evinces a strong strain of ethnic hegemonism, on the part (or on behalf) of the majority Malays vis-a-vis the unconverted, native others (i.e. (Dusuns/Bisayas, Belaits and Muruts). (3)
Thus the present study sets itself the goal of exploring the University in terms of "function," beside or beyond its ostensible, primary purpose of supplying higher education to the people of Brunei on Brunei territory. How rigorously or consistently have political objectives been pursued, given the possibility of contradictions among them (say, regime maintenance/perpetuation of historic structures versus international academic credibility/spirit of enquiry)? (It was discussed in informed quarters in 1985 that "The Palace" had anxieties which the relevant Minister had to assuage before a University could go ahead.) Will we detect any kind of "dialectic" in due course, in which a primary function is nudged off-course by a secondary form, conceivably thanks to a complacency induced by the very successes recorded by the former, resulting later in a vigorous reversion to "default position"? This question will be explored with special reference to three policy landmarks after the mid-1990s. (4)
Meanwhile, in spite of the screen of secrecy behind which the Brunei state still conceals most government policy-making and action (its classic "default position"!), there has been a creeping, surely "dysfunctional," process of exposure of the country to foreign awareness and curiosity--beyond the cliches about the Sultan as "The Richest Man in the World." (5) UBD itself has provided one pathway to short-term residence, even occasional research, for foreigners. Not only has the national ideology in general or as a whole has attracted some academic analysis, but also the sociological reality of an ethnic pluralism which awkwardly defies the ideological vision. (6)
Higher Education for Brunei: A Sea of Perils?
A key dynamic of academic life at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) from its inception in late 1985--instantly grasped by Asian expatriate staff (not least, the preponderant Malaysian contingent and a "Permanent Academic Adviser") but more slowly by some of the British--was the contradiction between declarations of adherence to international standards of excellence, especially through free enquiry (as axiomatic, from the tone of these declarations, as the inclusion of a university as such as part of the panoply of independent statehood), and the more authentically authoritative line "from on high" that certain types of enquiry, discussion and action were off-limits, to be indulged only at considerable risk to an individual's contract, or at least renewal thereof. (The University's compulsory course of "Critical Thinking," be it noted, was only a course in basic logic.) More fundamental than the fundamental contradiction within this model of higher education, but in a sense the ultimate basis of it, was Brunei's strategic error
of constructing a university at speed, with a concomitant, huge complement of foreign staff. Yet so natural did obedience to the "higher imperatives" seem to the senior officials involved that they were not embarrassed to articulate their "off-limits" requirement publicly to the expatriates on occasion, "for avoidance of doubt" at any rate.
Thus, during my three-and-a-half years at the Institute of Education (1985-1988), when I was asked to edit an in-house journal of education, on the one hand it was already not difficult to intuit that aspirationally the most important function of the journal was the demonstration of Bruneian "excellence" to both the domestic and an international public. (7) But, on the other hand, the editorial committee was explicitly admonished, at its first briefing by the Hajjah Director, to include "nothing that would embarrass my superiors." This was an impossible demand for conscientious educationists if it meant (as we soon came to suspect) that any discussion of Brunei's educational backwardness, let alone any possible socio-political roots of it, was taboo. In the event, the set of papers attracted no overt criticism that we ever heard about, but amidst the general silence one did pick up a hint that we might have fared a little better if all the drafts had been neatly typed out on an electric word-processor, fit for the hands and eyes of someone of the rank of the Minister of Education-cum-University Vice Chancellor. (8)
Another, already publicized, example of frankness came from the Vice Chancellor himself (Pehin Aziz) at the ceremony launching the University, 28 October 1985, in the form of a warning that the new institution would have no truck with academic freedom (Kershaw 2003: 130). (9) No less notable, in 1996, though more nuanced, was the acknowledgement of the existence of "sensitive" topics by a later (the fourth) Vice Chancellor (Pehin Abu Bakar) in a multidisciplinary volume of work by staff, but uttered in combination with a call to foreign staff not to use this as an alibi for not doing any research at all on Brunei during their sojourn (cited in Kershaw 2003: 136)! (10) A clearer warning to take care, albeit combined with flattering words of confidence that the expatriates did have it in them to be open to local culture and structure and the imperatives arising, had come from the Minister in his Preface to an earlier Volume (cited in Kershaw 2003: 132). (11)
That caution was the best survival strategy, and concomitantly the mollifying assurances to individuals, and indications at international conferences, of adherence to international academic values, not to be taken at face value, was exposed to full view in 1993 when Australian Geoffrey Gunn, of the UBD History Department, was shown to the door with a foreshortened contract, having imprudently explained to the Vice Chancellor, at the latter's request, the meaning of the post-modem argument in Gunn 1993a; having also fallen foul of the Special Branch upon objecting to its intention to impound and/or return to the publisher his set of offprints of Gunn 1993b (an analytically pertinent, yet anonymous, annual survey); (12) and "worst of all," having stood up at a public lecture by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar, to take him to task over UN passivity on East Timor. (13)
Still, it might be wrong to label such ambiguous behavior "disingenuous," let alone "dishonest," on the part of officials whose position in a quasi-modernizing polity and transitional social system (and invariably after "training in the UK") places them at a crossroads of values, giving rise to a contradiction of loyalties, perhaps not fully appreciated by these individuals themselves, who show loyalty in relevant contexts to both value sets. At the same time, we should not underestimate the capacity of certain Bruneian individuals (necessarily facilitated, however, by a minimal penetration of Western intellectual values during that UK "training") to believe that the docility of many expatriates represents a genuine, incipient appreciation of Brunei values, exactly as local propaganda assumes to be possible--not a pragmatic silence for the sake of security of job and salary. In other words, the Gunn incident could be written off as a "one-off," unlikely to be repeated. Certainly we observe thereafter a distinct complacency, not to say chutzpah, about the danger of cultural subversion, that seems slightly at odds with the dire warnings about the alien threat that were made not long since. I have written earlier of the decline of an initial official anxiety that the UBD campus could not be controlled (Kershaw 2003: 132). Apart from the persisting, subjective imperative to project an acceptable image of modernity to an international academic audience in spite of danger, we should not overlook the contagious confidence gained, by officials, from prolonged fulfilment, in his name, of the will of an absolute monarch, with wide discretion to make unwritten rules. Or, equally helpful in fostering official confidence about expatriate trustworthiness may have been a significant biography of the Sultan's late father (Hussainmiya 1995). Admittedly this expatriate was not from a Western country, but a Sri Lankan of Muslim religion; admittedly also he had enjoyed the sponsorship of a high official for his research, thus the bar for acceptance may have been set lower than for Westerners. (14) However, two more relevant examples are at hand, of writing by two British academics and a Chinese Singaporean that was both acceptable and "reassuring" (Cleary & Eaton 1992; Cleary & Wong 1994). (15)
More important still (and here I begin to cast my gaze away from publication towards the direct impact of higher education on Brunei students, which so much worried the Minister) was a development in Public Administration, in the Faculty of Management and Administrative Studies, (16) whose first graduates were quickly and painlessly offered the opportunity to pursue the subject further in a one-year Masters by course-work, which included a period of attachment to a Brunei Government Department for low-level "research." Not that staff members were unproductive (or "unconducive") on the literary side. They produced some uncontroversial publications through UBD. (17) But a useful imprimatur was bestowed on this Faculty and its field by the enrollment of the Sultan's eldest daughter, Princess Rashidah, as an undergraduate. Later, the Sultan's eldest sister, Princess Masna, was enrolled for a post-graduate degree. Ironically, university staff in this Faculty who were interested in Brunei administration as a research subject could only with difficulty fall foul of the Official Secrets Act, because the officials whom they might interview were already bound by their oaths of secrecy and therefore loath to impart information either to academic staff or graduate students preparing academic exercises. (18)
The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, particularly the Department of History from which not only Australian Geoffrey Gunn (modern Southeast Asia) was eased out, but with more of a flurry, the Pakistani Muhammad Beg (Islamic history), (19) presents a contrast with the placid Business, Economics and Policy Studies Faculty at first sight. But given the compensation from B.A. Hussainmiya's literary output and the emergent role of the somewhat easier to identify high-flier, Indonesian lik Arifin Mansumoor (Muslim history in Southeast Asia), as a pioneer of research on the Islamic scholars and bureaucracy of Brunei, perhaps there was no great official anxiety. (20) I am personally more intrigued by the case of American Putu Davies, a convert to Hinduism in Bali (and presumed to have succeeded to Geoffrey Gunn's niche). (21) She was reliably reported to have met a blockage to renewal of contract. It was suggested by friends that she had challenged her students to adopt a spirit of enquiry to a level that was too uncompromising for official Brunei taste. Although I have the disability of never having met her, I find this a plausible explanatory hypothesis, if only because her energy in organizing an International Workshop on National Historiography in Southeast Asia, to celebrate U.B.D.'s Tenth Anniversary, and dedication as Editor of the subsequent in-house Collection (Davies, ed. 1996), were surely exemplary by any standard. No less exemplary from an official Brunei standpoint would also have been the balance of the contributions, with Brunei's leading historian, Director of Brunei History Centre, Pehin Jamil, given pride of place; (22) or, for that matter, Ms Davies's avoidance, in her own paper, not only of any reference to Brunei but, importantly, to its non-Muslim ethnic minorities as the last surviving vestiges of pre-Muslim states of north Borneo, with an imaginable, revivalist potential to resist the Brunei Malay ethnic hegemonism that is a prominent concomitant-cum-beneficiary of Malay absolute monarchy today. (23)
Much easier to categorize as non-controversial are the normally unpolitical linguists of the Department of English Language and Linguistics, twelve of whom collaborated in a book that was published abroad but also partly advertised as a volume to celebrate UBD's Tenth Anniversary (Martin et al. 1996). No doubt this event served, in a positive way, to further enhance the legitimacy of the Faculty. Particularly noteworthy for its use of oblique language in analyzing "problems and prospects" of the new Bilingual [English/Malay] Education Policy (which some observers perforce regarded as an educational disaster) was Mohd Gary 1996. (24) A large-scale international conference with some characteristics of a well-funded exercise in advertising and lauding Brunei's bilingual education policy was "Bilingualism and National Development" of 1991. (25)
All this having been said, there are four even more salient factors for acceptance of the alien innovation of a University on the Sultanate's bumi bertuah (auspicious soil). (1) The fact that neither of the Faculties which were home to Departments with a potential for social and political analysis (with criticism between the lines, or even by the very definition of "analysis" as the Brunei state would nervously understand!) included courses on Brunei on their syllabuses. Public Administration taught models from Western textbooks, without ever attempting to insert Brunei in a "comparative spirit," or even to justify not doing that. As for the History Department also, Brunei was a conspicuous gap in its offerings in its early years.
Whether that omission has seriously been made good in that Department by now (one can conceive of Hussaimniya's perspectives on the Brunei Rebellion of 1962, and Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Ill's contest with the British to divert democracy, finding some favor), it would be of small significance beside the fact that (2) politically acceptable interpretations of the national history and its social structure (past and yet to be molded) have been propagated from within the Faculty, since 1990, by the Academy of Brunei Studies. Its principal remit was to act as Secretariat of the Supreme Council of Malay Islamic Monarchy. Excellently suited to the post of Director was Abdul Latif bin Ibrahim (brother of the eminent cleric and earlier youthful poet, Pehin Yahya bin Ibrahim), who although not progressing from M.Phil. to a Ph.D. at Cambridge (reportedly via a proposal which took as a given the existence of a Brunei-Malay destiny to implant its Islamic culture in Temburong, from which the Christianization of the Muruts post-World War II was an abominable historical deviation), later took a doctorate at Universiti Kebangsaan, Malaysia. He has published (as Abd Latif 1996a) an interesting defense of M.I.B. against its detractors (also not without interest is Abd Latif 1996b). The Secretariat role was soon augmented by the creation of a Department of Brunei Civilization Studies, leading on to the award of the first B.A. in Brunei Studies in 1997 (see U.B.D. 2001 [?], p 163). 26 The Academy vaunts itself as a penetrative and molding partner for other University Departments, even government Departments outside, as guardian and promoter of correct understanding and fulfilment of the national philosophy. At any rate, we may postulate that the legitimation of the Faculty, and more broadly the University, was among the Academy's more significant functions, apart from--dwarfing all else, of course--legitimation of the Sultanate itself. (27) Meanwhile, let us also not omit (3) the complementary rise of the Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Institute of Islamic Studies, offering sundry undergraduate and M.A. degrees. (28)
A different, somewhat negative kind of reassurance was supplied by (4) the absence of Sociology or Anthropology on the program of any Department. This was vital in an ideological environment so negative towards the non-Muslim natives. The field was left open, on a theoretical plane, to national luminaries such as cleric Pehin Badaruddin (29) and freelance sociologist Hashim Abdul Hamid; (30) and on a research plane, to the long-established Brunei Museum--which apart from being safely rooted in a more antiquarian than analytic tradition, believed itself to hold (or affected to hold) a government brief to regulate ethnographic research, long before the rise of UBD and its supervisory responsibility in this as in other research areas. The Museum's purported brief included the vetting of research applications from abroad, and subsequently the supervision of successful applicants, these functions being performed by some lesser lights from one native group on its staff--a "mixed blessing" for the international cause of salvage ethnography, most academics would agree, and all the more deplorable in view of the absence of UBD players from this field, but blessed with functionality from a regime perspective. (31)
Additionally, on a non-academic plane altogether, and yet a very important function of UBD as regards stabilisation of society, reference must be made to (5) the role of the University as provider of qualifications to lower-to-middle ranking government employees, especially teachers in search of a salary increment or promotion, by way of a kursus meningkat (upgrading course). In fact the perpetual recycling of teaching personnel, in and out of UBD, enables Brunei to maintain a larger teaching establishment (whence a smaller army of unemployed) than might otherwise be predicted, because a certain percentage of the education force is always absent from school on study leave, though never missing from the state's payroll or losing out on any material benefits, to their not inconsiderable satisfaction and reinforcement of loyalty. In the process, ever higher qualifications become the professional norm, step by step, as the years go by. But this does not mean that a teacher graduating from Teacher Certificate, via B.A., to M.A. if not higher, has added to his or her "real" level of education, including critical faculties, alongside salary level. (32)
Towards and into a New Century
I have touched, tentatively, on several factors for UBD's growing political acceptability to the higher elite during its first decade. Early publication by foreign academics was reassuring, on occasion unctuous, if only because subject to self-censorship or "Ministerial advice." On the curriculum side, the Faculties most likely to teach courses containing matter in any sense critical of Brunei, seemed assiduous in keeping Brunei at arm's length. In addition, the institution of three-year contracts for foreign staff, plus a reserve power to foreshorten contracts in cases of "indiscipline," not only helped to ensure political caution among expatriates in the first place, but were indeed acted upon in a handful of "difficult" cases, whereby, of course, the blight on imaginative research and free expression was intensified. In spite of the role of both suasion and intimidation in realizing the required level of passivity, it seems not impossible that the authorities convinced themselves that they had tapped a seam of genuine cultural empathy among the foreigners, far more characteristic than the vocalism of the mere handful who had been weeded out without repercussion. Notwithstanding the rather striking element of self-fulfilling prophecy in this, it is a factor in reassurance that one should surely not discount. Even less should one discount, for the fostering of UBD's good name in government, the presence and high profile of the Academy of Brunei Studies, as the powerhouse of academic rationalization if not writing of the state ideology of M.I.B., as well as the most prolific program of publication of nationally edifying research in the University. Besides this, it is scarcely necessary to recall the absence of analytical research, anywhere in the University, on Brunei's social structure, whether at its Brunei-Malay heartland or up-country among native groups that are both non-Malay and non-Muslim. This would remain true till the late 1990s, at least.
At the same time, UBD degree courses had been creating a growing cadre of personnel deemed capable of university lecturing. As the local cadre expanded inexorably, the politically problematic expatriate group (of whom only the tiniest minority expressed negative attitudes anyway) became correspondingly an "endangered species," which was a bonus for state security, thus, factor for reassurance about the University. It cannot be too much stressed, also, that apart from years of appropriate socialization, as Bruneians, this cadre was captive to the Sultanate by virtue of having only UBD qualifications, or if occasionally a higher degree from UK, not one that would look impressive on a CV and would open doors to international mobility outside the homeland. (33)
I will now indicate the three "landmark" policies or policy events which I wish to examine in search of movement away from, or, by way of self-refutation or "second thoughts," movement back towards, a Brunei "function" or strategic norm. In chronological order, they are (i) the phenomenon--surely "progressive," being likely to generate serious research and wider sympathy towards Brunei's minorities--of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences taking the plunge into Sociology/Anthropology in 1997, by establishing a teaching unit at rather less than Departmental size. This was in the last two years of the tenure of Pehin Abu Bakar Apong as Vice-Chancellor. (34)
As my second "landmark" I select (ii) the appointment, not of another government Minister to replace him, but of an eminent Islamic scholar, in the person of Dato Dr. Saedon bin Awang Othman. (35) In fact, Dr. Saedon's political significance transcended his Doctorate from Al-Azhar, and resided far more in his youthful link to the Partai Rakyat Brunei (Brunei People's Party) around the time of the Brunei rebellion (1962), which had marked him for detention as a suspected subversive if he returned to his native land. (36) He proceeded to build a successful career in Islamic Studies, first at Malaysia's Universiti Kebangsaan (37) (National University), later at Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (International Islamic University), where his growing eminence made him ultimately a rich prize for the Sultanate to strive to repatriate. Finally he was prevailed upon to return home, in 1994, to an influential position in the planning for Islamization of laws in the Ministry of Religious Affairs, whence he moved to UBD as its Vice-Chancellor five years later. This was not only a milestone in Brunei's Islamic revival, but in the long-term reconciliation between Brunei Sultanate and the old Brunei nationalism, which also saw the return of RR.B. second-in-command, Zaini Ahmad, in 1992, and his ultimate royal pardon and release from detention in 1996. (38)
For my third example of an enterprising and "progressive" sequel to earlier, "reactionary" reassurance, I would cite (iii) the establishment of the Institute of Asian Studies within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in January 2012, in which positions were bestowed on a number of eminent individuals from abroad, including the German sociologist Hans-Dieter Evers and British anthropologist Victor King, both with the title of "Eminent Visiting Professor." That the appointment of these two "eminences" was not as fraught with dysfunctional potential as by then the Sociology-Anthropology Department (restructured as a "programme") had conceivably come to seem in the eyes of some religious and culturally conservative elements in the University, will be implicit in what follows (King was even ear-marked for a significant role in developing Anthropology, albeit he was not himself in charge of that "Department"). The serious crisis that arose for the regime was in fact in the field of Brunei's international relations, UBD having taken the improbable step of appointing a Burmese political scientist-cum-Muslim (pro-Rohingya) activist in the person of Dr. Maung Zami, to a position in the Institute.
Although only a small part of the overall program of the Sociology/Anthropology Department, its most creative and noteworthy contribution was the program of student ethnographic research. This program, in the now defunct "Department" (its name from 2006) and its forerunner Unit is memorialized in Walker 2010, which reviews a selection of student fieldwork reports supervised. The selection generally favors, avowedly, the most creditable over less creditable work, so is not, strictly, representative of UBD students taking the Sociology/Anthropology degrees during the several years covered. But this fulfils two presumable, and understandable, objectives of the Head of Department, viz. to offer, through his Faculty's in-house journal, a series of synopses of readable, often informative pieces of ethnography; and to demonstrate to the University authorities, informatively as well as uncontroversially, what his own Department had achieved and could offer for the future.
The undergraduate research program of those years was clearly an excellent enterprise. (39) Consequently it came as a considerable shock to read of the demise of the Department (Fanselow 2014: 90). In starting willy-nilly to speculate as to what the reason may have been, I was responding not least to the fact that this insider source is tantalisingly silent on the cause. (40) At most, I was inclined to draw an inference from a reference to the government upstaging a conference on multi-ethnic Borneo society by the Borneo Research Council, in favor of "Islamic civilization in Borneo," at the new Islamic University, that by mid-2012 the Department too was under some kind of cloud. And if so, why would it not be the students' ethnography that had attracted sceptical, if not hostile, attention? Yet surely not to the extreme extent of triggering closure of the Department! I began to speculate as to any audible disaffection on the part of members of the Department as, with the passing years, their insight deepened into the contradictions between Brunei's, let alone Borneo's, social diversity and M.I.B., or more simply, in face of official discouragement of planning for more student ethnography. I wondered whether publication could have been playing a part, even in a case of self-reporting in a Faculty journal. (41) While the superb critique by Fanselow of the ideologically tinted doctrine that the only native social structure of Brunei is the Brunei-Malay structure, is expressed in scrupulously academic, politically guarded terms (and moreover did not appear until after the demise of the Department and Fanselow's departure from Brunei), one could gain an impression that he abhors the suppression of ethnic identities by ideologically motivated sociology--a conviction which may have been difficult to conceal entirely, in advance of any publication. More basic, however, are the leads which the publication gives as to stirrings of ideological resurgence in the Faculty (Academy of Brunei Studies; Department of Malay Language and Literature)--a phenomenon which might well exert pressure, behind the scenes, to curb "deviant" tendencies in Anthropology, to the detriment of serious anthropologists. (42)
Against this perspective, it can be advanced (and indeed is, by insiders!) that the abolition of the Department of Sociology/Anthropology was simply one expression of the conversion of the management-minded, inclined-to-sloganizing VC, Dato Dr. Zulkamain (a medical man), to a contemporary Australian doctrine called the "Melbourne model," for inter-disciplinary teaching (i.e. with scant, if any, input from ethnic ideology). Under this doctrine, which affected the whole of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Departmental divisions were abolished. As it appears that this move was strongly supported by the Singaporean Special Academic Adviser, Tong Chee Kiong, some observers go so far as to attribute the change (like others) fully to Professor Tong, as a glorified puppet master to the VC, promoting his own agenda including staff appointments! Yet rather than UBD handing over political control to a foreigner, especially a Chinese, it would be more probable, I suggest, that an eager Adviser would be used as a front for any provocative measures of local control, only seeming to be their author. At the same time, admittedly, this perception does not rule out that Tong genuinely believed in the Melbourne Model, or had other convictions which made him want see Sociology/Anthropology (or at least Borneo ethnography) become defunct, and were thus were fortuitously in step with a less visible UBD priority. (43)
For a while, all of these ruminations began to seem somewhat redundant in light of earlier news that after organizing and chairing a Workshop of his Institute on "The state of the art and future directions" in Borneo Studies, at UBD on 30 November-1 December 2012 (and then not mentioning anything untoward on the Brunei scene in his later write-up: King 2012), Professor Terry King was signed up for seven more months at the Institute of Asian Studies, for activity towards the end of reinforcing it in its objective "to become a major focus of research on Borneo" (after all, Brunei Darussalam "is the only fully national territory in Borneo": King 2012: 258). Indeed progress towards the Institute's objective was already sufficient, we discern, to be the subject of a presentation by Dr. Mohd. Gary Jones, at the Workshop, on Borneo research in the Institute (King 2012: 259). Although King (2012) does not refer to the "revival" of a "Department" as such, within the Faculty, and indeed BRB 2012: 273 speaks purely of developing "the Institute's Borneo Studies research program," we should remember that the Institute itself is within the Faculty. Moreover, UBD's Home Page ("Quick Facts" heading) as of March 2014 not only reassuringly vaunts the passion of the Faculty for aspects of Borneo, both Brunei and beyond, but even lists "Sociology-Anthropology" as one discipline which is currently available "at all levels." Although I was not at first sure if it was under the wing of the Institute of Asian Studies or directly and conventionally under the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (the December 2012 Workshop is certainly attributed to the Institute of Asian Studies as a landmark of its inaugural year), a clearer picture comes to light on another web-page of UBD: not too surprisingly the page for "UBD Sociology-Anthropology," which states that (a) there is still at least a "programme" of that name; (b) it offers courses leading to a Major in the discipline; (c) all the courses are enumerated in a presentational grid, indeed sufficient for a conventional first degree on the British pattern; (d) the previous staff have been superseded by five new names, of sundry provenance. (44)
With the reputed survival of the discipline, could one, nevertheless, be confident for the open-mindedness of Borneo anthropology at UBD? There is no sign any more of a fieldwork requirement; (45) and whereas a course is still offered on Borneo ethnography, one cannot detect whether the teaching of it is to be colored more by a Brunei-Malay bias than pluralist tendencies. One thinks again of Fanselow's observation of the "upstaging of BRC" in mid-2012, by the Conference on "Knowledge and the Greatness of Islamic Civilization in Borneo," opened by the Crown Prince at the Islamic Universiti Sharif Ali (previously the Faculty of Islamic Studies at UBD). Given the latter University's advertised aim of spreading Islam over Borneo, we might wonder both how much it saw itself as taking over the flame of Akademi Pengajian Brunei, and whether at all it was in a position to influence the interpretation of the self-bestowed mandate of Borneo leadership by the Department of Sociology-Anthropology in UBD, away from the founding academic ideals of Borneo Research Council towards Brunei/UBD ideology. Insider reporting does suggest that the potential partners in Sarawak and Sabah were looking askance at the "empire-building" of UBD--characterised as it was by an agenda to locate the Council permanently under its control and financing, regardless of any differences of philosophy over ethnic research and freedom of expression. (46) The increasingly lively Borneo blogosphere which for some time has alarmed the Sultan (being free, appositely enough, to report on issues of freedom of expression) has not only provoked royal rage by presuming to attack His Majesty's introduction of full-blown sharia in October 2013; (47) but (for our purposes) has recently carried explosive allegations of axings of highly qualified Westerners from UBD, by the hand of the current Special Academic Adviser, at least. (48) The frantic rush to reorganisation at UBD is reported by one insider to have created such confusion and turmoil among students that they resorted to social media to vent their grievances: an early case of regime-generated dysfunction, by the sound of it, preceding the rise and impact of hardline sharia! Any reactionary trend at the University would be prone to be reinforced by the rise of such student dissidence --for has the capacity of UBD to fulfil its mission of control and legitimization not been called alarmingly into question, for the regime, perhaps conjuring up shades of the Arab Spring?! Thus there may be little hope for liberal tendencies to revive, even with the diplomatic Professor King at the helm.
One might normally have been reassured by the fact that within his study Fanselow (2014:105-) has expressed regard for King's discussion of a "Brunei identity" permeating the territories formerly under Brunei Sultanate rule, and clearly does not see this as the same as the hegemonistic identity propagated by the Brunei-Malay elite with self-serving invocation of the work of Brown. (49) But it remains that the manner in which proelite propagation today invokes Brown to suggest that it enjoys the blessing of history, is Fanselow's most gripping--and disturbing--insight, providing a new standard for evaluating future analysis of Brunei and its former empire. While it may be disappointing that the only post-Brown sources in Malay which Fanselow ever cites are the theses of Dr. Abdul Latif and Dr. Hashim, it is certainly demonstrated that since his Ph.D., Abdul Latif has been assiduous in propagating his perspective--which incidentally, like Hashim's, diverges somewhat from Brown if it is heavily Islam-focused. It might be wise to keep open minds on whether the tide has turned against open minds! (50)
It might be even wiser to heed hints from a credible source that Professor King never did return for his vaunted further stint at UBD in the second half of 2013 anyway; thus even if Sociology/Anthropology or the idea of Borneo Studies were no worse than drifting rudderless by 2013, they may continue to do so. To be put back onto a clear track of any kind, the program might have to await the day when the University has digested and lived down the phenomenon that, so far from reinforcing its controls, it became a bed of instability in 2012-13, exactly opposite to the role in which it was cast in 1985! (51)
Next, I turn to the case of the late Vice-Chancellor, Ustaz Dr. Saedon. In spite of his years at U.I.A., I should be most surprised if there were any theological issues dividing him from fellow Al-Azharis in the Ministry of Religious Affairs before (and then prompting) transfer to UBD. Moreover, his ability to promote piety through UBD belied anything disabling in his political or religious past; at the time, it would have been impossible to detect any risk to stability. (52) However, confidence may seem to have verged on a dangerous complacency at a time of worldwide Islamic revival, from the point of view that any shade of Islamism is prone to direct critical attention towards royal extravagance. Brunei's introduction of hudud (sharia punishments such as amputation and stoning) in 2013 incited precisely this kind of popular objection, i.e., that de facto elite exemptions made the law far more repugnant than it may have been in any case. If so, Islamization in the University was potentially a Trojan Horse, importing a false reassurance. One may even speak, colorfully, of Professor Saedon's "time-bomb," planted outside the University, in Brunei statute, but likely to excite unusual discussion among a student body that was already somewhat in ferment, and leave UBD rather less manageable. Even if international Islamic revival did not portend opposition in the minds of the Sultan and his advisers, but promised only political control with gratifying international Islamic solidarity as a bonus, it seems astonishing that the foreign policy disaster over the Limbang against Malaysia, and exposure of the futility of Brunei's armed forces (including navy), did not induce a greater sense of caution on the parallel, volatile fronts of religion and higher education. (53) At any rate, hudud does not pacify but provokes. It is also especially astonishing that the Sultan was not alerted to the Achilles Heel of his own family's hedonism as the suit by his ex-(second) wife, Brunei-Eurasian one-time air stewardess, Mariam Aziz, against a Singapore-Chinese badminton coach for alleged theft of jewelry worth 12m [pounds sterling], made its way through the British court system. The case may have been a distraction from affairs of state, but surely not for long enough to make the Ruler lose sight of the potential dynamics of Brunei sharia, which was also a long time in preparation, besides relating precisely to the subject of theft, inter alia. (54)
Be it noted that I do not suggest that Brunei decision-makers themselves are aware that sharia may be counterproductive. This would simply not fit a subjective category of "liberal climate gone too far," triggering reversion to a more authoritarian norm but in awareness that this too might go too far. Besides, if the decision-makers were nervous about "liberal" trends in the first place, they are unlikely to acknowledge an error of judgement in moving back the other way. Very different is the third policy area which I designated for analysis: the development of a cosmopolitan-looking Institute of Asian Studies, which while-and-although jointly fostering a fairly accommodative program of Borneo ethnography (I mean accommodative towards official criteria), also for a short period played host, in an improbably progressive way, to an activist champion of the Muslim Rohingya minority of Myanmar!
The modality of Dr. Maung Zami's achievement of worldwide celebrity as a victim of intellectual suppression at UBD confirms what should have been (but from myopia probably were not) the "worst fears" of the Sultan and his advisers about the social media. On joining the staff of the Institute of Asian Studies at New Year 2012, Dr. Zami set about teaching selected modern courses of the Faculty, with not a little dedication and enthusiasm, by his own account; but as an activist in the cause of the Rohingya, and persecuted Southeast Asian minorities in general, he also set about registering for participation in leading human rights and current affairs events outside Brunei - these being the kind of activity which he had been explicitly led, by the Vice Chancellor and Deputy V.C., at interview in London (in 2011), to believe he was not only welcome to do, but was expected to do under UBD's current mission of "openness to intellectual enquiry, maintenance of a supportive interface with the university bureaucracy for academic staff, and stimulation of innovation and research." (55) He took the precaution of consulting the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of the time on the meaning or extent of "academic freedom" in UBD's book, and was assured in writing that this was not subject to restriction, except two "No Go" areas: the Sultan and Islamic Religion. (56)
But within six months he found himself in deep trouble: having obtained a travel grant from UBD and due permission to attend a high-powered international panel at the L.S.E., on "Human Rights and Rule of Law," 20 June 2012, he was informed only one day before he travelled that the grant was rescinded, and he was placed under orders to confine his remarks in London to the "purely academic." Thus he had to cover the substantial expense from his own pocket. (57) On his return to Brunei he was "carpeted" by the Permanent Academic Adviser (his original "godfather," as I have heard), whose "advice" was both that he (Zami) was being "watched" and from now on should confine his work purely to non-Burma issues. He then came under intimidatory pressure with regard to an invitation to write a guest editorial on Burma's transition for the Asian Journal of Public Affairs (NUS), and to take part in a live debate on democratization in Burma on Channel News Asia. He was derided, in writing, for acts which, in UBD's view, are "trivial, luxurious, and culturally inappropriate ... which only liberal universities in the West allow their faculty members to engage in." At the request of the Burmese Embassy, UBD also took steps to exclude interested UBD graduate students from attending Zami's presentation on Burma to a scheduled UBD-NUS conference on "Human interactions in Asia"--though in the event, the chairman for the panel concerned, Gary Jones, overruled the exclusion. But the senior management of FASS (as of 2012) proceeded to instruct Zami to request, in writing, the V.C.'s permission to take up any future direct invitation to give lectures or briefings. This followed intervention to postpone, for a year, an international seminar on the South China Sea which was planned to take place at UBD, having been assigned specifically to Zami to organize (this subject is an important supplementary research string of his). (58)
That Zami was silenced by every pressure short of dismissal constitutes the best example yet found of "reversion to a norm"--an event which, as something of a Brunei old-timer, I have to say I find less astonishing than the original deviation of appointing a totally transparent human rights activist. In other words, not the exclusion of Zami during 2012, but his initial inclusion through interview and appointment during 2011 is what more appropriately should be explained.
I stated in my Introduction why I favored a "regime maintenance vs international legitimacy" approach over the possibly more conventional concepts of "rentier state" and "theatre state." Still, taking off from the arguable fact that the "rents" fund the "theatre," we might see our way to musing, at least, that the "theatre" is functional to regime maintenance, not its antithesis. A distinct difference from the Bali of the late nineteenth century (59) (though not greatly, perhaps, from Brunei around 1906), lies in the fact that so far from colonial control leaving a mere shell of a state with nothing left but ritual to demonstrate, and justify, its existence, Brunei today possesses an effective, post-colonial (albeit colonially preserved and mediated) state structure. Yet it constantly invents doctrine and ritual in aid of its redevelopment and survival. Ironically, however, another new factor of the modern world is that the Sultanate not only has to take account of an external audience, but finds that its normal internal audience for doctrine has become willy-nilly a consumer of set international values as well as innovations in the state ideology. Meanwhile, contact with international society generates, not least, a taste for prestige, to which I would attribute in part the rise of the Institute of Asian Studies, with its ill-thought out consequence on the ethical side: that is, an ethical imperative to uphold to international values such as academic freedom which, when a contradiction came to light, had to be gainsaid by an embarrassing retreat, amidst accusations of bad faith. (60)
Nonetheless, there are a few other very plausible factors for "contradiction" within the intellectual repertoire of the Brunei elite themselves. These include the constant workings of Brunei nativist and neo-traditional ideology, and the daily, televised theatre of the Sultan "consenting" (berkenan) to receive other Heads of State below the rank of a monarch. Basically, the world is shown, and thus widely perceived, to be coming to Brunei to show deference to its ruler and the panoply of values for which he stands (and high Brunei officials share in this charisma and invulnerability to some degree). It is not credible, even to a Vice-Chancellor of UBD, that a Burmese political activist will understand the idea of "academic freedom" any differently from an intake of already well-socialized Bruneian undergraduates to whom he extols numerous "progressive values"--leavened in their case by M.I.B.--in their orientation course. (61)
But if this assertion is anywhere near correct, it bodes poorly for the incipient openness to ethnic pluralism in UBD's program for Sociology/Anthropology which I have looked out for. Solidarity with ASEAN partners is key to Brunei's security. These states being generally hostile to ethnic pluralism within their respective borders, what we have seen, obliquely, is a commonalty of external interest being upheld and then drafted to prop up state, and by unspoken extension, associated ethnic, hegemonism on Brunei's own territory, exercised through an "institution of higher learning" via interstate diplomacy. Not that Brunei would need any external prompting after attempts at enhanced control of its University proved ironically counterproductive! (62)
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(1) Author's Biographical Note: The author left a Southeast Asia program in terminal decline at the University of Kent, in 1984, and took a contract as an Education Officer in Brunei. This was seen originally as a stop-gap, but some highly-placed Bruneians were urging the move on the assumption of an early development of higher education there. In the event, though not ill-equipped (e.g. as a Malay-speaker), the author came no closer to a post in Brunei's embryonic University than one semester of semi-secondment from the Institute of Education. Contact with UBD was maintained, nevertheless, through numerous friends, during what evolved, despite discouragement, into ten years of Brunei residence. Fascination with Brunei, past and present, was one reason for staying on. Both the author and his wife became well acquainted with the country, and pursued two or three lines of academic enquiry informally, in keeping with their complementary callings.
(2) For an introduction to key dimensions of Brunei political economy, Kershaw 2001 might be helpful; Kershaw 2011a: 109 touches on micro-size as an asset (e.g. vulnerability engenders internal solidarity). The University, which is the more explicit subject of this paper, has displayed micro-dimensions in keeping with Brunei's highly modest population and territorial extent: e.g. by 1990 (six years, or six intakes, after its foundation) UBD counted a total of 900 current students from four intakes, including the by-then integrated Institute of Education (see UBD 1990[?], p 67). Nevertheless, in keeping with the limitless resources available, and imperatives of "social pacification," which I will discuss later, by 2001 the total had reached 3,000 (see UBD 2001 [?], P8).
(3) But the conversion of the Belaits is pretty well complete. The Tutongs of the middle district count as now fully Islamized, while the rural Kedayans around the capital town were long ago absorbed into a broad Brunei-Malay identity.
(4) No doubt, a more conventional approach to Brunei political economy and its ramifications as a whole would be in terms of a "rentier state" whose assets enable it to "set the past in stone," including the luxury of perpetuating a ritual-fixated "theatre state" behind foreign labor and expertise. But for analysis of issues in higher education specifically, my intention may offer a better fit. With regard to the three foreshadowed landmarks, as I was only a "participant observer" in any sense during UBD's first decade (I left the state in March 1994, some eight-and-a-half years after its formal inauguration), my data thereafter are quite attenuated. But this should not compromise the validity of characterizations of the landmarks as suggestive of either a continuing shift from an early norm or reversion to it. Official publication and, increasingly, the Internet, have continued to provide a good foundation for interpretation. I am forever grateful to Simon Francis, UBD's first Librarian, who, having kept up a Brunei interest as I have done, has been willing to supply recollection and numerous references to supplement my own. Most recently Anthony Walker and Frank Fanselow (cf. note 33 , below) have given me the benefit of vital data, interpretation and correction relating to their experience.
(5) This being the title of Bartholomew 1989, a book naturally banned in Brunei, though many slipped through Customs checks in the baggage of individual travelers arriving at Brunei airport.
(6) In chronological order of appearance, I am aware of Braighlinn 1992 (a wide review of state ideology generally, with some passages on ethnic hegemonism); Bernstein 1997 (an essay which balances analysis of Dusun culture and language loss as part of general social change with pertinent insights into deliberate government action towards the same end); Kershaw, R. 1998 (a study of how citizenship law and the blocking of democratic development combine to exclude non-Muslim natives from national community); Schottman 2006 (a strongly focused, and functional, dissection of M.I.B.); Kershaw E.M. & Kershaw R. 2011 (a case study of a project of ethnic self-defense, whose Introduction addresses the state ideology, including its assimilationist dimension, in a framework of comparative nationalism); Kurz 2013 (a very serious contribution to historiographical debate on early Brunei, but prefaced with a sharp critique of the use of historiography for consolidation of later regimes); Fanselow 2014 (an expose of the unpredictable use of the first professional study of Bruneian traditional ranks to reinforce Brunei Malay pre-eminence vis-a-vis the other native groups). Only the last two authors came to Brunei through UBD.
(7) Albeit the precise conception of "excellence," as vaunted in many official speeches and broadcast interviews, was a little intangible: cf. UBD n.d., a collection of royal speeches on the theme. Importantly, the domestic audience includes the many young Bruneians who aspire to obtain a university degree, and if the government will not send them abroad for it, need to be persuaded that the qualification they will receive is no "Mickey Mouse degree," a fear that still lingers today, as the first speech of a new Vice Chancellor--to an intake of undergraduates--clearly implied (Brunei Times 2008).
(8) Another priority was to demonstrate adherence to the tenets of the Sunni Sect. Kershaw 2011b takes off from this dimension of Institute affairs, but adds others. A couple of expatriates sought solace and even a prop for their sanity in writing verse (one couplet is quoted in Kershaw 1995: 124)! Hierarchy may also have been playing a part in the abortion of the journal, where the embryonic Faculty of Education of UBD, which was cast to absorb the Institute before long (again see Kershaw 2011b: 165-166), had its own, rival ambition to launch a journal, and crucially had the ear of the Minister in taking it forward. However, before anything like that materialized, the Director found a preferable medium for raising the Institute's profile: a glossy Newsletter. My own, very possibly "offending," piece for the journal has been published, with an added Preface, as Kershaw 1995. (I trust that readers will accept my claim, here as in note 3, to some participant observer status, and ignore the false trail about my employment history laid, for no doubt innocent reasons, by Fanselow 2014: 108, n 79.)
(9) One has also to record, however, that the impact was diluted if not nullified for the expatriate staff by the fact of being part of a public speech in Malay--not a language that is generally understood or studied in that milieu. (The speech was summarized in the government weekly newspaper, Pelita Brunei, 30 October 1985, but also, naturally, in Malay.) The foreign academics were more specifically the target of a later lecture at UBD by a Special Branch officer on national security; and they grasped only too well the significance of the revelation that at a brain-storming session of agencies concerned with national security and survival, on the eve of Independence, a consensus had crystallized that the most serious subversive threat for Brunei would lie in a national university, in case one were established. The requirement that all university staff should sign, as government servants, the new Official Secrets Act of 1988 (steps towards implementation were taken in 1990), obviously did nothing to make certain research topics seem less "sensitive" to some individuals than they already assumed them to be.
(10) See extended citation in Kershaw 2000:135-136, from Abu Bakar, ed., 1996: 17. By this time the Brunei government had begun to espouse research as a proper function for a national university, provided that the research served an identified national need. In this connection, but with an explicit control function as well, a National Research Council was announced in 1990, to operate within UBD for vetting and processing applications not only from abroad but from within Brunei itself. (The relevant announcement by the Sultan, and follow-up commentary by the second Vice Chancellor, Pehin Abdul Rahman, are recorded and discussed in Kershaw 2000: 128, n 4). There followed the first, 52-page edition of a Register of staff research interests (UBD 1989).
(11) This collection, or composite, volume (in fact UBD's first) and the relevant page being Abdul Latif, ed., 1992: 11. Both Volumes are reviewed in Kershaw 2003.
(12) Although not published under Gunn's name, University of California Press let him down by sending the offprints to Brunei, contrary to his explicit instructions.
(13) This account expands considerably on what was written in Kershaw 2003:134,143. I personally was in no doubt that Geoffrey Gunn's "cardinal sin" was not that he showed discourtesy to a distinguished guest of the University but that he offended the Embassy of an "ASEAN partner" of Brunei, i.e. Indonesia.
(14) On the genesis of the book in Ministerial sponsorship, see Kershaw 2003: 136-137. The work is reviewed in ibid.: 137-143 and Kershaw 2000b. In spite of its advantages, the promised circulation of the book to Brunei schools was in fact long postponed, and informal "advice" to local bookshops put an early end to imports from Kuala Lumpur through that channel, apparently because the Sultan developed reservations about the book's analytical scrutiny of his late father, however laudatory many of its conclusions. Hussainmiya 1996 (original a conference paper in 1994) gives a foretaste of the opus.
(15) The second of this pair rather skirts round "some of the important connections between economy and society, culture and the political system" which the publisher promises on the dust jacket --notably in Chapter 4, where one looks in vain for a clear account of the meaning and dynamics of Charged (i.e. unlegislated, extra-budgetary) Expenditure. The first of the pair is similarly tentative on the subject of royal income, in its discussion of Brunei's development. (There is an attempt to get closer to the point in Kershaw 2001a, Chapter 8, passim, and more precisely still in Kershaw 2001b: 15.) Also regrettable (from an academic point of view but not for Brunei ideologues) is a strain of inaccuracy on ethnic pluralism in Cleary & Eaton 1992: 94-95 (including a map which turns all Brunei's non-Muslim natives into Malays). Cleary was a Senior Lecturer in Geography at UBD. Eaton rose to a Chair in Public Administration but kept clear of the subject of Brunei in his Inaugural Lecture, as some will recall. See next paragraph on limitations in Public Administration courses.
(16) Later renamed Faculty of Business, Economics and Policy Studies. In the early days, Economics was in Arts and Social Sciences.
(17) See assessment of work in the two Collections already mentioned, in Kershaw 2003: 134-136. To the best of my knowledge, it was in fact the Dean of Management and Administrative Studies (believed to hail from South Africa) who published the first piece of social science research out of UBD (Blunt 1989). I do not know how it was received in official quarters (if they were ever cognizant of it at all, Peter Blunt having moved on), but the style bespeaks a self-conscious caution: Brunei as such is somewhat obscured behind the dry jargon of management theory, even though the latter includes apposite concepts like "uncertainty avoidance." So far from making any waves, the article should have given reassurance that expatriate academics were not "agents of instability."
(18) On the O.S.A, see note 8 above.
(19) His booklet (Mohd Beg 1999) evinces, for me, a thoroughly moderate Islamic modernist, who would have been at home among the Indonesians of the Institute of Islamic Studies. However there were reports of some dramatic public gestures highlighting failures of Islamic observance in Brunei, such as, for a period, the serving of alcohol on the national carrier, RBA.
(20) Iik 1991; Iik 2008; and Iik 2009 illustrate the point. Also "reassuring" but academically enterprising was the work of estimable Malaysian P. Palaniappan, of the Department of Malay Language and Literature, in getting students out into the field to collect folktales.
(21) He could speak Indonesian, but her mastery was much more complete after years spent in Indonesia. Note: in its early years UBD offered a degree program in History in the Malay medium.
(22) Mohd Jamil 1996. Also contributing, among other Bruneians (Abd Latif 1996), was the Director of the Academy of Brunei Studies (on that key institution, see further, below).
(23) Davies (1996) does not even refer to the existence of such minorities, let alone the work of Robert Nicholl on Brunei in early times and in particular the existence of an earlier, rival kingdom (Bisaya, no doubt), close to the newly Islamized Malay kingdom (Nicholl 1975: 11). Also in her favor, I surmise that no Brunei official would have grasped the revolutionary resonance of her acknowledgement of Antonio Gramsci as the source of her concept of "hegemonic." It is more conceivable, but also not probable, that the Indonesian Embassy in Brunei Darussalam could have picked up, and made representations about, passages on the hegemonism of Javanese power over Bali. An even less "concerning" set of papers were the four "drafts," not for quotation, in the Departmental in-house Gunn and others 1992.
(24) When its author joined UBD, more or less at its foundation, as an "EFL" (English as a foreign language) specialist, the Department was called, simply, Department of English. British, but married (already on arrival) to a Brunei Malay, he today ranks among the longest (if not as the longest) serving member of the academic staff of UBD. It was not many years later that the teaching of English came to be designated as "TESL" (Teaching English as a Second Language), consistently, maybe, with the high expectations from the Bilingual System in schools.
(25) See, for the large, resulting in-house collection, UBD 1992. A paper by Mohd Gary is highlighted in Kershaw 2003: 146.
(26) UBD 2001 [?], pp 145-167, in describing the work of A.P.B., in both Malay and English, records three major seminars organized by the Academy in the mid-1990s: "International Seminar on the Malay Sultanate in the Archipelago" (1994); "Seminar on Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddin" (1995); and "International Seminar on Kampong Ayer" (1996). The first of these had certainly issued in Mohd Taib and Abd Latif, eds., 1996 (though with the title strangely enhanced to give pre-eminence to the Brunei Sultanate). I would be surprised if the second two had not also resulted in publication. Possibly the earliest seminar organised by A.P.B. (jointly with Persatuan Sejarah Brunei, Brunei Darussalam) was the "Seminar Brunei dalam Sejarah" in 1991 (c.f. as one UBD paper at this seminar, Iik 1991). Further information about the Director's Doctorate is supplied by Fanselow (2014: 103, n. 57).
(27) The Academy is also responsible for teaching a course on M.I.B., a pass in which is a precondition of earning any Degree or Certificate from the University. Meanwhile, the Department of History was also claiming to provide some kind of Brunei history (UBD 2001 [?], p 94): a Minor to one new student in Islamic Studies, and a full Major in Brunei Studies. Given the vaunted pre-eminence of the Academy in, and aegis over, Brunei Studies, it might be surprising if the Department of History was able to act independently in devising, even teaching, the courses involved.
(28) Islamic Studies at UBD had begun as a Department within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, but in due course "graduated" to separate Faculty status. More recently, however (see below, n. 31) it has migrated elsewhere to become a separate university. On the theme of a reconciliation between Sultanate and modem scholarship, it may not be otiose to mention also, although not organized by the A.P.B. or any other part of UBD (and with virtually no submission of papers from UBD), the prestigious International Seminar on Islamic Civilization in the Malay World. 1-5 June 1989, organized by the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Brunei Darussalam with the joint sponsorship of the IRCICA (Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture of the Organisation of Islamic Conference).
(29) Cf. his lecture to university students on "the plural society" which gave pride of place to Brunei Malay culture, though not in a draconian way, Badaruddin 1989.
(30) Cf. his highly intolerant article on ethnic diversity among the native groups, excluding them from the national community especially if they fail the "I"-test in M.I.B.: Hashim 1984. He was later sent to the University of Malaya for doctoral research, returned with a Ph.D. on (or, as some U.M. observers quipped, "in") M.I.B. itself and returned to service in the Department of Malay Literature at UBD. Fanselow 2014: 103, n 57, supplies information on Hashim's Doctorate as also on Abdul Latif's (both are quite strongly Islam-focused), and reports that Haji Hashim became Director of A.P.B. for a time.
(31) I am loath to stray onto Museum terrain in an article about UBD, but it merits saying, as it could have foreshadowed an emergent UBD role (see note 9, above), that the scope of this supervision extended in my time into collaboration with District Security in flagging up any unregistered "foreign intrusion." Police backup was not without importance for Museum ethnographers, who acutely foresaw a threat of exposure of shortcomings in their own work by intelligent foreign observers, after an initial approach to me to help write a thesis. So intense was the anxiety, that even one officially sponsored foreigner (American), who had plans for research among the Punan of Sukang (upriver Belait District), was kept out by making villagers afraid of being held responsible if anything untoward were to befall him. This is why Bernstein 1997 deals with a Dusun, not a Punan subject, though that author did later get as far as to write about some government pressures militating against survival of Dusun culture (see note 5, above). However, an attempt to assume a "minder" role in relation to me and "E.M.K,." with our interest in the Dusuns, was sidestepped by requesting to see a copy of the relevant regulation giving supervisory power to the Museum. As this role never materialized, it is puzzling that UBD's Fanselow, in a quasi-watchdog incarnation (2014: 108), states that it did, and that I complained about this in articles betweenlO-19 years later. A Police enquiry was dropped after the villagers reported that we were definitely not Christian missionaries, and nothing untoward had come to light in interviews with us at Tutong Police H.Q.! In the end, only the freelance intimidation of villagers over responsibility for our "safety," as in Bernstein's case, proved effective, in our first place of stay.
(32) By 2013, the undergraduate numbers had risen to 3,027 and postgraduates to 774. Both figures include international students. How far they include an undergraduate component for Education is not quite clear to me, as such degrees, which were being advertised in UBD 2001 [?], are missing from the University's Home Page at present. The total figure of 3,801 represents, we will notice, an increase of 26.7% on the figure for 2001 cited in footnote note 1, above: less than a breathtaking leap, perhaps, suggesting that the new campus at Tunku was not far from full capacity at the turn of the century. On the other hand, by this time, it is true, a whole Faculty (Islamic Studies) had been hived off to form the new Sharif Ali University.
(33) I should point out that the decline in expatriate numbers was far more prevalent in the Arts and Management than the Natural Sciences.
(34) Three staff were appointed between 1997-2001. I single out the two leading figures, both with British doctorates in Anthropology: Frank Fanselow, B.A. Cairo (The American University), Ph.D. London (L.S.E.), who started the Unit in 1997 and brought in American anthropologist Allen Maxwell to help with undergraduate research supervision for two years (see Fanselow & Hussainmiya 2012; Walker 2010:11); and Anthony Walker, B.A. Osmania, D.Phil. Oxon. (on whose contribution see, not least, Walker 2010). (Looking forward, Walker, who would become UBD's first Professor of Anthropology, continued until his retirement at the end of 2011, while Fanselow, having been 14+ vears at UBD would withdraw and make career moves via Kyoto to Abu Dhabi after May 2012. By that time, numbers of academic staff in the Unit (later, Department) had begun to expand, as trained Bruneians came on stream, although from at least 2012 (connected with further, radical reorganisation entailing dismissals or resignations) there was a trend downwards.
(35) UBD's fifth, I believe, if Pehin Aziz, who held the office twice, is counted only once, but we include the female Director of the Institute of Education before its absorption by UBD, who was compensated, as de facto, but by title only "Deputy," V.C. (under both Pehin Abdul Rahman and Pehin Aziz in his second stint as Minister of Education/V.C.), to be followed for ten years by Pehin Abu Bakar Apong (1991-2000).
(36) Muhammad Faris 2013, a short biography written posthumously, mentions kinship with the leader of the Rebellion, Azahari; but it is also clear that he did not take part in the Rebellion, as he was a student at the Muslim College, Klang (the standard stepping stone to Al-Azhar University in Egypt, where Saedon would eventually gain his Doctorate). Professor Saedon died suddenly and relatively young in 2002, to be succeeded by Ismail Duraman, a Bruneian economist of UBD since its beginnings (and whom 1 knew well as an open-minded scholar of gentle disposition), and he in turn, in 2008, by Dato Paduka Dr. Haji Zulkamain bin Haji Hanafi (not obviously an academic). The latter two were UBD's sixth and seventh V.C.s, provided 1 have not overlooked a short-term appointment between Saedon and Ismail.
(37) The most tempting translation is "National University," but as it taught entirely in the Malay language, the "nation" in question was rather clearly the Malay People.
(38) The return of Zaini from Kuala Lumpur was preceded by an historic last attempt at an uprising (and its pathetic failure) in 1990. See Kershaw 2011a on this event, including a previously maturing, competitive government strategy for return and rehabilitation of rebels, commencing with the not-so-hard cases. For the moment, I will treat the reconciliation with Saedon as another example of the Brunei regime, through its University, showing confidence in being able to handle forces previously in conflict or contradiction with it. (An added classification, as a "new stimulus for reassurance"--because tapping the legitimating resource of Islamic revival--is also admittedly possible, but of far more interest will be any counterproductive dimension of the appointment.)
(39) At most, we might infer some weaknesses in the project, from aspects of the article. For instance, its commentary on the students' work seems at times a little uncritical. It would have been wise for a supervisor to check that one young lady (possibly a Dusun convert, or at least a Tutong: one of the 4th year student category after the Unit had become a Department offering Majors in Sociology/Anthropology), had correctly understood the meanings of Kershaw, E.M. 2000 on Dusun deities, instead of allowing her to filter Dusun religion through what seems like a Muslim prism and see the female shamans' familiar spirits as deriving their power from a "High God." 1 also query Walker's silence on the fact that not every student in the set is a Bruneian. But features such as these are perhaps reassuring from a state-interest perspective.
(40) It is in his Acknowledgements that Fanselow tells us that the Department is "now defunct." Assuming that the article would have gone to press around mid-2013, we may take it that this was still the situation at that time. For the reference to its status pre-2006 as a "Unit," see Fanselow & Hussainmiya 2012: 19; and UBD 2001[?], p 91.
(41) Walker 2010 certainly pulls no punches over the disheartening lack of commitment of most of the students fulfilling the research requirement in their B.A. degree.
(42) On the other hand, strong words about some critical scholarship by another party may help (whether intentionally or no) to divert official attention from, and take the heat off, the Anthropology program! Still (and on a very personal note), if any unhappiness had been simmering in the Department, it does then seem odd that I am taken to task for launching a "bitter attack" on Dusuns in the Brunei Museum for their political accommodations. Sardonic Kershaw 1998b: 29-34 may have been, but these aspersions appear more peculiar still where it is maintained (Fanselow 2014: 108) that I used footnotes (and in "somewhat esoteric" articles) as the platform for such "attack." The most cursory glance will show that my discussion of political accommodation, especially over Dusun religion, is fully out in the open, as the starting theme of an article which is not more "esoteric" than village ethnography normally is. (This dig seems strangely discouraging for "salvage" efforts!) At the same time, any open-minded reader will find that a much more salient criticism is that Dusun ethnographic work in Brunei Museum Journal used a reputable academic cover to legitimize egregious error. I would further dissent from the judgment that someone's use of a pseudonym on one occasion is morally equivalent to the active structuring of reality according to state doctrine (and inferior, apparently, to postponing publication till one is safely out of the way!).
(43) Sociology/Anthropology had "progressed," by 2011, from a Unit, through a Department, to a mere Programme. Thereafter further change was heralded , to even less disciplinary structure and demarcation ("generic programmes"), though this plan ("Generation Next 2.0", or "GenNext 2.0"), trumpeted for 2013, may have been postponed at the last moment. The explosive blog from Sarawak, Mois 2014 , which alleges a personal agenda for recruitment of Chinese friends on the part of the Special Academic Adviser, seems utterly outlandish (especially as coming from Sarawak) until one suspects that this is the very same Hasmadi Mois who had himself failed to get renewal in the Department in December 2012. At the same time, Tong was on record in the Faculty as telling Sociology/Anthropology staff that Borneo ethnography was not on his list for development.
(44) Including only one Bruneian (a UBD. graduate); a Kelantan Malay (to my delight, a former school student of mine from my early years in Malaysia); a Bangladeshi; an Australian (female); and a Chinese (female) from China. Each one boasts a C.V. of serious international credibility. A personal communication from Frank Fanselow just before I go to press explains that his term "defunct" was to indicate simply that the Department was no longer functioning as such in name or practice (the demise in terms of practice means simply the disappearance of any dedicated organizational structure for the discipline--but I agree that this constitutes a serious blow to the integrity of the program). This coincides with the Faculty webpage to the extent that there is now no Head of Department, only a "programme leader."
(45) Albeit I notice modules with the title "Research Methods Seminar I & II" in a so-called Capstone [4th] Year.
(46) Editor's Note: It should be noted in this connection, that "relocating the BRC" was never on the Council's agenda. If Professor Reece or others speaking at the 11th Biennial BRC meetings in Brunei (your Editor was, regrettably, not present), gave that impression, it is unfortunate, as they were speaking for themselves, and not for the Borneo Research Council. What has been discussed repeatedly in recent years are plans for establishing a framework among existing universities and other research institutions in Borneo for the sponsorship of future biennial meetings. These plans in no way effect the funding or operation of the BRC itself.
(47) The most harmful activity on offer from the Internet (specified here, as never before, as being based in the "social media"), was highlighted in the Sultan's historic warning on National Day in February 2014 that he would seek to discover sharia punishments for the very crime of attacking Brunei's recently promulgated sharia punishments through these media!
(48) See, e.g. Mois 2014, already referred to in note 42, above.
(49) I myself have put a slightly different gloss on King 1994, in Kershaw 2010--which refers more to Brown 1976 than Brown 1970, however.
(50) Turning away from theory towards practical issues, I would like to note, with appreciation, the complimentary comments on a piece of private salvage ethnography, carried out in the notoriously discouraging environment of Brunei some 20-30 years ago, in King 2001--surely an excellent omen for enlightened Borneo research in the revived or restructured Department.
(51) With reference to Professor King, I would mention, without comment, that his Linked-In page, while stating that he was "Eminent Visiting Professor," August 2012-July 2013 (no break), also shows that from August 2013 he cuts his connection with UBD to become a "Professorial Research Associate" at SOAS, London.
(52) If perchance he was more "modernist" in his attitude to the modem world than the highly conservative religious bureaucracy of Brunei, this should have been a recommendation for the appointment, for all parties concerned!
(53) I refer to Brunei's abandonment of its historic claim on Limbang (though keeping this dark from the Brunei public as the key outcome of the 2009 negotiations with Malaysia): for the context in brief, see Kershaw 201 la: 131, n 51. Almost entertaining, with its element of the tragicomic, was the saga of Brunei's order of three coastal patrol vessels from BAe systems on the Clyde, on which Brunei eventually reneged, with long-drawn-out arbitration, and followed up by placing a new order with a German shipyard.
(54) In March 2014 a jury at Isleworth Crown Court found Ms. Lim not guilty of the alleged theft. It appears, incredibly, that Hajjah Mariam hoped by going to Court to hide from the Sultan the fact
that she had lost the millions in casinos, not to a "dishonest" (as she claimed) badminton coach and bodyguard.
(55) Unless otherwise stated, all my information on Dr. Zami's experience of UBD is drawn from the Resignation Letter, 2013, displayed permanently on his website, "Maung Zami's Blog" (http// www.maungzami.net). Any readers unfamiliar with Brunei may have some difficulty in believing the account, but from the earlier passages of the present article they will be able to comprehend that nothing in it rings untrue for me.
(56) FASS records show that during 2011 the Dean was Dr. Gary Jones [bin Abdullah].
(57) Gratifyingly, at the time of this writing, the event can be viewed on YouTube.
(58) I have not cited every incident in Zami's letter, but enough, I trust, to authentically convey the level of censorship thrown at him.
(59) As interpreted by Geertz 1980, of course.
(60) Also helping to lend UBD a quite cosmopolitan complexion was the rise of comparable structures such as an "Institute for Leadership Innovation and Advancement"; the "Institute of Policy Studies"; the "e-Government Innovation Centre"; and the "Institute for Biodiversity and Environmental Research."
(61) Cf Brunei Times 2014. Academic freedom was not invoked as such, but a list of desirable modem attributes, all requiring enterprising, inquiring, even unconventional minds--complemented or balanced, however, by the assimilation of M.I.B., and a new mandatory module "Islamic civilisation and the modern world." The modern environment for which the students should prepare themselves by being well-informed, they were told, includes the sharia Penal Code. There are noticeable, though not uncanny, ideological or philosophical echoes from the early days of UBD and last days of the Institute of Education.
(62) Postscript. I am more than convinced, now, that the expulsion of Geoffrey Gunn in 1993 was at the hest of the Indonesian government. See note 12, above. In fact, no one in UBD management should have overlooked the existence of external affairs criteria for appointments since UBD's foundation, as evinced by the rigorous exclusion of academics of Shia identity (e.g. from Iran; the Pakistan minority). Yet this prescription may seem a little glib in the light of Zami's allusion to "a greater degree of intellectual and professional openness" at both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Ministry of Defence, than at UBD. Another interesting dimension to explore would be whether expressing heterodox views or analysis has been more tolerable to the regime in foreign publications than in lectures to UBD students. Or were the authorities simply unaware that academic mobility depends significantly on publication, which, if reflecting a period of residence in Bmnei, might well not conform to "regime guidelines" after an individual has left the Sultan's service? On the other hand, were the authorities even possibly complacent (pre-Internet days) because heterodox publication could always be banned within Brunei's borders; or because Westerners with a previous knowledge of the Malay world need not be appointed (see the ironic comment on his own appointment, as a non-Southeast Asianist, by Fanselow 2014: 109, n.82); or because Bruneians returning from abroad could always be trusted to exercise self-censorship regarding heterodox components of their international experience?
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|Title Annotation:||RESEARCH NOTES|
|Publication:||Borneo Research Bulletin|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2013|
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