Archive | Past events

Seminar led by Dr Chou Meng-Hsuan

On Wednesday 16 May 2018, Dr Chou Meng-Hsuan of NTU Singapore led a seminar at JIAS on ‘Higher Education Regionalisms’.

Dr Chou Meng-Hsuan is Nanyang Assistant Professor in the Public Policy and Global Affairs Programme at NTU Singapore, and a 2018 JIAS Writing Fellow. The seminar formed part of the 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows Seminar Series.



‘Regional cooperation in the higher education policy domain has been on the rise throughout the last decades. In this presentation, I will introduce the concept of ‘higher education regionalism’, develop a heuristic framework for examining this multifaceted phenomenon, and empirically compare and analyse two instances of higher education regionalisms (Europe and South East Asia).

‘In so doing, this talk engages with and challenges the diffusion argument common in both European higher education studies and new comparative regionalism. The empirical case comparisons use publicly accessible documents from regional bodies active in higher education policy coordination, and more than 53 semi-structured interviews with key policy actors involved in these developments.

‘Specifically, the empirical application identifies and traces the policy ideas of European and Southeast Asia higher education regionalisms, and consider whether the extant models of regional cooperation and the knowledge discourse affected their evolution.

‘The findings reveal that the so-called ‘Bologna Process export thesis’ and the diffusion assumptions of comparative regionalism are too simplistic and misleading. Instead, I conclude that an interdependent perspective offers more traction to understanding the emergence and evolution of higher education intra- and inter-regionalisms.’


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Seminar led by Charlie Veric

On Wednesday 9 May 2018, Charlie Veric of Ateneo de Manila University led a seminar at JIAS on ‘The Journal, the Institute and the Press: A Postcolonial History of Ideas’. This formed part of the ongoing 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows Seminar Series.



‘How did a journal, institute, and press atop a hill in Loyola Heights change the course of the Filipino history of ideas in the middle of the 20th century? Consider the following. Seven years after the formal independence of the Philippines from the United States in 1946, the Ateneo de Manila University founded Philippine Studies in 1953, inaugurating what would become the longest-running journal dedicated to the study of Filipino history, culture, and society.

‘Seven years later, the campus saw the creation of the Institute of Philippine Culture in 1960, a center that would nurture the leaders of social science research in the Philippines. Then the academic press opened its doors in 1972 to publish and promote Filipino literature and scholarship.

‘Indeed, the establishment of the Ateneo journal, institute, and press within the first two decades of the Philippine state from the 1950s to the 1960s is remarkable in that it marks the beginning of decolonizing knowledge that would indelibly define modern Filipino culture as we understand it today.

‘My presentation looks into the making of such a postcolonial intellectual tradition by examining the as yet unwritten histories of the journal, the institute, and the press. The hope is to delineate and enrich the cultural archives of decolonization as a modern Filipino tradition in the 20th century.’

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Seminar led by Zukiswa Wanner

On Wednesday 2 May 2018, the noted author Zukiswa Wanner  led a seminar at JIAS about her latest book, Departures and Returns, a historical novel spanning three generations in the 20th century, and dealing with South African secrets about identity. This formed part of the ongoing 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows Seminar Series.

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Seminar led by Prof Gerry Maré

On Wednesday 25 April 2018, Prof Gerhard (Gerry) Maré presented a seminar at JIAS on ‘Versions of a shared identity: mobilising ethnicity’. This was the seventh in the 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows Seminar Series.


Ethnic and cultural distinctiveness, and associated social identities, have been employed towards inclusion and exclusion in South Africa, especially since state formation in 1910. Race, ethnicity, and notions of nation, have all served to maintain or struggle towards political and economic power.

My writing follows the continuation of these elements into the inclusive democracy that was established in 1994. I do this through historically contextualising the politics of what is now the province of KwaZulu-Natal, where violent clashes of ‘ethnic group’ and ‘nation’ resulted in the death of more than 15,000 people in the 1980s and 1990s.

I argue the continuing relevance of ethnic politics through sketching the careers of three central figures: Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, and Zwelithini Goodwill kaBhekuzulu. Each of these characters are located in meaningfully different ways within Zuluness, potentially providing insight into ethnicity as lived culture and ethnicity as nationalism; and, thus, the awkward co-existence of monarchy and a republican constitution, subject and citizen.

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Book launch for two Writing Fellows

On Wednesday 25 April 2018, JIAS hostesd a joint book launch for two of its 2018 Writing Fellows, Zukiswa Wanner and Niq Mhlongo. Zukiswa launched her book entitled Hardly Working: A Travel Memoir of Sorts, and Niq launched his book Soweto under the Apricot Tree, a collection of short stories. The launch was chaired by Danai Mupotsa of Wits University. The event was by invitation only.


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UJ seminar led by Dr David Huang

On Wednesday 25 April 2018, Dr David Huang of NTU Singapore presented a seminar hosted by the UJ Faculty of Education entitled ‘Developing future-research learners’. Dr Huang is a 2018 JIAS Writing Fellow.


This talk covers two sections. The first section paints a broad picture of education and education research in Singapore. From the perspectives of historical discourse and futuristic orientation, it helps the audience to appreciate the importance of developing future-ready learners in Singapore. Besides other multifaceted dimensions, future-ready learners possess both content knowledge mastery and 21st-century skills and dispositions.

The second section presents the results of a concrete study in maths education that seeks to develop students’ deep understanding of maths knowledge as well as generative ability, and the ability to transfer beyond what they are directly prepared for. The Productive Failure research originated in Singapore has shown the benefits of allowing students to generate first, at the onset of learning, and afterwards receive direct instruction (i.e., delayed instruction).

In this study, we explore whether degrees of freedom of generation (e.g., more or less freedom) and levels of complexity (e.g., more or less complex) of a preparatory task influence the effect of delayed instruction. The findings delineate the boundary conditions of delayed instruction, and reveal an expertise reversal effect. The study has pedagogical implications in preparing students for future transfer.

About Dr David Huang

Dr Huang is Assistant Dean: Research Strategy in the Office of Education Research of the National Institute of Education (NIE) at NTU Singapore. His research areas include learning transfer and higher education research management.

He is the recipient of the ARMS-NCURA Global Fellowship hosted by Harvard University in 2016, and the Australian Government’s Endeavour Fellowship hosted by the University of Melbourne in 2017. He is also a 2018 JIAS Writing Fellow.

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Seminar led by Hans Pienaar

On Monday 16 April 2018, the journalist, author and playwright Hans Pienaar  led a seminar at JIAS on ‘Rugby  and original sin: an alternative history’. This was  the sixth in the 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows Seminar Series.


The sport of rugby has always had an attractive origin story, namely that a youngster called William Webb Ellis got so bored with kicking a ball around during a soccer game that he picked it up and ran with it across the field to the opponents’ goal post. This legend has been institutionalised as the William Webb Ellis Trophy, for which teams vie during the quadrennial World Cup. However, in recent years, an alternative history has revealed that rugby, and other forms of football, including modern soccer, is based on a ball game with roots as deep as Roman times, when carrying the ball was very much its basic movement. Another quirk is that rugby has by far the most rules of any sport, which makes it impossible for a side not to give away at least a dozen penalties during a match. This means that original sin lies at the basis of rugby which players cannot avoid committing, no matter how well they train or prepare, or how hard they pray.

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NTU conference in memory of Prof Ahmed Zewail

On 21-23 May 2018, NTU Singapore hosted a conference in memory of the Nobel Laureate Prof Ahmed Hassan Zewail.

It was jointly organised by the Institute of Advanced Studies at NTU and the Centre for Ultrafast Science and Technology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and was held at the Nanyang Executive Centre.

Prof Ahmed Hassan Zewail was an Egyptian-American scientist, known as the ‘father of femtochemistry’. He was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry, and became the first Egyptian to win a Nobel Prize in a scientific field. He was the Linus Pauling Chair Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Physics, and the director of the Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology at the California Institute of Technology. He died in Californa in 2016.

The organisers commented as follows:

‘Prof Zewail was one of the greatest scientists of our time, contributing not only to science, but also to society. He won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering development of Femtochemistry, leading to revolutionary contributions in chemistry and adjacent sciences.

‘More recently, Prof Zewail made the groundbreaking invention of four-dimensional electron microscopy by integrating photons and electrons, thereby enabling the direct observation of fundamental changes in complex systems of materials and biology. These methods have opened up new frontiers and led to exciting new discoveries in physics, chemistry and biology, thus shaping our understanding of their complexity and dynamics.

‘At this conference, we will bring together world leaders from these fields to celebrate Prof Zewail’s contributions to science, discuss new cutting-edge research, and look into future challenges.’

For more information on the NTU website, click here.

For further enquiries, contact the Conference secretariat at

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Seminar led by Martijn van den Heuvel

On Tuesday 24 April 2018, Prof Martijn van den Heuvel of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam led a seminar on ‘Principles of Wiring of the Human Connectome’ at the Adler Museum of Medicine, Wits Faculty of Health Sciences.

The seminar was hosted by the Wits Cortex Club. Prof Van Den Heuvel took part in the Colloquium on the Brain, held by JIAS in 2017.


‘Using network science as a general framework to study the network architecture of nervous system connectivity, more and more studies have highlighted that human and animal brains display features of an efficient communication network. In my talk, I will discuss potential general principles of wiring of connectome organization. These principles are conserved across species and are argued to play a fundamental role in nervous system functioning. I will highlight findings which show that connectomes display an efficient communication structure with pronounced community organization for specialized processing, together with global short communication relays and a central “rich club core”. I will discuss the evolutionary importance of the connectome, how the macroscale connectome may be related to the microanatomy of the brain, and how general themes of wiring may play a role in the aetiology of a wide range of psychiatric disorders.’

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