I am a researcher, writer, instructor and adviser on the histories and politics of Muslim movements in Southeast Asia, especially in Malaysia and its broader interAsian contexts. I also work on contemporary Australian outlooks on our own diversity, along with our place in a diverse and increasingly multipolar Asia. I am based in the School of Social Sciences at The University of Adelaide and The Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University in Canberra.
From 2013 to 2016, I served as Secretary on the Executive Committee of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, an organisation which promotes and supports the study of Asia in Australia. From 2011 to 2015, I worked at the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding at the University of South Australia in Adelaide.
In 2015, as part of the Organising Committee of the Ninth International Convention of Asia Scholars in Adelaide, I hosted a large-scale public consultation event called InterculturAdelaide.
This initiative was focused on designing and advocating for a new set of policies which build intercultural competency across the South Australian population. As such, it was supported by a grant from the Department of Premier and Cabinet of the Government of South Australia.
I am a historian and historical geographer, and I mostly work with textual sources and interviews, largely in Malay and English.
My primary research interest is in how Muslim movements create constructions of a Muslim ummah and a Muslim world, including around a Caliphate or some other political focal point.
I’m also interested in how these movements locate themselves in space and territory, especially in “wild” or lightly-regulated areas that are marginal to structures of state control.
One of my major projects to date has focused on a 1920s anti-colonial uprising in what we now call Malaysia. This uprising, which took place in the Terengganu hinterland, saw an armed movement develop around Islamic narratives aimed against British colonial practices of territorial control. Rebels occupied a police station and raised the red flag of the Ottoman Caliphate as their emblem.
My work on this project has been supported by a Social Science Research Council Fellowship for Transregional Research in InterAsian Contexts and Connections, supported by funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This project began its life as my PhD thesis, which was awarded the J.G. Crawford Prize and the Ann Bates Prize in Indonesian Studies by the Australian National University in 2010.
Advisory & Media
I’ve also worked on a series of consultancies supporting industry partners, including Rio Tinto and Newcrest Mining, from 2007 to 2010. This work assessed the risks that racial and religious identity politics can pose to these corporations’ social license to operate.
In 2010, I was the Inaugural Minerals Council of Australia Fellow at the National Library of Australia. There, I focused on issues linked to racism and diversity affecting the migrant workforce created by mining company Billiton at the start of its life in the Netherlands Indies.
I also have a keen interest in contemporary Malaysian politics, especially in relation to constructions of racial and religious identity, and how they have shaped public life since 2008. I regularly write and speak on these issues in the Australian media, including in The Australian, Inside Story, New Mandala, Crikey and The Conversation, along with ABC and Sky TV and radio broadcasts in Australia and across the Asia-Pacific.
I welcome inquiries about bespoke advisory work in relation to cultural identity, and how it is shaped and transformed with far-reaching political effects.