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TransAsiaSTS Seminar: Technology as a Political Instrument

TransAsiaSTS Seminar: Technology as a Political Instrument

Online seminar co-hosted by the TransAsiaSTS network & Deakin Science and Society Network


The close association of social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) with the so-called “Arab Spring” popular movements has reinforced our collective understanding of new media technologies as a great political disruptor. Under some circumstances, digital media can become a force multiplier for an unarmed public against a repressive state. Such a politics of confrontation should be seen as a tactical use of technology, facing certain inherent limits. Political technologies can be strategic as well, however, going far beyond the direct encounter of a movement and state to threaten state legitimacy, as this case study will discuss. My examination of a KL-based Rohingya diaspora group explores the long-term strategic implications of what I call the politics of recognition through discussion of two technopolitical moments – the group’s negotiations with the Unicode Consortium to make the Rohingya script visible on electronic screens and efforts to use blockchain to create a transnational refugee database.

About the speaker:

Itty Abraham is Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore and the former director of the South Asia Institute, the Marlene and Morton Meyerson Centennial Chair, and former associate professor of government and Asian studies. He was a fellow at the East-West Center, Washington, and taught at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Abraham was program director for South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Global Security and Cooperation at the Social Science Research Council in New York from 1992-2005, where he helped shape the intellectual framework for post-area studies scholarship. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics at Loyola College, Madras, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has received grants from the Ford, Rockefeller, and Wenner-Gren foundations, the Open Society Institute Burma Project and the U.S. Institute of Peace, and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University. His research interests include international relations, science and technology studies, and postcolonial theory.

About the discussant:

Usha Raman is a professor of media studies at the University of Hyderabad, with teaching and research interests in science and health communication, digital cultures, feminist media studies and narrative journalism.

Watch the seminar:

Seminar will be available to stream on YouTube live. Access using the live link:

Q&A with the speaker to follow. To send questions/participate in the chat, you’ll need to sign-in using a YouTube account.

The seminar will be recorded and available to watch on the SSN YouTube channel after the Livestream.

If you have any questions, please send to

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