Future Projects - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Youth-Led Environmentalism

  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Contact:Dr Meredian Alam
  • Application invited for:BA, MA, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellows.


This study investigate the leading roles of young people in fostering pro-ecological action to preserve the nature and create balanced co-living through diverse way of private and public learning pedagogies (i.e environmental organizations, individual actions, public-space based initiatives, social networking site-based activism, behavioral promotions, artwork, and so forth). In this project, the research students are encouraged to further explore socio-cultural dimensions shaping their engagements in the environmental causes. Qualitative inquiries and approaches are much preferred in this project.

Contemporary Environmentality

  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Contact:Dr Meredian Alam
  • Application invited for:BA, MA, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellows.


The key interest in this project are to reveal how the local community community members conserve their nature and ecosystem in the age of neoliberal governance, and exert their creativities to establish convivial engagements with the nature by utilizing advanced communication platforms and digitalized mediums. The word 'Environmentality' has been largely coined by Arun Agrawal to scholarly inform community-based village environmental arrangement. His work interrogates the key intensions of rural residents to have cares about the environment.

Social Media and Contemporary Youth Problems

  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Contact:Dr Meredian Alam
  • Application invited for:BA, MA, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellows.


Contemporary youth problems cannot merely be understood under the framework of unemployment and poverty. There are more social and economic complexities as the global economic structure are rapidly changing. It then renders young people to be more susceptible to risks but also exposed to new global identities. This research will interrogate 1) social causes underlying the rise and shift in youth socio-cultural identities, 2) the uses of social media to overcome the current challenges that are intrinsic to their coping with unprecedented uncertainties. The issues of concerned in this proposed project investigating the lives of young people may delve deeper: mental health and mental well-being, consumption of symbols mediated by social networking sites (i.e Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and self-risking behaviors.

Local Social Media Responses to Sharia Law in Brunei


Brunei Darussalam is a small nation of less than half a million people. However, with the recently completed implementation of the third (of three) phases of Sharia Law, Brunei has been thrust into the international spotlight. Discussions and rhetoric abound across the world, and multiple reactions and responses have been shared, analyzed, and shared again. One of the main avenues for these is the social mediascape — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the slightly more ostensibly private encrypted spaces of messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram. This is none too surprising given the ubiquity of social media today and its role as a digital commons of sorts where discourse of all kinds and purposes takes place. Social media also allows the easy dissemination of information across the world, resulting in some from the outside assuming the mantle of ‘defender of the downtrodden’; many have taken offense on behalf of the supposed beleaguered masses who purportedly suffer under laws many global on-lookers describe as barbaric and backward. However, given that Brunei reportedly has one of the highest instances of social media penetration in the region (and possible globally), to what extent are local voices represented in the online echo chamber of discussion of Brunei’s Sharia Law? And what are these local voices saying about Sharia Law and the current clime within this small Islamic nation? This paper aims to examine publicly available local social media responses to Sharia Law in Brunei, and consider the different viewpoints and perspectives of those whose daily lives may — or may not — be affected by Sharia.

English as medium of instruction in Southeast Asian Higher Education Institutions


This is a collaborative project led by Prof Roger Barnard, Waikato University and Zuwati Hashim, Universiti Malaya, that investigates the status, challenges and directions of the use of English as a medium of instruction in various Southeast Asian nations. The project will lead to a publication of a volume by Taylor & Francis.

Virtual Learning Environment for Developing Accountability


Hedges are powerful tool that manages the distance between a claim or ideology and the writer. These linguistic tokens are often seen to be overused by novice writers. Noticeably, students often hide behind hedges or simply agree to expert knowledge holistically so as to not carry the weight of proving ideational claims. This research attempts to identify possible avenues to encourage the development of students’ accountability, as hedges as indicators, through the use of virtual learning environment such as Canvas. Textual analysis is performed on more than 200 discussion and comment posts to identify the various hedges used by the participants.

Learners as Educators in the Virtual Absence of Authority


Educators often find themselves asking and answering their own questions, and learners parroting what is delivered in classes in examinations. This is noticeable throughout the teaching strata, from primary, to secondary and university classroom settings. The learning that takes place is restricted and streamlined, naturally because there is only one way of thinking – “the educator’s way”. This results in the lack of creativity, proactivity and innovative thinking in learners. This research attempts to identify possible avenues to encourage the expansion of students’ accountability in learning through the use of e-learning technologies such as Canvas.

The pronunciation of the indigenous languages of Brunei Darussalam


The aim of this project is to collect a recording of the Angin Utara ('North Wind and the Sun') text read in each of these indigenous languages and then complete a phonological analysis of the passage. The seven indigenous languages that are officially recognised in Brunei Darussalam are Malay, Kedayan, Dusun, Bisaya, Tutong, Belait, and Murut. This project enables us to provide a description of the pronunciation of these languages which can help in the preservation of some of these languages.

Making Sense of ‘Dusunness’: Reconceptualising Ethnic Representation and Identity


This study aims to extend Frederik Barth’s work (1969) on ethnic boundaries to reconceptualise Dusun identity as a zero sum game, and to move away from treating ethnic identity as deculturation and loss of identity. Other major objectives of the study are to identify variations in the representations of ‘Dusun’ in official discourses and state narratives in the colonial and post-colonial periods in Brunei and to some extent, Sabah. This study will also give consideration to emic and etic perspectives in order to understand the ways the Dusuns identity themselves and make sesen of ‘Dusunness’ in everyday life. By collating in-depth qualitative data, this project will provide important insights and information on a significant ‘puak’ in Brunei and their status, and their contribution to nation building and formation of national identity.

Emerging Environmental Awareness in 20th-Century Accounts of Flight


This project examines twentieth-century author-aviators' flight accounts as sources of an environmentalist discourse that see relations between the human, technology, and nature as synergetic and collaborative rather than hierarchical. These author-aviators were significantly aware of how the airplane, the aviator, and the surrounding environment necessarily sustain each others' functions in order to produce flight. The aviator – traditionally seen as superior to the machine and the environment – thus becomes re-positioned as a collaborator.

Oil in the Bruneian Imagination


Oil’s integral role in the shaping of modern Brunei demands that literature produced within the nation after 1929 be examined under a petrocritical lens. This paper seeks to examine how petroleum is imagined in contemporary Bruneian fiction. In contrast to literature from other petrocultures that reveal destructive relationships between themselves and oil, fiction from Brunei appears to portray the opposite as the stories demonstrate the debt modern civilization owes to the extraction of oil. The burgeoning of nationalistic novels post-independence, for example, can be seen as one of the products of a booming oil economy that helped pave the way for the nation’s independence in the first place. However, with growing global realization of the downsides to being fossil fuel-dependent, such as the environmental degradation caused and the volatility of the economy, local writers are also coming to terms with the complications of the nation’s dependence on oil. On shaky ground, how then, should Bruneian stories be narrated? In recent years, this challenge has resulted in the imagining of alternate visions of the nation, which can be seen in Amir Falique’s The Forlorn Adventure, which is set in a distant future, and Aamton Alias’s The Bunian Conspiracy series, which partly takes place in another dimension. The former imagines a far more modernised Brunei with a booming economy, thus showing an optimistic vision of the local petroculture in the future. In the latter novel, a battle over the land ensues between humans and spirits that implicitly raises the question of whether mankind really has any right towards (exploiting) the land. These stories of other versions of Brunei reveal the challenges posed by writing from within an oil-dependent nation.

Media discourse of reports on the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement: A comparative analysis of UK and Malay World newspapers. (Dr Andrew Kythreotis, PI, Dr Sharifah N Alkaff Dr Siti Mazidah Mohamad Dr J McLellan)

  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Contact:Dr James McLellan
  • Application invited for:n/a


4 key research questions: 1. What concerns about anthropogenic climate change are revealed through how the media in the UK and the Malay World framed the Paris Agreement? 2. To what degree are the three main frameworks for responding to climate change, catastrophism, gradualism and scepticism, revealed in this corpus? 3. Did the respective reporting of the Paris Agreement lead to any changes in government climate policy in the countries covered in the project over a timeframe of 6 months? 4. How can the project findings assist His Majesty’s Government with respect to future policy trajectories related to national and international climate change commitments and Wawasan 2035 in Brunei Darussalam?

Borneo and Mindanao: A comparative study of translanguaging practices and identity projection, negotiation and concealment.

  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Contact:Dr James McLellan
  • Application invited for:n/a


This project compares and contrasts the languages and peoples of two large islands of insular Southeast Asia, Borneo and Mindanao, focussing on multilingualism, and on interactions within and between ethnolinguistic communities. Whilst there are comparisons to be made using binary polarities e.g. coastal vs interior, indigenous vs immigrant, it is hoped that this project can break new ground by going beyond such simplistic frameworks in order to show that the region can be a locus for development of new theoretical and methodolgical approaches that are locally derived, not imported from elsewhere in the world. Translanguaging (Garcia & Li Wei 2014) is an alternative term for language mixing, language alternation or code switching, more appropriate to multilingual insular Southeast Asia. Identity projection is how communities and individuals view themelves and wish to be viewed by others. Identity negotiation is relevant in contexts where minority groups are part of larger polities and may thus feel that they have to subsume, or even conceal, their identity, language and culture. This is applicable to Mindanao as part of the Philippines governed from Manila, and to Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan in Borneo, ruled from Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta respectively. Brunei Darussalam is the only independent polity not controlled from outside.

Use of English in the professional world in China: A comparative perspective with other EFL/ESL nations


The present project intends to explore the use of English in the professional world in China. In contrast to the use of English in Brunei, one of the dominant themes of the literature on language in China is the belief that English, particularly its spoken form, plays a limited role in the lives of the country’s mainly Chinese-speaking population. For this reason, it is argued, there is no societal basis for the development of Chinese English. One of the limitations of this argument is that it is based on expert opinion rather than empirical evidence about the nature and extent of English use in the lives of China’s educated people. This project aims to examine the results of a survey involving about 2,500 English users in China which seeks to generate much-needed baseline data about patterns of language choice and use in one centrally important yet overlooked domain: the professional workplace. Its findings may indicate the importance of English use in the workplace of China’s professionals, and in-depth analysis and comparison of the findings will be conducted in relation to English use in other EFL/ESL nations, including Brunei, as reported in previous literature. The project will hopefully provide significant implications for English education in China as well as other EFL/ESL nations.

Foreign language learning anxiety in China: Theories and applications in English language teaching


With more than 50 years’ development, the study on foreign language learning anxiety (FLLA) still remains a popular research topic among scholars in western countries. Though at its initial stage of development in China, FLLA has caught increasing attention from Chinese researchers in recent years, and it has been frequently discussed in journal and newspaper articles. FLLA is believed to be one important reason for students’ “dumb English”. Considering the paucity of monographs on FLLA in China, this project attempts to bridge the gap. The project reviews and discusses previous literature and current status and major issues centering on FLLA worldwide, and explores FLLA in China making use of innovative triangulated research methodology combining both quantitative and qualitative methods, namely, questionnaire surveys, focused interviews, and classroom observations. The project also highlights the significance and implications of the conclusions drawn, and then envisions the future of FLLA research globally with a particular focus on China. Readers can derive from this project the latest developments and issues concerning FLLA, the reasons leading to FLLA and the verified effective strategies alleviating such anxiety, which will be of great interest and benefit to them.

Global Encounters and the Arts in Southeast Asia. From the Bronze Age to European Colonialism Globalization and the Arts in Southeast Asia. The Rise of a New Art World

  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Contact:Dr Rui Oliveira Lopes
  • Application invited for:one PhD and one MA candidate


This project discusses the artistic and cultural exchanges in the context of trade, migrations, and circulation of knowledge across the South China Sea. It examines artistic experience and its role in the transmission of knowledge, in the adaptation of transcultural discourses, and in the formation / transformation of cultural identities. The arts in Southeast Asia have been analysed and studied under the perspective of isolated geographies and cultural identities and only sporadically understood under the context of a global art history. Throughout the centuries, the South China Sea served as a platform for intercultural dialogue not only for surrounding cultures but also for distinct European powers with distinctive modes of cultural interaction. The understanding of the arts in Southeast Asia in a global perspective requires a fundamental reconceptualisation of the objects, material culture, themes, and methods under a "de-centralized” art history crossing the historical and the contemporary.

Architectural Heritage in Brunei Darussalam: Safeguarding, Identity and Sustainability

  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Contact:Dr Rui Oliveira Lopes
  • Application invited for:one PhD and one MA candidate


The UNESCO 1972 World Heritage Convention, ratified by Brunei Darussalam in 2011, recognises the universal value of cultural heritage momuments, groups of buildings, and historical sites from the point of view of cultural history, design, science and technology. Historical buildings are not simply human made structures, but rather an expression of cultural identities, principles of governance, religious beliefs, and also stands as a carrier of collective memories. An architectural heritage should be interpreted as an ‘artefact’ in relation to the formative process of cultural expressions. This research project intends to understand the cultural, stylistic and historical significance of architectural heritage in Brunei Darussalam in order to ensure its safeguarding and sustainability. For this project we focus on the use of digital technologies to support the surveying and archival analysis of architectural heritage in Brunei Darussalam. Through the methods of digital humanities, this project endeavour is focused on the documentation (geometric, architectural, historical) through 2D and 3D drawings, creating digital and interactive maps for geo-spatial, contextual, and phenomenological navigation to locate architectural heritage. This project aims to make an inventory of architectural heritage in Brunei and use digital humanities to create an interactive and open access platform designed for education, conservation, cultural management, safeguarding awareness, social responsibility, and tourism development.

Higher Education and Creative Employment

  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Contact:Dr Rui Oliveira Lopes
  • Application invited for:one PhD and one MA candidate


Over the last decades, in tandem with the fast growing creative economy and a better understanding of the economic, social and cultural impact of the CCI, many universities have been establishing tailored academic programmes, faculties, schools and institutes, to respond to a demand for creative workforce. However, with a growing number of technical tools made available, the democratisation of knowledge (through online tutorials / how to), and the informal nature of the CCI ecologies some of the questions that can be raised are: what is the employment rate of creative graduates with a related job position? How are higher education institutions responding to employers needs? Are creative employers preferring to employ candidates with a CCI related degree or anyone with technical skill / experience will do?

Social Media, Risk Perception, and Risk Communication of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam


This proposed research is part of the research collaboration on Risk Communication and COVID-19 between Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Health Promotion Centre, Ministry of Health, Brunei Darussalam. This research, Social Media, Risk Perception, and Risk Communication of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam, is motivated by two important matters: one, how social media can be effectively utilised to communicate information on the COVID-19 for public health awareness and interventions; and two, how circulation of social media contents could create confusion, uncertainties, and underperceived/overperceived risks among the public due to misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. In this context, we question the level and experience of consumption and transaction of social media content on COVID-19 among public in Brunei and the impacts on their risk perception. According to Kemp (2020), social media penetration in Brunei is 94% (410,000 population) by January 2020. The growth in the size of the digitally connected group consuming social media contents in the nation justifies this interest in looking into social media use in risk communication in Brunei Darussalam. Given the intensive digital transaction on social mediascape, this research aims to examine the consumption and transaction of social media content on COVID-19 among public in Brunei Darussalam and the impact of their social media transaction on their risk perception of COVID-19. Operationally, via a mixed method approach (Questionnaire Survey, Focus Group Discussion with Photo-Elicitation method, and Qualitative Content Analysis of social media content), this research seeks to investigate: one, the official social media content on COVID-19 circulated by health practitioners and health organisations; two, the social media content on COVID-19 consumed by public in Brunei; three, their risk perception and understanding of the COVID-19 based on the social media contents transacted and consumed; four, their own appropriation, framing, and circulation of COVID-19 on their social media platforms; and five, their health and behavioural practices as a response to their risk perception of COVID-19. This research is expected to offer the general public’s social media consumption in relation to the current COVID-19 disease outbreak, which in the long run is hoped to provide researchers, Ministry of Health, and relevant stakeholders with the baseline data on social media consumption in the country for drafting contextually relevant risk management strategies in the nation.

Visible and Influential: Young Bruneian Muslims' use of Instagram for Self-Branding and Identity Expression


Most young people are taking to online sites to express their individualities and narrating their selves via their everyday self-disclosure. In Brunei Darussalam, Instagram is seemingly use actively as a space and/or as a tool to express one’s self and identity. In a short span of time, we witness distinct and innovative social practices such as the growth of Bruneian contemporary Muslim fashion industry, fed by these young people’s compulsion to share everyday activities on their social media. By observing young Muslim Bruneians online sharing on their Instagram profiles could provide us a window into the society’s dynamic socio-cultural and religious fabrics. This surge of individualised sharing by young Muslim Bruneians led the researchers to question the individual’s intention of their own sharing practices, and if they intentionally and strategically take advantage of the user-driven sharing capability of social media for self-branding and self-development. Via personal conversations with young Muslim Bruneians and supplemented by observation of their Instagram activities and a survey, the researchers aim to reveal their self-disclosure practices on their Instagram profile, their future aspirations connected to their self-disclosure, and finally, to portray the power social media has in shaping the future of the young generations in Brunei.

Knowledge Politics and Southeast Asia: Re-orienting Progressive Scholarship


Using a range of cases drawn from the analysis of knowledge production and consumption in and on Southeast Asia, this book illustrates the various ways scholarship may be simultaneously and fundamentally political. It builds upon, and extends, the arguments developed in my recently published book Power and Knowledge in Southeast Asia: State and Scholars in Indonesia and the Philippines (Curaming 2020, Routledge). By underscoring the power of scholars and scholarship, rather than their supposed neutral or antithetical relationship with politics, this proposed book argues for the need to re-orient progressive scholarship away from the usual intellectualist critique, towards the mapping out of the power relations that underpin knowledge production and actual consumption. The reason for this lies in the need to lessen the chance of scholarship, including progressive ones, being misused by the already powerful and jeopardize in the process the interests of the unsuspecting public. This alternative approach entails pushing, rather than taming, the logic of the analysis of power/knowledge to its conclusion. That is, regardless of empirical accuracy, theoretical salience, analytic cogency and methodological soundness, a scholarly output is enabled, validated, perceived and used within the matrices of power relations, which include the field of scholarship itself. Thus, it cannot but be politically implicated and must be taken and analysed as such. and it is just the question of whose politics it supports: leftist, rightists, centrist, or itself.

The Historical is Political: The Jabidah Massacre in/as History, Memory and Heritage


This book project analyzes an iconic episode in the history of the Philippines and Mindanao, in particular, the Jabidah massacre, through the analytic frames of history, memory and heritage. Closely related and often conveniently differentiated, history, memory and heritage represent the evolving and expanding approaches to and conceptions and uses of past phenomena. At the same time, they signify the different ways aspects of the past and present are conceived or concealed for a supposedly better or grander future. They, in short, are among the various names through which politics are played out in disguise. They are also frames through which politics may be subtly but more productively examined. This book examines the possible reasons and the different temporal and positional standpoints that enabled the event to be understood, denied or claimed by groups or individuals as a historical event. It illuminates why the tag ‘history’ matters to various stakeholders and how and why the topography of memory of this event had since then been uneven, at times forgotten, and then remembered, by whom, through what mediums, and in what contexts. The authors of this book will scrutinize the discursive regimes and socio-political and material contexts that facilitated the gradual transformation of memories of this event into a kind of a cultural artifact that forms part of the heritage of struggle among the Muslims and non-Muslims in the Philippines. Whether as history, or memory or heritage, political interests among various stakeholders underpin the various framings of the Jabidah massacre. This book uncovers the ways in which these politics enter into the realms of history-writing, memory-making and heritage-construction about the Jabidah massacre. Our angle of vision is directed to not only exposing the implicit politics but also how the use of different names or conceptual frames allows the sinister side of politics to be concealed. An important question will be raised and addressed: what roles do the writing, memory-making, and monumentalizing of the past play in support of unscrupulous politics?

The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement: A comparative analysis of media and subsequent policy discourses from the UK and Malay World.


The Paris Climate Agreement (PCA) of 2015 promised to pave the way for more transformational climate policy (Kythreotis, 2015). However, a heterogeniety of discourses representing climate change – scepticism, gradualism and catostrophism – have remained prevalent within society. Whilst there has been scientific and policy strides with respect to tackling anthropogenic climate change (ACC), an important question remains as to the role played by the media in framing such prevalent discourses on climate change. This project will evaluate the concerns related to ACC by conducting a critical discourse analysis (CDA) of UK and Malay World newspapers, examining the degree to which scepticism, gradualism and catastrophism were represented in newspaper articles after the 2015 PCA, and to see whether there was any correlation between newspaper reporting and subsequent changes in government policies on climate change in the case study countries. In doing this, this research will add new empirical and theoretical insights into how we understand the relationship between media, science and policy discourses on climate change, which could then lead to more effective future policy on climate change.

Exploring the potential of Agritourism in Brunei (Principal Investigator)


In Brunei, agritourism is a concept that is often associated with heritage-based or nature-based tourism, especially in light of Brunei’s history with agriculture being the main mode of subsistence for rural communities. As one of Brunei’s tourism product is nature-based tourism such as places like Temburong, it naturally make sense to study how this kind of nature-based tourism could help in the livelihood of the local communities via tourism such as farm to table. To date, limited study has been carried out to explore the sustainability of this type of tourism in Brunei, the impact it has on the local communities, the challenges that small farmers are facing. These are all important questions that needs to be answered in order to improve on the tourism experience and product as well as sustain what Brunei is promoting. To achieve sustainable tourism and proper management, it is important to explore the key areas to improve and the challenges and perceptions of local farmers to ensure inclusivity of local communities.The main aim of this research is to explore the potential of agri-tourism in Brunei. The objectives of the research are to: 1. Explore the benefits of agri-tourism to the sustainability of the economy and to the livelihoods of small farmers and their community 2. Investigate the challenges of agri-tourism to small farmers and their community 3. Identify the key areas to improve to develop agri-tourism in Brunei

Environmental assessment on Brunei River for sustainable tourism (Co-Principal Investigator)


The effects of tourism on aquatic environments have been mainly studied for coastal marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, but not for tropical rivers and estuaries. Brunei River nurtures mangrove forests and wild animals and plants and therefore, is one of the most important resources for tourism in Brunei. However, none of research projects monitors this aquatic environment, which may be affected by various global and local environmental changes, including the effects of increasing touristic activities. This research project aims (1) to perform qualitative research on how the environmental conditions and tourism status on Brunei River have been changed by asking tourism-related people, (2) to sort out environmental parameters that should be carefully monitored for sustainable tourism at the target sites, (3) to monitor and analyze the environmental conditions and to detect existing or potential risks of deterioration of the aquatic environment, and (4) to propose proper management strategies for maintaining sustainable tourism in Brunei River. It is expected that a role model of balancing nature conservation and tourism development will be proposed for tropical rivers through this project.

Teraja Ecotourism Development Project: Facilitating sustainable growth (Principal Investigator)


The rationale of this is to assess ecotourism development in the area using TIES (The International Ecotourism Society) guidelines in order to gauge the degree of compliance in Teraja with ecotourism principles and practices. Many ecotourism ventures are not true ecotourism because they do not abide to the principles and practices of ecotourism, which defeat the notion of Sustainable Development. Nature-based tourism carried out without the necessary safeguards often results in undesirable impacts to the environment, ecosystem and or local community.