The University of Western Australia

UWA Staff Profile

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Stephen Dobbs

Assoc/Prof Stephen Dobbs

Associate Professor
Asian Studies

Contact details
Asian Studies
The University of Western Australia (M257)
35 Stirling Highway
+61 8 6488 2002
+61 8 6488 1167
Room G10, Social Sciences Building, Perth campus
BA(AsSt) PhD Murd.
Stephen was awarded his Ph.D in 2000. He been involved in teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students at Murdoch University, University of Adelaide and The University of Western Australia since the early 1990s.
Key research
Stephen has a long standing research interest in the social and political history of Southeast Asia with a particular interest in Singapore and Malaysia.
He has written extensively on the history and early development of the Port of Singapore and maintains an ongoing interest in the port’s role in contemporary Southeast Asia and global maritime trade.
He is also researching aspects of environmental history and development relating to the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand during the period of European colonialism in the region.
His interest in environmental issues and history in the Southeast Asian region has involved research relating to issues around water and development along the Mekong River and Timor Leste.

Dobbs, Stephen. The Singapore River: A Social History 1819-2002. Singapore: Singapore University Press. 2003.

Dobbs, Stephen. Tuan Djek: A Biography. Times Academic Press. Singapore. 2002.


(Co Authors, Carolyn Oldham, Andrea Gaynor, Gregory Crebbin). Engineers Engaging Community: Water and Energy. Morgan & Claypool. 2013.

*Editorial Work On Books*

(Co-editors Loh Kah Seng and Ernest Koh). Oral History in Southeast Asia: Memories and Fragments. Palgrave Macmillan. 2013.


Dobbs, Stephen. "Memory, Heritage and the Singapore River: ‘It is like a dead snake’". In Loh Kah Seng, Ernest Koh and Stephen Dobbs (ed.). Oral History in Southeast Asia: Memories and Fragments. Palgrave Macmillan. 2013.

Dobbs, Stephen. “The Singapore River/Port in a Global Context”. In Derek Heng and Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied (ed.) Singapore in Global History. ICAS Publication Series. Edited Volumes; Amsterdam University Press, 2011.

Dobbs, Stephen. “Australia and Singapore: The Development of Political Relations” In Austin, Ian (ed.), Australia-Singapore Relations: Diplomatic, Strategic, Commercial and Cultural, Select Publishing, Singapore, 2011.

Dobbs, Stephen “Traversing the Boundaries of Historical Research: From the Singapore River to the Kra Canal”. Editors, Loh Kah Seng and Liew Kai Khiun. The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History. Singapore Heritage Society, Ethos Books, Singapore 2010.

Dobbs, Stephen. ‘Entrepot of trade: Southeast Asia until the 1870s’. In The Southeast Asian Handbook (Regional Handbooks of Economic Development). Editors, Patrick Heenan and Monique Lamontagne. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. United States. 2001. pp. 3-11.

*Encyclopaedia and Reference*

Dobbs, Stephen. Entry for ‘Singapore’ in The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Maritime History. Four volumes. Oxford University Press. 2007.

*Journals Refereed*

Dobbs, Stephen; Barrington, Danni; Loden Dan. ‘Social and Environmental Justice for Communities of the Mekong River’. International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice and Peace. Vol. 1. No. 1. 2012, pp. 31-49.

Dobbs, Stephen. ‘Urban redevelopment and the forced eviction of lighters from the Singapore River’. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography. Special edition, ‘Forced Evictions in Tropical Cities’. Guest editors Kris Olds and Scott Leckie. Vol. 23. Issue. 23. November 2002, pp. 288-310.

Dobbs, Stephen. ‘The Singapore River 1819–1869: cradle of a maritime entrepot.’ International Journal of Maritime History. Vol. XIII, No. 2. December 2001, pp. 95-118.

*Journals Non-refereed*

Dobbs, Stephen. ‘Negotiating the research boundaries: The Singapore River experience and beyond’. Tangent. Special edition, ‘The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History’. Singapore. Vol. 6 No. 2. 2007. pp. 72-81.

Dobbs, Stephen. ‘Tongkang, twakow, and lightermen: a people’s history of the Singapore River’. Sojourn. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Singapore. Vol. 9. No. 2. 1994. pp. 269-76.

*Book Reviews*

Dobbs, Stephen. "Review of Reigning the River Urban Ecologies and Political Transformation in Kathmandu", by Anne M. Rademacher, in Postcolonial Studies (Forthcoming).

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of, The Hispanization of the Philippines: Spanish Aims and Filipino Responses, 1565-1700, by Phelan Leddy, in, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. Forthcoming.

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Colonialism, Violence and Muslims in Southeast Asia: The Maria Hertogh Controversy and its aftermath, by Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, in Immigrants and Minorities, 29, 1. 2011.

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Pirates, Prostitutes and Pullers Explorations in the Ethno- and Social History of Southeast Asia, by James Warren, in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, Issue 25, November 2010.

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Paths Not Taken Political Pluralism in Post-War Singapore, by Michael Barr and Carl Trocki (editors). Anthropological Forum. Vol. 20. No. 1. March 2010. pp. 185-186.

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Whither the Philippines in the 21st Century, by Rodolfo C. Severino and Lorraine Carlos Salazar (editors), in Asia Pacific Economic Literature, 22 (2), November 2008.

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Understanding Australia's Neighbours: An Introduction to East and Southeast Asia, by Nick Knight. In New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies. Volume 9. No. 1. June 2007. pp. 194-197

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Respected Citizens: The History of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia. by Nadia Wright. In Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Volume LXXVII. Part 2. 2004. pp. 128-129.

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Singapore in the New Millennium: Challenges Facing the City-State. ed. Derek da Cunha. In Australian Journal of Political Science. Vol. 38. No. 2. 2003. p. 357.

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Past Times: A Social History of Singapore by Chan Kwok Bun and Tong Chee Kiong (Editors). In Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume LXXVI, Part 2, 2003. pp. 124-126.

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Southeast Asian Urbanism: The Meaning and Power of Social Space by Hans-Dieter Evers and Rüdiger Korff. In Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography. Volume 23. Issue 1. March 2002. pp. 124-26.

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Re Orient Change in Asian Societies by Aat Vervoorn. In Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context. Issue 4. September 2000. URL:

Dobbs, Stephen. Review of Singapore and the Indonesian Revolution by Suryono Darusman. In Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. LXVI. Part 2. 1993. pp. 118-20.
Roles, responsibilities and expertise
Stephen has been the Chair of Asian Studies since July 2007.

He has a professional interest in contemporary Southeast Asian politics and society as well as in the social, political and environmental history of the Southeast Asian region. He also maintains an active interest in issues of historical practice and theory.
Funding received
2010 Australian Learning and Teaching Grant (part of a team coordinated by Professor Caroline Baillie from Engineering)
2006 UWA Small Grant
Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
Asian Studies Association Australian
Fellow of the Asia Research Centre (Murdoch University)
Honours and awards
1993 Australian Awards For Research In Asia (Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee)

1990 S.T. Leong Memorial Scholarship Murdoch University
Previous positions
Stephen has taught previously in Asian Studies at Murdoch University and in History at Adelaide University.
Stephen teaches the following first year and upper level Asian Studies units.

ASIA1001 Exploring Asian Identities
ASIA1002 Creating Asian Modernities
ASIA2004 Culture Society and the State in Asia

Completed Doctoral Dissertations:

Aaron Hales. “The State on Stage: A Socio-political Critique of Singaporean Musical Theater”. PhD. University of Western Australia. 2010.

Ernest Koh. “Singapore Stories – Language and Class in Singapore: An investigation into the socio-economic implications of English literacy as a life chance among the ethnic Chinese of Singapore from 1945 to 2000”. PhD. University of Western Australia. 2007.

Jason Lim. “Nationalism, Tea Leaves and A Common Voice: The Fujian-Singapore Tea Trade and the Political and Trading Concerns of the Singapore Chinese Tea Merchants, 1920-1960”. PhD. University of Western Australia”. 2006.

*Teaching Award Nominations*

Excellence in Teaching Nomination 2013
Excellence in Teaching Nomination 2010
Excellence in Teaching Nomination 2009 (Also Research Supervision category).
Excellence in Teaching Nomination 2008
Excellence in Teaching Nomination 2007
Current projects
Recently Stephen has been researching and writing on proposals to construct a shipping canal through the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand. Since at least the middle of the 19th Century this region has been the target of numerous proposals for shipping canals, rail lines and pipe lines. His current research is aimed at providing a history of these schemes and their likely political, economic and environmental impact.

His historical interest in Singapore has seen him recently writing and publishing on the historiography of Singapore.
Research profile
Research profile and publications

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Tuesday, 3 November, 2015 2:39 PM