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Outline and Structure

The study of Southeast Asia has a long tradition in the University of Oxford. For as long as the modern field of Southeast Asian studies has existed, academics have been engaged in ground-breaking research. Courses in Southeast Asia have been offered in Oxford to enthusiastic student audiences for generations, as has a popular seminar series in contemporary Southeast Asian studies. However, no single body has ever brought together these disparate threads of expertise and bound them together.

Recognising Southeast Asia’s tremendous importance, we propose the creation of Project Southeast Asia, with the ultimate aim of the creation of a Centre in Southeast Asian Studies in Oxford University.

The Project will present the opportunity to maximise the vast potential that Oxford offers for Southeast Asian studies by integrating a large number of academics and students within the University’s departments and faculties from across the social sciences and humanities. This will enable scholars from many different fields of expertise – including politics/international relations, history, anthropology, and development studies – to take advantage of the synergies inherent in collaboration and shared resources.

In addition to bringing together many of the most distinguished academics in the field of Southeast Asian studies, the Project will attract the best and brightest new talent for the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge about countries in the Southeast Asian region.

Rich in resources – including the Bodleian Library and Departmental and Faculty libraries, the Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean Museums – Oxford is particularly well-placed to promote the study of Southeast Asia.

Project Southeast Asia will be dedicated to a multi-pronged approach that brings scholars together to study critical themes, including:

Southeast Asia across time

The pre-modern Southeast Asian civilisations were subsequently conditioned by Indic, particularly Buddhist and Islamic, influences; by Chinese culture and commerce; by western colonialism; and by modern globalisation and the spread of information technology. A rich, unique, multi-layered heritage has emerged. In particular, the impact of and response to colonialism has a continuing influence on democracy and governance in post-colonial Southeast Asia, as well as on the relationship between state and society, and will be a key theme.

Southeast Asia as a unique and dynamic region

The Project will examine Southeast Asia both as a unit and as a region of considerable complexity and diversity. It will develop transregional approaches to the study of all 11 Southeast Asian countries, as well as seeking to understand Southeast Asia within broader Asian, and global contexts.

Southeast Asia in interdisciplinary perspective

Scholars will take advantage of synergies arising from Oxford’s world-leading expertise in anthropology, history, politics, development studies, human sciences, medical sciences and religious studies, among others.

Contemporary Southeast Asia

Issues facing Southeast Asia include the pressing areas of ageing, armed conflict, terrorism, piracy, energy security, environmental protection, infectious diseases, urbanisation, industrialisation, and migration. The Project will seek to make practical and important contributions to policy-making in Southeast Asia and globally in these areas as well as more generally in the fields of security studies, demography, public health, the environment, sustainable development, technological change, public sector management, political communication and the impact of displacement on Southeast Asian culture and society.

The Project is likely to comprise:

  • Governing Body Fellows/University Lecturers in fields pertaining to Southeast Asia
  • Senior and Junior Research Fellows, researching aspects of Southeast Asia
  • Students of Southeast Asian Studies, some on fully funded scholarships
  • Visiting fellows from Southeast Asian institutions
  • Academic activities such as conferences, publications, seminars and language courses
  • A library and archival resources
  • A full-time Administrator to oversee the day-to-day running of the Project

The Project will provide a critical interface for the University’s relations with business, governmental and non-governmental institutions involved with Southeast Asia. It will also forge closer links between the University of Oxford and Southeast Asia, hosting visitors and delegations from the region, and disseminating knowledge about the ongoing research and teaching within the University and beyond.

Further steps to be considered for the ultimate creation of a Centre in Southeast Asian Studies include the creation of a Professorship in Southeast Asian Studies and the development of a Master’s Course in Southeast Asian Studies.