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Current Research

The Center for Southeast Asia Studies is an Organized Research Unit (ORU) in the University of California system, under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at Berkeley. An advisory committee of UC Berkeley faculty members with research interests in Southeast Asia, led by a faculty Chair, supervises CSEAS, directing its outreach and research programs and strategic direction.

The CSEAS research platform highlights both individual faculty member projects as well as interdisciplinary approaches involving faculty members working in different departments. A new rubric, Southeast Asia in the World, is currently being finalized with the intent to focus on specific projects over a longer term that would bring together a range of disciplinary approaches and interests.


Faculty Research

Pheng Cheah is the Chair of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. He has been working on a book exploring theories of the world and world literature in an era of global financialization. Prof. Cheah gave the 2014 Lacay Lecture at Georgetown University in September 2014 and will be a keynote speaker at the Luce Irigaray Conference in Melbourne in December 2014. He participated at a special conference honoring Jonathan Culler at Cornell University in October 2014 and presented a paper at the international conference "Asia and Europe in Translation" at the University of Zurich in November 2014.

His latest publications include the following book chapters:“World as Picture and Ruination: On Jia Zhangke’s Still Life as World Cinema” in The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Cinemas (Oxford University Press, 2013), edited by Carlos Rojas and Eileen Chow; “The Material World of Comparison,” in Comparison: Theories, Approaches, Uses (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), edited by Rita Felski and Susan Stanford Friedman; “To Open: Hospitality and Alienation,” in The Conditions of Hospitality: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics on the Threshold of the Possible (Fordham University Press, 2013), edited by Thomas Claviez; “Acceptable Uses of People,” in Human Rights at the Crossroads (Oxford University Press, 2013), edited by Mark Goodale; “The Physico-Material Bases of Cosmopolitanism,” in Varieties of Sovereignty and Citizenship (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), edited by Sigal R. Ben-Porath and Rogers Smith; “What is a World? On World Literature as Cosmopolitanism,” in Routledge Handbook of Cosmopolitan Studies (Routledge, 2012), edited by Gerard Delanty; and “Cosmopolitanism,” in Die Interkulturalitäts-debatte: Leit- und Streitbegriffe/Intercultural Discourse – Key and Contested Concepts (Karl Alber Verlag, 2012), edited by Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach, Gita Dharampal-Frick and Minou Friele. He contributed the article “‘The World is Watching’: The Mediatic Structure of Cosmopolitanism” to a special issue on cosmopolitanism and the new news media in Journalism Studies 14: 2 (2013).

Catherine Ceniza Choy is Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies. Her new book, Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption, was recently published by New York University Press. She is working with Michael Omi on a new book project to edit the writings of the late Ronald Takaki, founder of UC Berkeley's Ph.D. program in Ethnic Studies.

Prof. Choy presented papers on Filipino nurses and migration at the 6th Conference for the Asian Society for the History of Medicine held at Keio University in December 2012, and on Filipina businesswoman Apolonia Dangzalan at the 44th Annual Conference of the Western Association of Women Historians in Berkeley in May 2012. She was awarded one of the two Organization of American Historians/Japanese Association of American Studies (OAH-JAAS) short-term residencies in Japan in 2012, with her residency taking place at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo.

Penny Edwards is developing a book manuscript on the life in exile of Prince Myingun Min of Burma and received a Mellon Project Grant (2011-2013) awarded by UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Sciences for a biographical project exploring the lives of Alexandra David Neel, Yongden Lama, Mirra Alfassa, Sri Aurobindo, Suzanne Karpeles and Chuon Nath. She is on leave in 2014.

Jeffrey Hadler is the Chair of the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies. He was awarded the Harry Benda Prize at the 2011 Association of Asian Studies annual meeting for his book, Muslims and Matriarchs: Cultural Resilience in Indonesia through Jihad and Colonialism (Cornell, 2008). The Benda Prize is given annually by the AAS Southeast Asia Council to an outstanding younger scholar for a first book in the field of Southeast Asian Studies. This is the third time this prestigious award has been given to a UC Berkeley faculty member. Prof. Hadler is working on a new research project focused on the Indonesian painter Nashar who was active during the turbulent period in Indonesian cultural history in the 1960s and into the 1970s. 

Aihwa Ong gave the Moses Memorial Lecture at UC Berkeley in March 2014 on the topic, "Where the Wild Genes Are". She spoke on “Assemblage as Method” at the International Studies Association Meetings in April 2013 in San Francisco and gave an address on “Why Singapore Trumps Iceland” at the 3rd Biopoleis Conference at the National University of Singapore in July 2013. In October 2013 she gave the Wendt Lecture at Princeton University.

Prof. Ong’s recent articles include “What Marco Polo Forgot: Contemporary Chinese Art Negotiates the Global,” Current Anthropology 53:4 (2012); “A Milieu of Mutations: The Pluripotency and Fungibility of Life in Asia,” East Asian Science, Technology and Society 7 (2013) and “Powers of Sovereignty: State, People, Wealth, Life,” Focaal, Journal of Global & Historical Anthropology 62 (2012). She is co-editor, with Prof. Ananya Roy, of Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments in the Art of Being Global (Wiley, 2011) to which she also contributed the chapter, “Hyperbuilding: Spectacle, Speculation and the Hyperspace of Sovereignty”. 

Nancy Lee Peluso is working on a manuscript examining forests and land issues in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, and is developing some new research projects, including planning a return to the teak forests of Java where urbanization, agrarian development, migration and other issues have dramatically changed local landscapes from when she first conducted fieldwork in this region. Prof. Jeff Hadler and Prof. Peluso were the convenors for UCLA's April 2013 Indonesian Studies conference, "Critical Histories of Activism: Indonesia's New Order and Its Legacies". Recent publications include a special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies, co-edited with Christian Lund, that has now been published as a book, New Frontiers of Land Control (Routledge, 2012), and includes her chapter contribution, “Emergent Forest and Private Land Regimes in Java”. She is on leave in 2014.

Sylvia Tiwon contributed the article, “Lust of the Eye: The Act of Killing and Aesthetic Sensibility” to a special issue of Critical Asian Studies focused on the controversial and award-winning documentary about Indonesia. She will be on leave for Spring 2015.

Khatharya Um published an article "Exiled Memory: History, Identity and Remembering in Southeast Asia and Southeast Asian Diaspora" in positions: asia critique 20.3 (2012) in a special themed issue on Southeast Asian American Studies. Prof. Um participated in the April 2013 Seasons of Cambodia festival in New York City, including moderating a symposium on Cambodian culture and the arts at the Asia Society, with Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, Him Sophy and Sopheap Pich. This discussion is available as a webcast. Prof. Um also presented a paper on memory and Cambodian-Americans at the Creation and Postmemory conference held in conjunction with the festival at Columbia University.

Peter Zinoman has recently published a new book, Vietnamese Colonial Republican: The Political Vision of Vu Trong Phung (University of California Press, 2013).  He will participate in the international conference "Engaging with Vietnam" being held at the University of Oregon in November 2014.