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ISEK - Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies Social and Cultural Anthropology

Southeast Asia

How does the ‘modernization’ of marketplaces affect the lives of and connections between Vietnamese traders? How do people in Myanmar experience the recent opening up of the country and the resulting rapid change? What does the study of an everyday cooking fuel tell us about the unfolding of Đổi Mới, the reform processes launched in Vietnam in 1986? How do new digital technologies influence development processes and interventions in Cambodia? How are the religious and the secular negotiated in the context of everyday coexistence in a Malaysian high-rise building? What links local spice farmers in the highlands of Vietnam to the global pharmaceutical industry? How do Indonesian maids in Malaysia or Cambodian fisherman in Thailand negotiate relationships of dependency in the context of transnational migration?

These are examples of questions that guide our department’s researchers working in and on Southeast Asia. The regional focus of Southeast Asia at the anthropology department at ISEK falls under the chair Social Transformation Processes, led by Prof. Dr. Annuska Derks. The term ‘Southeast Asia’ refers to a region characterized by great linguistic, political, cultural and religious diversity. Located between South Asia and East Asia, Southeast Asia is currently one of the most economically dynamic regions of the world. The region is commonly divided into ‘mainland Southeast Asia’ (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar) and ‘Maritime Southeast Asia’ (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam and East Timor). At the department of anthropology at ISEK we have research projects in and in-depth knowledge about both sub-regions.

The anthropological study of Southeast Asia has a long tradition. Several influential theoretical paradigms and anthropological insights have been developed on the basis of field research in Southeast Asia, and more groundbreaking research is constantly being done. These focus on themes such as the state and resistance, religion, syncretism and interreligious coexistence, land rights and indigenous people, gender and kinship, labour, migration, and globalization. At our department, we teach and conduct research on these as well as a variety of other themes and subject matters.

We regularly offer courses on Southeast Asia as a region, or with a focus on one particular country, as well as language courses in Southeast Asian languages such as Khmer, Indonesian or Tagalog. The list of current courses can be found here. Additionally, we regularly organize field research excursions and international summer schools in Southeast Asia. Moreover, we often host scholars of Southeast Asia in our Social Anthropology Colloquium Series.

Our extensive academic network of people and institutions in Southeast Asia is important to our department and allows students and PhD candidates who wish to engage in a dialogue with scholars from Southeast Asia to do so at an early stage in their work. We welcome students interested in conducting research in Southeast Asia to contact us for advice and possible supervision.

The respective research areas and regional expertise of ISEK-staff working on Southeast Asia can be found here:

Prof. Dr. Annuska Derks
Prof. Dr. Willemijn de Jong
PD Dr. Piet van Eeuwijk
Dr. Rivka Eisner
Dr. Kathrin Eitel
Dr. Molly Fitzpatrick
Dr. Esther Horat
Dr. Andreas Isler
Dr. Olivia Killias
Dr. Peter Larsen
Dr. Esther Leemann
Dr. Thi Thanh Nga Mai
Annisa Hartoto
Anaël Jambers
Nadja Kempter
Wahyu Kuncoro
Phuong Nguyen
Georg Winterberger