Southeast Asia Initiative

In recent years, Harvard University has expanded its offerings in Southeast Asian Studies with faculty appointments, courses, language study, conferences, workshops, student programs, travel grants and fellowships, and such activities as a film series and seminar series.

Two rapidly growing programs are the Thai Studies Program and the Indonesia Program, which build on earlier work by faculty and by programs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Kennedy School of Government. In most, if not all cases, the Harvard University Asia Center has played a key role in implementing or convening these initiatives. In particular, the Asia Center has worked to develop the following two programs.

The Thai Studies Program
The Thai Studies Program, under the direction of Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, formed as a result of the Asia Center receiving seed funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand to support language instructors and courses at several levels of proficiency. This funding has been reinforced by private donations for the establishment of a new professorship in Thai Studies and an annual lecture series named for the late Professor Stanley Tambiah in which representatives of academia, business, government, and other professions will give public presentations. The inaugural Tambiah Lecture took place in October 2014 and was delivered by Professor Katherine A. Bowie, University of Wisconsin, Madison (watch video). In the Fall of 2015, Prof. Justin McDaniel, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania, gave the lecture entitled "On the Back Streets of the Galactic Polity: Studying Indian Religions in Modern Thailand."

The Thailand@Harvard lecture series began in 2012 with a lecture given by Dr. Komatra Chuengsatiensup, Director, Society and Health Institute, Ministry of Public Health, Bangkok, who spoke on “After the Flood: Reaction, Relief and Recovery in Thailand.” The most recent Thailand@Harvard lecture was in fall 2016 with a talk (see event report) by Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk titled "Holding Governments and Journalists Accountable: Rights and Responsibilities of a Free Press in Thailand."

Jeffrey Cheah Exchange Program
The Jeffrey Cheah Exchange Program was established in order to advance Southeast Asia-focused teaching and research by faculty and students of Harvard University and to support short-term visits for Southeast Asia-based scholars to engage with Harvard.

Malaysia/Cheah Professorship and Travel Grants in Southeast Asia
The Asia Center has also recently secured funding for a new professorship in Southeast Asian Studies.  The funding supports research and travel in Southeast Asia, as well as a faculty and scholar exchange program between Harvard University and Sunway University in Malaysia.

New programs in Southeast Asian Studies are also planned in collaboration with other schools, departments, and programs at Harvard University and with Harvard alumni from the region.  

Southeast Asia Seminar
The Asia Center sponsors a number of Southeast Asia-focused seminars and panels throughout the year that address a range of topics as the region becomes increasingly important in both Asian and global affairs.

Stay tuned for updates on new initiatives in Southeast Asia.