History

The University of Michigan is proud of a long history of involvement in Asian studies. Since the 1870s, scholars from the University have been engaged in research, education, service, and politics relating to South and Southeast Asia. The Center for Southeast Asian Studies emerged in the fall of 1999 from the former Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, which was established in 1961. One of the largest programs devoted to this region in the U.S., the center seeks to promote a broader and deeper understanding of Southeast Asia, its people and their cultures. Over 40 Southeast Asia specialists teach and pursue research in the University's various departments and professional schools. Research resources include library collections containing some 158,400 volumes in Western and Asian languages, the Gedney Collection of Thai materials, and the Worcester Collection of early publications on Philippine life and nineteen pieces of sculpture, as well as an archive of over 100,000 photos and slides donated by the Southeast Asia Art Foundation. Languages taught by Center faculty include Filipino, Indonesian, Tagolog, Thai and Vietnamese, with readings in Burmese, Khmer, Javanese and Old Javanese (Kawi) also available. CSEAS hosts Fridays-at-Noon talks, annual Javanese gamelan concerts, and lectures on current issues by Center associates and guest speakers.

Over the past forty-five years, the center has fulfilled an important role in the United States by educating outstanding Southeast Asian experts. Since the center was founded, over 195 M.A. and 245 Ph.D. students associated with the center have graduated. On average, there are 40 M.A. and Ph.D. students in residence each year. The center's M.A. program is offered through Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

Since 1993, the center has been administratively affiliated with the University's International Institute. The Institute is responsible for the coordination of research and training in international, comparative, and area studies with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA), as well as between LSA and schools and colleges across the University. This affiliation significantly increases the center's ability to draw on new funding and programmatic resources for its own activities.

Our teaching program draws from, and is sustained by, faculty associates who have their primary appointments in academic departments and schools. Our program stresses proficiency, both in particular disciplines and in area training. Faculty associates are drawn from the humanities, social and natural sciences, and professional schools. Academic excellence of the departments and schools at the University of Michigan insures the presence of outstanding Southeast Asia specialists, and these two conditions in turn attract excellent students.

Not all of our activities are focused on education. Traditionally, our faculty associates have been engaged in a wide range of service activities, including consulting for the U.S. government, foundations, and international agencies; assisting economic development, public health, population planning, and refugee relief programs; collaborating on faculty exchanges with Southeast Asian academic institutions; conducting workshops and institutes for educators in primary and secondary schools; and advising various business communities.

From its inception the center has been aware of its responsibilities in promoting a broader and deeper understanding of Southeast Asia and its peoples. Because such understanding is well achieved through personal experience, we seek opportunities for faculty and students to interact with peoples of the region. We encourage students to go to the field for study, service, temporary employment, or independent research, advising them on securing resources to sponsor this work. Students participate in faculty research projects in the field, and usually conduct field research in connection with the Ph.D. dissertation. We provide support to our faculty to secure grants for research in Asia, and to bring Southeast Asian scholars to Michigan.

Southeast Asian students and scholars who come to Michigan provide excellent opportunities for Michigan students and faculty to interact personally with one another. Besides short-term visitors, we enjoy the company of Southeast Asian scholars as guest speakers or visiting faculty members every year. The academic programs of the University of Michigan in general, and the center in particular, attract many Southeast Asian students. They are an important part of the life of the center, individually and through their national student organizations, and they enrich its programs, activities and experiences on a daily basis.