Innovative Format, Interdisciplinary Collaboration in CSEAS Conference

By Kate Wright
Jan 16, 2012 Bookmark and Share

ANN ARBOR, MICH., January 13, 2012 – Uniquely formatted to benefit graduate students, Southeast Asia: Between the Lines Graduate Student Conference provided a rich learning opportunity last December 9-10, 2011. Organized by the Southeast Asia Reading Group at the University of Michigan with assistance from the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, the two-day event packed in four interdisciplinary panels on the first day and seminar-type disciplinary workshops on the second. Students presented their research, invited faculty moderators provided comments and feedback, all conference attendees participated in open discussions, and on the following day, students and moderators discussed important disciplinary concerns in a seminar format.


(Vince Rafael and History Panel)

The chance for students to have their work carefully read and critiqued by professors who had not previously worked with them allowed new insights to surface. “The chance to have my paper read and carefully critiqued by a non-U-M professor was invaluable. I plan to keep in touch with my moderator and follow up on his feedback, in the hopes of opening new avenues of research,” said Saul Allen, Asian Languages and Cultures doctoral candidate, who presented on hypnosis in contemporary Indonesian Islam.

The conference enjoyed broad support from a variety of units on Michigan’s campus, including the Horace H. Rackham Graduate School and the Departments of Anthropology, History, Political Science, and Sociology, and was attended by faculty and students from disciplines ranging from Information Science to Ethnomusicology. Students in the Southeast Asia Reading Group (SEAR), an interdisciplinary group open to all graduate students on campus with research interests in Southeast Asia, brought together 14 student presenters and four invited moderators organized into four panels. Panels and presenters can be viewed here.

Following the day of panel presentations, the invited moderators led seminars on a topic of their choosing. Topics and reading lists can be viewed here. Attendance of the seminars was limited to graduate students, and it included the 14 presenters as well as members of SEAR and other students. The seminars were enriched by the preceding panel presentations and allowed discussions to flourish even in the limited time available.

“Discussing Dan Slater's [professor of political science at the University of Chicago and an invited moderator] research during the seminar helped me to better understand how political scientists can leverage their knowledge of Southeast Asia to formulate new theories of how political institutions develop. It was also great to get his feedback on my research, as well as advice on how to succeed in the field,” said Dominic Nardi of U-M’s Political Science Department. Dominic presented his research on the Indonesian Constitutional Court.

Major conference support came from the Henry Luce Foundation. The Luce Foundation funded the Center for Southeast Asian Studies 50th Anniversary Conference on the state of Southeast Asian studies, held at the University of Michigan in October, 2010.  With this graduate student conference, Luce saw a way to continue the conversations started in 2010. Southeast Asia: Between the Lines brought thought-provoking new analyses to the field from the future generation of area specialists.