Southeast Asian studies

Southeast Asian studies (SEAS) refers to research and education on the language, culture, and history of the different states and ethnic groups of Southeast Asia. Some institutions refer to this discipline as ASEAN Studies since most of the countries that they study belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN. Definitions of what constitutes Southeast Asia differ between scholars, which blurs the boundaries between Southeast Asian studies and other regional studies like Oriental studies and post-colonial studies. Southeast Asian studies incorporates anthropology, religious studies, linguistics, and international relations.

Definitions of Southeast AsiaEdit

The boundaries of Southeast Asia are contested due to historical, cultural, and linguistic similarities between some groups in Southeast Asia and neighboring regions like India and China. Many scholars of Southeast Asian studies rely on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to create a concrete list of nations that fit under the umbrella of Southeast Asia.[1] As of 2016, members of ASEAN include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao DPR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.[2]

History of the disciplineEdit

Before and During the Second World WarEdit

While the term "Southeast Asia" was first used in connection with the present region by American priest and educator Howard Malcom in 1837, the region presently referred to as Southeast Asia was split between India and the Far East by anglophone scholars prior to the Second World War and de-emphasized as an area of study due to the presence of national interests in the region.[3] Initial inquiries into the culture and traditions of Southeast Asia were primarily conducted by German and Austrian scholars who had greater access to the region because their home countries had no colonies in the region[3] The strategic importance of numerous locales in Southeast Asia such as the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines during the Second World War attracted increased attention from the West. This newfound attention led to the establishment of Mountbatten's South-East Asia Commant (SEAC) in 1943, and the publication of the first map of Southeast Asia by the National Geographic society in 1944.


Immediately after the conclusion of the Second World War, the beginnings of the Cold War drew the attention of United States think tanks and intelligence organizations away from Southeast Asia. Events such as the 1949 Revolution in China and fear about the spread of communism re-centered much of the monetary focus on to China and the Soviet Union. This led to two results: while funding and the commitment of corporations to the area decreased, oversight also decreased; researchers in the West were free to pursue most avenues of interest without the objection of their sponsors.[4]

In East AsiaEdit

In Japan, Southeast Asian studies became a more concrete field of study in the period after Japanese colonization of the region during the Pacific War. The Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University was founded in 1963, and The Japan Society for Southeast Asian History was founded in 1966[5] In the United States, the rise of communism in Vietnam and Laos brought Southeast Asian studies to the forefront of academia and politics.[6] In Korea, academics began forming groups focusing on the region of Southeast Asia in the 1990s. In 1991, the Korean Association of Southeast Asian Studies (KASEAS). Southeast Asian studies in South Korea focuses mainly on Southeast Asia's relationship with other regions in Asia, trans-border migration within and outside Southeast Asia, and the spread of Korean Wave in the region.[7]


Southeast Asian Studies is also the English name of the Japanese scholarly journal Tonan Ajia Kenkyu. The journal has been published since 1963 by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University.

Programs by countryEdit

Universities that offer studies of Southeast Asia are listed by region:

Southeast AsiaEdit

East AsiaEdit

North AmericaEdit



See alsoEdit


  1. ^ King, Victor T.; Wilder, William D. (2003). The Modern Anthropology of Southeast Asia: An Introduction. Oxon: RoutledgeCurzon. p. 2. ISBN 0-415-29751-6.
  2. ^ "ASEAN Member States". Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
  3. ^ a b Emmerson, Donald K. (1984). ""Southeast Asia": What's In a Name?". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 15: 1–21. doi:10.1017/s0022463400012182.
  4. ^ Kahin, George (1997). "The Making of Southeast Asian Studies: Cornell's Experience". Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. 29: 38–42. doi:10.1080/14672715.1997.10409699.
  5. ^ Yoko, Hayami. "Southeast Asian Studies in Japan". Center for Southeast Asian Studies Kyoto Newsletter.
  6. ^ Ileto, Reynaldo C. "On the Historiography of Southeast Asia and the Philippines: The "Golden Age" of Southeast Asian Studies - Experiences and Reflections". Historiography of the Philippines.
  7. ^ Woo, Park Seung; Kook, Lee Sang (2013). "The Development of Southeast Asian Studies in Korea". Sogang University Institute for East Asian Studies: 13.
  8. ^ "Asian Studies | Research | School of Social Sciences".

External linksEdit

Library guides to Southeast Asian studiesEdit