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SEAREG Conference Highlights Emerging Scholarship on Southeast Asia

The Southeast Asia Research Group Conference, held at the City University of Hong Kong, featured research presentations from its newest class of SEAREG Fellows.

The Southeast Asia Research Group (SEAREG) held its annual Asian conference at the City University of Hong Kong from July 1-3. This was SEAREG's 16th conference and the fifth one held in Asia.

More than 50 attendees gathered on CityU's Kowloon Tong campus for six presentations from the newest class of SEAREG Fellows. The event, hosted by the Southeast Asia Research Centre, also featured two keynote addresses from distinguished scholars in the region and three thematic sessions.

A primary goal of SEAREG conferences is to offer in-depth feedback to young scholars on their dissertation work to strengthen the research for journal publication and job prospects. Each session lasted 80 minutes with the fellows presenting for 20 minutes and receiving extensive comments from the audience for the remaining time.

The fellows' papers predominantly relied on qualitative methods and covered a diverse spectrum of countries within Southeast Asia.

The 2024 Summer SEAREG Fellows included:

  • Soksamphoas Im (Michigan State University), whose work focused on the effectiveness of micro-loan programs in rural households in Cambodia.
  • Colum Graham (Australian National University), who discussed the relationship between the state of Indonesia and the persistence of small-scale farming.
  • Lili Chen (Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa'e), who presented her research on the perception of women in Timor-Leste who had relationships with UN peacekeepers based in the country.
  • Tommy Chai (Australian National University), who offered theoretical refinements on International Relations theory based on China’s relationships with countries in Southeast Asia.
  • Hipolitus Wangge (Australian National University), who concentrated on the development of civil society mechanisms and other cultural elements within the Papua state in Indonesia.
  • Tiên Dung Hà (Stanford University), who presented her research on recent history associated with the identification of North Vietnam’s MIA remains from the Vietnam war.

Mely Caballero-Anthony, a professor of international relations at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and head of the RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies at  the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, gave the State of the Region address on July 2. Her remarks focused on questions of regionalism within Southeast Asia and what it means for countries trying to balance relations with China and the U.S. as they vie for influence.

Mark Thompson, the Southeast Asia Research Centre director based at the City University of Hong Kong, delivered the State of the Field keynote on July 3. His forceful remarks asked scholars and researchers to reflect upon and be transparent about their own values and norms when studying a region that has experienced democratic backsliding.

The three panels explored themes important to Southeast Asia. The first featured three scholars who explored the role of youth and political engagement in peacebuilding efforts in the Philippines. The second examined the complex dynamics of international relations and geopolitical strategies in Southeast Asia. The third discussed federal aspirations and nation-building in Myanmar.

A final session at the event announced the results of recent SEAREG Executive Council elections. Tom Pepinsky from Cornell University and Paul Schuler from the University of Arizona were elected to six-year terms on the Council.

The SEAREG program is based at the Duke Center for International Development and relies on generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation.

The next SEAREG conference will be hosted by Boston University from Dec. 7-9, 2024.

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