The Northwest Regional Consortium for Southeast Asian Studies

The countries of Southeast Asia -- Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Brunei -- have become increasingly important since the 1970s to the peoples of Washington and Oregon states and the province of British Columbia. Interest has been spurred by expanding trade and other links between the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Asia and by the presence in the region of sizeable communities of immigrants and refugees from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

In 1987 representatives from the Universities of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia began a unique venture in regional and international cooperation by establishing a consortium to promote the study of Southeast Asia within the Pacific Northwest. The consortium has sought to develop instructional programs at each institution through drawing on the diversity of expertise found in all Consortium institutions, to build teaching and research collections on Southeast Asia which can be used by faculty and students at any regional college or university, to promote research and scholarly interchange about Southeast Asia among faculty and students in the Pacific Northwest, and to disseminate knowledge about Southeast Asia to the general public in the region.

The Consortium quickly became one of the major centers for Southeast Asian Studies in North America. With major support provided by the Ford Foundation, the Luce Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Canadian International Development Agency, (CIDA), new faculty members have been hired at each institution, new library and center staff have been recruited, library collections have been expanded, grants and awards have been made to many graduate students, and numerous outreach activities have been sponsored.

The Consortium Concept

The Consortium is predicated on the premise that the most productive and creative research in area studies is that which links knowledge of the language and culture of one or another society of the region with training in a social science or humanities discipline. Instruction is offered in Indonesian (British Columbia, Oregon and Washington), Thai (Oregon and Washington), Vietnamese (Washington) and, through the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI) to which all three institutions belong, in all other major Southeast Asian languages. The area strengths lie in the study of Indonesia (all three institutions), Thailand (Washington and Oregon), Vietnam (Washington and British Columbia), Malaysia (Washington and British Columbia), the Philippines (Oregon), and Laos (washington). Consortium faculty have undertaken significant disciplined-based research in Southeast Asia on Prehistory, social history, political economy, demography and health ethnic group relations, law and social justice, education, ecology, gender, religion, and popular culture.

Consortium Activities

The Consortium has developed a number of means to promote the study of Southeast Asia in the Pacific Northwest.

Teaching and research library collections have been developed under a cooperative plan at the libraries of the Universities of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Among the unique holdings are specialized collections of materials on northern and northeastern Thailand (Washington), of materials on modern Indonesia (British Columbia), and of maps of Southeast Asia (Oregon). Access to teaching and research library collections by faculty and students at regional institutions is provided through the Southeast Asian Section of the University of Washington Libraries.

Cooperation on development of instructional programs has been undertaken in a number of ways. Selected faculty from consortium institutions offer from time to time a proseminar with a common syllabus at each institution. The faculty involved participate in teaching the proseminar at all three institutions. Faculty in the language programs at the three institutions also are involved in developing common teaching materials for Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese. Syllabuses for courses are made available to faculty not only at other Consortium institutions but also at other institutions in the region.

Some grants and fellowships are awarded collectively each year to students from Consortium institutions. Grants have been made for study or research at a Consortium institution other than the one in which a student is enrolled, for pre-dissertation research in Southeast Asia, and for completion of MA or PhD theses.

A conference on Southeast Asian Studies is held at least every other year at member institutions in rotation. The Conference attracts participation not only from scholars and others in the region but, increasingly, from outside the region as well.

SEASPAN, the newsletter of the Consortium, provides information on activities of Southeast Asian studies in the Pacific Northwest and some discussion of the work undertaken by Consortium faculty and students about Southeast Asia.

Consortium members and other regional institutions participate in exchange of scholars, including scholars from Southeast Asia who come to the region.

Future Plans

In its region-wide activities, the Consortium seeks to include as affiliate members other regional institutions which have significant commitments to Southeast Asian studies. Vancouver Community College is an affiliate member of the Consortium. The University of Victoria became a full member of the Consortium in 1997.

The Consortium seeks to expand linkages with Southeast Asian institutions. Linkages currently are being developed with institutions in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

The Consortium has received funding for its development from the Ford Foundation andthe Henry M. Luce Foundation. The United States Office of Education has provided funding to the Universities of Washington and Oregon for a National Resource Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

For more information about Southeast Asian Studies please contact the following:

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