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UW secures competitive $1 million Luce Foundation grant to advance Southeast Asian research and community engagement

Age of the Kampuchea Picture video installation, which won the Center for Research Libraries’ Primary Source Award, primarily created by M.A. in Southeast Asian Studies Alumnus Adrian Allarilla, a Filipino American filmmaker. Alarilla's work with visual archives speaks directly to the questions of the representation of violence that our focus on authoritarianism seeks to address. UW Libraries/Judith Henchy

October 5, 2020

The Southeast Asia Center at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the Libraries at the University of Washington will spearhead a new initiative of innovative collaborations to explore the effects and consequences of authoritarianism in Southeast Asia and on Southeast Asian American communities in the United States. 

The $1 million grant to deepen discourse on Southeast Asia was approved in June by the Henry Luce Foundation after a national competition seeking projects that will develop expertise, capacity and resources on Southeast Asia. At the UW, the Luce Initiative on Southeast Asia will attract underrepresented students, faculty, future librarians and the regional Southeast Asian American community to the project of engaging with Southeast Asian history, language and culture in new ways.

We are excited to develop our work to engage scholars and students in the crosscurrents and interconnections between the U.S. and Southeast Asia,” said Celia Lowe, chair of the Jackson School’s Southeast Asia Center. “This grant will help build a vibrant and relevant future for Southeast Asian studies.”

Multiple UW departments will be involved in the four-year project, which will be administered by the Southeast Asia Center. UW Libraries and the Burke Museum will form innovative collaborative projects on healing and reconciliation from histories of violence and dislocation, while the UW Asian Languages & Literature Department will create a new faculty position to connect language study to meaningful community engagement. 

The grant includes introducing Southeast Asian Studies graduate students to archival practices. An undergraduate research class will study applicable museum artifacts, with a focus on making collections meaningful and accessible to communities of Southeast Asian heritage, and in Southeast Asia. The grant also will train a Southeast Asia librarian through a two-year program supported by a partial tuition fellowship from the UW iSchool.

A number of UW faculty are involved in the initiative. Chair of the Southeast Asia Center Celia Lowe is the principal investigator while head of the Southeast Asia Section of UW Libraries, Judith Henchy, also affiliate faculty at the Jackson School, is co-investigator on the grant. 

“This grant will support work to heighten awareness of archival collections for graduate students in disciplines which would not normally look to those resources, for instance in film studies, or creative writing,” said Henchy, who will lead a fellowships program under the grant. “At the same time, we will encourage graduate students to consider professions in librarianship or archival studies, training them in a way that will have enormous future impact on the field of Southeast Asian librarianship.”

Jenna Grant, assistant professor in anthropology, and Vicente L. Rafael, professor of history, will lead a collaboration with filmmakers, archivists and documentation specialists from partner institutions in Cambodia, the Philippines and Burma. 

Other partners in the project include a Southeast Asia Research Family course at the Burke Museum with UW Southeast Asia Center’s Senior Lecturer, Raissa DeSmet. Pauli Sandjaja, teaching professor and coordinator of the Southeast Asia program at UW’s Asian Languages & Literature, will lead work to hire a new faculty member who studies new media, digital humanities, translation, popular culture, film or literature. 

Linh Thủy Nguyễn, assistant professor with UW’s American Ethnic Studies Department, will bring together faculty from UW, University California, Irvine, University of California, Los Angeles and University of California, Riverside to collaborate in exploring the intersections of Southeast Asian and ethnic studies to inform new curriculum, research and other pedagogies where historically there has been little interdisciplinary coordination.

This release first appeared on UW News on Oct. 5