SBU Included in Grant to Establish Southeast Asian Studies Network

The SUNY/CUNY Southeast Asia Council (SEAC), which includes two Stony Brook University College of Arts and Sciences faculty, Benjamin Tausig and E.K. Tan, has been awarded a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation Initiative on Southeast Asia. The grant will provide $550,000 for a four-year pilot to establish a robust Southeast Asian studies network in the SUNY and CUNY systems.

SEAC is a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of Asian Studies through international exchange, networking, publications, research support and career development. The SUNY/CUNY Council is a New York consortium that includes representatives from Stony Brook and other SUNY schools including Albany, Buffalo, New Paltz, Queens College, CUNY Hunter, Baruch and the University of the Phillipines Diliman. The consortium aims to enhance Southeast Asia-related teaching and research to benefit Southeast Asian students and researchers.

The grant comes from The Henry Luce Foundation’s Luce Initiative on Southeast Asia, a multi-year grants competition with the broad goal of strengthening the study of Southeast Asia in institutions of higher learning in North America and in Southeast Asia by providing resources for the creation of models, strategies and partnerships that not only bolster existing program structures but also take them in new directions.

Ben Tausig
Ben Tausig

“We are thrilled about the Luce-funded SUNY/CUNY SEAC grant, first because of the vast resources it provides to students and faculty, and second because it establishes Southeast Asian studies in a serious and enduring way across SUNY and CUNY,” said Tausig, an associate professor of critical music studies in the Department of Music. “And, of course, I’m enormously proud to be one of the two core faculty from Stony Brook, along with my colleague E.K. Tan, on this grant. Our community will have incredible opportunities to learn about and conduct research in Southeast Asia as a result. This is an important moment in Southeast Asian studies not only on our campus but globally.”

In addition to being one of the core faculty who applied for the grant, and who will be administering it for the next four years, Tausig is one of the two lead PIs for the 2023-24 year.

“I will co-lead this year’s workshop and field school in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and run a SUNY/CUNY-wide course in the spring,” he said. “The other core faculty and I began planning this grant application under the leadership of Meredith Weiss from UAlbany about a year ago. All of us teach and do research in Southeast Asia. I have been working in Thailand since I began my dissertation research, roughly beginning in 2007.”

Core objectives of the grant include developing and enhancing collaborations and networks both across New York and between the US and Southeast Asia, and facilitating work in new and emerging areas of inquiry through grants that support teaching and research. Each year, SEAC will delve into one signature interdisciplinary theme through curricular, research, and public-outreach components as a way to explore new and emerging areas of inquiry.

For the first three years, the themes will be:

  • Sites and Spaces of Mobilization and Protest (2023-24)
  • Southeast Asian Identities in Popular Culture and Literature (2024-25)
  • Climate Change, Sustainability, and Geography (2025-26)

Students statewide will have the opportunity to take an interdisciplinary course co-taught by SUNY and CUNY faculty that aligns with the year’s theme. In addition, students, faculty and researchers will have access to supplemental programming, including lectures, research workshops, an experiential field school — the first in Chiang Mai, Thailand — as well as research, language-training and publication grants.

E.K. Tan
E.K. Tan

“I am extremely excited about being a lead faculty alongside Ben Tausig to help build the SUNY/CUNY Southeast Asia Consortium (SEAC),” said Tan, chair of the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies and an associate professor in the Department of English. “More importantly, I look forward to working closely with a group of wonderful colleagues across SUNY and CUNY campuses to organize events, workshops, experiential field schools, and more to offer interdisciplinary courses on Southeast Asian Studies during the coming years.”

Tan added that while most CUNY and SUNY colleges do not have Southeast Asian studies programs, the demand for support for scholars and students working on Southeast Asia related projects remains.

“With this generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the consortium will invest in creating a network of resources to support scholars and curriculum that will further the research and study of an important region of the world that still lacks visibility and representation across CUNY and SUNY campuses,” he said. “I hope this grant and initiative will result in other sources of funding to support the consortium and also the founding of innovative programs on various campuses on Southeast Asian studies.”

The Henry Luce Foundation was founded in 1936 by Henry Luce, co-founder of the magazines Time, Fortune and Life. Today the foundation works to deepen knowledge and understanding in pursuit of a more democratic and just world by nurturing knowledge communities and institutions, fostering dialogue across divides, enriching public discourse, amplifying diverse voices, and investing in leadership development.

— Robert Emproto

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