The University Record, September 27, 1999

CSSEAS splits into two centers

By Bernard DeGroat
News and Information Services

While Asia has had its share of military conflict and splintered countries, the division of the University’s Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies (CSSEAS) into two centers is amicable and mutually beneficial.

In action approved by the Regents at their September meeting, the CSSEAS is now two separate centers—the Center for South Asian Studies and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

The split should result in greater national visibility and a sharper intellectual focus for each center and its programs, says Judith O. Becker, director of the new Center for Southeast Asian Studies and professor of ethnomusicology.

“As a combined center we definitely blurred our focus,” she says. “These are areas of enormous linguistic and ethnic diversity, as well as enormous populations. In connection with this greater national visibility, we also wanted to be able to apply for [public] funds as two centers in order to increase our ability to support language studies, lectures, symposiums and conferences.”

Becker, who was the director of the CSSEAS, says that it will be easier for each new center to focus fund-raising efforts on individuals and groups who may have a particular interest in a country or specific region within South Asia or Southeast Asia.

The Center for South Asian Studies, which is now under the direction of Pradeep K. Chhibber, associate professor of political science, provides area-related studies and research on Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet, and language training in Hindi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil and Urdu.

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies focuses on the countries of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and the Indonesian, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese languages.

“U-M has had a long-standing strength in Southeast Asian studies,” says Michael D. Kennedy, vice provost for international affairs and director of the International Institute. “In recent years, our South Asian studies faculty has grown in strength. I’m particularly delighted that both sets of faculty have reached a strategy for developing their own area studies communities more effectively.”

While both centers will maintain separate budgets, they will continue to share staff and office space, and their graduate degree programs will remain the same. Currently, more than 50 faculty are affiliated with the centers.

CSSEAS was founded in 1961, although scholars from the U-M have been engaged in research, education and service related to South and Southeast Asia since the 1870s. It was the last joint center of South and Southeast Asian studies in the United States.