It’s been a great honour and privilege to have had the opportunity to serve as director of Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre. As I step down from SEAC directorship after five busy but fulfilling years, I am very appreciative to have had the fantastic opportunity to steward the development and growth of the Centre. I am grateful for my time with SEAC and am pleased to leave behind a stable, well-connected, and engaged Centre that is recognised as one of the most active Southeast Asia centres globally. It was my greatest pleasure to have met so many wonderful friends of SEAC in my journey as Centre Director, whose support was much appreciated.
SEAC’s activities have been guided by the Centre’s core intersecting research themes of urbanisation, connectivity and governance, which best captures the in-house expertise of Southeast Asia scholars at the LSE. Equity, diversity and inclusion, some of the core values of LSE, have also been at the heart of SEAC activities throughout the years under my directorship. I am pleased to see SEAC engaging actively with the agendas of decolonisation and decentring of knowledge production during the past five years of my directorship, proactively fostering and nurturing the scholarship embedded in Southeast Asia – a significant number of contributors to SEAC events come from Southeast Asia, as the Centre has strived to give voice to region-based scholars of diverse career stage and ensure their ownership and recognition of knowledge production.
It's also been my pleasure to see various support schemes blossoming, benefiting LSE students, researchers and academics, as well as emerging and senior colleagues across Southeast Asia and beyond. These schemes include Research Fund for LSE faculty and SEAC associates, Visiting Appointments for visiting scholars, and Seminar Series and Networking grant. I am also happy to see the introduction and growing popularity of the Southeast Asia Student Dissertation Fieldwork Grant and SEAC Undergraduate Research Fellowship, as well as the Postgraduate Dissertation Prize and PhD Research Student Support Fund. In April 2022, SEAC saw the launch of its Working Paper series, which is designed to feature the work of our visiting scholars, prize winners and associates.
Early Career Researcher Network was launched in the early years of my directorship and has become a helpful platform for emergent scholars working on Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia Blog is another feature introduced in 2020, now acting as a platform for disseminating insightful commentaries on regional affairs. All of these initiatives allow SEAC to be a vibrant hub of Southeast Asia research, bringing together academics and students and supporting their work. It was in part because of the presence of such a network of scholars that SEAC’s exploration of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Southeast Asia was possible, resulting in the publication of a series of blogs and an open-access co-edited volume, Covid-19 in Southeast Asia: Insights for a Post-pandemic World (LSE Press, 2022).
SEAC has also substantially expanded its intellectual activities by hosting weakly research seminars and annual Southeast Asia Forum events. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t discourage SEAC. In fact, SEAC took up the challenge and used the pandemic to actively reach a wider audience through online and hybrid event formats, thus connecting directly with our audience in Southeast Asia in real time. In the 2022/23 academic year alone, SEAC hosted 40 events featuring 95 speakers who contributed from across the world, particularly Southeast Asia. SEAC was pleased to expand its overseas partnerships, including one with the Khazanah Research Institute, which culminated in a Malaysian Futures Forum in June 2023.
I know fully that such achievements have been possible because of all the support and contributions from the members of the Management Committee and Advisory Board, SEAC Associates, Centre staff and assistants (particularly Centre Managers Do Young Oh, Lee Mager, Charles Tocock and currently, Katie Boulton), LSE Department of Geography and Environment, LSE Philanthropy and Global Engagement, LSE School Management Committee, and collaborators within SEAC’s wider domestic, regional and global network, that is, the friends of SEAC. So, thank you so much for your kind support and input. The generous gift from the late Professor Saw Swee Hock is particularly appreciated - without his vision and passion for scholarship on Southeast Asia, SEAC would not have reached where it is today. The support from Mr Arvind Khattar is also much appreciated, especially his keen interest in supporting our students.
As I move on to the headship of the LSE Department of Geography and Environment, I look forward to continuing my engagement with the friends of SEAC and supporting the Centre under its new Directorship of Professor John Sidel in a different capacity.
Hyun Bang Shin
Centre Director (August 2018 – July 2023), Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre
Professor of Geography and Urban Studies, Department of Geography and Environment