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LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre Postgraduate Dissertation Prize

The LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre runs the Postgraduate Dissertation Prize to showcase outstanding social science research on Southeast Asia from LSE postgraduate students.

It is a great honour to receive this award and be able to highlight a topic I deeply care about. Thank you SEAC and the reviewers for the recognition. I am greatly indebted to the people of Kampung Sungai Baru who has welcomed me and trusted me with their stories.

Alia Salleh, 2022 Dissertation Prize Winner


Hong Kai Koh

Winner: Hong Kai Koh
Dissertation Title: Commissioned Knowledge – Local Elite Collaboration in Colonial Knowledge Formation in the Mui Tsai Commission in British Malaya (1936-1937)
Degree Title: MSc International and Asian History

'Hong Kai is a recent graduate from the MSc International and Asian History programme at the Department of International History, London School of Economics. A future history teacher, he hopes to bring his fascination with history into classrooms, while spurring important discussions about historical legacies that continue to shape our societies today. His dissertation builds on his interest in colonial histories, exploring an instance of local elite collaboration in colonial knowledge and policy making in British Malaya.

Reviewer comments: "This dissertation provides a close, careful, and creative reading of archival materials from the 1936-37 Mui Tsai Commission in British Malaya, focusing on the positionalities, political interests, and biases of colonial officials and local elites revealed in the documents. The dissertation is elegantly written, and it demonstrates considerable insight and ingenuity in its reading of the interplay between colonial officials and local elites and the “highly fractious and subjective nature” of colonial knowledge and policymaking in the context of late colonial Malaya."


Yohana Kristina pic

Highly Commended: Yohana Parida Kristina
Dissertation Title: Women Survive, Women Provide: An Analysis of Women’s Empowerment Pathways by Women-Led Social Enterprises in Indonesia
Degree Title: MSc Development Studies

Yohana is a passionate gender and development consultant, focusing on women's entrepreneurship through program implementation and gender mainstreaming. She just graduated from LSE with an MSc in Development Studies, supported by the Chevening Scholarship program. Prior to this, she led a UN Foundation initiative program to support girls’ education in Indonesia and worked for an entrepreneurship advisory consultancy. Currently, she serves as a Global Program Coordinator for She Loves Tech, the world's largest acceleration platform for women entrepreneurs worldwide.

Reviewer comments: "This dissertation provides a careful and constructively critical evaluation of the operations and impacts of women-led social enterprises in contemporary Indonesia. The dissertation is tightly conceptualized and amply well contextualized within relevant strands of development, feminist, and social theory, and it draws on this literature as well as interviews with the leaders of eight women-led social enterprises with insight and creativity to craft an interesting and insightful argument about the contradictions of and constraints on the nature and extent of the ‘empowerment’ observed."


2022 Winner


Alia Salleh

Winner: Alia Salleh
Dissertation Title: Does the ‘culture of property’ normalise eviction and demolition? The case of Kampung Sungai Baru, Kuala Lumpur
Degree Title: MSc in Urbanisation and Development 

Alia Salleh is a research associate at PNB Research Institute, Malaysia. She recently completed her MSc in Urbanisation and Development at the London School of Economics under the Chevening Scholarship programme. Her dissertation questions prevailing narratives on redevelopment, reflecting her deep interest in urban development issues in her home-city, Kuala Lumpur.

"It is a great honour to receive this award and be able to highlight a topic I deeply care about. Thank you SEAC and the reviewers for the recognition. I am greatly indebted to the people of Kampung Sungai Baru who has welcomed me and trusted me with their stories."

Alia's dissertation has now been published as part of the Southeast Asia Working Paper Series

Salleh, Alia (2023) Does the culture of property normalise eviction and demolition? The case of Kampung Sungai Baru, Kuala Lumpur. Southeast Asia Working Paper Series (4). London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.


Itamar Carillo

Highly Commended: Itamar Carillo
Dissertation Title: Rainfall shocks and cash transfer effects on stunting. A case study of Indonesia
Degree Title: MSc in Health and International Development

Itamar is a Medical Doctor who has recently graduated from the London School of Economics with an MSc. in Health and International Development. Itamar had recently worked as an external consultant for UNAIDS and as a research assistant at the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico. Her time living in Singapore and volunteering in clinics in the Philippines and East Timor sparked her interest in the region's social issues. Particularly in the intertwined connection between health and development.



2021 Winner


Gray Brakke1

Winner: Gray Brakke
Dissertation TitleAmbivalent Insurgencies: Citizenship, Land Politics, and Development in Hanoi and Its Periurban Fringe
Degree Title: MSc in Urbanisation and Development

Gray Brakke is a graduand in the MSc programme in Urbanisation and Development (Department of Geography and Environment) at the London School of Economics and most recently worked as a graduate intern for SEAC, working on the forthcoming edited volume COVID-19 in Southeast Asia: Insights for a Post-Pandemic World. After graduating from Brown University with a BA with honours in urban studies, he worked as an English teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he became interested in urban informality and the politics of land and development.

Gray's dissertation has now been published in Urban Studies:

Brakke, G (2023) Ambivalent insurgencies: Citizenship, land politics and development in Hanoi and its periurban fringe. Urban Studies 17 January, available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/00420980221135402


2020 Winner

The SEAC Postgraduate Dissertation Prizes in 2018/19 and 2019/20 were open to all Postgraduate students submitting dissertations on Southeast Asia to UK institutions.



Winner: Madhumitha Ardhanari
Dissertation Title: Sand extractivism and its inequalities: Elite scripts in the Singaporean demand for sand
Degree Title: MSc in Inequalities and Social Science
University: London School of Economics and Political Science

Madhumitha Ardhanari is a sustainability strategist and researcher at Forum for the Future, with six years of experience coaching businesses and organisations to adapt to long-term sustainability challenges in areas such as radical decarbonisation and sustainable value chains. She is also an Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity, having completed her Masters in Inequalities at the LSE.

Quote from one of SEAC's reviewers: "An outstanding piece of work. At once it is theoretically innovative and rigorous on the analytical approach of the empirical evidence. The author brings the notion of elite scripts to portray a critical aspect for addressing climate emergency: sand extraction."



Highly Commended: Leonard Yip
Dissertation title: Edgeland Visible: Reading Singapore’s Terrains of the Anthropocene
Degree Title: MPhil in Modern and Contemporary Literature
University: University of Cambridge

Leonard Yip is a writer of landscape, people, nature and faith, and the places where these intersect. He recently graduated with an MPhil in Modern and Contemporary Literature from the University of Cambridge, where he wrote his dissertation on multimedia representations of the ‘edgelands’ of Singapore – the landscape between city and country, with unique features and ecologies of its own. His writing has appeared in Moxy Magazine, Elsewhere: A Journal of Place, and Nature Watch, the quarterly publication of the Nature Society (Singapore). He lives and works in Singapore, where he is currently furthering his work on the edgelands and other terrains of the Anthropocene. 

Quote from one of SEAC's reviewers: "Very thought provoking and pushes the notion of edgeland to read the 'urban' realities of Singapore. It brings poetics of place and a critical engagement with the Antrophocene literature."


dg Lim

Highly Commended: Al Lim
Dissertation title: Smart Cities, Surveillance, and Discursive Redirection: A comparative urban study of Singapore and Phuket’s Smart Surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic
Degree Title: MSc in Urbanisation and Development
University: London School of Economics and Political Science

Al Lim is a PhD student in the joint Anthropology and Environmental Studies program at Yale, and his current research explores the intersection of smart cities and water infrastructure in Laos. This builds on his training from the MSc in Urbanisation and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the B.A. (Hons) in Urban Studies at Yale-NUS. His academic works have been featured in publications such as New MandalaSingapore Policy Journal, and Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene, and his creative works have also been published in over 20 outlets, such as OF ZOOSCall and Response 2, and Twin Cities.

Quote from one of SEAC's reviewers: "This piece brings one of the most relevant questions to smart urbanism in pandemic times. The author did a critical engagement with the 'smart city' technological solutionism by theoretically bringing together discussions on posthuman debates to the surveillance underpinnings of smartness."


2019 Winner


Isabelle Lim

Winner: Isabelle Lim
Dissertation title: Planting Feet: Environmental Imagination in the Poetry of Edwin Thumboo
Degree title: MPhil in Criticism and Culture
University: University of Cambridge 

Isabelle Lim is a writer interested in environment, literature, and postcolonial criticism. She holds an MPhil from the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge where she focused on postcolonial ecocriticism, tracing the contours of an environmental imagination in the work of Edwin Thumboo. She edits for Mynah Magazine, a long form annual publication featuring Singapore stories, and her writing appears in CHA: An Asian Journal. She currently reports on the environment, climate change, and data for Channel News Asia.

Quote from one of SEAC's reviewers: "Extremely well written and insightful analysis of Thumboo’s poetry from a ‘green’ perspective"


Highly Commended: Joshua Chee
Dissertation title:The Growth of Colonial Intelligence Networks in Singapore during the Great War, 1914-1918
Degree Title: MSc in History of International Relations
University: London School of Economics and Political Science

Joshua Chee graduated from LSE's MSc History of International Relations programme with distinction. His dissertation on the growth of colonial intelligence networks in Singapore during the Great War (1914-18) won the Medlicott Prize for best MSc dissertation in the International History Department (2018-19). Joshua obtained his B.A. (Hons.) in History from the National University of Singapore.

Quote from one of SEAC's reviewers: "Full of extraordinary data and insights"



Summary and guidelines for the prize

Please note that the prize submissions for 2024 will be welcomed from academic departments in October 2024.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Dissertations must have been submitted as part of a taught postgraduate degree (MA/MSc/MPhil; unfortunately undergraduate dissertations are ineligible for this scheme) in the 2023/2024 academic year
  • Dissertations must clearly relate to the Southeast Asia region
  • Dissertations are to address any aspects of social scientific understanding of Southeast Asian affairs.

Submission Guidelines:

In order to be taken into consideration, submissions must be nominated by their academic department and nominations should be sent to seac.admin@lse.ac.uk with the subject heading “SEAC PG Dissertation Prize Nomination”. The dissertation must be attached either as a Word document or as PDF, and the message body should include the name, degree title and email address of the student, and the internally agreed grade (even if provisional), in addition to internal marker comments. Only dissertations achieving a distinction / first class or equivalent internal grade will be considered for the prize. All submissions will be fully anonymised by SEAC prior to review.

Students cannot submit their own dissertations. SEAC will only accept department nominations.Students interested in having their dissertations submitted should contact their home department for their nomination

Review process:

Dissertations will be reviewed independently by a judging panel of academic faculty representing multiple disciplines specialising in the Southeast Asia region, and the criteria will include appropriate alignment with SEAC’s research themes as well as research quality, originality and academic contribution.

Dissertations will be fully anonymised so that any identifying information, including document author properties, is removed before being sent to the review panel.

Any queries about the prize should be sent to SEAC Centre Manager (seac.admin@lse.ac.uk).