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SEAC Undergraduate Research Fellowship

The SEAC Undergraduate Research Fellowship is a Centre initiative to support undergraduate students at LSE. 

The URF programme has been a wonderful opportunity for me to actively participate in some of the valuable research that the Southeast Asia Centre is doing whilst working with supportive and engaging supervisors. As an undergraduate, opportunities that would allow me to contribute to scholarly research are very limited, which makes the work done by SEAC all the more important.

Angbeen Abbas, 2021 Undergraduate Research Fellow

The SEAC Undergraduate Research Fellowship scheme seeks to engage LSE undergraduate students with the research of SEAC's Centre Associates. Undergraduate Research Fellows (URFs) are expected to gain important insight into the work of an academic in planning, conducting and disseminating scholarly research. The Southeast Asia Undergraduate Research Fellowship scheme is supported by Arvind Khattar whose generous gift has helped SEAC to further develop its research activities. 

2023 Project: Talking to a Familiar Stranger: Capitalist Southeast Asia’s Re-Engagement with China in the 1980s


Meisha Binti Muhammad Lukman
BSc Economics
Department of Economics


Project Lead:

Dr Qingfei Yin, Assistant Professor, Dept. of International History

Project Summary:

From the mid to late 1970s, several capitalist Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand established diplomatic relations with China. Their respective bilateral relations nevertheless grew slowly until the 1980s, when the Cambodian crisis drove closer the Chinese and ASEAN interests and the trade community perceived the immense potential profit from an opening Chinese market. At this critical juncture, the Chinese and Southeast Asian societies were “familiar strangers” to each other. The connected social fabric built by migration and trade had been interrupted by the iron curtain, and the political landscape of these societies had all been shaped by the Cold War confrontation. This project investigates the driving force of capitalist Southeast Asia’s strategies and policies toward China in the 1980s, a critical period of economic development and social change for both sides. It focuses on the decision making of both key leaders and the agency of business community, ordinary travelers, the military, and Chinese diaspora.  

This is part of a larger book project that examines how Southeast Asian countries, especially those on the other side of the Cold War ideological bloc, shaped China during the latter’s early reform era. It combines a top down diplomatic history approach with a bottom up social history approach to examine the regional dynamics of Southeast Asia’s relations with the outside world. While existing literature has mostly examined how western countries shaped Chinese politics, economy and society in the early reform era, this project emphasizes the importance of capitalist Southeast Asian countries’ impacts on China during the period. 



 You can find information about previous Undergraduate Research Fellows and their projects below:

SEAC Undergraduate Research Fellows 2021/22



Kesha Menon Jayadeep
BA Anthropology and Law
Department of Anthropology

Kesha is working with SEAC Associate Professor Catherine Allerton (Dept of Anthropology, LSE) for her project entitled, "Migration and Childhood in Sabah and beyond"

Project Summary:

Sabah, an East Malaysian state in the north of the island of Borneo, is home to thousands of children who have been born across borders to migrant parents from eastern Indonesia and the southern Philippines. Such cross-border births are unauthorized by the Malaysian migration regime, which treats unskilled and semi-skilled foreign workers as a mobile, single and ultimately expendable labour force. The descendants of such workers are, in many respects, Sabah’s ‘impossible children’. They are denied access to public education and healthcare, and spend much of their lives in workers’ housing or squatter villages, out-of-sight of Malaysian citizens. At constant risk of arrest and deportation, many of them begin work at a young age in Sabah’s factories and plantations. The lives of these children therefore have much to teach us about the reproduction of inequality and exclusion in migrant families, as well as the ways in which children come to feel a sense of (linguistic, cultural, and place-based) belonging.

Catherine Allerton carried out child-focused ethnographic research with children of migrants in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, from 2012-13. She has published a number of articles on this research, focused on child illegality, statelessness and short-term care in migrant families. She is currently working on two further articles, and is finishing up a book manuscript, Impossible Children: Migration and Belonging in Sabah, Malaysia.

This URF project will provide essential bibliographic assistance to Catherine as she completes these publications. The project is a library research project to map and assess the literature in Malay and/ or Bahasa Indonesia on relevant themes, in particular:

-       Work on experiences of migration and the migration regime in Malaysia

-       Temporary migration from Indonesia to Malaysia

-       Conceptions of childhood in Malaysia

-       Experiences of children and migrant families in Malaysia

The URF project will help to highlight the most relevant work by Malaysian and Indonesian scholars writing in Malay/ Bahasa Indonesia, in order that their research can be engaged with in Catherine’s current writing projects. 


SEAC Undergraduate Research Fellows 2020/21

In 2020/21 SEAC appointed the following LSE URFs working on research projects led by SEAC Associates:



Angbeen Abbas
BSc Sociology 
Department of Sociology

Angbeen is working with SEAC Associate Prof Katherine Brickell (Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London) for her project entitled, "ReFashion Study: Social Protection and the Gendered Impacts of COVID-19 in the Cambodian Garment Industry"

Project Summary:

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe disruption throughout the global garment and footwear supply chain. Manufacturing shutdowns and consumer lockdowns around the world have led major brands to cancel orders with their suppliers, forcing a halt to production. The effects have been devastating for the workers who usually cut and stitch the world’s supply of clothing and shoes. In Cambodia, for example, the garment sector employs nearly 1 million people, 80% of whom are women. To date, up to a third have been laid off or suspended from factories. Despite collaborative efforts to improve the quality of work in the garment sector, there is little formal support available to help these women workers and their families cope through any short- or longer-term period of unemployment. Securing income and sustaining livelihoods has become an urgent challenge for many.

From September 2020, the ReFashion Project has been leading original longitudinal research to track and amplify the experiences of over 200 women garment workers in Cambodia through the pandemic. We are documenting and learning from their efforts to navigate the financial repercussions of COVID-19 on their home lives and livelihoods across different phases of the pandemic, from the immediate crisis to its aftermath. Our interdisciplinary team from human geography, political economy, and organisation studies is generating new knowledge on how formal and informal social protection can better empower women in the garment sector to survive and thrive, both during and after the current emergency. 



Jimin Oh
BSc International, Social and Public Policy
Department of Social Policy

Jimin is working with SEAC Associate Dr Sin Yee Koh (Senior Lecturer in Global Studies, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia) for her project entitled, "Lifestyle Im/mobilities in/to Malaysia in the COVID-19 Era"

Project Summary:

Over the last two decades, Malaysia has emerged as a popular lifestyle mobility destination for middle-class individuals and families (e.g., retirement migrants, lifestyle migrants with school-going children, seasonal migrants with second homes in Malaysia). Generally, these ‘migrants’ are attracted by the relatively affordable cost of living, the quality of education and medical care, the tropical climate, and the ease of everyday living in Malaysia (e.g., use of English, presence of co-ethnic/co-national communities, ability to practice their faith). Their stays in Malaysia are assisted by favourable visa programmes such as the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) visa which allows long-term residence (for the individual, spouse, and dependent children), residential property ownership, part-time work, and investments in Malaysia.

Since its inception in 2002, the MM2H programme has had about 45,000 successful applicants. From 2012 to 2018, the top three source countries of MM2H migrants were China (41.0% share), Japan (12.3% share), and Bangladesh (8.0% share). While potential MM2H applicants can apply directly to the programme, many would apply through licensed MM2H agents that are familiar with the programme and can offer related services to facilitate their lifestyle mobilities to Malaysia (e.g., property acquisition, rental management, international school enrolment, car rental). Indeed, my previous research finds that such agents are an essential part of the migration industry, that is, an ensemble of actors offering for-profit or in-kind services – often specialised – that facilitates migrants’ physical and capital mobilities to Malaysia (Koh, 2017; forthcoming).

In an attempt to manage the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysia has imposed international travel and local movement restrictions. The MM2H programme has been suspended till further notice, and there are uncertainties surrounding related sectors (e.g., education, medical tourism). These new restrictions, policy changes and uncertainties have produced different impacts to the current and planned mobilities of lifestyle migrants. More importantly, these broader changes could fundamentally alter lifestyle mobility trends in/to Malaysia as well as regionally in Southeast Asia.

Situated in this context, this pilot study explores the impacts of Covid-19 related travel and other restrictions from two perspectives. On the one hand, it explores the im/mobility experiences and future mobility plans of two ‘migrant’ groups: (1) lifestyle migrants who are already living in Malaysia; and (2) aspiring lifestyle migrants to Malaysia. On the other hand, it explores how public and private agents in the lifestyle migration industry are responding to Covid-19 related restrictions and uncertainties in the short and medium term. In doing so, it seeks to understand how transnational lifestyle im/mobility trends in/to Malaysia have been shaped and influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic. Its findings could enrich extant migration industry literature and identify policy implications.


SEAC Undergraduate Research Fellows 2019/20

In 2019/20 SEAC appointed the following LSE URFs working on research projects led by SEAC Associates:

BSc International Relations and History 
Department of International History 

Anya is working with SEAC Associate Prof. Duncan McCargo (Director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies; and Professor of Political Science, University of Copenhagen) for his project entitled, "Thailand’s Changing Electoral Politics"

Project Summary:

Prof. Duncan McCargo is working on a book about the emergence of new political forces before during the 2019 Thai elections, to be published by NIAS Press. The book will focus on parties, leaders and voters, drawing on issues discussed at two LSE SEAC events in which Prof. McCargo took part in 2018 and 2019. The co-author will be Anyarat Chatthrakul, currently an independent scholar based in Amsterdam. The aim is to produce an extremely topical and timely book with crossover appeal to general readers, to be written during the first half of 2020.


Mr Vernon Yian
BSc Politics and Philosophy
Department of Government

Vernon is working with SEAC Associate Dr Thomas Smith (Assistant Professor in Environmental Geography, LSE) for his project entitled, "Defining the 'Haze' Season in Southeast Asia".

Project Summary:

An astonishing socio-environmental consequence of such widespread and predictable air pollution episodes is the concept of the ‘haze season’; an entirely anthropogenic season of the year that now appears in the lexicon of Singaporeans, Malaysians, and Indonesians, to describe the months of the year before the monsoon season. Despite its widespread usage, there has been little academic study of how the ‘haze season’ is defined by those who suffer it, raising a number of interesting questions. When is the haze season perceived to start and end? How severe or prolonged must a haze event be before people begin to refer to it as a season? Do people plan their lives around the haze season? This URF project will seek to address some of these questions through a range of methodologies, including social media textual analysis, news media analysis, google search term analysis, and surveys of students from the region at LSE.