Call | Research at the Interface of Activism and Academia in Southeast Asia

*** The submissions deadline has been EXTENDED to 13 January 2017 ***

Organized by:
The York Centre for Asian Research, York University, Toronto
Southeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS)

Date: Thursday, 16 March 2017 (9.30am – 4.30pm)
Venue: Sheraton Centre, 123 Queen St West, Toronto

In most Southeast Asian countries, research on contemporary social, economic and environmental issues is conducted in both academic institutions and by activist or advocacy organizations. In many cases, these institutional forms overlap as researchers move between them over time, work in both contexts simultaneously, or maintain close collaborations. The circumstances in which academic and activist agendas intersect do, however, vary greatly depending on political contexts/histories, the issues being addressed, and the development of specific organizations.

The purpose of this pre-AAS workshop is to bring together scholars and activists who have conducted research at the interface of academic institutions and advocacy organizations in Southeast Asia. The goal will be to share and compare these experiences and to develop a published output that reflects diverse contexts, concerns, positionalities and possibilities. We encourage critical perspectives on all aspects of the intersection of academic/activist work.

Questions for reflection and discussion might include:
– How relevant is a distinction between academia and activism in Southeast Asian contexts?
– How do states seek to draw distinctions between political activism and academic research, and how are research agendas and knowledge sharing regulated?
– How does identification with activist or political organizations affect the research process and the positionality of the researcher?
– How has university based research been applied or mobilized by activist organizations? How do forms of research communication differ?
– Is research conducted by activist organizations different from that emerging from work rooted in post-secondary institutions, and can one influence the other?
– What are the dynamics between non-local academics and local activists in SEA?
– What are the institutional and resource constraints on research in university versus activist organizations?
– What are the experiences of individuals who have moved between academic and activist organizations, and vice versa?

The format of the workshop, and its output, will be shaped by the participants, but we envisage a roundtable format with short written reflections circulated in advance. Presentations by each participant will be brief, allowing time for feedback and open discussion.

To participate, please submit a 300-500 word abstract outlining the experience and/or issues that you would address in your contribution to the workshop. We also invite you to provide suggestions regarding the format and outputs of the workshop. This submission can be sent to, with the subject line “AAS workshop.”

The deadline has been EXTENDED from 23 December 2016 to 13 January 2017.  A maximum of 12-15 participants will be invited to join the workshop.

Registration at the AAS conference ( is not necessary to participate in this workshop.  The workshop organizers may be able to provide modest financial assistance where needed (e.g. one extra night of accommodation for those visiting Toronto for the conference) but comprehensive travel assistance is not available.

Organizing Committee:
Kenneth Cardenas, Christopher Chanco, Nga Dao, Alex Felipe, Alicia Filipowich, Chaya Ocampo Go, Philip Kelly, Conely de Leon, Wendy de Loera, Arianto Sangaji, Laura Schoenberger, Alicia Turner, Peter Vandergeest.

(photo courtesy Flickr by Robert)