Southeast Asian Lives and Histories

A group of four middle-aged and older women sit on and around a wooden platform and sort silkworms.

Multiple generations of silkworm raisers and weavers at work in Surin, Thailand.

The UC Berkeley Center for Southeast Asia Studies (CSEAS) is thrilled to announce that it is the recipient of a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation Initiative on Southeast Asiafor the project Southeast Asian Lives and Histories (SEALIVES).

The Luce grant will provide $400,000 to support SEALIVES, a thematic umbrella for projects conducted about Southeast Asians in Southeast Asia and the diaspora. The heart of this project focuses on biographical interviews that will highlight the life histories of Southeast Asians from different backgrounds and experiences. Linked activities, to take place over three years (2023-2026), will ground this work: 1) an annual small grants program to support the gathering of interviews; 2) annual workshops on oral history methods and writing Southeast Asian lives, including training in media/methods/ethics for long format interviews and storytelling forms including text, film, recordings, and podcasts; and 3) a publication and archiving project. These components will link UC Berkeley with other campuses in the California public university system, and with Southeast Asia-based institutions. Three additional activities will engage with different publics: colloquia in which Life History grantees report on their projects, an annual panel discussion with a Southeast Asian literary or artistic figure, and a final capstone conference.

Foregrounding the lives of Southeast Asians across multiple sites and through the lenses of diverse disciplines is a valuable end unto itself, and will also generate new research, methods, and collections on Southeast Asia and the diaspora. Life history/biographical interviews undertaken by grantees will give voice to the lives of both prominent and ordinary Southeast Asians in their homelands, as well as feature often under-the-radar diaspora community members in the US. For example, such interviews could capture the voices and memories of often-silent elders in California diaspora communities or within Southeast Asia, whose lives are linked to post-independence neo/colonial politics in the US, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, and to historical Cold War strategies and relationships. Looking at the expression and experiences of these changing times and places through people’s life stories demonstrates, in moving and insightful ways, the events, contexts, and global forces that have led to regional and global movements and diasporas as well as to the transformations of places and identities.

We anticipate that SEALIVES will have immediate and long-term impacts on scholars, students, and other publics at Berkeley and beyond. A key premise of our project is that Southeast Asia must be defined by lives lived, and not by national or regional borders. Intellectually, our project will initiate a long overdue but critical conversation between Southeast Asian studies and Southeast Asian diaspora studies at UCB, other UCs, and CSUs. Showcasing the extraordinary lives of ordinary and prominent people of Southeast Asian heritage will broaden the attention to Southeast Asian Studies and deepen knowledge about Southeast Asia and Southeast Asians living in the United States.

Call for Proposals: Southeast Asian Lives and Histories Small Grants Program, 2023-2024

We invite applications for the first year of the annual UC Berkeley CSEAS Southeast Asian Lives and Histories small grants program. Applicants must be enrolled at or affiliated with UCB, other UCs, CSUs, or institutions located in Southeast Asia. Please click below for downloadable application forms and detailed instructions. Should you have any questions, don't hesitate to email