IEAS Welcomes New Director: Professor Penny Edwards

February 2, 2024
The Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS) is pleased to announce that Professor Penny Edwards has agreed to serve as the Institute’s new Director. As of January 1, Edwards assumed her new position from Professor Robert Sharf, who stepped down as Interim Director after a highly successful year.

Penny Edwards is the Walter and Elise Haas Professor of Asian Studies and Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley. She received her BA Hons in Chinese from SOAR, London University, her MPhil in International Relations from St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, and her PhD in History from Monash University. She has held a Fulbright Scholarship at Cornell University, and a British Council Scholarship at Beijing Normal University.

Edwards is a leading authority on cultural nationalism and colonial encounters in Southeast Asia, whose scholarship is grounded in more than three decades of active experience and engaged research in Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia and in China. Her first book Cambodge: The cultivation of a nation, 1860-1945, recipient of the Harry J. Benda Prize of the Association of Asian Studies, has had wide-ranging traction beyond Asian studies. Her second book, Kingdoms of the Mind: Burma’s fugitive prince and the fracturing of empire, forthcoming with Columbia University Press, is an epic tale of geopolitics, exile and modernity that explores how power works in transnational contexts. Core questions driving her research include the complexity of identity, the makings of belief, and the power of connection.

Her publications range from literary anthologies to cultural and global histories of Buddhism, nationalism and cross cultural encounters in Southeast Asia, Chinese diaspora and Australia. She has edited and co-edited seven volumes and journal issues, most recently In the Silence: International Fiction, Essays, Poetry and Performance, Volume 34 (2023) of Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing, and Memory Thickness: Presenting Southeast Asian Pasts, Issue 21 (2016) of the Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia. Her Op Eds and essays have featured in Open Democracy, Mekong Review, and Words Without Borders. Her book-length translations from Chinese, Khmer and French include Cambodian author Soth Polin's novel L'anarchiste, now in press with Gazebo Books, Sydney, Australia.
Edwards teaches in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies and is recipient of the Carol. D. Soc Graduate Mentoring Award and the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of Graduate Student Instructors. Her recent cultural collaborations include the Archiving Cinema project, a collaboration between Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center in Cambodia and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, funded by the Luce Foundation, and no place like home, a multi-artist performance she directed at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, funded by a grant from the University of California Critical Refugee Studies Collective.

Edwards chaired the Center for Southeast Asia Studies from 2008 - 2011, and has worked for the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, Amnesty International, the Center for Advanced Studies in Cambodia and Beijing Foreign Languages Press.

IEAS is especially excited to have a leader specializing in Southeast Asia whose expertise reaches beyond a single country, someone who has served in management positions and been deeply involved in fundraising efforts, including two successful recent grants from the Luce Foundation.