SEAS is a registered association (Verein) and a non-profit organization based in, but not restricted to, Vienna, Austria. While Vienna is the place to meet face-to-face and the locus for organizing events, many of our teammates and members are often spread around the globe. None of our teammates serve a full post at our organization – describing SEAS as a network of scholars fits the organization’s character best. Most of our activities are realized through the pro-active and voluntary engagement of our members and staff. Our two main areas of work are described below.
When SEAS was founded by students and scholars at the university of Vienna in 2005, we found ourselves in a situation where the limited curricula did not satisfy our interest in South-East Asian affairs. In reaction to that we started to organize brief talks, discussions, and evening lectures on different topics relevant to South-East Asia, or introductory lectures to certain South-East Asian countries, ourselves. In 2006, and with some initial support from university department friends, we organized our first conference on South-East Asian Studies – focusing on the aftermath of the December 2004 Tsunami catastrophe that had hit countries such as Thailand and Indonesia. This event became the first of a series of conferences we labeled the Viennese International Conferences of South-East Asian Studies, which were subsequently conducted on an annual basis and steadily grew in content and outreach. While our first conference mainly attracted scholars and students from neighboring Germany, our following conferences also hosted speakers and participants from countries such as Taiwan or the United States.
Besides these conferences, we continued to conduct a number of small workshops and lectures on our own or in cooperation with other institutions, e.g., the Indonesian Embassy in Vienna. In a series of public events we extended our lectures to adult education centers (VHS) where members of our network gave introductory talks on the region or more specific lectures on South-East Asian countries.
In 2011, we organized our first four weeks’ summer school program StudyExperience South-East Asia to Thailand and Cambodia. The program offered participants a genuine mix of Study-ing (lectures in the field and at universities) as well as cultural Experiences (a wide range of excursions often joined by local partners). Hence, the name of the program: StudyExperience. A second summer school was organized for 2012.
Besides the conferences and activities described above, SEAS also aims at serving as an open network of South-East Asian students, scholars, and the interested public. As a consequence, we disseminate news through our website that is of interest to the South-East Asian Studies community in Vienna, Austria, or beyond (conferences, call for papers, vacancies, etc.), and are available for general counsel to students who conduct research on South-East Asia or plan their fieldwork in a respective country. Additionally, we are happy to serve as information brokers and experts for inquiries on the region or other South-East Asian topics as long as they fit our field of expertise.
Since 2011, the main area of our activity is the publication of the Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies (ASEAS). We published the first issue of this biannual open access journal in February, 2008. ASEAS is a bilingual and interdisciplinary peer-reviewed academic journal that is released online and also in print – although the latter only in small numbers – mainly for libraries and institutional subscribers. Currently, we pursue the expansion and further increase of quality control of this project.
In addition to our academic activities, we have occasionally conducted or supported projects aimed at intercultural exchange and the promotion of South-East Asian culture. We were and are happy to help promote cultural events organized by migrant communities in Vienna or Austria. With viennasian, we carried out an intercultural youth-project on Austro-Asian identities in 2009. viennasian comprised a photo competition, several workshops as well as an exhibition and side-lining cultural events, and was kindly supported by a wide range of funding agencies and sponsors. You can find more information on viennasian here (soon).