Center For Southeast Asian Studies

University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Thai Studies at UW-Madison

Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Programs in Thai Studies
Language Instruction
Library Collections
Study Abroad in Thailand
Council On Thai Studies
The Royal Thai Embassy Grant
Past and present PhD students on Thailand



Thai studies program at UW-Madison is regarded as one of the best in the US. Since the  early 1980s, the program has been strengthened by the increasing number of faculty with specialty on Thailand in various disciplines, the number of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, the quality of language instructions, our library collections of materials in Thai language including a number of unique materials, the study abroad programs in Thailand, the increasing number of graduates in MA and PhD who did excellent researches on Thai land, and by other academic activities including the CSEAS weekly lectures that regularly feature speakers and topics about the country. We are also a partner with the CSEAS at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL) to host the annual conference, Council on Thai Studies (COTS). In 2008/09, as recognition of our excellence in Thai studies, the Thai Embassy in Washington, DC, awarded a grant to support the program at UW. The grant not only helps enhance the current activities, but it also provides the opportunity for a visiting scholar, for scholarships to students in the study abroad program, and for new fellowships for graduate students who are doing research on Thailand.


Larry Ashmun, MA (Northern Illinois)
Southeast Asian Studies Bibliographer, UW-Madison Libraries
Email: lashmun@library.wisc.edu

Ian Baird, PhD (University of British Columbia)
Assistant Professor of Geography, Department of Geography
Email: ibaird@wisc.edu

Robert J. Bickner, PhD (Michigan)
Professor, Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia
Email: rbickner@wisc.edu

Katherine Bowie, PhD (Chicago)
Professor, Department of Anthropology
Email: kabowie@wisc.edu

Kannikar Elbow, (UW-Madison)
Thai Language Lecturer
Email: kchanpra@wisc.edu

Ian Coxhead, PhD (Australian National University)
Professor,Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (2002-2005).
Email: coxhead@wisc.edu

Anne R. Hansen, PhD (Harvard)
Professor, Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia
Email: arhansen@wisc.edu

Thongchai Winichakul, PhD (University of Sydney)
Professor in the Department of  History. Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (1997-99).
Email: twinicha@wisc.edu

Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Programs in Thai Studies

At the undergraduate level, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies offers both a Bachelor's degree in Asian Studies-SE Asia Concentration, and an Undergraduate Certificate in Southeast Asian Studies. In either of these options, a student can focus his or her studies on Thailand and Thai language. At the graduate level, a Master's degree in Southeast Asian Studies. Similarly, a graduate student in our MA program can focus his or her studies on Thailand and Thai language.



We offer several undergraduate and graduate courses in Southeast Asian studies in which Thailand is an important component. Several graduate seminars focusing particularly on Thailand are also offered from time to time.


Buddhist Studies:
Introductory Topics in Religious Studies
Religion in History and Culture: The East
Buddhist Ethics
Buddhism and Literature
Proseminar: Studies in the Religions of Asia: Theravada Buddhism
Seminar: Topics in the History of Buddhism
Introduction to Buddhism
Topics in Contemporary Buddhism

Political Ecology in Mainland Southeast Asia
Upland Peoples in Mainland Southeast Asia

History of Southeast Asia before 1800
History of Southeast Asia after 1800
Buddhism and Society in Southeast Asian History (emphasis on Thailand and Burma)
Seminars on topics that are specific or related to Thai history are also offered, e.g. Modern Thai Political and Cultural History; Traumatic Past in Thailand; Recent Scholarship in Southeast Asian History; Orientalism: The Others in Our Knowledge; Politics of Drugs in Southeast Asia.

Language and Literature:
Southeast Asian Literature [Mainland]
Buddhism and Literature
Modern Thai Literature: Thai Novel
Thai Poetry
Thai Prose Literature: The Short Story
Proseminar: Studies in Cultures of Asia: Ramayana in South and Southeast Asia
Proseminar: Studies in Literatures of Asia: Mahabharata in South and Southeast Asia
Proseminar: Studies in Literatures of Asia: Ramayana in South and Southeast Asia
Structure of Thai
Southeast Asian Literature in Translation [Mainland]


Language Instruction

Beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses in Thai language are offered during each academic year, and courses in Thai linguistics, poetry, the short story, and the novel are offered on a rotating basis. A course in advanced reading skills is also offered as needed.

In addition, Thai is offered during the summer as part of the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI), which offers intensive courses at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels in seven national languages of the region. UW-Madison has been host for SEASSI for more than 10 years.

Students interested in Thai language skill courses beyond the third year level may apply for admission to the Advanced Study of Thai (AST) Program hosted by the Faculty of Humanities at Chiang Mai University. Funded by the Group Projects Abroad section of the Fulbright Act, the program provides eight weeks of intensive instruction for students who have previously completed three levels of instruction or its equivalent. Prof. Robert J. Bickner, founder of the AST program, today represents UW-Madison on the oversight committee and admissions committee for the program.


Library Collections

Since the 1980s, UW-Madison has regularly acquired publications in Thai from Thailand via the services by the Library of Congress. Our library currently holds hundreds of thousands of titles in most fields in social science, the humanities and arts, including a number of academic journals, popular magazines, and weekly news magazines. Our Thai language collections can support research from the basic to the advanced levels.

We also develop a number of special collections in Southeast Asian and Thai studies. Among them are, for example:

  • The SouthEast Asian images & Texts (SEAiT) for photos and slides from colonial archives and from collections of several researchers since the 1960s.
  • In 1990, our partnership with the Thammasat University Archive resulted in a unique microfilm collection (34 reels) of materials by the urban radicals and the communist guerillas in Thailand in the late 1970s to early 1980s.
  • Micro films of several journals, magazines and daily newspapers from the late 1970s to early 1980s.
  • A sizable collection of popular music and films from Southeast Asia.
  • A collection of everyday publications from Thailand.
  • Currently we are also developing a collection from Father Bertrais on the Hmong in Laos.

Our current librarian of Southeast Asia collections, Larry Ashmun, is also a Thai specialist.


Study Abroad in Thailand

Students at UW have great opportunities to study abroad in Thailand through one of the following options.
The "College Year in Thailand Program" (CYIT) is operated jointly by UW-Madison and the Faculty of Social Sciences of Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Participants may go to Thailand for a full academic year, or for a single semester. The program sent its first class of students to Thailand in 1982 and has been in continuous operation since. Program graduates are now pursuing careers in academics, business, government, journalism, and a number of other fields, many with a concentration on Southeast Asia in general, and Thailand in particular. Prof. Robert J. Bickner, founder and Director of the program, provides intensive cultural and academic orientation for students preparing to participate in the program.

Our agreement with Thammasat University allows our graduate students to spend a semester of course works in Thailand with credits toward a UW degree. (This program is managed on case by case basis. Please consult Professor Winichakul.)


Council on Thai Studies (COTS)

The Thai Studies program at UW and our counterpart at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL) have been partners for the past 20 years taking turns to host the Council on Thai Studies (COTS), the annual meeting of scholars and students in Thai studies. Apart from a guest speaker, mostly from Thailand, COTS has become a friendly forum for the well known and the young scholars, and graduate students to test their ideas and get feed-backs on their research.



One of the regular programs by the CSEAS at UW is the Friday Forum, our weekly lectures by scholars from various disciplines on different countries and topics. Lectures on Thailand have been regularly featured in the program. Students and faculty in Thai studies have plenty of opportunity to learn the state of the fields, the exciting new research, wisdoms and experiences, and to exchanges their ideas in person during the lectures as well as lunches and dinners.


The Royal Thai Embassy Grant

In 2008, with the generosity of the Thai Embassy in Washington D.C., UW-Madison was chosen a recipient of its grants to support Thai Studies in the US. The grant, itself a recognition of our strength and excellence in the field, helps strengthen our ongoing activities and support a few new activities. The grant allows us to provide support to more undergraduate students who want to go study abroad in Thailand, to increase our library acquisitions, to invite many young scholars to present their novel research on Thailand at our lecture series, and to provide support for a guest speaker at COTS.

Among the new opportunities, Dr. Prasit Leepreechaa from Chiang Mai University was invited to teach a course on Ethnic Minorities in Thailand, as part of the larger program on UW campus that focuses on the ethnic minorities in the mainland Southeast Asia.

The grant also allows us to offer the Chuang-Nikhom Fellowship, our first-ever scholarship for students who are studying Thailand. The scholarship is named after two prominent Thai alumni of UW. The first is Phra Chuang Kasetsilapakarn, who was the first student from Thailand to graduate from UW. He became prominent in Thailand in modern agriculture and animal science. The other is Professor Nikhom Chandaravithun, one of the most prominent advocates of workers and labor unions in Thailand who was an architect of the social security system for all employees in the country. The Chuang-Nikhom Fellowship represents the strong relationship between UW and Thailand and the commitment of this university to contribute to a better world. 


Past and present PhD students of Thai studies

Wattana Sukannasil (Sociology, 1991)
Nalinee Tantuwanit (Sociology, 1992)

Scott Christensen (Political Science, 1993)
Daniel King (Political Science, ….)
Sarinna Areethamsirikul (Political Science, 2007)

Henry Delcore (Anthropology, 2000)
Megan Sinott (Anthropology, 2002)
Eric Hanstaad (Anthropology, 2008)
Michiko Tsuneda (Anthropology, 2008)

Yasmin Saikia (History, 1999)
David Streckfuss (History, 199..)
Sorasak Ngamcachonkulkid (History, 2004)
Thanapol Limapichart (History, 2008)
Shane Strate (History, 2009)
Francis Bradley (History, ABD)
Taylor Easum (History, ABD)
Sinae Hyun (History, ABD)

Heidi Fischle (Buddhist Studies, ABD)
Betty Nguyen (Buddhist Studies, ABD)


UW-Madison and Thailand have partnered for nearly a century on initiatives that have benefited students, scholars, and citizens of both the State of Wisconsin and the Kingdom of Thailand. For links details on these research initiatives check out: The UW-Madison Thai - Connection



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Center for Southeast Asian Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison
207 Ingraham Hall
1155 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1397
phone: (608) 263-1755
fax: (608) 263-3735
e-mail: seasia@intl-institute.wisc.edu