University of Wisconsin–Madison

SEASSI Lecture Series: Dr. Margaret Bodemer

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2017-07-19 15:00 - 16:30

“Centering Southeast Asian Perspectives in the Teaching of Southeast Asia: A Methodology”

Presented by Dr. Margaret Bodemer, Lecturer in History and Asian Studies at the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.


Asia, and particularly Southeast Asia, seem to occupy a unique position in the imagination of most Americans today.  On the one hand for the Vietnam War generation there is war and suffering; for the younger generations there are contradictory notions of white-sand beaches and tourist destinations.  Of course both of these “gazes” obscure local socio-cultural, historical and political complexities.  Beyond American perspectives and remembrances of Asia and Southeast Asia, how have inhabitants of those places understood and viewed their own pasts, cultures and politics?  What about Southeast Asians abroad, including what many scholars have called a diaspora, and the next generations of those refugees and immigrants?  What acts of memory and identity are meaningful for them? In this talk, I illustrate how autobiographical, first-hand narrative accounts can be effectively used to understand these complex and multifaceted realities, both in a classroom setting and for research.  I argue that Southeast Asian experiences should be repositioned as central to our explorations of this fascinating region and beyond; in order to de-Orientalize our own gazes and to create a more inclusive understanding of the past, present and future.


Dr. Bodemer teaches classes on The Vietnam War, Modern East Asia, Modern Southeast Asia and Multicultural America in the History Department and the Asian Studies minor at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. An interdisciplinary scholar, she has also taught Cultural Anthropology and Ethnic Studies. After earning a B.A. in International Studies (Southeast Asia) and History at the University of Washington, she earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Studying Vietnamese since 1998, she also attended SEASSI in 2006. Her Fulbright-Hays sponsored research project explored the history of museums and anthropology in Viet Nam from 1945 on. Other projects have explored popular religion and propaganda posters. She has traveled and conducted research in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan and has served on the Executive Committee of the Vietnam Studies Group since 2011.

This lecture is free and open to the public.