Social Justice in Southeast Asia (SJSEA) Project

Social problems, injustices and inequities, along with social movements that try to address them, travel. While seemingly local problems like the rise of authoritarianism and right-wing hate groups have highly particular contexts and causes, they also have translocal and international parallels, circulations and networks. As the current pandemic has made only too evident, the challenges or problems facing a particular community can quickly take on larger global dimensions, at the same time revealing or amplifying inequities and injustices such as lack of access to adequate healthcare and systemic racism. Issues of social justice in Southeast Asia are diverse and increasingly intertwined with global movements for social justice, and this seems like a particularly apt moment to focus on social justice movements and injustices in Southeast Asia and their connections to and parallels with related issues in the United States.

Not only is it a moment to consider social justice globally and in the United States, it is also a time of critical change in higher education. We need new ways of framing the aims of higher education to create thoughtful, globally literate citizens and to open up new pathways resulting in different types of educational outcomes for students, especially in the humanities. Students’ commitments are changing and they often come into undergraduate and graduate studies with different concerns than in the past, oriented toward taking concrete steps to solving social problems from structural racism and discrimination to addressing social issues that disproportionally affect women to alleviating hunger and finding new sustainable food sources in the context of climate change.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Social Justice in Southeast Asia Project (SJSEA) is an innovative, timely, collaborative, and public-facing initiative aiming to re-envision the scholarly infrastructure for research and teaching on Southeast Asian at University of Wisconsin-Madison with a focus on social justice themes in the region and between the United States and Southeast Asia. The five main components of this five year (2021-2026) project will be:

  • Social Justice Faculty Hires: three assistant professor positions in History (2021-2022), jointly Anthropology/International Studies (2021-2022), and Asian Languages and Cultures (2022-2023). These faculty will collaborate to develop a cluster of conjoined social justice courses for first-year undergraduates.
  • Justice in SEA Lab (JSEALab): The JSEALab will include ten different types of activities, including reading groups, dissertation proposal workshops, dissertation chapter workshops, practitioner masterclasses, and public events. The lab will involve significant collaboration between academics and practitioners, recognizing that students are increasingly choosing professional careers outside academia.
  • Social Justice Southeast Asian Faculty/Student Research Partnerships: This component will allow for social justice-oriented research collaborations between faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates at University of Wisconsin-Madison with faculty and students in Southeast Asia. A “Re-envisioning and Decolonizing of Southeast Asian Studies” workshop will be organized with Chiang Mai University.
  • Social Justice Hmong Studies: This component will support racial justice-oriented Hmong studies that connect Southeast Asian Studies and Hmong American students through the Hmong Studies Consortium, including participation in our Hmong Studies Study Abroad program in Thailand. Students will be drawn from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota.
  • Social Justice Internship in Thailand Program: This component will allow undergraduate and graduate students to participate in internships in Thailand for one year each, where they will be placed with bilingual media outlets Prachatai and Isaan Record.

For more information, please contact the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (, or via phone 608-263-1755). This page will also be updated regularly with ongoing SJSEA project activities.