Photo for UCLA Center for Southeast Asian...

Hapao Rice Terraces, Ifugao, Philippines / Acabado's work establishes that these terraces were constructed ca. 300-400 years ago as a response to the arrival of the Spanish in the Philippine lowlands.

The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded a five-year grant to CSEAS to support interdisciplinary research and student training programs on the Early Modern Period in Southeast Asia.

June 30, 2021

The Henry Luce Foundation awarded a grant of $740,000 to the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) to support the project Early Modern Period Transitions in Southeast Asia: Environmental Dynamics, Social Change, and Globalization, described as “an exciting project” by Luce Program Director for Asia, Helena Kolenda.

The grant was awarded through the Luce Initiative on Southeast Asia and will establish the Program for Early Modern Southeast Asia (PEMSEA), directed by Stephen Acabado, associate professor of anthropology and core faculty member of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. Acabado also serves as director of CSEAS. Faculty from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa and the University of Washington will serve as collaborators on the grant. The project will run from July 2021 through June 2027 with an additional $1.4 million institutional support from various units at UCLA including the International Institute, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, Dean of Humanities and Dean of Social Sciences.

The first activity of PEMSEA will be a series of virtual workshops, Historicizing Disaster Risk Management: The Ecology of Mt. Isarog and its Environs, starting August 2021, co-sponsored by Asia-based partners, Partido State University, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and the National Chengchi University’s Center for Taiwan-Philippines Indigenous Knowledge, Local Knowledge, and Sustainable Studies.

Over the course of the grant, PEMSEA will develop an interdisciplinary research program to expand and revitalize Southeast Asian studies and offer new directions for integrated scholarship through through undergraduate and graduate student training, annual interdisciplinary workshops and field schools, community engagement and logistical support for studies on Early Modern Period Southeast Asia. The research program intends to provide baseline environmental histories from different locations in Southeast Asia using multidisciplinary approaches.

"We are using both the Luce and UCLA funds to help increase the participation and training of underrepresented minorities in Southeast Asian archaeology and archaeology in general. There will also be a competition for grants for student research funds in Southeast Asia, not only for U.S. students, but also for Southeast Asian students, graduate students, and senior colleagues who want to start working in Southeast Asia," Acabado explained. "We want to break that barrier for students who are unable to pay for field schools," he continued. "We want students to have this formative field experience to apply to whatever advanced degrees they want to pursue." A field school in the Philippines is scheduled for 2022.

"I am excited that this grant will enable PEMSEA to advance the field of Southeast Asian Studies in critical and innovative ways through integrated and community-engaged scholarship on the social, economic, and environmental transformations of the region during this period," said Cindy Fan, UCLA vice provost for international studies and global engagement. "The UCLA International Institute will support the field schools in Southeast Asia organized by PEMSEA as part of our mission to expand opportunities for students to receive an enriching international experience to enhance their education and training in becoming future global citizens and leaders," she shared.

"Luce funding for PEMSEA supports transdisciplinary research on a poorly-known historical period when Southeast Asia became a focal node of the emergent world system," explained Miriam T. Stark, professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa and director of UH Center for Southeast Asian Studies. "Studying human/environment dynamics in Early Modern Southeast Asia not only offers global insights on long-term human responses to climatic variability, it also builds local histories using documentary, archaeological and environmental approaches," she added.

"I am thrilled that the Luce Foundation has chosen to invest in the PEMSEA project, which will bring together archaeologists, historians, and climate scientists from the U.S. and Southeast Asia," noted Peter Lape, professor of anthropology at the University of Washington and associate director of research and collections at Burke Museum. "The Early Modern Period was one of dramatic changes in society and environment that holds lessons incredibly relevant to our current time of transformation," he explained.

"We want to establish a regional chronology based on Southeast Asian experiences, rather than using Eurocentric models," Acabado shared. Born in the Philippines, Acabado received his Ph.D. at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa in 2010 and spent a few years in Guam before coming to UCLA in 2013 to continue his work in the Philippines. Three years ago, he also started work in Taiwan. In addition to his duties as director of PEMSEA and CSEAS, he will continue teaching two courses at UCLA.

The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art and public policy. 

In keeping with the Foundation's mission, the Asia Program works to strengthen and support the generation of knowledge, expertise, capacity and resources on Asia–for scholars, policymakers and publics; to increase understanding and build trust among Americans and the peoples of Asia in order to promote peace; and to counter Asia-related xenophobia and racism in the United States. The Luce Initiative on Southeast Asia (LuceSEA), administered by the Asia Program, is a multi-year grants competition approved by the Foundation’s Directors in June 2018. 

Published Icon

Published: Wednesday, June 30, 2021