Southeast Asia Crossroads Podcast Teacher Resources

Lanna Traditions: Music and Dance of North Thailand - Resource 1

Music permeates our lives in a multitude of ways, and many believe it is a gateway to the supernatural. However, it is much more than that. Music can reveal history, culture, religion, and politics. Eric Jones sits down with Andrew Shahriari (School of Music, Kent State University) and Chamni Sripraram (NIU, Thai Cultural and Fine Arts Institute of Chicago) to discuss how music in Thailand is a gateway to its cultural traditions. 

Please find below a link to “Lanna Traditions: Music and Dance of North Thailand” in addition to questions that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. What was the Lanna kingdom, and what is its significance in Thai history?
  2. What were the cultural and economic ramifications of the opening of the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center?
  3. What might one experience during spirit dance rituals?
  4. Discuss trance versus possession.
  5. For what occasion--and in what manner--was the instrument phin pia traditionally used?
  6. Why was use of the instrument discouraged during 1930-40s in Thailand?
  7. How was the phin pia saved from extinction and its status restored as the symbol of Lanna music?


See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Prayer and Skin Color: Religious and Ethnic Sentiments in the Jakarta Elections - Resource 2

In this episode, Eric Jones hosts Nathanael Sumaktoyo (postdoctoral fellow with the Global Religion Research Initiative hosted in the Department of Sociology, University of Notre Dame) as they explore the puzzle of Muslim voting behavior with double minority candidates. Taking advantage of the presence of an ethnic and religious minority candidate in a gubernatorial election in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and employing both experimental and observational designs, Sumaktoyo finds that ethnic considerations drive voters’ choices more than religious ones. He discusses how these findings inform our understanding of the limits and extents of religious influence on Muslim voting behavior.


Listen to “Prayer and Skin Color: Religious and Ethnic Sentiments in the Jakarta Elections” and see below  questions that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. Who is Ahok? What was unique about him and the 2017 elections that refocused Sumaktoyo’s research?
  2. Dr. Jones mentions “primordial connections” between ethnicity and religion. What does he mean by this? Recap Dr. Sumaktoyo’s response, including and discussing one of his examples.
  3. Briefly describe the role of religion in [modern] political history in Indonesia.
  4. What did the short clause in the Jakarta Charter that was discussed say/what does it stipulate? What has been the fallout?
  5. What was life like for ethnic Chinese under former President Suharto?
  6. According to the discussion in this podcast, what were some of the factors and sentiments that caused or allowed for the ethnic riots in major Indonesian cities in 1998?
  7. Why was Ahok sentenced to two years in jail? What were his charges?
  8. What limitations did Sumaktoyo face while he was attempting to test his research questions?
  9. What is experimental design, and how did Sumaktoyo employ it?
  10. According to the speaker, what role did religion play in voting behavior? What about ethnicity?


 Crossroads would like to thank Agung Pradanta for the music on this episode’s music.


See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

The Saint in the Political Storms of Modern Thailand - Resource 3

Katherine Bowie (Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison) joins host Eric Jones and NIU Thai language professor Kanjana Thepboriruk and University of Wisconsin-Madison PhD candidate Matthew Trew to discuss her new research on the influential monk, Kruba Srivichai, and his place in defining modern Thailand. Kruba Srivichai (1878-1939) is the most famous monk of northern Thailand.  Born during a stormy night, northerners came to believe that he was a tonbun, a saintly precursor of Maitreya.  Able to mobilize popular support on an unprecedented scale, Srivichai was involved in the building or restoration of over 100 temples throughout the northern region. Srivichai continues to be a political force to the present. 


Listen to “The Saint in the Political Storms of Modern Thailand” and see below questions that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. What makes Kruba Srivichai a crucial figure in terms of the creation of the modern Thai state?
  2. Describe a visit to the historic road and temple he constructed overlooking Chiang Mai, as recounted by the guests in this episode.
  3. Why have both northern Thais and Thais from central Thailand wanted to depoliticize Srivichai?
  4. Against what backdrop did the central Thai monarchy try to gain control over monastic orders in northern Thailand?
  5. For what reasons was Srivichai simultaneously feared by the state and revered by the populace?
  6. Why did Kruba Srivichai face treason charges in 1920? What was the motivation for his action(s)?
  7. What are the main differences in the structures of the monastic orders of central and northern Thailand?
  8. Consider what a guest in this episode meant by “the educational power of tourism”; how might this be observed and/or researched in Thailand (or anywhere)?


Crossroads would like to thank the Dangdut Cowboys for this episode’s music.


See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Have Fun in Burma - Resource 4

In this episode of Crossroads, Rosalie Metro (Assistant Professor, College of Education, University of Missouri) discusses about her captivating 2018 novel, Have Fun in Burma, which deals with the conflict between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.


Please find below a link to “Have Fun in Burma” in addition to questions that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. Outline Metro’s past research on Burma. As an educator, what has been her focus?
  2. What are the reasons for and the benefits of approaching this topic as a novel, rather than as an academic paper, according to Metro?
  3. State the premise of the novel, and then discuss why the novel being set in the year 2012 might be important. Consider social media use, political climates, media coverage of current events, etc.
  4. Why did the author utilize a close third person point of view in her novel? Discuss perception, objectivity (or lack thereof), positionality, and authority.
  5. What reactions has the author encountered? Discuss some of the cultural understandings and misunderstandings she mentions.
  6. What are some of the lasting effects of colonialism on Burmese social and national identity?
  7. The interview mentions “voluntourism” several times. What does this term mean? What types of voluntourism have you seen or experienced? Once you have a short list of examples, briefly outline issues associated with each. Consider this quote and how it might inform your discussion: “The aspiration to help. . .is a noble one, but the booming business of ‘voluntourism’ sustains practices and institutions that actually do harm.” (See “The business of voluntourism: do western do-gooders actually do harm?” by T. Rosenberg, Sept. 13, 2018, The Guardian.)
  8. What will Metro’s future research include?


See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Buffers against Famine in Khmer Rouge Cambodia - Resource 5

Rachel Jacobs (PhD candidate, Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison) shares her innovative interdisciplinary research into non-execution deaths during the Cambodian Genocide. Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979) had one of the highest mortality rates of any communist revolution, with the deaths of approximately one quarter of the population: half from direct violence and the other half from indirect means, in particular starvation. What explains the variation in indirect deaths, those that resulted from means other than execution, during this period of mass violence? Jacobs argues that that while Khmer Rouge control over agricultural production was one cause leading to high rates of starvation deaths, its policies of social control associated with the collectivization process exacerbated the problems of famine. 

Listen to “Buffers against Famine in Khmer Rouge Cambodia” and see questions below that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. On what aspects of mass killing under the Khmer Rouge does the speaker’s research focus? How is her research on the Cambodian genocide innovative?
  2. To dig deeper into question 1: What is meant by “direct violence”? How does it differ from “indirect”? Mention examples given in the discussion and incorporate ‘intention’ into your answer.
  3. Jacobs discusses a vast range of experiences under the Khmer Rouge regime. How were changes to daily life different from one group of people to the next, even groups that were not geographically distant? What were some of the factors causing this range of disruption?
  4. Jacobs utilizes literature on natural disasters to inform her own research on survivability, violence, and collectivization. Discuss the common effects of ‘social isolation’ and its importance in both research fields.
  5. Give a brief history of the Khmer Rouge, focusing on events in 1970 and 1975.
  6. How does the speaker talk about the effects of ‘economic controls’ and ‘social controls’?
  7. What is “social collectivization”, and what two levels of it does Jacobs look at?
  8. Describe the research methods and methodology Jacobs used.
  9. From her comparisons of two villages, what relationship did she identify between the levels of social collectivization and death from indirect means?


See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.



The Trauma of Witnessing: Photographing the Philippine Drug War - Resource 6

Under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's regime, the war on drugs turned into a war on addicts. Despite its popularity among some, the war has also elicited other responses, including those from photojournalists. Their coverage of the war has sought to call attention to the brutality of the nightly killings. Vicente Rafael (Professor, Department of History, University of Washington) joins us as we explore the role of photojournalism as an act of witnessing as much as a style of mourning.


Listen to “The Trauma of Witnessing: Photographing the Philippine Drug War” and see questions below that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. What is Duterte’s signature program, the “War on Drugs”? Who have been the primary targets? What has the execution of this campaign looked like?
  2. Rafael mentions criticisms of Duterte trying to nationalize his “Davao Model”. What is this model, and how has it affected his approach to policies as president?
  3. Rafael refers to the War on Drugs as “an exercise in treating the symptoms and not the root of the problem.” Discuss the disjunct between what Duterte sees as “the source of all evil” and the larger conditions associated with drug use.
  4. Between 2016 and 2018, there has been a shift in the types of images emerging from the Drug War in the Philippines. Describe the photos (content, composition, and context) that were seen early on in Duterte’s presidency. What purpose did they serve? What has changed since those early images were taken, and to what extent has the international community played a role?
  5. What does Rafael mean by “public torture”? What does public torture “advertise”, and to whom?
  6. What do the speakers mean by “the agency of the corpse”? What “work” does a corpse have the potential of doing?
  7. Trauma, shock…these words come up in interviews with journalists covering this period in the history of the Philippines. How does “the process of witnessing” offer a way of moving through and dealing with these harrowing experiences? What might this process entail, as described by Rafael?
  8. What happens when photographic images are commoditized and circulated in the global mediascape? Consider the photojournalists, in addition to the photos themselves, and ideas of witnessing, remembering, validation, and the compulsion to document.
  9. Rafael gives an intriguing, brief history of crime photography that includes logistics, mechanics, lighting, and the resulting signature images (highly contrastive). Consider the aesthetics unique to the genre of photojournalism. How have images taken in the Philippines—starkly illuminated, sometimes “haloed”—worked to produce what Rafael calls “a sacred tableau”? Consider the ideas of presentation, “restoring specificity”, martyrdom, the work of mourning, as well as invitation to action—whether physical, emotional, psychological—on the part of the viewer.
  10. What do the panelists mean by “mechanical forgetting” and “organic forgetting”? Think about the last few years of your life. Have you experienced one or both types of forgetting? To your comfort level, describe the process (Was it expressed or subconscious? Intellectual or visceral?) and how you think about it in retrospect (Was it cathartic or simply necessary?).


See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Flavors of Empire: Food and the Making of Thai America - Resource 7

With a uniquely balanced combination of salty, sweet, sour and spicy flavors, Thai cuisine burst onto Los Angeles and American culinary scenes in the 1980s. Dr. Mark Padoongpatt (Associate Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas) talks about his book, Flavors of Empire: Food and the Making of Thai America, which weaves together histories of food, empire, race, immigration and Los Angeles in the second half of the twentieth century.

Padoongpatt explores how and why Thai food became hyper-visible while Thai people remain invisible in American life. As the story of Thai cuisine in the U.S. continues to unfold, Flavors of Empire urges us to think critically about the long journeys—both geographic and historical—that our food has taken to get to our plates, and the significance of food culture to understanding the transnational links and connections between Southeast Asia and the United States.

Educators, please find below a link to “Flavors of Empire: Food and the Making of Thai America,” as well as questions that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. Mark Padoongpatt was initially reluctant to do this food-related project, saying, “I have a very ambivalent relationship to Thai food.” Growing up, he says people often equated his identity with Thai cuisine; so, as he began his academic career, his inclination was to NOT study and write about food. How did his relationship to the topic—and its eventual incorporation into his historical and cultural analysis—evolve, resulting in this book?
  2. Padoongpatt says that the history of Thai food in the US does not start when Thais stepped foot on American soil. Situate Americans’ introduction to Thai food historically, considering U.S. global expansion, familiarity with the Asia Pacific region, and cultural curiosity in the 20th
  3. How did necessity, substitution, improvisation, entrepreneurism and even smuggling play into the story of Thai food becoming available in the U.S.? The story revolves around ingredients.
  4. The first Thai market and Thai restaurant in the U.S. opened in Los Angeles. How did the location boost their status and help Thai food become popular in southern California (and eventually the country), become a cuisine with “cultural cachet,” as Padoongpatt describes it?
  5. Discuss the role of the Thai government in the expansion of Thai food into and throughout the U.S. and other countries; focus on the 2000s economic development plan, originally called ‘Thai Kitchen to the World’. Address standardization and the exportation of goods and chefs. What does Padoongpatt mean by the phrase “soft power through gastrodiplomacy?”
  6. A section of Mark Padoongpatt’s book is devoted to looking at Thai restaurants as “culinary contact zones,” where interesting power relations can be observed behind the kitchen door. What does he say about some of these relationships that appear familial (whether through kinship or through business bonds) and provide benefits to those involved? What does he say about the possibility of exploitation?
  7. Reflect on authenticity, as discussed in this episode. Who is concerned with authenticity and how is that sometimes manifested? Consider who’s making and who’s consuming Thai food, where it’s being consumed, artistry and dynamism, standards and who’s setting them, fusion and marketing.
  8. What is “cuisine-driven multiculturalism”? Describe the controversy surrounding this type of tourism. Where does the speaker land on the issue, and how does he articulate his views, as well as the problems with both sides of the debate? What is your personal approach to thinking through this controversy?
  9. Read the following articles from NPR and the Los Angeles Times, respectively. The first, from 2016, mentions many of the same details that Padoongpatt does, regarding the history of the market and of Thai food in America. The second, from 2019, details the store’s sad closing. Both articles mention a diverse clientele, NPR saying that “to get ingredients from around the world, all sorts of people shop at the market: Asians, Latinos, hipsters and exciting new chefs.” Looking back at your answers to questions 3 and 4, write a eulogy to Bangkok Market. What would you say that captures the fascinating history of its genesis, its important place in the community, and its absence that might be felt by many now?

More listening:

Genocide and Justice: The Ongoing Search for Truth and Accountability for the 1965-1966 Indonesian Mass Killings - Resource 8

In this episode, NIU historians Eric Jones and Kenton Clymer interview Bradley Simpson (Department of History, University of Connecticut) and discuss genocide, justice, and the ongoing search for truth and accountability in the 1965-66 Indonesian mass killings. Their talk explores ongoing campaigns crucial to the stability of Indonesia’s fragile democracy.


Listen to “Genocide and Justice: The Ongoing Search for Truth and Accountability for the 1965-1966 Indonesian Mass Killings” and see questions below that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. The year was 1965. The day was September 30. Briefly describe the events—including key players and their intents—that occurred, resulting in the mass killings that are the subject of this episode.
  2. Now, situate the events of that fateful day within the larger social conflicts between the Indonesian communist party (PKI) and the two other main political forces in the country: the Indonesian army and the Islamic religious community/communities. Sketch a diagram of the stakeholders and their associated political ideologies that were at odds with one another.
  3. Set the stage for us further, detailing US involvement in Southeast Asia in the 1960s. Consider Vietnam War and Cold War activities (and also involvement in Burma and Cambodia, as discussed later, at minute 28:13 of this episode). In your own words, how would you describe the mindset of U.S. military and intelligence officials at this time?
  4. Leading up to 1965, the US had been furtively trying to cultivate the Indonesian army as an anti-communist force. How and to what extent was the U.S. a player in the events discussed in your answers to questions 1 and 2? Include in your answer tangibles, as well as doctrinal and intellectual influences.
  5. As early as 1959, under the Eisenhower administration, the stated goal of US covert operations in Indonesia was to try to encourage an armed clash between Indonesian armed forces and the Indonesian communist party, with the expectation that the PKI would be defeated. What strategies did the US/CIA employ towards this goal?
  6. Bradley Simpson says, regarding their close working relationship and promise of US support, “The problem was…that the Indonesian army was still very nationalistic.” The goals of the two entities were overlapping, but not synonymous. Discuss the disconnect between the goals of the US and those of the Indonesian Army. How were they manifested during the coup and the resulting mass killings?
  7. Describe the wide net that swept up political prisoners. Who was at risk of being caught in it?
  8. Regarding the massacres of 1965-66, for 32 years there was one national narrative, Simpson says. How were these events talked about during those decades? How were counternarratives squashed?
  9. Post-Suharto, Simpson explains, there was a slow but significant thaw in policies that had been frozen in place following the September 30th How did a new national discussion begin, and what steps were taken to make that a possibility (education, publications, advocacy organizations, films, etc.)? How has the battle for public memory been fought since 1998?
  10. Jones asks, “Why was the response of Islamic groups in Indonesia so strong and stern against this new revision?” In his answer, Simpson delves into the perceived religious and political threats felt by all involved groups—Islamic, communist, and army. As you listen to his answer, review your sketch from question 2; you can now add to it, flesh it out (add specific fears, reasons for distrust, deemed alliances), and get a much clearer picture of the situation that existed at this time in Indonesian history.
  11. Simpson mentions five ways that new national narratives are emerging. For each, elaborate on what is being done, as well as what lost information and/or voices are being recovered?
  12. Academic work by a young generation of Indonesian scholars
  13. Human rights organizations’ initiatives
  14. Indonesian government investigations and reports
  15. NGO and civil society tribunals and hearings
  16. The 2012 documentary film “Act of Killing” by director Joshua Oppenheimer
  17. Towards the end of this episode, Dr. Simpson tells us about his project with the National Security Archives and National Declassification Center, which has recently digitized 30,000 pages of declassified documents in exchange for making them publicly available. These documents have prompted new and intense discussions within Indonesia (and many other countries). Read several of these documents and imagine what conversations these might spark among young people, both in Indonesia and in your country. What themes are most engaging to you, personally? In your opinion, do these documents offer a clear pathway towards truth and reconciliation? Why or why not?


See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.


Tools for Empowerment: Southeast Asian Community Playground Designs - Resource 9

Like many people, Jon Racek's (Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, Indiana University-Bloomington) career in modern architecture took an abrupt turn after the 2008 financial recession. While he reassessed his career and how to move forward, he ended up moving to Thailand with his family. The move catalyzed a journey to build community education systems, specifically playground equipment. Eric Jones sits down with Racek to discuss this journey, its connection with Southeast Asia, and how his idea is championing a new approach to NGO work.

Listen to “Tools for Empowerment: Southeast Asian Community Playground Designs” and see questions below that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. Jon Racek called himself “a man in search of a project.” What series of events prompted him to embark on his current journey? How did his career as an architect, furniture designer, and entrepreneur with firms in Boston and Los Angeles, as well as time spent as an elementary school teacher in Compton, prepare him for the founding of Play360 in 2009?
  2. Consider this quote: “I believe that public space should be intentional: it should be obvious that you belong” (Janet Echelman, renowned American sculptor). Racek holds similar opinions about public space. As you listen, make notes about how his projects have and continue to create spaces that are intentionally inclusive. Think in terms of the systems involved, not only objects.
  3. In this talk, Racek says that “if people can play together, they can live together,” implying that play is hugely important for a functioning society. What are your thoughts on this? What benefits does play have beyond amusement? To get started, please visit his website and scroll down to the ‘Play Matters Because’ section (
  4. In most of the places Play360 has worked, enrollment and retention are major issues that school administrators report needing addressed. How might a playground help improve the numbers for each of these?  
  5. Eric Jones mentions that “education at the parent level is often gendered.” Explain what he means by this, and also how community projects such as these might interact unexpectedly with gender roles.
  6. Racek talks about the commonalities of his projects, no matter where they happen. Look at the list below and note what he says about each:
  • Viability of project
  • Safety
  • Sustainability
  • Community involvement
  • Community buy in
  • Ability to replicate
  • Low cost
  • Durability
  1. How is education embedded in Racek’s playground designs? What opportunities for bringing the classroom outside do his designs provide? Discuss engaged learning.
  2. Watch this video from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, which discusses the importance of play. How can Jon Racek’s and Play360’s projects support the following principles?
  • Develop and nurture responsive relationships
  • Strengthen core life skills
  • Reduce sources of stress
  1. When we are all travelling again, consider taking a trip to Belize, India, Ethiopia, or Peru as a volunteer participant with Play360! Program assistant internships are also available for motivated, civic-minded individuals interested in gaining experience with a growing non-profit organization.

See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Chinese Foreign Direct Investment Inflows into Lao People’s Democratic Republic - Resource 10

Dr. Shoua Yang (Professor of Political Science at St. Cloud State University) joins Dr. Eric Jones to discuss the impacts of foreign direct investment (FDI) on the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The investments are business ventures, trade, immigration, and therefore influence. To explain the movement of these capitals, Yang examines how Lao economic and political variables have induced such inflows. His insight reveals the benefits and consequences of receiving aid from foreign nations in the process of development. 

Listen to “Chinese Foreign Direct Investment Inflows into Lao People’s Democratic Republic” and see below questions that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. Define foreign direct investment (FDI)
  2. At the time of this interview, how significant was Chinese FDI in Laos?
  3. Yang describes conversations with US officials, in which he was told that the US’s mission in Laos was to balance Chinese influence. When he asked what the economic investment plan was, he received no answers that felt concrete. In your opinion, can the presence of the US balance the Chinese influence in Laos without economic investment? Why or why not?
  4. Laos is the only country in Southeast Asia without a maritime border, yet it is a key player in the South China Sea conflict. Explain the political variables that allow for this. In your answer, consider the annual rotation of ASEAN Chairmanship and the power the Chair country holds.
  5. What is China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, and how many countries does it involve? How does the initiative support China’s mission “to compete with the superpowers—the United States—at the international level,” as described by Yang?
  6. What impact does Yang foresee the OBOR having on Laos’s natural resources? Address the financial impact, but also that on the environment.
  7. What impact does Yang foresee the OBOR having on agriculture/land, access to food, and employment in Laos?
  8. Describe the financial terms of the OBOR initiative in Laos. What is Laos’s equity stake in the $7 billion joint venture project? What problems could these financing terms cause? Include in your answer a discussion of the collateral that has been put up by Laos and the ramifications of defaulting on payments.
  9. What is the role of Vietnam in Laos, as one of its largest investors and as a longtime ally? What historical ties do Dr. Jones and Dr. Yang discuss (defense, political party ties, leadership, etc.)?
  10. Since its emergence in the year 2000 as the major investor in Laos, how has China affected Laos’s close relationship with Vietnam? How would you describe the balance of both economic and political influence that the countries are navigating?
  11. Sketch a flowchart of how you envision Chinese “soft power.” What is being disseminated and projected, and to whom?
  12. What predictions does Yang have regarding the future of economic development in Laos?
  13. Research (make sure to use credible sources—FP, Quartz Africa, VoA have articles on the topic) and think about the term ‘debt (or debt-trap) diplomacy’. How has this term been used in the media? Who uses the term and about whom? What might this term be interpreted to insinuate about the agency (or lack thereof) of leaders entering into agreements with China? Share your opinions, as well.


See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Stud
Inequality in Southeast Asia with a Focus on Thailand - Resource 11

Thailand has a unique social structure because it is a global South country which has never come under colonial rule, while emulating Western modernization. The result is a double structure, one part consisting of a precapitalist structure and the other comprising a hierarchy of social classes. On this episode, Dr. Boike Rehbein (Professor, Institute for Asian and African Studies at Humboldt-Universität, Berlin, Germany) sits down with Eric Jones, NIU Thai language professor Kanjana Thepboriruk, and Thai language professor emeritus John Hartmann to discuss the peculiarities of Thailand's social structure and the resulting inequality.


Please find below a link to “Inequality in Southeast Asia with a Focus on Thailand” in addition to questions that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. Jones asks, “What is social inequality?” Dr. Rehbein’s answer initially focused on economic indicators, referencing World Bank reports as examples. Think through the following questions as you listen: What are some limitations on statistics published by agencies such as the World Bank? What information holes are left/what information is not being captured? Consider the ‘rich for a moment’ versus ‘rich for a lifetime’ contrast and what that can tell us about inequality.
  2. In addition to economic indicators, what four other indicators—which capture social reality more comprehensively—does Rehbein use to measure inequality?
  3. What is the difference between ‘social mobility’ and ‘economic mobility’? Give examples of each, both from the past and from the present.
  4. Rehbein describes a system that stretched from northeast India to the Philippines, seen in all parts of Southeast Asia—except for pockets of Indonesia and Vietnam—called the Mandala system. What is the Mandala system, and how did it evolve?
  5. Expanding on your answer to question 4, describe how the aspects of the Mandala system below were integral to its structure:  
  6. Indigenous concentration of power and wealth (hierarchy creation)
  7. Colonialism (society transformation)
  8. Sketch a graphic representation of the power relationship possibilities in the Mandala system, showing oscillation and variance, based on Rehbein’s description.
  9. What is baan muang? Why did Rehbein begin using the term in his research? Consider perspective, familiarity, and engagement.
  10. How might language play a role in fortifying social inequality in Thailand?
  11. When discussing his team, Rehbein speaks about “the hidden assumptions of locals being revealed,” as well as “the hidden assumptions of the Westerners,” by the “commission of misunderstandings” and the resulting conversations. Discuss the benefits—including both knowledge and social position-determined perspective—of a diverse international research team.
  12. What is ‘habitus’? According to this discussion, how might we attempt to distinguish it from ‘habit’ or ‘habitude’?
  13. Compare and contrast social mobility in Thailand, Laos, and at least one other Southeast Asian country mentioned in this episode. Consider the following:
  14. structure stability
  15. transformation—capitalist (and/or other); technological; and educational
  16. What do you think is the main cause of social inequality, especially when we focus on the social structure of a particular society? Support your answer with quotes or ideas from this episode and with examples (from this podcast or from your own research).

See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Revisiting Gender in Southeast Asia - Resource 12

Judith Butler’s 1990 work, Gender Trouble, has become canonical in gender and sexuality studies, but its impact in Southeast Asia is less well known. For scholars of Southeast Asian Studies, the fluidity of gender in Southeast Asia is permeating contemporary scholarship in new ways. Cornell University historian Tamara Loos and NIU Thai language professor Kanjana Thepboriruk sit down with host Eric Jones to discuss the impact of Judith Butler's work as a foundation to these rising, novel discussions concerning gender in Southeast Asia.

Educators, please find below a link to “Revisiting Gender in Southeast Asia,” as well as questions that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. Before listening to this episode, take some time to get to know Judith Butler! Read this informal interview from The Cut, a New York magazine site: “Think Gender Is Performance? You Have Judith Butler to Thank For That,” paying special attention to mentions of her book, Gender Trouble, the topic of this episode’s conversation.
  2. Southeast Asia (SEA) is unparalleled in its diversity, and as a region presents a unique set of attributes that researchers must contend with. How do each of the characteristics below manifest themselves as challenges (and potential limitations) for study?
    • Geography
    • Colonization
    • Contemporary political entities
  3. Tamara Loos is a historian whose work has included gender and identity theory, with a focus on Thailand. Describe how this vast current research project, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble in SEA, originated and what Loos’s approach will be.
  4. The Western body of theoretical work on gender continually pulls case studies from SEA, yet in this episode, the speakers mention that gender in SEA isn’t often looked at directly by these same researchers. How does Tamara Loos’s current project allow for the possibility of a more direct approach? What opportunities may this research provide for academics within the region?
  5. How might gender and sex as categories of analysis—the categories that Butler focuses on—limit and possibly occlude other significant factors when conducting research in SEA? Why does Loos ask us to consider status, class, and ethnicity as perhaps equally or more important categories when approaching gender studies in a historical context in SEA?
  6. Expanding on your answer to Question 5, consider how Western SEA scholars (Southeast Asianists) can better approach gender studies in the region. What biases/theoretical and analytical blind spots need to be revisited? What is Loos referencing as “the most important interventions that Southeast Asianists can make” when looking at Judith Butler’s work?
  7. In your own words, summarize some of the linguistic performance aspects of gender in Thailand, discussed in this episode. Consider referents, greetings and categories (changing categories, category options, etc.) as jumping off points.
From Medicine to Drug: Border-crossing Opium - Resource 13

The history of opium provides us a window into the ways that Southeast Asia in the late 19th and early 20th century was made: by the border crossing of ideas, people, disease, licit and illicit commodities, and by imperial attempts to control these borders. Join us as Anne Foster (Department of History, Indiana State University) discusses her new research on opium and transnational Southeast Asia.

Listen to “From Medicine to Drug: Border-crossing Opium” and see below questions that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. Anne Foster introduces this project as an outgrowth of her first book. Before listening to this episode, take a few moments to imagine how the history of opium in Southeast Asia (SEA) naturally follows her earlier work on the interactions of colonial powers in SEA. Consider the following as starting points for the thought exercise:
  2. Opium creates challenges for state powers.
  3. People and ideas cross borders, too. Compare and contrast those crossings with that of a commodity.
  4. How can border-crossing help develop notions of what a region might be?
  5. Gather the basic information about opium in SEA in the late 1800s:
  6. Where? (growing locations)
  7. Who? (importers)
  8. Why? (revenue uses)
  9. How? (draw flow chart showing opium’s path from farm to user)
  10. Uses? (not only recreational)
  11. Expanding on your answer to “2.e. Uses” above, discuss how opium’s medicinal properties as a pain reliever, anti-diarrheal, and appetite suppressant made it especially useful and easy for colonial governments in SEA to exploit.
  12. Anne Foster discusses the images surrounding opium from this time period: male, emaciated, languid. These images (nearly always posed by anti-opium activists, she tells us) insinuate the opium trade equated disenfranchisement and destitution. How do these images contrast with what we learn in this episode about the following?
    1. Revenue/financial bottom lines
    2. Precision of packaging, production, and distribution
    3. Legality and government control
  13. Foster says that, often, rates of addiction are lower among users that live in the place of a drug’s origin; rates of addiction are even lower when—as was the case of opium in SEA for many years—consumption is embedded in social ritual. How was the element of safety that social practice and ritualization provided eroded by European attempts to regulate opium purchase and use in SEA?
  14. “Opium has transnational politics,” says Foster, meaning that you cannot usefully discuss opium trade in one single country; you must consider its effects on the region. Discuss the transnational politics surrounding opium, focusing on the following:
    1. Smuggling and colonial government collaboration
    2. Politics of prohibition
  15. Describe the massive campaign that activists in the United States launched against “intoxicants” in the Philippines.
  16. How was economic development in the colonies dependent on and inextricable from opium?
  17. Discuss the medicinal explanatory factors behind opium usage during the late 19th What was its connection to the evolution of public health practices and opinions in SEA?


See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.


Transnationalizing Cambodian Buddhism - Resource 14

When socialist restrictions on Cambodian Buddhism were loosened in the early 1990s, Cambodian monks began traveling to Sri Lanka and India, as well as other Buddhist countries, to study. Eventually, a pattern emerged of many young monks being supported by individual sponsors from Cambodia or, more commonly, the Cambodian diaspora communities of Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Anthropologist John Marston (Center for Asian and African Studies, Colegio de Mexico) offers an overview of the interrelated processes of religious and national identity formation taking place among Cambodian and South Asian actors.


Listen to “Transnationalizing Cambodian Buddhism” and see questions below that can be used to inspire discussion and writing.

  1. While travelling in Sri Lanka, John Marston learned that Cambodian temples existed in the country. On one level, this made a lot of sense to him, since the countries share a majority religion. What religion is that, and why were Cambodian students traveling to Sri Lanka? Give at least two reasons.
  2. The fact that Cambodian temples exist in India was “the more surprising case” to Marston, since less than 1% of India’s population identifies as Buddhist. Discuss how the following play into India-Cambodia linkages:
  3. Pali and Sanskrit languages
  4. Origins of Buddhism
  5. Mention of sites in Buddhist scriptures
  6. Ritual function/merit making
  7. Theravada Buddhist plays a central role in Cambodian society. Describe monkhood expectations for young men. Consider age, duration, possible outcomes, and commitment in your answer. How does the picture you have painted of Cambodian monks possibly differ from what you know about monks in other parts of the world?
  8. Listen carefully as Marston describes what happened to Buddhism in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, making notes of occurrences on the following dates mentioned (some dates have more than one event associated with it): 1970, 1975, 1979, 1989, 1991. Create a chronological storyboard, illustrating your vision of the events surrounding each date.
  9. Although Marston says that Cambodia’s connection to India and Sri Lanka existed prior to the Khmer Rouge regime, his research looks at the relationships that developed around the time of the Paris Peace Accords (1991) and the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (1992-93). He mentions an influential Sri Lankan, Hema Goonatilake, among others, who worked to restore Buddhist institutions in Cambodia.
  10. What was Goonatilake’s (and her colleagues’) strategy for establishing and attempting to strengthen ties with Cambodia?
  11. What was the reasoning behind her strategy, and what (if any) were the advantages to Sri Lankans?
  12. How do early Cambodian participants report feeling about their experiences in the efforts to forge strong ties with Sri Lanka and India? How do they remember these early experiments?
  13. How have subsequent groups of monks experienced their time abroad in Sri Lanka differently from the initial groups? Consider changes to the selection process, language acquisition, vetting, educational opportunities, and retention rates in your answer.
  14. Consider the following article from the Sept. 23, 2019 edition of the Tamil Guardian:


“Sri Lanka and Cambodia should ‘work together to spread teachings of Theravada Buddhism throughout the world,’ said Sri Lanka’s [then] president Maithripala Sirisena, whilst attending a Buddhist religious service in Phnom Penh last month. Sirisena, who has increasingly burnished his Sinhala Buddhist nationalist credentials, said Buddhism ‘is the historical foundation of the relations between Sri Lanka and Cambodia’ and called for closer ties between the two governments. During meetings with both the prime minister of Cambodia as well as the monarchy, Cambodia’s king said earlier that ‘Cambodia stands firmly together with Sri Lanka in further cementing bilateral relations in economic, trade, social as well as the renaissance of Buddhism.’”

  1. Notice the phrase in the second paragraph, “who has increasingly burnished his Sinhala Buddhist nationalist credentials.” Spend a bit of time researching Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. Where, when, and why did this ideology originate? Why do you think it was important to the editor that this phrase be included? How might Sinhala Buddhist nationalism play into a symbiotic Sri Lanka-Cambodia relationship?
  2. Notice the phrase in the third paragraph, “further cementing bilateral relations in economic, trade, social as well as the renaissance of Buddhism.” Spend some time looking into the two countries’ current relationship. Since fall of 2019, have there been any notable economic/trade agreements? Have there been any interesting meetings—official or not—between leaders of the two countries? How would you describe their purported joint effort in spreading the teachings of Theravada Buddhism and bolstering a Buddhist renaissance?
  3. Follow this link to the United Nations “Cambodia - Resolutions of the Security Council - UNAMIC” page and select one document to read: ( Once you’ve read your UN document thoroughly, visit the “United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia” Wikipedia page and proof its information, as compared to the original document ( How much can you corroborate comparing Wikipedia to the Unites Nations document you read? Can you find any discrepancies?


See more teacher resource installments that correspond to insightful conversations with Southeast Asian experts, writers, artists and musicians recorded at NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.