The Centre of Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) was established in 1964, soon after the founding of Monash University, in recognition of the importance of the Southeast Asian region to the university and the expertise of Monash staff in this field. It continues to maintain an international reputation for excellence in scholarship on Southeast Asia. Leading international scholars, in particular in the fields of Indonesian, Cambodian and Malaysian studies, have contributed to the activities of the Centre while teaching and researching in a wide range of disciplines. These include anthropology, economics, education, geography, history, law, linguistics, literature, music, politics and sociology.
Since the mid-1960s Monash has awarded more than 300 postgraduate research degrees for work on Southeast Asia. While these students have mainly worked in discipline-based departments, the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies has provided invaluable opportunities for cross-disciplinary interchange and debate. This network of postgraduate students, many of whom now occupy senior academic positions in the region, is an invaluable resource for the Centre and continues to generate joint publications and research activities.
This major research focus is also supported by the Southeast Asian collection of the Asian Research Library at Monash. Over the years this has developed as a resource of international significance, and is particularly strong in the Indonesian area.
A major activity of the Centre is its forthnightly seminar series. The seminars, presented by leading scholars of Southeast Asia and more junior researchers and postgraduate students, cover both major current issues in the region and more specialised topics.
The Centre has hosted many large international conferences over the years, as well as smaller workshops. Most of the major conferences have focussed on Indonesia, dealing with topics such as state and civil society in Indonesia, democracy in the 1950s and 1960s, the politics of middle class Indonesia and the recent economic and political crisis. Important conferences have also been organized on Cambodia and other parts of the region.
As well as providing analysis and expert commentary on the current economic and political situation in the region, and especially in Indonesia, the Centre has also been involved at a more practical level. The Centre played an important coordination and training role for the independent observers monitoring both the 1999 presidential elections in Indonesia and the independence referendum in East Timor.