You are here: Home Research
Document Actions


Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Freiburg seeks a transdisciplinary research agenda. Participating disciplines include Political Science, Social Anthropology, Economics and Asian History. Located at the crossroads of multiple encounters between the Middle East, India, China and Europe, Southeast Asia has been exposed to strong external cultural influences for many centuries. These foreign influences have been persistently localized and transformed over time into layers of indigenous culture. Research on Southeast Asia is therefore a suitable terrain for the empirical study of “multiple modernities” conceptualized both as a globally as well as an intra-regionally differentiated process.


Southeast Asian Studies at Freiburg mainly build upon a constructivist theoretical paradigm, although with the intention of reconciling it with rationalist arguments. Their focus is on the region’s ideational developments and on their implications for and in relation to material dynamics. Grounded and extensive empirical research is carried out within a framework of methodological pluralism that combines hermeneutic-inductive and qualitative approaches with deductive-nomothetic and quantitative research techniques such as model building, econometrics.

Southeast Asian Studies at Freiburg seek to contribute to theory building that is sensitive to local dynamics and knowledge production in the region. Research takes a close look at Southeast Asia both from a four-fold perspective: An outside-in perspective focuses on the external influences and their localization, an inside-out perspective on the region’s own norm production and their export, a top-down perspective focuses on Southeast Asian elites as norm entrepreneurs, and a bottom-up perspective examines the impact of local social and cultural practices, belief systems, and discourses.

Research focuses on two thematic pillars: democratization and institutional change as well as constructions of the “Other” and the impact of changing power configurations in Asia and the world.


Democratization and Institutional Change in Southeast Asia

This research cluster focuses on processes of democratization and institutional change in Southeast Asia. Of particular interest are the ideational shifts accompanying such transformations. Studies explore how and why new ideas and norms emerge and in which way they reconfigure polities, societies and economies in the region. What is the role of foreign ideas on democracy, security and statehood, how are these external influences integrated into the local political script and what are the consequences for democratization and institutional reform? This research field is conceptualized as a multi-level process that can be studied at the international, domestic and sub-national government levels in Southeast Asia.

You can find a list of current research projects here:

International Institutions

National Polities

Democratization of local government (Decentralization)

Modes of world-making in Southeast Asia (Associated Research Project funded by DFG)

The second pillar of the research agenda is based on a former research cluster under the title “Beyond Occidentalism: Concepts of ‘the West’ in Asia” (2009-2013). The research interest was extended to the question of how people in Southeast Asia make sense of the (global) world, how they relate to it and how it impacts on them. While this includes at a politico-economic level Southeast Asia’s relations to its Great Power neighbours China and India, cultural studies focus on the contestation over an alleged “Arabization” in the Islamic parts of the region as well as imagined worlds and notions of natural or transcendent dimensions.

The pillar also refers to the dynamics of social and moral order such as reframed gender relations in religious contexts. The overarching research questions that connect several ongoing studies are: How can Southeast Asia under the impact of Great Power influence maintain its autonomy and cohesion as a region? And how are particular ways of being-in-the-world experienced, articulated, positioned and related to both intra- and transcultural encounters and activities?

You can find a list of current research projects here


Other Projects

You can find a list of other projects here


Overview of Doctoral Dissertations and Habilitations

You can find a list of Doctoral Dissertations and Habilitations related to Southeast Asia here

Personal tools