This Week in Southeast Asian Studies (TWISEA)
March 1, 2016
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Climate Change & Trauma
“[D]on’t we have a responsibility to try to mitigate and limit our impact on climate change, even though we aren’t lying in the direct path of these... storms?"
This week, we will hear from our alumna Lauren Pongan (MA 2015). She saw the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines. It not only affected her deeply but also shaped her MA thesis.

In Nov 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), “the most powerful to ever make landfall,” devastated central Philippines. A month later, Lauren arrived to help. She originally planned “to spend the month traveling and visiting family and friends” in the Philippines. But when the storm hit, she revised her trip. “I knew that I wanted to adjust my itinerary…if I could find a way to be helpful,” she said. Ultimately, the trip shaped Lauren’s outlook and focus for her MA thesis.
During her trip, Lauren witnessed not only the destruction but also the emotional trauma of the victims. The experience made her “question the future of these vulnerable coastal populations of the Philippines given the reality of climate change.” Upon returning to the U.S., Lauren worked with her committee, Laurie Sears and Vicente Rafael, to examine the “different ways in which traditional disaster risk reduction and management generally fails to address emotional trauma and why the effects of this are so lasting and devastating for communities.”
Lauren also recorded stories from the victims and brought them to the U.S. She knew that these stories, though “deeply moving, became ever so slightly less potent.” In a sense, the typhoon “became history.” But instead of inaction, a sense of responsibility or obligation grew and took roots in Lauren. In an article for her alma mater, Lauren wrote, “[D]on’t we have a responsibility to try to mitigate and limit our impact on climate change, even though we aren’t lying in the direct path of these increasingly strong storms? This obligation, it seems, is as much moral as it is environment. Shouldn’t we do all that we can?”
Lauren finished her MA program last summer. She has also left Seattle for a job in Philadelphia. Despite the change, Lauren still carries the drive to help others. She’s currently the Navigator Program Supervisor at Penn Asian Senior Services, as she assists “Asian American Pennsylvanians and new immigrants/refugees to access health insurance and health care through the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare).”
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Upcoming Events (1)

Past Lives Present, Tense: Past-Life Memory in Contemporary Cambodia

Erik W. Davis
Associate Professor, Religious Studies, Macalester College

Mon, April 4, 3:30-5 p.m.

Thomson, Room 317

Past-life memory in Cambodia is common. In Buddhist scriptural practices, past-life memory is usually thought of in terms of the Buddhist cycle of saṃsāra, where past-life memory is often a prerequisite for advanced stages of spiritual accomplishment. However, in practice, past-life memory is often deeply disturbing to the rememberer, their family and their community. This presentation discusses three examples of contemporary past-life memory out of Erik's fieldwork in Cambodia, highlighting the practices that surround such memory and uses to which such memories are put. Examples include a young girl who remembers being her own uncle, a spiritual leader who claims to be the most important Buddhist leader of the Cambodian twentieth century, and another woman who put two families together in her youth, and has maintained their connections into her eighties.

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Featured Courses - Spring 2016

History of Southeast Asia
JSIS A 221/HSTAS 221 with Christoph Giebel
MW 2:30-4:20 (with section on Friday)

Music of Indonesia
MUSIC 439 with Christina Sunardi
MW 1:30‐2:50

Islam, Mysticism, Politics & Performance in Indonesia
JSIS 462/586, HSTAS 466/566 with Laurie Sears
TTh 3:30-5:20

Non-Western Architecture
ARCH 251 with Vikram Prakash
TTh 9:30-11:20

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Recommended Resources

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For general information on funding sources, including FLAS, visit the SEAC website
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