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This Week in Southeast Asian Studies (TWISEA)
January 26, 2016
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South by Southeast

This week, we will hear from Katia Chaterji (left). She’s currently an MA student in History. Her research project traces connections in mythology, performance, and architecture between South and Southeast Asia. Besides research, Katia is interested in conservation, technology and education.
 
The word “conservation” often conjures the painstaking process of digging, dusting artifacts and restoring them to their splendor. But for Katia, technology has come a long way in conservation. Working in the non-profit sector, Katia used “3D laser scanning and other reality-capture technologies to document and archive high-resolution data of cultural heritage sites as they existed at the time of capture.” And with such data, conservationists can restore, replicate, or 3D print the sites for educational purposes.
 
The intersection of conservation, technology and education was most interesting to Katia. She loved working with educators to “develop lesson plans for science and math classes” that would “instill an interest or familiarity with cultural heritage sites.” She also believed that with the “appropriate technologies, we can share diverse humanities topics with a larger audience and appeal to both history and tech enthusiasts.” 
 
After working for a few years in the conservation field, Katia wanted “more specialization,” so she decided to pursue a PhD in History. For her BA at the University of Chicago, Katia studied “South Asian archaeology and the often conflicting narratives of cultural heritage at pilgrimage sites in south India.” But she “was always struck by the similarities” between the sites she studied in south India and the “diversity of archaeological remains across the Bay of Bengal in Southeast Asia.”
 
Katia in fact spent a year teaching English in Malaysia through the Fulbright Program to “explore these interests more” after graduating from college. And when it came time for her to pursue a PhD, she decided upon UW. She hopes to “study the cross-sections between South and Southeast Asia, looking specifically at the effects of this exchange as seen in temple architecture and sculptural iconography in Indonesia."
 
Katia, however, was not the only person who was making a connection between two seemingly disparate things. One of her students in Kuala Rompin, “a small coastal town in southeastern Pahang,” kept asking her if she knew the “old man.” Katia thought that her student meant her grandfather. “She was not that thrilled with my answer,” Katia said. “The next time I went into town, I saw the giant KFC sign and slowly realized – she was asking if I knew Colonel Sanders, the old man on the KFC sign.” Katia made sure to explain to the student that she was “not personally acquainted with the Colonel!”
 
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