This Week in Southeast Asian Studies (TWISEA)
August 7, 2015
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Selfie with the Committee Chair (Christoph Giebel)
This week, we will hear from Hoang Ngo. A newly minted PhD. He just defended his dissertation, "Building a New House for the Buddha: Buddhist Social Engagement and Revival in Vietnam, 1927-1951." For him, writing is very similar to running. One paragraph at a time.

A Paragraph a Day (and You Will Finish)
Last Thursday, I defended my dissertation. It was only two hours long. But it took me nine years to get to this point. I did not take the “typical” route to graduate school. But it was an interesting journey. And I’m glad that I did it.
Graduate school, history or Southeast Asian studies was never a part of my horizon. As an undergraduate, I majored in electrical engineering. It was an expected choice for a recent immigrant. Social sciences and humanities, people said, would be too hard for me. And I never challenged them.
My then girlfriend (now wife) introduced me to academia. She actually took me to the Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference in Chicago one year when she was there for work. She thought I would enjoy it because I liked to “discuss” and “argue” about things. The panels that I attended opened up my eyes. I did not know that one could turn “studying” into a profession.
The Southeast Asia Center at UW made graduate school possible for me. And I am forever grateful for the support. The center was the only place that awarded me with a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship. As soon as I received the award letter, my wife and I packed everything into our car and drove from East Lansing, MI to Seattle.
The PhD program in History felt like a natural extension of the MA program in International Studies. I continued to work on the questions that I had. The Fulbright-Hays – Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad then gave me the opportunity to find my own answers. My wife and I gave up our apartment, packed up our belongings into seven suitcases and took our six-month old daughter Sophie-Ly to Vietnam and France for one year. We survived!
Writing the dissertation was the hardest part of my journey through graduate school. I was thinking too much. So, I picked up running to clear my head. But running taught me so much more. One day, as I was trying to run around Green Lake, it dawned on me that to run three miles, I had to begin with one, and that the sooner I began the quicker I would finish. For almost two years, I woke up at 4.30 am everyday to write a paragraph before taking my daughter to school and going to work at a not-for-profit organization.
Life with dissertation done is a lot simpler. I don't have to get up early anymore. And after my defense, for one day only, my daughter Sophie-Ly called me Dr. Daddy to congratulate me. She's really happy that I finished because I now can spend all of my time with her and her baby sister Sylvie-Ly.

We would love to hear what you are doing this summer. Please e-mail us an update at
In this issue
Study Abroad

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Recommended Resources (2)
This section lists news items and other recently-published resources that have been recommended by faculty and grad students over the past week. To submit an item for next week, email

New items this week:

  • Northwest Film Forum: "The Look of Silence," Aug 7-13.


    In an ambitious companion film to his Academy Award-nominated documentary, The Act of Killing, director Joshua Oppenheimer returns to the aftermath of the 1965 Indonesian genocide of communists and ethnic Chinese people in The Look of Silence. The documentary picks up the thread of its predecessor, and confronts the aging perpetrators of mass murder with the consequences of their crimes.


  • The Diplomat: Asia's 'Unruly' Children by James Buchanan - a great essay!


    Understanding cultural hegemony in Asia highlights the difficulties faced by young progressives fighting for change. 

Items from last week:


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Jobs (1)

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Previously Listed:

Fellowships and Funding (3)

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For general information on funding sources, including FLAS, visit the SEAC website
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Conferences and Calls for Papers

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Study Abroad
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