Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Abgeschlossene Forschungsprojekte


The Ritual Reproduction of “Khmerness” in Thailand: Popular Religion and Social Structure at the Nation-State’s Periphery (2010–2015)

Photo: Benjamin Baumann

Ethnicity, the historically constituted and dialectic classification of social groups according to ethnic categories, serves as a structuring principle in the plural societies of modern Southeast Asia. Analogously to the premises of social class in class-based societies, ethnicity assignes relative positions in the hierarchical social structures of contemporary Southeast Asian societies. Current studies indicate that popular religion, perceived as a cultural marker of social groups, is becoming more and more important in these processes of internal and external ascriptions of collective identity. Popular religion and especially the ritual practices that go along with it become therefore crucial elements in the dialectical constitution of ethnic groups in modern Southeast Asia.

Thailand's Khmer-speakers, who until recently were classified as an 'invisible minority' by social scientists, are inseparably associated with magic, spirit cults, and Brahmanism in Thailand's public sphere. Ambiguity characterizes the public's dealing with these popular religious forms, which command a great deal of mystical potency as local traditions, while at the same time representing deviations from the imagined orthodoxy of Thai Theravada Buddhism. This research project aimed at exploring the local conceptions of magic, spirit cults, and Brahmanism as well es their associated ritual practices in Buriram Province in Thailand's lower Northeast. Correlating them with the socio-cultural self-identifications of Thailand's Khmer-speakers the project asks for the meaning of ambiguity in everyday lifeworlds in the region.

Supervision: Dr. Benjamin Baumann



The Politicisation of Religion in the Context of Educational Migration to Malaysia (2011–2015)

In recent years, Malaysia has emerged as an important destination for Muslim students from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. The considerable numbers of foreign Muslim students currently enrolled at Malaysian universities challenge the prevailing representation of Southeast Asia as the periphery of the “Islamic world”. While there is a long history of exchange between the Middle East and Southeast Asia, the contemporary reconfiguration of mobility between Southeast Asia and the Middle East has to be understood in the context of changing global migration regimes. In particular, the introduction of islamophobic immigration policies by many Western states after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 has made it increasingly difficult for Muslims to travel to the West. Virtually banned from entering Western universities, and actively encouraged by campaigns launched by the Malaysian government, increasing numbers of Muslim students have opted to study in Malaysia over the last decade. Consequently, Malaysian campuses and their surroundings have undergone significant diversification, with newer immigration from the Middle East meeting older migration streams that have long made up the – often uncritically – celebrated multi-ethnic and multi-religious social fabric of Malaysian society.

Supervision: Dr. Olivia Killias
More information: DORISEA Website



Der Weg in den Vietnamkrieg: Ein Beitrag zur Neubewertung der jüngsten vietnamesischen Geschichte (2005–2009)




Die Repräsentation von „Melayu“ und ihre politische Umsetzung in Malaysia von 1900 bis heute (2004–2008)

Teilprojekt des DFG geförderten Sonderforschungsbereiches „Repräsentationen sozialer Ordnungen im Wandel“, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Leitung: Prof. Dr. Vincent Houben



Wirtschaftskultur und Unternehmenskooperation in Südostasien am Beispiel von Singapur und Indonesien (2000–2002)

Projekt des Bayerischen Forschungsverbund Area Studies (FORAREA)

Weitere Informationen: FORAREA-Website