The Program for Early Modern Southeast Asia (PEMSEA)

The University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Hawaii-Manoa, and the University of Washington aim to strengthen SEA Studies by establishing a Program for Early Modern Southeast Asia (PEMSEA). This interdisciplinary research program will expand and revitalize SE Asian studies by offering new directions for integrated scholarship through undergraduate and graduate student training, annual interdisciplinary workshops, and logistical support for studies on Southeast Asia’s Early Modern Period.

The research program is intended to provide baseline environmental histories from different localities in SE Asia using multidisciplinary approaches. This involves the compilation of paleoethnobotanical/ archaeobotanical, zooarchaeological, dendroclimatological, and sedimentological datasets from various sites in SEA; analysis of dynastic (i.e. Vietnamese, Javanese, Chinese) records of environmental disasters and other significant ecological events in the region; and, survey European colonial documents (VOC, Spanish colonial records) to identify key environmental perturbations.

The compelling problem is long-term climate change in SEA during the last millennium CE, with a special focus on the EMP, since it is precisely during this critical period that European and Asian worlds collided. PEMSEA research would thus focus on:

1. Human/climate dynamics of the Mekong River catchment (including the Mekong delta region) from 1400-1900, with a focus on resilience strategies and human impact; and

2. Human adaptations to changing sea levels in two key areas of island Southeast Asia from 1400-1900 (southern Luzon, eastern Indonesia), with a focus on resilience strategies and settlement adaptations.

Such deep integration would involve active collaboration across disciplines to trace long-term local and regional human responses to environmental variability and their global implications. The components emphasized above will be articulated through the “human ecodynamics” (HE) approach, which has the potential to facilitate the development of local histories and broaden our understanding of regional-scale change in SEA.

Early Modern Period (EMP) Southeast Asia (1400-1830)

The last 500 years in Southeast Asian history was characterized by dramatic social, political, and environmental changes, not the least of which were the incursion of Europeans at the same time when The Little Ice Age (LIA) stressed the region with bouts of aridity and cooler conditions.  The broad trends of social and climate change can be observed in their respective narratives, but a granular synthesis is lacking.  This is partly because regional histories focus on the elite and complex societies rather than native peoples and places, but also owing to sparse fine-grained environmental data documenting the impacts of a period of global cooling known in Europe as the LIA.  The effect on SEA is regionally distinct from the drastic cooling of the Mediterranean and northern European region, but was severe and catastrophic in the Asian subtropics.

Our research will refine the data on changing climate in the region and to contrast the trendline with fine-grained data on local and indigenous communities in the region against the backdrop of the expansion of regional commerce and European engagement. We focus on the Early Modern Period (EMP) (1400-1830) SEA to establish local responses to such changes and emphasize the role of indigenous societies in the context of environmental history and human ecodynamics. As such, this research program aims to articulate environmental change with social contingencies, bringing together insights and approaches from the fields of paleoclimatology, environmental history, history, archaeology, and anthropology. Our proposed research program, thus, aims to foreground the often obscured or forgotten histories of Indigenous SEA, moving away from attributing European expansion and East Asian resource extraction as the primary catalysts in the EMP transformations.

This program promises to bring SEA to global discussions on environmental change during the EMP, particularly in terms of reconstructing past environments and studying human-environment dynamics through the “human ecodynamics” (HE) framework. HE refers to processes of stability, resilience, and change in socio-ecological relationships or systems. HE research involves interdisciplinary study of the human condition as it affects and is affected by the rest of the non-human world. We will focus on areas that have urgent climate change-related problems, including climate extremes (i.e., droughts, floods), sinking deltas, and rising sea levels/coastal erosion: these impacts have been exacerbated by human activities and have eradicated mangrove forests and altered the landscapes.  We also have large coastal urban populations at high risk.

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Kathleen Johnson

Associate Professor

UCI, Department of Earth System Science

Research Interests: My lab focuses on reconstructing past rainfall variability in the tropics and Asian monsoon region using speleothems (cave calcite formations). We conduct field studies of modern cave systems to assess the environmental controls on speleothem geochemistry and develop robust paleoclimate records using stable isotopes, trace elements and radiocarbon. We combine our proxy data with instrumental climate data, other paleoclimate data, and climate models to investigate the spatial and temporal patterns of natural climate variability, calibrate paleoclimate proxy data, and investigate mechanisms of past climate variability. We currently have active projects in Laos, Vietnam, Mexico, and California.

Mick Griffiths

Associate Professor

William Paterson University, Department of Environmental Science

Research Interests: My research interests are primarily focused on the use of geochemical tracers preserved in sedimentary carbonate and phosphate deposits (“proxies”)–including cave stalagmites, fossil teeth, and lake sediments–to reconstruct past environmental/climate and landscape evolution. Specifically, my research is centered around building records of past environmental change over numerous time scales, ranging from the last millennium to the last ~100 million years, using various isotope systems and elemental tracers encoded in these natural archives. I also work with atmosphere-ocean climate models to elucidate the mechanisms for the changes observed in the proxies.

Aradhna Tripati

Associate Professor

UCLA, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Research Interests: Aradhna researches and teaches about climate change; the history and dynamics of changing Earth systems including climate, ice sheets, oceans, the water cycle, carbon dioxide levels; tool development; and clumped isotope geochemistry. She is now Associate Professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES), the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP), and the California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI), as her work is highly interdisciplinary.


Barbara Watson Andaya


University of Hawai’i-Mānoa, Asian Studies Program

Research Interests: Christianity and religious change in Southeast Asia, ca. 1500-present, Women and gender in early modern Southeast Asia, Social issues in contemporary Southeast Asia. In 2005-06 she was President of the American Association of Asian Studies. Educated at the University of Sydney (BA, Dip.Ed.), she received an East West Center grant in 1966 and obtained her MA in history at the University of Hawai’i. She subsequently went on to study for her Ph.D. at Cornell University with a specialization in Southeast Asian history.

Leonard Andaya


University of Hawai’i-Mānoa, Department of History

Research Interests: Early modern history of Southeast Asia, particularly of Malaysia, Indonesia, the southern Philippines, and southern Thailand. I am now looking at the role of water (fresh, brackish, salt) and its dynamic interaction with Southeast Asian society in the early modern period. This particular interest led me to restructure a project on eastern Indonesia by adopting a sea perspective. In adopting this perspective I hope to demonstrate how local knowledge of the ocean on and below the surface affected local decisions regarding the creation of overlapping economic, ritual, and subsistence networks that criss-crossed the sea lanes of eastern Indonesia in the early modern period.

George E. Dutton


UCLA, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures

Research Interests: I specialize in early modern through early colonial Vietnamese history. I teach courses on early and contemporary Vietnam, and a range of courses in Southeast Asian studies. These include courses on Southeast Asian religions in contemporary society, on 20th-century Southeast Asian literature, and on Zomia, which involves critical issues relating to upland ethnic communities in mainland Southeast Asia and Southwest China. I have also explored topics in 19th and early 20th century Vietnamese history. These have ranged from military technology to poetry to visual humor in the form of newspaper caricature.

Xing Hang

Associate Professor

Brandeis University, Department of History

Research Interests: My first project, which has yielded a book, an edited volume, and several articles and reviews, has examined the Zheng organization and its unique and profitable role in tying together the seventeenth-century maritime Asian trading lanes while struggling to define its legitimacy in terms of Confucian tenets and the imperial dynastic symbols of the Ming and Qing courts. My interests are now drawing me to a study of Chinese communities in Southeast Asia from the seventeenth to twenty-first centuries. I want to understand their institutions, state-building efforts, collaboration with multiple state and imperial actors, and how these elements intersected with the rise of nationalism in China itself.


Daya (Da-Wei) Kuan

Associate Professor

National Chengchi University (NCCU), Ethnology Department

Research Interests: His research interests include: indigenous geography, indigenous land policy, indigenous community mapping, and community-based resources management. In addition to the fieldworks in Taiwan, Daya also commits himself to the comparative studies and collaborations within the Austronesian language-speaking family in the Pacific, including Fiji, Palau, Guam, Philippines, Hawaii, and Aotearoa. Devoting to integrate his works of academic research, teaching and community service for the claim of indigenous land rights, he collaborates with different indigenous communities in many traditional territory mapping, land-use planning and community development projects.


Miriam T. Stark


University of Hawai’i-Mānoa, Department of Anthropology

Research Interests: My archaeological research focuses on local histories (particularly Cambodia’s deep history) and on the materiality of social life. Archaeology provides a research strategy for asking big historical questions, like: why did cities emerge where they did? what role does religion play in state formation? and what are points of fragility and resilience in long-term histories? I use archaeological field methods and analytical techniques to answer parts of these questions; collaboration with specialists is intrinsic to my archaeological research; and I am a lifelong student of the past. My research program, now based in Cambodia, tracks long-term changes in political economy and landscape ecology through the Lower Mekong Basin to answer parts of these broader questions: from the protohistoric to Early Modern periods.

Peter V. Lape


University of Washington, Department of Anthropology

Research Interests: My research focuses on understanding social change in Island Southeast Asia over the last 5,000 years. I have been particularly interested in island landscapes and seascapes, cross cultural interactions such as trade and warfare, human-environment interactions and climate change. I also have an interest in archaeology practice, cultural resource management and public archaeology in the Seattle area.

Stephen Acabado

Associate Professor

UCLA, Department of Anthropology

Research Interests: Stephen is an anthropological archaeologist interested in human environment interaction and indigenous responses to colonialism. His research focuses on the archaeology of highland agricultural systems in Southeast Asia, specifically on the Ifugao agricultural terraces (northern Philippines). Currently, he has active research programs in indigenous Taiwan, and in Bicol and Ifugao, Philippines.

Piphal Heng

Graduate Affiliate Faculty

University of Hawai’i-Mānoa, Department of Anthropology

Research Interests: He received his PhD from the University of Hawaii at Manoa-Department of Anthropology in 20018. He graduated with a Degree in Archaeology in 2002 from the Faculty of Archaeology at the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA), Cambodia. Heng was awarded a Fulbright fellowship in 2007 to pursue an MA degree at UHM Department of Anthropology. In 2009, a Harvard-Yenching Doctoral Fellowship funded the first 3.5 years of his PhD degree. Heng’s dissertation research explores the intersection between political economy, religion, and organizational change during the pre-Angkorian period based on temple economy, archaeology, epigraphy, ethnohistory, and settlement patterns. Heng’s interests lie in archaeological political economy, settlement patterns, state formation, and ceramic production and consumption. Cross-trained in history, epigraphy, and art history at the Cambodia Royal University of Fine Arts, Heng is interested in a multidisciplinary approach to study changes in the sociopolitical and economic system in Cambodia relative to other states in Southeast Asia. His current research focuses on organizational shift and political economy during the transition period to early modern Cambodia.

Martin Polkinghorne

Senior Lecturer in Archaeology

Flinders University

Research Interests: Martin is an archaeologist with interests in the production systems of pre-modern mainland Southeast Asia. Along with Cambodian and international collaborators he has discovered and excavated manufacturing hubs at Angkor and Cambodia’s Early Modern period urban centers. As a Chief Investigator on Australian Research Council Discovery Projects, Martin is conducting the first archaeological excavations of Cambodia’s Early Modern Period capitals on the banks of the Mekong and Tonle Sap arterial rivers to retrieve this period from a perceived Dark Age. By specifying the chronology, quantity, and technology of production and trade proxies these investigations reveal continuity, renewal, and adaptation in the political economies of Early Modern period Southeast Asia.

Thomas Wake

Assistant Adjunct Professor

UCLA, Department of Anthropology

Research Interests: Dr. Thomas Wake specializes in archaeological and zooarchaeological research on the Eastern Pacific Rim. He has expertise in paleoenvironmental reconstruction, paleoecology, historical archaeology, and neotropical archaeology.

Chin-hsin Liu

Assistant Professor

California State University, Northridge, Department of Anthropology

Research Interests: I am a bioarcharologist with research interests in the interaction between human lifeways and their physical and social environs. I use skeletal pathology and bone chemistry to extract biological information from skeletal remains. Interpreted within a biocultural framework, human growth patterns, skeletal health, demography, and dietary patterns can illustrate how a population interacted, reacted, and shaped its physical and social landscape. I am specialized in human osteology, dental anthropology, and stable isotope ratio analysis. Broadly, I am interested in the application of forensic anthropology, zooarchaeology, and cultural resource management.

Udomluck Hoontrakul


Thammasat University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Research Interests: Udomluck studies globalization and postcolonial studies, with an interest in museums and their relationship to identity.

Pyiet Phyo kyaw

Associate Professor

University of Mandalay, Department of Archaeology

Research Interests: Dr. Pyiet Phyo Kyaw has expertise in water resources and iconography in Myanmar, with research spanning from the 11th to 14th centuries and 21st century cultural resource management.

Grace Barretto Tesoro

Associate Professor

University of the Philippines Diliman, Archaeological Studies Program

Research Interests: Dr. Grace Barretto-Tesoro is primarily interested in Philippine indigenous cultures, including topics ranging from ceramics to status and identity


Ruel V. Pagunsan

Associate Professor

University of the Philippines Diliman, Department of History

Research Interests: The role of colonialism in the historical construction of the Philippine natural world. Focusing on the range of natural history projects under the American colonial sponsorship, Dr. Pagunsan examines the approaches and narratives about the Philippine environment as they intertwined with the stories of the colony, the scientists, the institutions, and the nation.

David R. Biggs


UC Riverside, Department of History

Research Interests: David Biggs (PhD University of Washington, 2004) is a Professor of SE Asian and environmental history at the University of California at Riverside. His research focuses on the ways that historic human interventions such as public works construction as well as destructive actions such as war have not only reshaped landscapes but also produced legacies that often continue to play into national, international, environmental and development politics. His first book, Quagmire: Nation-Building and Nature in the Mekong Delta (2010), focused on hydro-engineering and its association with politics of colonialism and post-colonial struggles in Vietnam. His second book, Footprints of War: Militarized Landscapes of Vietnam (2018) focuses on how certain landscapes become militarized and the long-term legacies of these spaces in shaping later conflicts as well as challenging post-war development. Besides these book projects, his essays apply these approaches to related issues such as chemical weapons histories and cleanups, international river basin management, and military base transfers. His work also draws heavily from use of historic maps and aerial photography, and he integrates them into these studies. He is currently working on two projects, an introductory history of Southeast Asia and a new research project on shoreline development, mangroves and resiliency in the Indo-Pacific region.

William Balée


Tulane University, Department of Anthropology

Research Interests: Prof. Balée received his PhD from Columbia University in 1984. He has conducted fieldwork among Ka’apor, Guajá, Araweté, Tembé, Assurini do Xingu, and Sirionó societies. He teaches courses including cultural anthropology, ecological anthropology, historical ecology of Amazonia, South American ethnology, ethnographic methods, and the four-field model.

Adam Clulow

Associate Professor

The University of Texas at Austin, Department of History

Research Interests: Adam Clulow is a historian of early modern Asia. His work is concerned broadly with the transnational circulation of ideas, people, practices and commodities across East and Southeast Asia. Dr. Clulow’s first book, The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan, was published in 2014 and received the Jerry Bentley Book Prize for World History from the American Historical Association, the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) 2015 Humanities Book Prize, the Forum on European Expansion and Global Interaction 2015 Book Prize, and the W.K. Hancock Prize from the Australian Historical Association. His second book, Amboina, 1623: Conspiracy and Fear on the Edge of Empire, was published by Columbia University Press in 2019. Dr. Clulow is also the editor of three books: with Tristan Mostert, The Dutch and English East India Companies: Diplomacy, Trade and Violence in Early Modern Asia (Amsterdam University Press, 2018); with Lauren Benton and Bain Attwood, Protection and Empire: A Global History (Cambridge University Press, 2017), and Statecraft and Spectacle in East Asia: Studies in Taiwan-Japan Relations (Routledge, 2010).

Patrick Roberts

Research Group Leader

Deparment of Archaeology, Max Plank Institute for the Science of Human History

Principal Investigator, ‘PANTROPOCENE: Finding a pre-industrial, pan-tropical Anthropocene’ European Research Council Project

Research Interests: Patrick is committed to applying stable isotope methods within multidisciplinary research programs that are focused on human palaeoclimates, palaeoenvironments, palaeodiets and palaeomobility. Patrick has a number of international peer-reviewed publications that use stable isotope analysis in a variety of archaeological research contexts in Asia: from reconstructing rainforest adaptations of the earliest humans in Sri Lanka to historical insights into colonial impacts on indigenous diets. Patrick’s recently funded ‘PANTROPOCENE’ ERC Project combines archaeology, history, palaeoecology, and remote sensing methods to determine how pre- and post-colonial land-use changed in the Philippine Archipelago either side of the arrival of the Spanish Empire in the region, and how this might have effected deforestation, soil erosion, and precipitation both in the past but also in terms of present day legacies. He has worked on UNESCO panels looking into issues of tropical sustainability and heritage and collaborates closely with Indigenous communities in developing repatriation programmes and forums for the curation of traditional knowledge about land management and tropical resource use.


Damian Evans

Research Fellow

Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, Paris (EFEO)

Research Interests: Damian Evans is a Canadian-Australian researcher whose work focuses on archaeological landscapes in mainland Southeast Asia, in particular those of the Khmer Empire, which dominated the area for several hundred years from the ninth to fourteenth centuries AD. He specializes in using advanced remote sensing technologies such as airborne laser scanning (or “lidar”) to uncover, map and analyse the urban and agricultural networks that stretched between, and beyond, great temple complexes such as Angkor in Cambodia. Evans is also a recipient of a ERC Starting Grant (2015-20).


PEMSEA aims to increase linkages with colleagues and institutions outside of SE Asia that have interest in SE Asian studies. For instance, the National Chengchi University, Taiwan, through their CSEAS will facilitate their research on precolonial land management in Taiwan, which is directly related to maritime trade in Early Modern period in SE Asia. Flinders University (Australia) also has an active research program on Early Modern Cambodia, which can help PEMESA’s research goals. Max Planck Institute and EFEO will align their work on environmental change in SE Asia with those of the PEMSEA.

PEMSEA will develop active collaboration with SE Asian institutions to help develop capacity in the region and at the same time, provide logistical support to US scholars conducting research in the region. PEMSEA will tap our current partnerships with SEA-based institutions and develop new ones. Currently, our partnerships include: the University of the Philippines, Partido State (Philippines); Ministry of Culture, Royal University of Fine Arts (Cambodia); Silpakorn University, Thammasat University (Thailand); Universitas Indonesia and Pattimura, (Indonesia); and, University of Mandalay (Myanmar).

Early Modern Period Transitions in Southeast Asia: Environmental Dynamics, Social Change, and Globalization


April 25-27, 2019
Anthropology Reading Room
Haines Hall 352
University of California, Los Angeles

Stephen Acabado (UCLA), Miriam Stark (UHM), Peter Lape (UW)


Economic and social transformations that accompanied the Early Modern period in 14th-19th century Southeast Asia took place in a dynamic natural environment that reflected and shaped its inhabitants. Most scholarship on Early Modern (EM) Southeast Asia attributes European expansion as a catalyst, and the limited environmental research (Buckley and Lieberman 2012; Lieberman 2003) undertaken offers coarse-grained sequences for the region during a substantial climatic upheaval. This proposed research program complements such earlier work through its bottom-up approach to studying local responses to ecological change before, during and after European contact. This research program promises to bring SEAsia to global discussions on environmental change during the Early Modern Period, particularly on reconstructing past environments and studying human-environment dynamics. Our investigations will also complement research programs in other parts of the world, such as the NEXUS 1492 Project in the Caribbean.

EM Southeast Asia (1400-1820 CE) was characterized by major climatic fluctuations that had immense impacts on political patterns in the region. The period also saw European expansionism and subsequent resource extraction that shaped, and continues to shape, present-day environmental and social dynamics in Southeast Asia. Although these historical events are known, there is a dearth of work that synthesizes and integrates investigations focused on the EMP. More importantly, there is no regional research program that emphasizes bottom-up approach to studying local responses to climate change and European contact.

This proposed research program promises to reinvigorate and redirect Southeast Asian studies by linking history, archaeology, ethnography, indigenous studies, humanistic disciplines, and climate and ecological studies in a period where most of our present-day environmental and social transformations started.  As a programmatic research program, it has the potential to push Southeast Asian studies forward. It will also fill the environmental history gap in the Early Modern Period of the region.  We highlight local transformations and responses to better understand macro-level ecological change. This is a critical component in understanding ecological transformations as indigenous societies have not been well studied in terms of environmental history and historical ecology.

To push Southeast Asian studies forward and to fill the environmental history gaps in our knowledge about the region’s Early Modern Period, the proposed research program emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach that offers both time depth and complementary research strategies to study ways in which the Southeast Asian groups responded to both ecological and political transformations. This allows for systematic paleoclimatic, archaeological, and historical research in the development of local histories during Early Modern Period in SEA: tacking between documentary sources and material patterning should produce a holistic understanding of the internal dynamics of this region through time from the inside out. More importantly, the research program provides an avenue where archaeologists, historians, ethnographers, and paleoclimatologists collaborate.


To to forefront EM SEA issues, UCLA organized a planning workshop that will bring together a multidisciplinary group that includes archaeologists, ecologists, historians, and paleoclimatologists. As highlighted in the project description below, Southeast Asia lags behind other regions in the world in terms of environmental history in particular, and the Early Modern Period, in general.  Scholars from other regions in the world that has an established environmental history research program will join Southeast Asian specialists.  The former will provide their expertise to the Southeast Asian specialists in developing the proposed research based on their experiences.


The primary goal of the planning workshop is to establish what is known about Early Modern Southeast Asia (paleoecology [climate, hydrology, environment]; documentary record; interregional social/political dynamics; and, archaeological record) and identify areas that require more research. Discussions on these themes will help chart basic research directions for the field. We anticipate that the discussions will produce the needed knowledge that crosses disciplinary boundaries that will advance our knowledge about the Early Modern Period in Southeast Asia

Information gleaned from the discussions will then be used as the basis for a UCLA-led LuceSEA project proposal, which will investigate climate change, anthropogenic change, and human responses to these changes. Thus, the workshop will also provide a venue to develop a framework for multidisciplinary integration of Early Modern Southeast Asia studies and determine priority geographic regions for study.

We also intend to use this gathering to develop a multi-authored article that highlights the ecological and social dynamics in the Early Modern Period that will be submitted to Nature: Sustainability as well as groundwork for a journal special issue on Early Modern Southeast Asia for the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies.


Fifteen (15) key workshop participants will provide case studies of environmental and social dynamics in EM Southeast Asia. The workshop will have three major sections: 1) Environmental and social change; 2) Epistemologies, Approaches, and Methods; and 3) Synthesis.


Wednesday, April 24 (afternoon): Arrival

Arrival of participants.

Thursday, April 25


Coffee, Reception


Welcome by George Dutton (UCLA CSEAS Director) and Willeke Wendrich (CIoA Director)


Workshop Objectives, S. Acabado (UCLA), M.T. Stark (UHM), and P. Lape (UW)


Setting the Stage: Preparatory Thoughts: M.T. Stark (UHM)


Early Modern Period Southeast Asia: What Do We Know So Far?

This panel provides an overview of the state-of-the-field in Southeast Asian Early Modern Studies. Although studies that focus on the EM in the region have offered a broad view of events and subsequent human responses to the latter, disciplinary differences have created a barrier to multidisciplinary synthesis. The panel presents what we already know about the period from different disciplines, which sets the stage for discussions about multidisciplinary collaboration.


History: Educating Archaeologists and Paleoclimatologists

Barbara Andaya (History, UHM)
Leonard Andaya (History, UHM)
Moderator, George Dutton (CSEAS, UCLA)

Barbara and Leonard Andaya (2015) outlined the major characteristics of Early Modern Southeast Asia, emphasizing how the periodization provided a venue for local realities to enter historiography.  The adoption of the concept has shifted the focus of historical investigations away from the colonial lens, prioritizing the responses of local Southeast Asian groups to culture contact. As mentioned in their work, the EMP saw the intensification of global interconnectedness because of the growth of long-distance trade. In this panel, we discuss the dynamics of these contacts, not only with the arrival of the Europeans, but also of regional maritime trade. For instance, the demand for deerskin in Shogunate Japan is argued to have contributed to large-scale ecological disintegration in Cambodia. Similarly, the urbanization that occurred soon after European conquest would have placed a huge toll on the environment because of resource extraction. As such, this panel will discuss potential sources of information that would provide nuanced understanding of how SEAsian groups responded to various stimuli accorded by cultural entanglements. Particular emphasis will be placed on documentary sources (i.e. dynastic records, Javanese records, etc.) that has the potential to link state responses with environmental signatures.



Moderator, George Dutton (CSEAS, UCLA)


Paleoclimate Overview: Educating Archaeologists and Historians

Brendan Buckley (Tree-ring Lab, Columbia University)
Aradhna Tripati (IoES, UCLA)
Kathleen Johnson (Earth System Science, UC-Irvine)
Michael Griffiths (Environmental Science, William Paterson University)
Lisa Kealhofer (Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara)
Moderator, Tom Wake (CIoA, UCLA)

It has been established that there were major climatic fluctuations between 1400 and 1820 CE, particularly the Little Ice Age and the preceding Medieval Warm Period. In other parts of the world, studies on LIA and its effect on human behavior have been robust, but mostly top-down, emphasizing the role of climate in the patterns of cultural change observed in the archaeological record. Similarly in Southeast Asia, not only is there a very limited investigation on the relationship between climate change and shifts in cultural patterns, almost all studies favor environmental pressures over the suite of human responses. In this panel, we hope to survey is currently known in terms of climatic fluctuations in the region during the EMP.  We aim to highlight that environmental factors play a significant role on human decision-making, but there is limited knowledge on climatic fluctuations in the region during the EMP. Most archaeological studies use environmental proxies to support a model or an argument rather than as a baseline to develop models. We think that this is a consequence of the limited interactions between paleoclimatologists, archaeologists, and historians.  Hence, this panel provides a framework on how environmental scientists, historians, and archaeologists can work with each other.  The panel will focus on what is known about Southeast Asian climatic patterns in the EMP and potential effects on human options.

The panel also discusses how we study paleoclimates and explains the idea of proxies (dendrochronology, pollen, speleothems, and others (e.g. marine sediments). Panel members will also provide an overview of what we already know as well as things that we do not know and want to know.



Moderator, Tom Wake (CIoA, UCLA)




Archaeology Overview: Educating Paleoclimatologists and Historians

Miriam Stark, Anthropology (Anthropology, UHM)
Stephen Acabado (Anthropology, UCLA)
Peter Lape (Anthropology, UW)
Moderator, Chin-hsin Liu (Anthropology, CSU-Northridge)

If environmental and historical studies on the EMP in Southeast Asia are few and far between, it is even scarcer in archaeology, even if a significant number of SE Asian archaeologists are actively investigating the rise and fall of classic empires (and or emergence of states) in the region. Archaeology, as a discipline, is in a position to provide a link between paleoenvironmental studies and historiography, as archaeologists frequently borrow ideas from the two disciplines. The discipline however, focuses on long-term patterns of change based on fine-grained, site-specific datasets that complement paleoenvironmental and historical studies.  In this panel, we highlight the role of archaeology in understanding human responses to environmental unpredictability.  For instance, archaeologists have documented solutions employed by humans to address the unpredictability of environmental problems as well as problems that cannot be fixed.



Moderator, Chin-hsin Liu (Anthropology, CSU-Northridge)


Coffee Break



Peter Lape (Anthropology, UW)
Brendan Buckley (Tree-ring Lab, Columbia University)
David Biggs (History, UC-Riverside)
Moderator, Jeff Brantingham (Anthropology, UCLA)

This presentation, which will be followed by a discussion, focuses on the challenges encountered by archaeologists who use paleoclimatic data in their research. Dr. Lape will use examples from his work in East Timor and Eastern Indonesia to set some of the parameters that the various disciplines represented in this workshop can work together. For instance, there is a need to define climate change themes that matter to archaeologists (e.g. short-term climatic triggers and cycles such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, drought/flood cycles, etc.; and, long term climate issues such as El Nino/La Nina). In addition, temporal resolution and chronological perspective among the disciplines will also be discussed.



Moderator, Jeff Brantingham (Anthropology, UCLA)


Summing Up

Moderator, Miriam Stark (Anthropology, UHM)



Friday, April 26




Epistemologies, Methodologies, and Approaches

William Balee (Anthropology, Tulane)
Susanna Hecht (Urban Planning, UCLA)
David Biggs (History, UC-Riverside)
Moderator, Miriam Stark (Anthropology, UHM)

One of the goals of this workshop is to lay the framework for the development of a methodology that can incorporate the various datasets from diverse disciplines. In other parts of the world, environmental history has been utilized to articulate ecological change and historical events. This was strengthened by the emergence of historical ecology as a methodological approach that gives primacy to human agency. In this panel, presentations focus on these methods and how they could be used as a frame for understanding ecological change and social responses in the Early Modern Southeast Asia. We highlight ethnographic and ethnohistoric investigations, particularly how indigenous societies interact(ed) with the forests they live in, and the surrounding state(s).



Moderators: M. Stark and K. Johnson


Indonesian Lunch


Roundtable Discussion: Indonesian Foods and the EMP

Barbara Andaya
Leonard Andaya
Peter Lape

The Early Modern Period was characterized by rapidly expanded and intensified global exchange networks. Many of the materials and ideas that moved in these networks were related to food, including plants, animals, intoxicants, medicines, as well as farming, harvesting, cooking and eating cultural practices, many of which we have inherited today  In this roundtable discussion, three Indonesian specialists will talk about how the EMP formed the cuisine of contemporary Indonesia and beyond. They will also link the movement of foodstuffs in the larger discussions on ecological change.


Coffee Break


Thinking Globally

Christopher DeCorse (Anthropology, Syracuse)
Moderator, Willeke Wendrich (CIoA, UCLA)

Dr. DeCorse’s work in Africa and the Atlantic Trade highlighted the various ways culture contact in the region facilitated the subsequent oceanic exploration that resulted in resource extraction and early forms of globalization. With his long history of research in the Atlantic and Africa, DeCorse’s presentation will provide a backdrop to thinking globally as well as raise issues that will help frame the Southeast Asian research program.



Moderator, Willeke Wendrich (CIoA, UCLA)


Coffee Break


Summing Up

Moderator, Stephen Acabado (Anthropology, UCLA)



Saturday, April 27




Framework for Multidisciplinary Integration: Synthesis and Moving Forward

Moderators: Miriam Stark, Stephen Acabado, Peter Lape

To develop a multidisciplinary framework in understanding natural and anthropogenic changes in the Early Modern Southeast Asia requires an active engagement across disciplinary boundaries. By focusing on local responses to both global and local ecological change, we are also able to emphasize bottom-up perspectives. In this sense, we move away from Western colonialist view of Southeast Asia, which would also make the discipline relevant to various communities. The engagement among historians, archaeologist, paleoclimatologists, and humanistic disciplines will provide a broad framework to understand the various ways in which humans respond to crises. For example, the work of ethnographers and ethnohistorians in Bicol, Philippines has documented the dominance of Catholic Saints (Santos) related to disaster. Works such as this (narratives of disaster) is already strong in itself, but a multidisciplinary collaboration will further strengthen environmental history, ecological studies, and environmental humanities.


UCLA LuceSEA Project Planning

Workshop participants will break out into three work groups to discuss potential avenues for collaboration and funding applications. Aside from the LuceSEA Initiative, the group will also explore NSF’s Ten Big Ideas, particularly Growing Convergence Research, NSF INCLUDES, and NSF 2026. Timeline and expectations will be discussed in the break out groups. Discussions will continue beyond the workshop


End of Workshop


We envision that the workshop will result in a research program that will craft a nuanced understanding of human/environment social transformations in Southeast Asia during the Early Modern Period. This includes broader recognition of the impacts of trade in widespread ecological change; effects of trade on demographic change; and, consequence of trade in the rapid urbanization of colonial centers in SEA. More importantly, the multidisciplinary nature of the research program promises to facilitate the development of methodologies that can help isolate natural and anthropogenic changes in the EMP.

The research program will also provide baseline environmental histories from different localities in SEA using multidisciplinary approaches. This involves the compilation of paleoethnobotanical/ archaeobotanical, zooarchaeological, dendroclimatological, and sedimentological datasets from various sites in SEA; analysis of dynastic (i.e. Vietnamese, Javanese, Chinese) records of environmental disasters and other significant ecological events in the region; and, survey European colonial documents (VOC, Spanish colonial records) to identify key environmental perturbations

The components emphasized above will be articulated through the historical ecology approach, which has the potential to facilitate the development of local histories and broaden our understanding of regional-scale change in Southeast Asia. With this research direction, the proposed research will bring Southeast Asia into global discussions of the Early Modern Period.


Center for Southeast Asian Studies-Indonesia Studies Program
International Institute
Cotsen Institute of Archaeology
Luce East Asian Archaeology, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology
Department of Anthropology
Department of Art History
Environmental Humanities
Dean of Humanities
Dean of Social Sciences
Center for Diverse Leadership in Science
Institute for Field Research