Conference marks center’s anniversary

By Jen Bland

Celebration abounds this weekend with the 30th anniversary of the Center for Southeastern Asian Studies.

Events planned include a conference sponsored by the Counsel on Thai Studies today and Saturday and a dinner and speaker sponsored by the center on Saturday.

The conference is an annual event cosponsored by NIU and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This year NIU hosts the conference and it was scheduled to correlate with the weekend of the anniversary celebration.

Grant Olson, president of the counsel on Thai Studies, said the conference is a forum where students and professors present research on various topics.

Some of the discussions on this year’s agenda include Thai culture, history, politics, language on computers and the problems involved in cataloging Thai books in U.S. libraries. The presentations are from 8:30 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. in the Altgeld Hall Art Gallery.

Chulalongkorn and Mongkut are two Thai kings who will be honored at the conference. Chulalongkorn was the king of Thailand at the turn of the century and was known as a great modernizer. Mongkut was king just before Chulalongkorn and is being honored because this year marks the 125th anniversary of his death.

The center will have a dinner at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Skyroom of the Holmes Student Center. The dinner will be attended by NIU President John La Tourette, J. Carroll Moody, acting NIU provost, and members of the faculty and student body involved with the center.

The dinner will feature Philippino dishes and Thai desserts. Michael Aung-Thwin, director of the Center for Southeastern Asian Studies, said the dinner will be cooked by members of the student center food services, but will be supervised by a Thai cook.

James C. Scott, keynote speaker for the anniversary celebration and the Thai ambassador, will be speaking to students.

After dinner Scott will present “State Simplifications—Local Knowledge.” His presentation will focus on what he calls weapons of the weak.

Weapons of the weak is an idea that focuses on finding information that no one hears from the government or media, but from ordinary citizens.

“Look between the lines,” Aung-Thwin said. “It’s local knowledge viewed from the bottom up.”

NIU’s center is ranked 3rd or 4th in the nation, Aung-Thwin said. The center offers 115 courses and three Southeastern Asian languages.

The center offers 12 fellowships each year to graduate students. Founders Memorial Library houses a collection of more than 83,000 volumes on Southeastern Asian subjects that is ranked 3rd in the nation and has a computer language program that allows students to learn Burmese, Indonesian and Thai.

The Center for Burma Studies, a division of the Center for Southeastern Asian studies, handles the only collection of Burmese art in the Western World, including Western Europe, Aung-Thwin said.

The celebration is a chance to “celebrate 30 years of great educational teaching and research achievements in Southeastern Asian studies at NIU,” Aung-Thwin added.