Malay World Studies

Malay World Studies at St Catharine's

In 2021 St Catharine’s established the first University-wide position in Malay World Studies, fully funded by the College and based at the Department of Social Anthropology. Dr Liana Chua (2021) is currently the Tunku Abdul Rahman University Assistant Professor in Malay World Studies and a Fellow at St Catharine's. She also serves as the Director of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Fund, which aims to encourage the development of the humanities and the social sciences in Malaysia.

St Catharine's support for Malay World Studies complements and expands upon the Tunku research community. ‘Malay World’ encompasses the history, culture, literature and politics of areas in which the Malay language historically formed a lingua franca. Besides contemporary Malaysia, this region includes Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei, with substantial and deep historical connections to Timor, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.

This expansion was facilitated by the establishment of the Philip Bowring Scholarships in Malay World Studies in 2021. Since this scholarship was established, two postgraduate students have received financial support to pursue Malay World Studies.

Our Malay World Studies community

St Catharine's has a small but active and enthusiastic community of Southeast Asian students and Southeast Asianists working on various aspects of the Malay World – some of whom are profiled below:

  • Dr Liana Chua currently works on the social, political and aesthetic dimensions of the global nexus of orangutan conservation, tracing its operations, transformations and effects across national and cultural boundaries. Visit Dr Chua's profile. 
  • Hannah Chia (2022, History) was the inaugural recipient of the Philip Bowring Scholarship in Malay World Studies and, through her MPhil in World History, studied Chinese identity and architecture in colonial Malaya and Singapore. 
  • Said Effendy bin Said Iziddin is currently a PhD student in Social Anthropology and the second recipient of the Philip Bowring Scholarship in Malay World Studies. He is studying migration and place-making among the Kensiu population at the Thai/Malaysia border.
  • Loong Dien Min, a World History MPhil student and Gates Cambridge Scholar, is studying how colonial subjects participated in the making and remaking of sexual and gender norms in contemporary Malaysia and Singapore through engaging with British Malaya’s incoherent legal regime that disciplined sexuality. Read our news story about Loong's Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

The College hosts a regular series of Malay World Studies events that feature ongoing research in and on the region by both Cambridge-based and visiting scholars. These explore the social, cultural, political, religious and historical dimensions of the Malay World in its most encompassing sense, from different disciplinary perspectives, including history, anthropology, political science and literary theory. Regional specialists visiting Cambridge who would like to present their work in progress or meet students and academics working in the region are encouraged to get in touch with Dr Chua (