Gender and Nationality on a Southeast Asian Politics Syllabus

Inspired by Kim Yi Dionne‘s post on gender in African politics syllabi as well as the Monkey Cage discussion of gender in academic networks, I just looked through my own Southeast Asian Politics syllabus (as last offered in Spring 2012). The results aren’t so great.

I coded as follows: each reading counts equally (book or article), and multi-authored works are assessed by the fraction of the total authorship by women. So Making Enemies: War and State Building in Burma gets a score of 1, and The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade gets a score of .3. There are 34 readings.

By these rules, 16.7% of my readings are by women.

I have no data to back this up, but I’m pretty confident it is not the case that only 17% of my network of colleagues working on Southeast Asian politics are women.

I also happened to look at the breakdown of authors by nationality to figure out what percentage of my readings on Southeast Asia were written by people from Southeast Asia. In coding nationality, I considered country of birth and early schooling, not country of “descent” or employment. The result, using the same adjustment for multi-authorship: 14.2%.

Had I adopted different coding rules, I could have added residents of Southeast Asia like Michael Vickery and former residents of Southeast Asia like Natasha Hamilton-Hart, but I would have been forced to omit people like Kyaw Yin Hlaing and Tuong Vu. On balance, the results would have been about the same.

Also notable: There is no reading on my syllabus from a Southeast Asian woman. The grad version of the course included chapters from edited collections, and I believe we read Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung, but I don’t recall. We also read a selection from a volume co-edited by Cynthia Chou, but I don’t know her background.

In all, some food for thought as I revise the syllabus for next semester.

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