Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS) is a research institute of Universitas Gadjah Mada that focuses on social issues in Southeast Asian region. The research center was founded on 1st April 1986 with the name of Pusat Antar Universitas (PAU) Sosial. In 2001, under the supervision of Prof. Bambang Purwanto the name was changed into CESASS in order to emphasize the commitment toward social studies in Southeast Asian area.
Southeast Asian countries are characterized by a high level of pluralism and multiculturalism. Over the years, they have gone through several important historical changes that have shaped the characteristics of their society. Starting from the development of civilization, Southeast Asian countries have experienced colonialism, World War, Cold War and the global economic crisis. These historical, and sociocultural dynamics have increased diversity between countries in this region from different aspects, such as historical heritage, culture, religion and beliefs, social and economic structure in the society as well politics and governments.
From the knowledge production point of view, the Southeast Asian region represents an extremely dynamic and interesting area to study. Southeast Asian region did not only represent a passive arena for competition over political, social, cultural power and regional security, Southeast Asian countries were also able to play an active role in determining regional dynamics. The results of these dynamics can be observed in the decision that Southeast Asian political leaders made to unify themselves under ASEAN by identifying themselves as one community.
In relation to this phenomenon, there are several aspects that need to be noticed. Firstly, the foundation of ASEAN indicates the strengthening of countries’ agency in Southeast Asian region. Secondly, for the first time the international community had the opportunity to see Southeast Asian region as a unified community with a common identity, however the perception of community needs to be discussed more thoroughly. Thirdly, this phenomenon produced epistemological consequences as well by creating a new perception of Southeast Asia through a regionalist approach, even though the region has not fully separated yet from Euro-American centered perspective.
Nevertheless, the raise of ASEAN as a phenomenon of regionalism in Southeast Asia area has also been criticized. Nowadays, ASEAN perspective is dominating or even becoming the only narration in understanding Southeast Asia. This ASEAN dominant perspective can be seen as problematic since it may hinder the efforts of other dynamics and discourses that try with their own perspective and their own narration to contribute to the construction of Southeast Asia. Certainly, ASEAN will represent the main feature to understand Southeast Asia, however, academic studies regarding Southeast Asia should not be entirely focused on ASEAN as the only phenomenon in the region.
As a research institute under Universitas Gadjah Mada, CESASS has three main working areas that are strictly related to each other: research, education and community service. These three working areas are addressed by two divisions: the research and cooperation division, and the publications and trainings division. The working programs held by CESASS are aimed to optimize research and education in order to render a better service to the community.
Since 2016, CESASS UGM was nominated by the Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education of the Republic of Indonesia (Kemenristekdikti) as the only Center of Excellence in the field of social studies. In 2017, CESASS was appointed by Kemeristekdikti to implement the World Class Professor (WCP) program with the aim to optimize researchers’ capacity to increase publications and cooperation for research at international level with professors from all over the world.
Becoming the center of excellence in social research focusing on Southeast Asian studies and bridging among scholars and research institutions to collaborate actively on academic research in Southeast Asia and on a global scale.
• Producing high-quality multi-disciplinary research focusing on Southeast Asia.
• Providing basic information for policy recommendation and enhancing awareness of the society towards the studies of Southeast Asia.
• Forging sustainable partnership with other research centers that focus on Southeast Asian studies from all around the world.