Thomas Williamson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN. He teaches courses on globalization, Southeast Asia, nationalism, and ethnicity. He is especially interested in the anthropology of modernity, understanding the diverse and complex ways the world’s people experience industrialization, motorized transportation, rationalized bureaucracies, and mass communication.
Teaching about Southeast Asia to undergraduates at an American liberal arts college presents several challenges. At my institution, it is the only course on the region in the curriculum; thus no preparation, and no follow-up. I have therefore struggled with the approach that I should take–pulled between a wish for students to gain an empirical understanding of Southeast Asian life, and a desire to have them learn the concepts and theories of critical inquiry. Obviously I am still learning how to successfully accomplish such an ambitious undertaking.