Faculty Residency Bolsters Southeast Asian Studies

Christian Lentz (center) with friends in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of Christian Lentz)
Christian Lentz, associate professor in the geography department and adjunct associate professor in the history department, spent the spring 2023 semester at National University of Singapore (NUS).

NUS provides an excellent vantage point for UNC-Chapel Hill faculty to explore other parts of the region, according to Lentz. He also said the partnership is useful for gaining regional insights on neighboring China, considering the intricate histories that shape the region.

Lentz is the principal investigator of UNC-Chapel Hill’s “Bringing Southeast Asia Home,” a five-year project funded by a $900,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

“If we’re talking about the rise of China, we need to understand perspectives within Asia about China,” said Lentz. “There are lots of interesting and complex histories there, which then gets to another argument, which is that the United States has a history in Southeast Asia that dates to the Vietnam War. So, understanding that history is key to understanding U.S. relations in that region more broadly and without it, we’re flying blind.”

One of Lentz’s main priorities was to strengthen ties with NUS faculty, staff and senior leaders. Continuing visits between UNC-Chapel Hill and NUS faculty is a feature of the project.

“In addition to being one of UNC’s strategic partners, NUS has excellent faculty expertise in the field of Southeast Asian Studies, and its geographic location provides convenient access to the entirety of Southeast Asia,” said Becky Butler, assistant director for Southeast Asia initiatives in the Carolina Asia Center. “Another important feature of the partnership is the unique expertise that UNC-Chapel Hill offers via engagement with Southeast Asian diasporas throughout the American southeast. That complementarity makes for a rich exchange of scholarship.”

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