Weiss Queries Southeast Asian Politics

Weiss Queries Southeast Asian Politics

For Professor Weiss, anything that one would want to study can be effectively studied in the states of Southeast Asia -- a dream for a field researcher.

Meredith L. Weiss, assistant professor of political science specializing in comparative politics and Southeast Asia, joined the Rockefeller College faculty in 2008. An undergraduate course in Southeast Asian politics sparked her enduring interest in the subject; she recalls that she “just found it fascinating.” She discovered the dynamism and diversity of the region, and was excited by the tremendous and constant potential for change there, where Weiss notes “states are turned upside down not on an infrequent basis.” She acknowledges that the region’s unpredictability may keep things from getting dull, but can present a problem when it comes to timing for publication. Clearly though, she has no difficulty contributing timely and important data to her area of specialization. Dr. Weiss has written chapters in over a dozen books and published articles in numerous journals including Democratization, Perspectives on Politics, Asian Survey, Contemporary Southeast Asia, the Journal of East Asian Politics, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, and Critical Asian Studies. For Weiss, anything that one would want to study can be effectively studied in the states of Southeast Asia -- a dream for a field researcher.

Meredith Weiss grew up in Washington, DC, received her BA in political science, policy studies, and English from Rice University and her master’s and PhD in political science from Yale. Her dissertation was titled “The Politics of Protest: Civil Society, Coalition-building, and Political Change in Malaysia.” Prior to joining Rockefeller College, she was a research fellow at the East-West Center in Washington, DC, a research institution focusing on Asia, and spent a year as a visiting faculty fellow at Georgetown University. Before that she was an assistant professor in the International Studies Program at DePaul University in Chicago. She has held several visiting faculty positions at Asian, Australian, and American universities.

Here at Rockefeller College, she teaches an introductory political science class in comparative and international politics and a graduate class in contentious politics, covering everything from social movements to revolutions. Weiss also teaches Southeast Asia politics and is developing an honors course she calls “Identities, Boundaries, and Mobilization” that addresses issues in collective identity and collective action.

Currently, she is doing research for several projects, including revision of a book on the history of student activism in Malaysia and Singapore. She is also co-editing two books, one that examines the profound role of student politics in Asian politics, and one on violent political contention in South and Southeast Asia. Other projects include studies of political Islam in Southeast Asia; representation of minority interests in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia; and gendered discourses and identities in Southeast Asia.

Dr. Weiss is a sought-after participant at international workshops, recently having addressed such topics as party system institutionalization in Asia (in Montreal); development strategies for the developing world (in Madrid); bilateralism and multilateralism in Southeast Asia (in Hiroshima and Kuala Lumpur); religion and democratization (in Istanbul); and student activism in Asia (in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore). She’ll soon be off to Tokyo to take part in a workshop on comprehensive security in the Asia-Pacific region. Weiss also presents regularly at the American Political Science Association (APSA) and Association for Asian Studies (AAS) annual meetings. She is treasurer of the APSA’s Caucus for a New Political Science and the chair of the AAS’s Southeast Asia Council. Despite the importance of Southeast Asia in international affairs, not all political science departments have a Southeast Asia specialist.

“Meredith Weiss has been a fantastic addition to our department. She is a dynamic teacher and outstanding researcher,” said Rockefeller College Political Science Chair David Rousseau. “Her expertise in Southeast Asia allows us to greatly expand our course offerings in this increasingly important region and her theoretical understanding of social mobilization allows her to address important research questions from a broad comparative perspective.”

Rockefeller College has been enriched with the arrival of Meredith Weiss, whose academic pursuits are as exciting as the region that is the object of her fascination.