Kahin Prize

George McT. Kahin Prize

The George McT. Kahin Prize of the Association for Asian Studies is given biennially to an outstanding scholar of Southeast Asian studies from any discipline or country specialization to recognize distinguished scholarly work on Southeast Asia beyond the author’s first book.

The award was initiated in 2007 at the behest of the Cornell University Center for Southeast Asian Studies, friends and students of George Kahin, and the Southeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies to honor the contributions of George McT. Kahin to the field of Southeast Asian Studies.

Prize

$1,000 to the author.

Guidelines for Submission

  • There are no citizenship or residence requirements for nominees.
  • Authors need not be AAS members.
  • Original, scholarly nonfiction works with a copyright date of 2022 or 2023 will be eligible for the 2025 Kahin Prize competition.
  • Reference works, exhibition catalogues, translations, textbooks, collections of previously published essays, poetry, fiction, travel books, memoirs, or autobiographies are not eligible.
  • Publishers must complete the book nomination form (available in late spring 2024). Each press may nominate a maximum of six books for the Kahin Prize
  • Only publishers may nominate books.
  • Upon receipt of a completed nomination form, publishers will be provided with addresses for prize committee members. A copy of each entry, clearly labeled “Kahin Prize,” must be sent to each member of the committee.

There will be no Kahin Prize competition in 2024. Information about nominating books for the 2025 George McT. Kahin Prize will be posted in spring 2024.


2023 Award

Winners and Citation

Thongchai Winichakul, Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok (University of Hawaii Press)

From the U.S.-Indochina War to the 2021 coup in Myanmar, modern Southeast Asian studies has grown through acts of speaking against coercive silences about state and imperial violence. This brave scholarship takes up the burden of uncovering buried histories; it persistently pushes against “unforgetting” (“the inability to articulate memories in a comprehensible and meaningful fashion”). Scholars of Southeast Asia are privileged to have two extraordinary books published in 2020 that build this legacy, both compiled over many years of research, and, taken together, reaching across Southeast Asia. These books are John Roosa’s Buried Histories: The Anticommunist Massacres of 1965–1966 in Indonesia (University of Wisconsin Press)and Thongchai Winichakul’s Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok (University of Hawaii Press).We are proud to award them, jointly, the Kahin Prize in Southeast Asian Studies.

Both books concern moments of national trauma, in Indonesia and Thailand, respectively. Both refuse to let the silences stand. Through meticulous research, both authors learn the stories of victims and determine the responsibility of perpetrators. These books are personal, passionate, and moving.  

One finding that the books have in common, across their respective national foci is the idea that popular anticommunist sentiment produced a flurry of violence, all by itself. In both Indonesia and Thailand, massacres were orchestrated and managed by state actors, especially the army. Where youth groups and militias were brought into the action, their work was sponsored by the army. The careful scholarship required to make this clear is an important contribution of both books, making it impossible to say, “We just don’t know what happened.”

In each case, the research takes into account the political histories and dynamic forms of mobilization happening in particular places. Roosa productively compares different scenes of massacre in Indonesia, in Central Java, Bali, and South Sumatra, as well as Riau; Thongchai delves into the Bangkok scene. Both books make places matter—even as they establish why Southeast Asian history is relevant to understanding political violence across the world. While each of these two books has its own power and insight that should be praised, their conjuncture is worth special celebration, as honored in this prize.

Honorable Mention

Tania Murray Li and Pujo Semedi, Plantation Life: Corporate Occupation in Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone (Duke University Press)

Past Awards

George McT. Kahin Prize

2009 Heonik Kwon, Ghosts of War in Vietnam

2011 Alfred W. McCoy, Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines and the Rise of the Surveillance State

2013 Justin McDaniel, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand

2015 M.C. Ricklefs, Islamisation and Its Opponents in Java: A Political, Social, Cultural, and Religious History, c. 1930 – Present

2017 Tania  Li, Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier

2019 Lisandro Claudio, Liberalism and the Postcolony: Thinking the State in 20th Century Philippines

2021 Geoffrey B. Robinson, The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66