South and Southeast Asian Studies

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

This program offers emphases in the following languages and cultural traditions: Hindi, Urdu, Indonesian, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Tamil, and Khmer. Literature is understood in the widest sense to include not only creative writing and cultural expression in the various genres but also sources concerning religion, philosophy, history, and the fine and performing arts. The analysis of cultural expression is also understood to include attention to social, anthropological, economic, and political contexts.

The program provides opportunities to explore the rich cultural, social, and religious histories of South and Southeast Asia as well as the living contemporary cultures of these areas. The curriculum covers cultural history, the classical literary canon, religious literature, folk and popular works, oral traditions, and performance media (including recitation, musical and dramatic performance, dance, and film), and modern literatures of the colonial and post-colonial periods.

Advanced proficiency in the language of emphasis is a central goal, as is the ability to undertake the sophisticated textual study of a broad range of literary works in that language.

Students are encouraged to take advantage of the extensive opportunities for interdisciplinary linkages by pursuing courses offered by the South and Southeast Asia faculty in other departments on the UCB campus. Students are also encouraged to pursue courses and independent reading that will familiarize them with pertinent methods in the various disciplines (such as contemporary literary theory, ethnographic theory, historiography, and cultural studies theory). Appropriate comparative work on Asian and non-Asian cultures is encouraged as well.

The PhD in South and Southeast Asian Studies prepares students for academic careers in teaching and research not only in South and Southeast Asian Studies, but also in comparative literature, religious studies, history, Asian studies, and cultural studies.

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Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant has completed a basic degree from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without the need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. Unofficial transcripts must contain specific information including the name of the applicant, name of the school, all courses, grades, units, & degree conferral (if applicable). 
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, by the recommender, not the Graduate Admissions.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:

    • courses in English as a Second Language,

    • courses conducted in a language other than English,

    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and

    • courses of a non-academic nature.

Applicants who have previously applied to Berkeley must also submit new test scores that meet the current minimum requirement from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833 for Graduate Organizations. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years prior to beginning the graduate program at UC Berkeley. Note: score reports can not expire before the month of June.


Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Master's Degree Requirements


Courses Required - All Language Concentrations (Hindi, Urdu, Indonesian, Sanskrit, Tamil and Khmer)​

Two lower division/gateway courses
Students select two courses from among the following:
Introduction to the Civilization of Early India [4]
Introduction to the Civilization of Medieval and Modern India [4]
Introduction to the Civilization of Southeast Asia [4]
Introduction to the Civilization of Southeast Asia [4]
Additional courses, numbered 110 or above, that include:
At least one "Literature" course. Partial list:
Modern Indian Literature [4]
Hindu Mythology [4]
India's Great Epics [4]
Introduction to Modern Indonesian and Malaysian Literature in Translation [4]
Mainland Southeast Asian Literature [4]
Articulations of the Female in Indonesia [4]
Southeast Asian Cultures, Texts, and Politics [4]
Philippines: History, Literature, Performance [4]
DUTCH C164 The Indonesian Connection: Dutch (Post)colonial History and Culture in Southeast Asia [4]
At least one "Religion and History" course. Partial list:
Buddhism in Contemporary Society [4]
Tibetan Buddhism [4]
Religion in Early India [4]
Hindu Mythology [4]
Pakistan: An Introduction [4]
Death, Dreams, and Visions in Tibetan Buddhism [4]
Special Topics in South and Southeast Asian Culture [3]
Topics in South and Southeast Asian Studies [4]
Required SSEASN graduate course:
SSEASN 294Methods in South & Southeast Asian Studies4
SSEASN Graduate Course Electives/specialized study list, includes:16
Graduate (or Upper Division with approval) Seminars (2) in major language
Historical knowledge of major area
Courses Required - Sanskrit Additional Requirement
Linguistics Department Course
SSEASN 375Methods and Problems in Teaching South and Southeast Asian Studies3

Doctoral Degree Requirements


Unit minimum: 24

Required courses:
SSEASN 294Methods in South & Southeast Asian Studies4
SSEASN 375Methods and Problems in Teaching South and Southeast Asian Studies3
Additional requirements:
Four graduate seminars in the language and literature of emphasis;
One history seminar;
Courses that satisfy the language requirement (which may count–in the case of South or Southeast Asian languages–toward the ten-course program requirement if taken at the upper-division or graduate level);
Appropriate course work in the second and third fields to be covered in the Oral Qualifying Examination, as determined by the Academic Adviser and the second- and third-field faculty examiners.


Languages and Culture:


South and Southeast Asian Studies

South and Southeast Asian Studies

South Asian Studies
















Faculty and Instructors

* Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Lisandro Claudio, Assistant Professor. History of non-Western liberalism, using the Philippines as a case study .

Lawrence Cohen, Professor. Social cultural anthropology, medical and psychiatric anthropology, critical gerontology, lesbian and gay studies, feminist and queer theory.
Research Profile

Jacob Dalton, Professor. Religion, ritual, Tibet, Buddhism, Tantra, Dunhuang.
Research Profile

Penelope S. C. Edwards, Associate Professor. Cambodian cinema, Chinese cinema in Southeast Asia, Moveable Easts, constructions of Buddhism in France and Empire.
Research Profile

* Munis D. Faruqui, Associate Professor. Mughal India, Delhi Sultanate, Islam in South Asia/India, Urdu.
Research Profile

* Robert P. Goldman, Professor. Literary theory, South and Southeast Asian studies, Sanskrit literature, Indian epic studies, and psychoanalytically oriented cultural studies.
Research Profile

Vasugi Kailasam, Assistant Professor. Global Tamil literature, postcolonial literature and filmic and digital cultures of contemporary South Asia and its diasporas, narrative forms and its connections to South Asian cultural identity formations, race and ethnic politics. .
Research Profile

Rahul Parson, Assistant Professor. Hindi Literature and Culture.

Sugata Ray, Associate Professor. Climate change, early modern, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, art history, environment, globalization, ecology, Eco Art History, global art history.
Research Profile

Sylvia C. Tiwon, Associate Professor. Indonesia, South and Southeast Asian studies, literature and gender, cultural studies of Southeast Asia, discourse oral, print, electronic, socio-cultural formations at the national and sub-nation level, non-governmental organizations.
Research Profile

Alexander Von Rospatt, Professor. Ritual studies, Nepalese studies, Buddhist traditions of South Asia, doctrinal history, Newar Buddhism.
Research Profile

Peter B. Zinoman, Associate Professor. Vietnam, Vietnam War, Vietnamese literature, Southeast Asian history, communism, nationalism, colonialism.
Research Profile


Gregory Bruce, Lecturer.

Abhijeet Paul, Lecturer.

Cynthia Agnes C. Aban, Lecturer.

Maria Barrios-Leblanc, Lecturer.

Supatra Chowchuvech, Lecturer.

* Sally J. Goldman, Senior Lecturer. Women's studies, South and Southeast Asian studies, buddhist Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Sanskrit language, valmiki ramayana translation project, South Asian women, epic and classical Sanskrit literature, vyakarana or Sanskrit grammar, Veda.
Research Profile

Karen Llagas, Lecturer.

Ninik Lunde, Lecturer. Linguistics, comparative literature, South and Southeast Asian studies, Indonesian language, Javanese, Balinese and Sumatranese dances.
Research Profile

Nora Melnikova, Lecturer.

Cam Nguyen, Lecturer.

Bharathy Sankara Rajulu, Lecturer.

Francis J. Smith, Lecturer.

Hanh Tran, Lecturer.

Upkar K. Ubhi, Lecturer. Architecture, South and Southeast Asian studies, Punjabi, curriculum developments, marketing trends, building arts.
Research Profile

Kenneth Wong, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

George L. Hart, Professor Emeritus. South and Southeast Asian studies, Tamil studies, classical Sanskrit, South Indian religion and culture, Indian civilization, Indian literature, Indian religion.
Research Profile

Usha R. Jain, Senior Lecturer Emeritus.

Padmanabh S. Jaini, Professor Emeritus.

* James A. Matisoff, Professor Emeritus. Linguistics, Japanese, Southeast Asian languages, Tibeto-Burman, Thai, Chinese, field linguistics, Yiddish studies, historical semantics, psychosemantics, language typology, areal linguistics.
Research Profile

Bruce R. Pray, Professor Emeritus.

Joanna Williams, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies

7233 Dwinelle Hall

Berkeley, CA 94720-2540

Phone: 510-642-4218

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Paula Varsano

3325 Dwinnelle Hall

Graduate Advisor

Kristen Brooks

7307 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-4219

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