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Southeast Asia Studies: S/SEAL and the Southeast Asia Collections

South/Southeast Asia Library

Description.  The South/Southeast Asia Library (S/SEAL) serves as the center for UC Berkeley’s South and Southeast Asia collections, housing a core collection of over 4,000 non-circulating items. This collection is particularly strong in the social sciences and humanities and features general and specialized reference and bibliographical materials, as well as high-use journals and newspapers.

In addition to its core collection, S/SEAL coordinates collections comprised of over 600,000 items across campus. Collections can be found in the Gardner (Main) Stacks, The Bancroft Library, the Newspapers/Microforms Library, the Media Resources Center, and various subject libraries. Low-use materials are stored off campus in the Northern Regional Library Facility (NRLF), located in Richmond, California. S/SEAL also provides access to local, regional, and international online catalogs and databases. 

History. Beginning in the early 1950s, S/SEAL existed as the Reading Room of the joint Centers for South and Southeast Asia Studies. In the mid-1960s, the reading room, then located at 2538 Channing Way in Berkeley, attracted increasing numbers of students as South and Southeast Asia’s significance rose in the eyes of U.S. policy-makers. In 1970, following the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, demonstrators targeted the Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies after one of its faculty members accepted grants from the Pentagon for counterinsurgency research. Consequently, previously existing plans to move into Doe Library were expedited and in September 1970, the collection was integrated into 438 Doe Library, becoming the South/Southeast Asia Library. Finally, in the summer of 1998, S/SEAL moved to its present location in 120 Doe Library.

Hours. S/SEAL is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and serves both the UC Berkeley community and the general public. 

Reference. Reference is available by phone, email, or in-person appointment. Drop-in assistance can be provided when library staff is available. Reference guides outlining research strategies and listing appropriate reference sources are available on the library homepage.

Bibliographic Instruction. Library catalog and research instruction is available by appointment to both classrooms and individuals. Please contact library staff for assistance.

Circulation. The S/SEAL collections are "Library Use Only." A scanner is available for public use.

Southeast Asian Countries and Languages. Southeast Asian countries include Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Materials in Southeast Asian vernacular languages are primarily in Burmese, Chinese, Hmong, Indonesian, Khmer, Lao, Malay, Tagalog, Tamil, Tetum, Thai, and Vietnamese.

Description. Historically, Berkeley's Southeast Asia (Southeast Asia includes Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) collections have been widely recognized as among the finest in the world. Housed in various libraries across the Berkeley campus, including the South/Southeast Asia Library (S/SEAL), the Main (Gardner) Stacksthe Earth Sciences & Map Library, and several subject specialty and affiliated libraries, the university's extensive Southeast Asia collections (more than 600,000 items) comprise the strongest body of research material on the West Coast.

The Library collects materials in both western and vernacular languages to support both instructional and research goals. Vernacular materials are most commonly collected in Burmese, Chinese, Hmong, Indonesian, Khmer, Lao, Malay, Tagalog, Tamil, Tetum, Thai, and Vietnamese. Vernacular language acquisitions are performed through both domestic and international commercial vendors, acquisition trips, and gift and exchange programs. With focuses on both the social sciences and humanities, the collections consist of a variety of print and digital formats. In addition to monographs, items include journals, microform, and audiovisual materials. The collections cover both prewar and postwar periods of Southeast Asia and are quite influential in earlier western language publications on Burma, the Philippines, and Indochina since the pre-World War II period.

History. Playing a critical role in acquiring English and Southeast Asian vernacular materials since its inception in 1964, when it was referred to as the Public Law 480 Program, has been the Library of Congress Cooperative Acquisitions Program on Southeast Asia (CAP-SEA) in Jakarta, Indonesia. CAP-SEAt has given Berkeley more than 20,000 items including monographs, government documents, serials, and audiovisual resources.


Bequests and gifts have also brought UC Berkeley myriad Southeast Asian special collections items. Among the many highlights of these collections are various Southeast Asian colonial administrators' annual reports, the Indonesian Collection, which contains a substantial body of Dutch colonial literature and is one of  the most comprehensive in the country, and an extensive Philippines collection from the American and Republic periods.


Many special collections are the result of generous donations from private collectors. Professor David Prescott Barrows, the University of California's 9th president (1919-1923) and the Philippines’ Secretary of Education in the first decade of the 20th century, donated a wealth of monographs, diaries, manuscripts, photographs, maps and papers, and numerous materials on the Philippines from 1900-1909. Former U.S. Consul Lawrence P. Briggs gave the university a substantial collection of items on Indonesia, Indochina, and the Malay Peninsula. The McFarland Family, missionaries in Siam, bestowed upon the university materials related to Siam from 1860 to 1950, including photographs of Cambodian and Siamese archaeological sites, such as Angkor Wat. The Swift family donated a priceless collection of Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts from Thailand.

Description. Berkeley offers over 30 courses, both undergraduate and graduate, that specialize in Southeast Asia studies. These courses are offered through many social science and humanities departments; most notably through the Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies. Established in 1972, the department's courses cover South and Southeast Asian civilizations, languages, literature, and religious studies. It confers the Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy in South and Southeast Asian studies. 

The Center for Southeast Asia Studies (CSEAS), established in 1960 under the chairmanship of Professor Guy Pauker, enriches the study of Southeast Asia by sponsoring annual Southeast Asian studies conferences, lectures, and workshops throughout the academic year. These events provide numerous opportunities for international visitors to work with Berkeley faculty for promoting interdisciplinary Southeat Asia research.visiting faculty and scholars from Southeast Asia, as well as other parts of the world, to work with Berkeley faculty for the practice and promotion of interdisciplinary research. Visit the CSEAS website to learn more about its mission and history.

History. When American universities and scholars recognized that public interest in the region of Southeast Asia had increased following World War II, an emphasis on establishing and cultivating Southeast Asia teaching and research programs culminated in the founding of The Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies in 1954 by the Southeast Asia Studies Committee. Chaired by Professor Woodbridge Bingham and supported by Chancellor Clark Kerr, the committee founded the program with funding from the Ford Foundation. The Committee's founding members included Professors Thomas C. Blaisdell, Jr., C. M. Li, Robert A. Scalapino, Denzell R. Carr, and Mary R. Haas, whose Thai-English Student's Dictionary (1964) remains the definitive work for Thai language studies. Early Southeast Asia studies courses were offered through the Departments of Anthropology, Geography, Linguistics, Oriental Languages, and Political Science.

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Resource Overview          S/SEAL and the Southeast Asia Collections         Exhibits and Galleries         Special Collections          Subject Guides          International Directories

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