My research focuses on languages of mainland Southeast Asia, usually in Cambodia and Vietnam. In my dissertation, I analyzed words known as sesquisyllables in Khmer, Bunong (or Mnong or Phnong…) and Burmese. I provided acoustic evidence that these words, which are supposedly one-and-a-half syllables in length, are in fact all either monosyllabic or disyllabic. I argue that this evidence can be used to critique the cold-war notion of world regions more generally.
I also have a strong interest in the peoples living in the loosely-defined region sometimes referred to as Zomia, which includes the uplands of mainland Southeast Asia, and their diasporic communities. I consider how individuals in these communities understand and interact with conceptions of indigeneity and self-determination.
Though far from Southeast Asia itself, North Carolina is a great place to be a Southeast Asianist because it is home to several communities of people from the region, including the Karen from Burma and many peoples from the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Here at UNC, I coordinate the Southeast Asian Approaches Faculty Working Group and its associated Carolina Seminar.