Arjun Subrahmanyan  from Murdoch University in Perth Australia.

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    Doctor Arjun Subrahmanyan

    Lecturer - South East Asian History

    About me

    I teach South East Asian history, and joined Murdoch after teaching in the United States at Utah State University (Logan, Utah) and Binghamton University (Binghamton, NY). I received a PhD in History from the University of California-Berkeley in 2013. I also hold an MA in Asian Studies from the University of Oregon and a BA in Anthropology from Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont. My research specialises in South East Asian, and specifically Thai, history.


    At Murdoch I teach:

    HIS182, The Making of the Modern World

    HIS200, The Empire Strikes Back: Imperialism and Colonialism in Modern History

    HIS305, The Vietnam Wars

    HIS334, Modern Southeast Asian History

    I also regularly give guest lectures in other School of Arts undergraduate units and post-graduate seminars.


    My main research interests are in socio-political and intellectual change in modern Southeast Asian history, and in Thailand/Siam especially. I am interested in the localisation of Western-derived ideas and practices associated with modernity, including: democratic politics; new relations of country and city in the modern state; poverty, progress and capitalism; revolutions and universal history.

    My peer reviewed published work has focused on early twentieth century Thai history. I have written on fiction and social consciousness; Buddhism and politics; the 1932 Thai revolution; and education, state propaganda and democratic ideology. I have written a manuscript on Revolutionary Idealism in Modern Thailand that is under consideration with the State University of New York Press. The manuscript examines the social history of the first fifteen years after the 1932 constitutional revolution in Thailand that ended absolute monarchy and introduced democracy. The tensions unleashed by the 1932 movement, as the events of recent years have made abundantly clear, still powerfully shape Thai society.

    Current projects

    My current book length project studies post-WWII Thai politics and society, and especially the years 1945 to 1958.  This second book follows chronologically from the first book Revolutionary Idealism in Modern Thailand that is under consideration with an American university press, and is the next chapter in my story of Thai democracy. The new project examines the free-wheeling and short-lived democracy of 1945 to 1947, and thereafter the democratic struggle against a military dictatorship that cemented its power by 1958. I will show that popular enthusiasm for democracy shaped early post-war politics, as did a series of contingencies and accidents that allowed the return of military rule to the country.

    Awards and grants

    2017 Australian Academy of the Humanities (AAH) Traveling Fellowship

    The traveling fellowship support humanities scholars and researchers to collaborate with international colleagues, conduct research across a broad range of disciplines, and assist with the costs associated with publication of research.

    I used my award to conduct four weeks of library and archival research in Thailand on “Democracy and Power in Modern Thailand,” which is the subject of my current project and which continues my inquiry into twentieth century Thai democracy. I looked at social movements during the period 1945 to 1957.

    2016 Murdoch University Asia Research Centre Grant

    I received funds to support two weeks of research in January 2017 at the National Library of Australia on “The Almost Revolution: Thailand 1946″ that forms the basis for the last chapter of my manuscript “Revolutionary Idealism in Modern Thailand” that is under consideration with State University of New York Press.

    2016 Murdoch University School of Arts Early Career Researcher Grant

    I used the School grant to deliver a paper and chair a panel at the University of Sydney Thailand in Comparative Perspective Symposium held in September 2016. My paper resulted in a journal article, “The Recalcitrant History of the 1932 Thai Revolution” that is forthcoming in the Journal of Contemporary Asia.

    2015 Murdoch University School of Arts Early Career Researcher Grant

    I used my first Murdoch University School of Arts research grant to undertake four weeks of research in December 2015 at the National Archives of Thailand on the Political Economy of Interwar Siam. The research resulted in a conference presentation at the July 2016 Asian Studies Association of Australia biennial conference held in Canberra and also a chapter of my manuscript submitted to the State University of New York Press.



    Events and speaking engagements

    I have given several conference presentations and public speaking engagements in recent years, including:

    2017  Melville Historical Society’s annual Murdoch History Lecture,  “Democracy and its Discontents in Southeast Asia.” The Melville lecture series was initiated by the late Professor Geoffrey Bolton over 30 years ago.

    2017 Sydney University Thailand Studies Symposium paper on “The History and Historiography of the 1932 Thai Revolution”

    2017 Australian National University Historians of Southeast Asia workshop paper presentation on “The 1932 Revolution in Thai History”

    2016 Asian Studies Association of Australia biennial conference paper presentation on “The Political-Economy of Interwar Siam”

    Professional and community service

    At Murdoch University I have served since 2017 on the University Human Research Ethics Committee and also since 2017 on the Research and Degrees Scholarship Committee. I am also the Post-graduate Director for Humanities in the School of Arts.

    Previous to this work I acted from January to July 2017 as the Honours programme Co-chair in the School of Arts, and also as a member of the School Research Committee from July 2015 to March 2016.

    Doctoral and masters supervisions

    At Murdoch University I supervise the following post-graduate students:

    Jely Gelang, “Vagrants and Outcasts: Chinese Labourers and Dangerous Classes in the Philippines, 1839-1898″ (completion June 2019)

    Marco Lagmann, “Divergent Spaces, Bifurcated Lives: Stories and Geographies of Manila’s Women in the Late Nineteenth Century, 1860-1896″ (completion May 2021)

    Paula Magee, “The Fairbridge Child Migration Scheme” (completion June 2023)

    Lian Jenvey, “Australian Labour, Nationalism and Anti-War Sentiment on the New South Wales Coalfields during WWII” (completion January 2022)



    • Subrahmanyan, A., (2019), Worldly Compromise in Thai Buddhist Modernism, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 50, 2, pages 179 - 201.
    • Subrahmanyan, A., (2018), The Unruly Past: History and Historiography of the 1932 Thai Revolution, Journal of Contemporary Asia, , , pages -.
    • Subrahmanyan, A., (2017), Buddhism, Democracy and Power in the 1932 Thai Revolution, Asian Studies Review, 41, 1, pages 40 - 57.
    • Subrahmanyan, A., (2015), Fiction and social consciousness in interwar Siam Thai elite culture in crisis and transition, South East Asia Research, 23, 4, pages 567 - 580.

    Subrahmanyan, A. (2018) The Recalcitrant History and Historiography of the 1932 Thai Revolution, Journal of Contemporary Asia (Forthcoming, 2018)