Publication Date

September 5, 2017

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily

Pamela Sodhy is an adjunct associate professor with the Asian Studies Program, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. She lives in McLean, Virginia, and has been a member since 1981. 

Pamela Sodhy is an adjunct associate professor with the Asian Studies Program, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.

Alma maters: BA Hons, University of Malaya, 1968; MA, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1971; MA, Cornell University, 1981; PhD, Cornell University, 1982

Fields of interest: US, Southeast Asia, Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I grew up in multi-racial Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation, and attended an Anglican mission school in Kuala Lumpur, where I enjoyed all my history courses, especially those that dealt with American history. I soon became fascinated with American history after borrowing books from the United States Information Service library near my school. This fascination grew when, as a teenager, I spent a year in the United States under the American Field Service Program and had the opportunity to take American history courses at the high school in LaGrange, Illinois, where I was placed. Upon my return to Malaysia, I completed my sixth form studies, and then entered the University of Malaya, the country’s only university at that time, for a BA degree in history.

I would have liked to study more American history at this university but it focused mainly on Southeast Asian, South Asian, and East Asian history. At times, however, when it had a visiting Fulbright professor from the United States, it would offer a course or two on American history. I consider myself fortunate to have taken two US history courses from one of these Fulbright professors. In the late 1960s, because of my very strong interest in American history, I was delighted to follow my family to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as it enabled me to study for a MA degree in American history at Louisiana State University. I obtained this degree in 1971 and with it I was able to get a part-time job in American history at the University of Malaya and later a full-time job in this field at the National University of Malaysia, established by the Malaysian Government in 1970 after racial riots.

I joined the National University in 1974 and it sent me to Cornell University in 1978 for my PhD in American history. At Cornell, my major field was American diplomatic history while my minor fields were Southeast Asian history and international relations. Upon completion of my degree in 1982, I returned to the National University in Bangi, Malaysia, to teach American history. I taught there until late 1991, when I relocated to the United States. After trying to get a job in American history, I began teaching Southeast Asian history on a part-time basis at Georgetown University in 1993. Over the years, I have taught in three sections of Georgetown University: its History Department, its Liberal Studies Degree Program, and its Asian Studies Program. Presently, in 2017, I teach only in its Asian Studies Program, with one course, ASEAN: Past and Present, in the fall semester and another course, US-Southeast Asian Relations in the Post-9/11 World, in the spring semester.

What do you like the most about where you live and work? What I like most about the metropolitan Washington, DC, area is its cosmopolitan nature, its numerous resources for research, and its rich cultural offerings.

What projects are you currently working on? I am currently working on projects on US-ASEAN relations and US-Malaysian relations.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how? Yes, my interests have evolved since graduation in that for the past 24 years I have been teaching mostly courses on Southeast Asian history rather than on American history. But this change has enabled me to better appreciate my Southeast Asian roots and to become more interested in Southeast Asia. At the same time, I have maintained my fascination with US history and am glad that my present course, US-Southeast Asian Relations in the Post-9/11 World, allows me to use my training in American history and to bridge my interests in both American and Southeast Asian history in a single course.

What do you value most about the history discipline? What I value most about the history discipline is that provides us with abundant information about the past, helps us to better understand the present, and gives us useful insights regarding the future.

Why is membership in the AHA important to you? Membership is important to me as it links me with others very interested in the history discipline; keeps me well informed about annual meetings and new history books, theses, journals, and articles; and discusses, comprehensively and analytically, the latest developments in the history profession.

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Todayfeatures a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.


This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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