About me

I am a historian, specializing in the social and cultural history of modern and contemporary Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, which form part of the so-called Malay world, an area of long historical interactions between diverse populations, where the use of Malay as lingua franca has allowed exchanges ideas, concepts, and practices.

My interest, therefore, lies in understanding what those exchanges have meant for people when they took place, and in which ways they have shaped the societies we know. More broadly, and in simpler terms, I like to think about what cultures and people do when they encounter, which, I believe, is a permanent phenomenon, and of a theme of high relevance to understanding past and present societies, including the ones in which we live in Europe.

This question – what happens when cultures, people, and languages meet – guides my teaching and research at the University of Hamburg (Asien-Afrika-Institut), where I hold a Junior professorship at the Department of Austronesian Studies. The same interest has brought me to the Center for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC), where I am the principal investigator of a research project on the evolution of land rights and ownership in Johor and Singapore, in the second half of the 19th century when Chinese, Arabs and European came to settle in great number.

I supervise the Philippine component within Austronesian studies together with my colleagues Vincent Wonghaiham-Petersen and Adonis Elumbre where we try to bring scholars and students of Indonesian, Malay, and Philippine studies together to look at local phenomena from a broader regional perspective in the permanent seminar on Austronesian studies.

I am also an associate researcher at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies (EHESS/CNRS) in Paris, with which I collaborate periodically, and during the year 2018-2019, I was a stipendary post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard Asia Center, where I remained an associate from July 2019 to June 2023.

I have conducted fieldwork in The Philippines (Lanao, Cotabato, Zamboanga, Pantugan, Jolo, Tawi-Tawi), Indonesia (Aceh, Kerinci, Jakarta), and Malaysia (Sabah); and archival research in The Netherlands (former KITLV library), Spain (AGI, Sevilla)the UK (The British Library, the National Archives, the Royal Asiatic Society), Germany (Staatsbibliothek Berlin), the Philippines (National Archives, University Santo Tomas, Ateneo de Manila, the Archives of the Recolletos), Malaysia (Kedah, Johor, KL), and Indonesia (Perpustakaan Nasional). I am looking forward to going back to many of those places and some new ones as soon as time will allow it.

Fields of research:

  • Cultural and social history of Islam in Southeast Asia
  • Local historiography and regimes of historicity
  • Memory and culture
  • Legacy of colonialism and postcolonialism
  • History of women
  • Manuscript cultures