AAS Member Spotlight: Rebakah Daro Minarchek

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Rebakah Daro Minarchek, Associate Director, Southeast Asia Center, University of Washington, Seattle

Development Sociology; Indonesia

How long have you been a member of AAS?

I have been a member of AAS (off and on) since 2007. My first meeting was in Atlanta, and my then friend/now husband and I took a road trip from Ohio to Georgia to the meeting. It is still a fond memory for both of us. 

Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues?

I joined AAS because I initially started out my career in academia in an interdisciplinary program and AAS was a natural fit. The Asian Studies community has become such a family to my husband and me. No matter what institution we are affiliated with, AAS has always been a community (scholarly and socially) for us. 

How did you first become involved in Asian Studies?

I started my career in Asian Studies at Ohio University in their Southeast Asian Studies program. I met some of the finest people there and thank them for getting me involved in AAS and Asian Studies more broadly. 

What do you enjoy most or what have been your most rewarding experiences involving your work in Asian Studies?

My research has evolved (as have I) over the past decade, but the thing that has stayed the same is my interest in environmental issues in Southeast Asia. I find it very rewarding to have been involved in environmental movements in Thailand and Indonesia and watch the movements transform in such an organic manner. It is fascinating to me. 

Tell us about your current or past research.

I am currently the Associate Director of the Southeast Asia Center at the University of Washington, Seattle, which is a new position that I’ve taken. This the third National Resource Center for Southeast Asia that I’ve been affiliated with! For the past two years, I served as the Associate Director of the American Institute for Indonesian Studies (AIFIS). AIFIS is a consortium of universities and colleges that fosters scholarly exchange and research efforts between Indonesian and US scholars in order to further the development of Indonesian studies. I am also finishing my Ph.D. in the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University. My present research (2013-2016) focuses on the impact of land and tenure rights for forest dependent communities in rural Indonesia. Specifically, I am exploring the impact of land law changes on the food security of adat (customary law) communities in West Java and the transformation of land tenure and property rights in state-controlled spaces, like national parks. I am focusing on the Indonesian Constitutional Court ruling 35/2012, which could potentially turn over nearly 40% of Indonesian state-claimed forests to indigenous communities.

What advice or recommendation do you have for students interested in a career in Asian Studies?

Be specific and have a firm idea of your research interests. It does not mean that those interests can't change over time, but always have a direction in mind. Also, in general, remember to live your life in the meantime. Don't allow graduate school to eat away at the best years of your life because you feel like there is always another article to read, another grant to write, etc. 

Outside of Asian Studies, tell us some interesting facts about yourself.

I have two young children and they have traveled the world with us. They both had their first passports before they were six months old! You can discover so much about a culture by being pregnant, because, apparently, EVERYONE has an opinion about pregnancy and babies. I also love reading non-academic literature. It is my escape from work and career. It can take me weeks to read a book for my dissertation, but somehow I can read a random fiction novel in two nights. I also have the worst sweet tooth...the worst! 

Daro Minarchek, Rebakah

"The Asian Studies community has become such a family to my husband and me. No matter what institution we are affiliated with, AAS has always been a community (scholarly and socially) for us."

— Rebakah Daro Minarchek