Photo for CSEAS alum weaves Southeast Asia...

Reilly promoting Filipino Cultural School

Brandon Reilly is Associate Professor in History at Santa Monica College, where he teaches courses on East Asian, Southeast Asian, and world history. He received his Ph.D. in Southeast Asian History from UCLA in 2013.

By Brandon Reilly (UCLA PhD, 2013)


While at UCLA, I studied under Michael Salman, William Marotti, Geoff Robinson, and Jenny Sharpe. I’ve taught previously at UCLA, CSU San Marcos, and Irvine Valley College. I live in Artesia with my partner and son. You can learn more about my teaching on my website:

What are some highlights from your teaching experience thus far?

Without a doubt the most amazing part of teaching has been meeting students from all over California, the US, and the world. Hearing their stories continues to inspire me. Teaching at Santa Monica College has also broadened my pedagogy. Whereas before I taught mainly Southeast Asia history classes, now I teach a lot of world and East Asia history classes—which took me some time to get comfortable doing. Serendipitously, the two bookends of my career came together last year, when I had the privilege to return to UCLA as a Visiting Assistant Professor and saw no less than six students in my History 176B (History of Southeast Asia since 1815) course who had, just a few years before, taken my classes at SMC. It was such a joy!

Teaching under the COVID-19 Era

Teaching under the statewide measures taken since the pandemic has been a mixed bag. It is safer and more convenient that my students and I don’t have to commute to campus as we usually do. And because I have been teaching online courses for a few years now, the transition hasn’t been so abrupt for me; for some colleagues, it has been arduous. At the same time, I worry about my students, constantly. Students who signed up for face-to-face classes did so in part because they *did not* want to learn remotely. Remaking the classes for those students has been challenging and, admittedly, not always successful. The first thing I did was ask my students what would work for them. That led me to the changes I have since made, which include doing lectures via Zoom, communicating remotely much more regularly, and modifying and even reducing assignments. Whether these measures will ultimately work or not is yet to be determined. In the meanwhile, I try and be as flexible, transparent about my expectations and thinking, communicative, and open with students as possible.

What research projects have you been working on since graduating from UCLA?

My new publications include, "Reproductive Anticolonialism: Placental Politics, Weaponised Wombs, and the Power of Abjection in the Early Spanish Mariana Islands" (forthcoming in Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific) and the volume on Filipino women’s history, Tinipon Tinig ng Kababaihan (forthcoming from the University of the Philippines Press), which I coedited with UCLA Filipino lecturer, Dr. Nenita Pambid Domingo. I am currently drafting a biographical essay on Filipino anthropologist E. Arsenio Manuel and a book manuscript, based on my dissertation, on the history of recording oral epics in the Philippines from the 16th to 21st century. Outside of the university, I’ve also served in various capacities over the years at the Filipino Cultural School, a non-profit that seeks to educate K-12 Filipino Americans about their history and culture.

Tell us about your work in curriculum development.

Because of the continued support of UCLA CSEAS, I had the privilege of attending an Office of Resources for International and Area Studies (ORIAS) Summer Institute at UC Berkeley some years back. Attending a few such workshops later led—long story short—to my joining the ORIAS Online World History Cohort. Now in our second year of collaboration, our goal has been to create a model world civilizations online curriculum for both classes (to 1500 and since 1500) for use in the California community colleges. They will hopefully be ready by Fall 2020. I have also developed curriculum for the Filipino Cultural School and SMC. In fact, I designed SMC’s first ever Southeast Asia course, History 27: History of Southeast Asia, which I first taught fall 2019.

How is Southeast Asian Studies a part of your career?

It is no exaggeration to say that I think of everything through the lens of my particular voyage through Southeast Asian Studies. It shapes my pedagogy in all kinds of basic ways. For instance, I teach the Second Indochina War differently from my Americanist colleagues. I tend to emphasize more the agency of actors in the Global South than those of the Global North. I tend to talk more about smaller or more marginal countries. And my sense is that it also made me more theory-oriented. Most importantly, my training moves beyond question my oft-repeated claim that Southeast Asia—the pungent region that fifteenth century Europeans risked their lives to reach—has the best food in the world!

What are some of your goals moving forward?

Aside from the typical accomplishments of finishing the things I’m writing and improving my pedagogy, I want to work towards the goal of creating a world where we can all have a better work-life balance. My goal is for everyone to be able to spend more time with their families and in their communities. I would endeavor, as someone else put it, "for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic." Anything less would be inhuman.

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Published: Monday, April 20, 2020