Dr Helen James

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Research activity per year

Personal profile


Professor Helen James is a specialist in Mainland Southeast Asia, especially Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). She took her PhD (1972) and M.A. (1970) from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and B. Oriental Studies (1966) from the Australian National University. She has held academic appointments in a number of universities including the University of Pittsburgh, Thammasat and Chulalongkorn Universities, Bangkok, as well as the University of Canberra, the Australian Catholic University and The Australian National University. She has also been a Visiting Scholar/Fellow at several international centres/universities including the Centre of International Studies, Cambridge University; the Swedish International Peace Research Institute, Stockholm; and the East-West Centre, Hawaii. In 2004 she was elected as a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. She was Executive Director of the Asia Research and Development Institute, and Director of the Thai Studies Centre, University of Canberra (1995-2000); and Head of Department at Thammasat University (1977-1980). She is currently an Honorary Professor in the Department of Anthropology, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and Pacific, ANU. She has also been a Director in several Australian government departments. In 1997 she was awarded the order of Benchamabhorn, Member of the Most Noble Order of the Kingdom of Thailand by H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej for services to Thai history, language, education and culture. Since 1995 she has taken a leading role in fostering the engagement policy with Burma/Myanmar of successive Australian governments.

Researcher's projects

1. Demography of Asian Disasters: Social Capital, Family Dynamics and Migration Patterns

2. Disaster risk, Resilience and Reconstruction: Science and Governance for Effective Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery in Australia and the Asia Pacific

3. Integrating science and social science in disaster risk management and policy.

4. Disaster Risk Science and Sustainability

5. Population, Development and the Environment: Challenges to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in the Asia Pacific

6. The Dynamics of Democratization in Myanmar: Politics, Security and Economics

Current student projects

Research interests

Professor James researches Asian disasters, disaster risk, resilience and reconstruction, civil society, governance, health, education, poverty alleviation and sustainable development in the Asia Pacific with special attention to the political anthropology of religion, non-violence and state/civil society relations; health and social inclusion/exclusion, international development, gender and health, citizenship, human rights and human security, interfaith dialogue and transnational history. She has recently (2016) published (with Douglas Paton) The Consequences of Disasters: Demographic, Planning and Policy Implications, Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, Publishers; and Population Development and the Environment: Challenges to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the Asia Pacific, 2019, Singapore:PalgraveMacmillan.

Past student projects


PhD (University of Pittsburgh), MA (University of Pittsburgh), BA (ANU,Oriental Studies)

Available student projects

Expertise Areas

  • Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Citizenship
  • Comparative Government and Politics
  • International Relations
  • South-East Asian Languages (excl. Indonesian)


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Network (past 5 years)

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