Dr Jacob Ricks is Associate Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University. As part of the Ian R Taylor Fellowship, he’ll be spending one term each year in Oxford. During this term Dr Ricks teaches a course for OSGA entitled ‘Ethnic and National Identity Politics’. This is a thematic course with many of the materials used drawing on Southeast Asian examples.
Dr Ricks’ interest in Southeast Asia began when he worked as a 19-year-old volunteer in Thailand. He spent two years living mostly in the countryside there, developing a love for the Thai language, culture, food and people. On returning to Utah State University, he decided to pursue a career that would allow him to focus on Southeast Asia. This decision led him to graduate school, where he completed an MA in Political Science with a concentration in Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University, and undertook a PhD at Emory University. In the course of his studies, he branched out to Indonesia, eventually spending an accumulated period of almost two years living there and a further year in Thailand before completing his doctoral work.
Currently, the main focus of Dr Ricks' research is identity politics. Many people see Thailand as an ethnically homogenous country, which is somewhat surprising considering the diversity of Southeast Asia. That homogeneity, though, is the product of over a century of the Thai state's assimilationist policies. Looking at the impact of these policies, he is seeking to understand the way in which Thai people perceive the boundaries of who can be considered Thai. This addresses the question of how humans develop and enforce ethnic boundaries and to what extent those boundaries can be manipulated by state actors. In the past he has conducted research on the politics of state capacity, especially how bureaucracies function in carrying out developmental tasks, and still has interests in those areas.
He is co-author of Ethnicity and Politics in Southeast Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2022) as well as articles in outlets such as World Politics, Political Behaviour, World Development, and Pacific Affairs, among others.
We look forward to welcoming Dr Ricks to Oxford again in Hilary Term 2024.