South East Asia Section

Dr Ben Murtagh

Key information

School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics Interim Head of Department South East Asia Section Reader in Indonesian and Malay Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies Member Centre of South East Asian Studies Member
BA, MA, PhD (London)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44(0)20 7898 4248
Support hours
Tuesday 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Friday 12:00pm (noon) - 1:00pm


I have been a lecturer at SOAS since 2001. While initially I taught solely on Indonesian language, literature and cinema, I have extended my teaching interests in recent years, particularly to cinema from Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, and also to queer cinema from across Asia. I currently convene modules including Queer Cinema in Asia, Genders and Sexualities in South East Asian Cinema, and Films of Asia, Africa and the Middle East 2.

I first joined SOAS as an undergraduate in 1995. I completed my BA in History and Indonesian and then continued at SOAS for my MA in Languages and Literatures of South East Asia. My MA dissertation (2000) was a study of the early 19th century text Syair Perang Inggeris di Betawi, a rhymed eipc about the British invasion of Java of 1811. I kept with this theme for my PhD (2004), which explored ‘Representations of the British in Traditional Malay Literature’.

More recently my research has focused on genders and sexualities in Indonesian cinema and literature. My book, Genders and Sexualities in Indonesian Cinema: constructing gay, lesbi and waria identities on screen was published by Routledge in 2013. I am currently co-editing a journal special issue on anti-LGBT hysteria in Indonesia due to be published in early 2022, and developing a research project on representations of HIV in Indonesian popular culture.

I have held a number of leadership roles at SOAS, including Char of the Centre for South East Asia Studies (2007-10), Head of the Departments of South and South East Asia (2015-17), and Head of the School of Languages Cultures and Linguistics(2017-19).

I am Co-Managing Editor of the journal Indonesia and the Malay World, one of the leading academic journals specialising on the arts and humanities of the region. I am also Book Reviews Editor for the journal South East Asia Research.

If you would like to know more my research or the opportunities to study here at SOAS (as a BA, MA or PHD student), then please do get in touch (email:

Research interests

  • Modern Indonesian cinema and literature
  • Queer studies and sexuality in Indonesia
  • Representation of genders and sexuality in Southeast Asian film and literatures
  • Traditional Malay literature

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Ms Vera Mey Signs of a region: in search of the aesthetic imagination of Southeast Asia after 1948 (working title)


Contact Benjamin