College of Humanities & South East Asia Section

Dr Ben Murtagh

Key information

School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics Interim Head of Department 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 1:00pm - 2:00pm
Wednesday 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 Screen Cities. 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 epic 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 recently co-edited with a journal special issue with Dr Diego Garcia Rodriguez on anti-LGBT hysteria in Indonesia. Current research interests and writing projects focus on representations of HIV in Indonesian popular culture, and queer web series in South East Asia

I am currently Interim Head of the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics. I have previously held a number of leadership roles at SOAS, including Chair 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 about my research or the opportunities to study here at SOAS (as a BA, MA or PHD student), then please do get in touch.

Research interests

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

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Leif Andrew Garinto Mapping English language policies and colonial education, publishing and literary writing in Anglophone Southeast Asia
Raisa Kamila
Raisa Kamila Space, Society, and Colonial Infrastructure in 19th- and 20th- Century Aceh


Contact Benjamin