Donald K. Emmerson

All FSI People Institute Faculty and Researchers
Portrait of Donald K Emmerson

Donald K. Emmerson, PhD

  • Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
  • Affiliated Faculty, CDDRL
  • Affiliated Scholar, Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies
  • Director, Southeast Asia Program

Shorenstein APARC
Stanford University
Encina Hall, Room E321
Stanford, CA 94305-6055

(650) 724-6403 (voice)
(650) 723-6530 (fax)


At Stanford, in addition to his work for the Southeast Asia Program and his affiliations with CDDRL and the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Donald Emmerson has taught courses on Southeast Asia in East Asian Studies, International Policy Studies, and Political Science. He is active as an analyst of current policy issues involving Asia. In 2010 the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars awarded him a two-year Research Associateship given to “top scholars from across the United States” who “have successfully bridged the gap between the academy and policy.”

Emmerson’s research interests include Southeast Asia-China-US relations, the South China Sea, and the future of ASEAN. His publications, authored or edited, span more than a dozen books and monographs and some 200 articles, chapters, and shorter pieces.  Recent writings include The Deer and the Dragon: Southeast Asia and China in the 21st Century (ed., 2020); “‘No Sole Control’ in the South China Sea,” in Asia Policy  (2019); ASEAN @ 50, Southeast Asia @ Risk: What Should Be Done? (ed., 2018); “Singapore and Goliath?,” in Journal of Democracy (2018); “Mapping ASEAN’s Futures,” in Contemporary Southeast Asia (2017); and “ASEAN Between China and America: Is It Time to Try Horsing the Cow?,” in Trans-Regional and –National Studies of Southeast Asia (2017).

Earlier work includes “Sunnylands or Rancho Mirage? ASEAN and the South China Sea,” in YaleGlobal (2016); “The Spectrum of Comparisons: A Discussion,” in Pacific Affairs (2014); “Facts, Minds, and Formats: Scholarship and Political Change in Indonesia” in Indonesian Studies: The State of the Field (2013); “Is Indonesia Rising? It Depends” in Indonesia Rising (2012); “Southeast Asia: Minding the Gap between Democracy and Governance,” in Journal of Democracy (April 2012); “The Problem and Promise of Focality in World Affairs,” in Strategic Review (August 2011); An American Place at an Asian Table? Regionalism and Its Reasons (2011); Asian Regionalism and US Policy: The Case for Creative Adaptation (2010); “The Useful Diversity of ‘Islamism’” and “Islamism: Pros, Cons, and Contexts” in Islamism: Conflicting Perspectives on Political Islam (2009); “Crisis and Consensus: America and ASEAN in a New Global Context” in Refreshing U.S.-Thai Relations (2009); and Hard Choices: Security, Democracy, and Regionalism in Southeast Asia (edited, 2008).

Prior to moving to Stanford in 1999, Emmerson was a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he won a campus-wide teaching award. That same year he helped monitor voting in Indonesia and East Timor for the National Democratic Institute and the Carter Center. In the course of his career, he has taken part in numerous policy-related working groups focused on topics related to Southeast Asia; has testified before House and Senate committees on Asian affairs; and been a regular at gatherings such as the Asia Pacific Roundtable (Kuala Lumpur), the Bali Democracy Forum (Nusa Dua), and the Shangri-La Dialogue (Singapore). Places where he has held various visiting fellowships, including the Institute for Advanced Study and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. 

Emmerson has a Ph.D. in political science from Yale and a BA in international affairs from Princeton. He is fluent in Indonesian, was fluent in French, and has lectured and written in both languages. He has lesser competence in Dutch, Javanese, and Russian. A former slam poet in English, he enjoys the spoken word and reads occasionally under a nom de plume with the Not Yet Dead Poets Society in Redwood City, CA. He and his wife Carolyn met in high school in Lebanon. They have two children. He was born in Tokyo, the son of U.S. Foreign Service Officer John K. Emmerson, who wrote the Japanese Thread among other books.

Current research

Selected Multimedia