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I'm Vila


Dr. Vilashini Somiah is a Feminist Anthropologist working on the Malaysian Borneo. Herself a scholar of mixed indigenous heritage, Dr. Somiah is also a tenured Senior Lecturer at the Gender Studies Programme at Universiti Malaya. She received a Ph.D. in Southeast Asian Studies from the National University of Singapore under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Oona Paredes (now of UCLA). She is passionate about the narratives and agency of Bornean women, migrants, and indigenes, and other sexual and gender minorities, which are often underrepresented. Dr. Somiah also has an interest in human-non-human interaction, a theoretical focus within the field of Anthropology and the social sciences.


Dr. Somiah has over ten years of mixed methods research experience and has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Sabah, Sarawak, and the Peninsular of Malaysia. She has been a recipient of numerous grants and awards for her important work which includes the Tun Abdul Razak Chair Graduate Scholarship at Ohio University, The Graduate Research Scholarship at the National University of Singapore, the ASEAN-Australia Visiting Fellowship, and other prestigious national and international grants. 


Dr. Somiah co-edited Revisiting Covid-19 in Malaysia: Plight and perseverance (UM Press, 2023) and “Sabah from the Ground: The 2020 Elections and the Politics of Survival (SIRD/ISEAS, 2021). Her first single authored book, Irregular Migrants and the Sea at the Borders of Sabah, Malaysia: Pelagic Alliance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) won the ACUM (The Universiti Malaya Award for Outstanding Achievement) for the best Social Science book of 2022, which has also received favourable reviews internationally. 


She is currently working on her fourth book. 


Outside of academia, Dr. Somiah has done professional consultancies, evaluation projects and research programmes for international non-profits. She also continues to write on and speak about the local socio-political landscape and oppressions.

Academic Qualifications

  • PhD (Southeast Asian Studies) - National University of Singapore

  • MA (Southeast Asian Studies) - Ohio University

  • M. Res (Media Studies) - Universiti Malaya 

  • BA (Hons) (English Lit & Media Studies) - Universiti Malaya

Adjunct Professorships & Fellowships

  • Visiting Professorship - Airlangga University 

  • CSDR Exchange Academic Fellowship

  • LSE-SEAC-SEANNET Fellowship

  • Lowy-ASEAN Fellowship

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