By Tamara Loos
A dear friend and alum of Cornell’s Southeast Asia Program, Jeff Hadler, succumbed to adrenal carcinoma in January. Jeff studied Indonesian history at Cornell in the 1990s, where he worked with Takashi Shiraishi, David Wyatt, Ben Anderson, and Paul Gellert. After graduating from Cornell, Jeff was immediately hired by the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies. They not only tenured him, but also appointed him in 2014 as chair of the department.
In conversations with Jeff after doctors informed him of the unfathomable diagnosis, he talked about his two most vital concerns. He spoke with sweet conviction about his love for his family—his wife, Kumi; his daughters, Maia and Noe; and his parents and sister—and how fortunate he was to be able to tell them now, in the moment, how crucial they all were to him. He also talked about his scholarly legacy, especially within Indonesia. Jeff’s first book, the Benda Award-winning Muslims and Matriarchs: Cultural Resilience in Indonesia through Jihad and Colonialism (Cornell University Press, 2008), was translated into Indonesian and published in 2010. He felt the book, especially after it was translated, had made and would continue to make a difference to Indonesians. It was crucial to him that his scholarship had a positive impact in the country that he had first visited in high school, and that later had become the dedicated focus of his academic career.
Those of us teaching about Southeast Asia also appreciate his scholarly contributions. But for me, his peer in SEAP during our graduate school years in the 1990s, Jeff’s unique gift and genuine brilliance lay in his phenomenal sense of humor. Edgy, acerbic, undeniably hilarious, and often naughty, Jeff could always make me laugh, often against my will and frequently in meetings, seminars, and other settings that required silent attention. Jeff made a difference to all of us who knew him: he made us laugh, often hysterically. This continued alongside his more serious mentorship of students, significant scholarly production, moral efforts to combat sexual harassment, and profound love for his family. I miss Jeff and especially his ability to make us all smile, even in the face of terminal cancer.
Tamara Loos is Professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at Cornell University. She is the author most recently of Bones around My Neck: The Life and Exile of a Prince Provocateur.
Thanks to the Cornell Southeast Asia Program for permission to post Tamara Loos’s remembrance, forthcoming in the Spring 2017 SEAP Bulletin.