His academic career took Professor Dahm to renowned universities such as Göttingen, Kiel, Leiden and Yale. Joining the University in 1984, he established the first Chair of Southeast Asian Studies in the Federal Republic of Germany. Even after his retirement in 1997 he continued to make important contributions to establishing Southeast Asian Studies as an independent academic discipline in Germany.
Professor Dahm's personal research interests related to Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, but also to overall Southeast Asian issues. One key focus of his research and teaching was always on the legacy of pre-colonial cultural traditions in Southeast Asian countries in the post-colonial period. Professor Dahm is known for his biography of the first Indonesian President Sukarno (1966) and for his work, published in 1989, on Philippine national hero José Rizal, for which he was awarded the Deutsch-Philippinischer Kulturpreis (German-Philippine Culture Prize) in 2010.