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Politics of South and Southeast Asia


Admission requirements

Students who have successfully completed State, Politics and Economy in Modern South and Southeast Asia (BA South and Southeast Asian Studies, Year 1) will be admitted automatically. If you do not meet this criterion but would still like to take the course, please send a mail both to course coordinator David Henley and to the programme study coordinator, explaining your interest in the politics of Southeast Asia and listing any relevant previous courses you have taken in Leiden or elsewhere. Students admitted to this course without having completed its prequel State, Politics and Economy in Modern South and Southeast Asia are advised to familiarize themselves before the start of the lectures with the course reference books: William Case (editor), Routledge handbook of Southeast Asian democratization (2015), Toby Carroll, Shahar Hameiri, and Lee Jones (editors), The political economy of Southeast Asia: politics and uneven development under hyperglobalisation (2020), and Neil de Votta (editor), An introduction to South Asian politics (2016).


In the last decades of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first, South and Southeast Asia underwent a series of dramatic transformations: from theatres of war and conflict to arenas of international cooperation, from poverty and backwardness to growing prosperity and technological modernity, and from a part of the world where most countries were under authoritarian rule to one where most were moving toward democracy and democratic values. The last ten years, however, have seen headwinds and regressions, with economies apparently stuck in 'middle income traps', democracies in retreat or under threat, and regional cooperation in disarray. Older problems, meanwhile, have persisted or intensified: inequality, corruption, religious tensions, environmental destruction. This course offers an overview of the politics of the South and Southeast Asian regions, now and in recent decades. The approach is thematic, based on a selection of the most important ideas, ideologies, and movements in South and Southeast Asian politics; examples include developmentalism, non-alignment, Islamism, populism, and communalism. Cross-country comparison is an integral part of the course. There is an emphasis too on human agency and experience, the main set reading each week being a biography, memoir, or excerpts from the writings of, an influential political figure - for instance, Ho Chi Minh, Benazir Bhutto, Lee Kuan Yew, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Narendra Modi.

Course objectives

  • To give students an understanding of Southern Asia's political history in the last few decades.

  • To give students an ability to discuss, in an informed way, major issues in the current politics of the region.

  • To give students instruction and experience in using, summarizing, and critically interpreting book-length secondary sources.

  • To improve students' writing skills.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Assessment method


  • Written assignment (2,500-3000 words, not including bibliography): 40%

  • Exam: essay questions: 60%


See above.


In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A resit of the final examination (60%) is possible.
The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • William Case (editor), Routledge handbook of Southeast Asian democratization. London: Routledge, 2015.

  • Toby Carroll, Shahar Hameiri, and Lee Jones (editors), The political economy of Southeast Asia : politics and uneven development under hyperglobalisation. Cham: Springer International, 2020.

  • Neil de Votta (editor), An Introduction to South Asian Politics. London: Routledge, 2016.
    Other literature will be specified in the course syllabus.


General information about uSis is available on the website.

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