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Seminar II: Futures of South and Southeast Asia


Admission requirements

Successful completion of at least 45 EC from the first year of the bachelor's programme in South and Southeast Asian Studies, including Seminar I: Classical Cultures of South and Southeast Asia. If you do not meet this requirement but would still like to take the course, please mail both the course coordinator (David Henley) and the BASSEAS Coordinator of Studies, explaining the reasons for your interest.


This seminar deals with past and present perceptions of the future in South and Southeast Asia, and with the roles played by those perceptions in shaping actual courses of events. It explores how imagined futures - political, social, cultural, technological - are shaped both by visions from the past, and by projections based on trends, achievements, problems and dangers in the present. Students will be exposed to relevant secondary literature from various disciplines, including history and anthropology. Primary sources examined will include ethnographic film as well as written calendars, predictions, plans and manifestos. There are three related themes: (1) perceptions of time (calendrical systems, cyclic, linear and other models of historical change); (2) predictions and plans (augury, horoscopy, supernatural technologies for influencing the future, political programmes, development planning); and (3) counterfactual histories ('What if?'questions, turning points, path dependency, chance and predetermination). The format of this combined second/third year course is inclusive and participatory, featuring student presentations and debate as well as guest lectures by specialists in particular areas. The majority of the seminars in the series are structured around interpretations and discussions of specific sources, with presentations by second-year students. Other seminars take as their starting points presentations of ongoing dissertation research by third year students.

Course objectives

  • to stimulate students to expand and apply their knowledge of South and Southeast Asia, past and present

  • to give students instruction and experience in analysing primary sources

  • to improve students' ability to review secondary literature in a comprehensive and critical way

  • to improve students' ability to present and contest arguments

  • to encourage students to relativize culturally and historically specific assumptions, and to use their imaginations

  • to meet the need for a regular gathering of, and discussion among, all students of the South and Southeast Asian Studies programme at a stage when most other components are optional and specialized

  • to allow second year students to benefit directly from the knowledge and experience of the third year cohort, particularly in the area of BA thesis research and writing


The timetable is available on the BA South and Southeast Asian Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Twelve seminars including short lectures, student presentations, and participatory discussions.

Assessment method

  • web postings: 10%

  • oral presentation: 10%

  • general participation: 5%

  • mid-term written assignment: 35%

  • final examination: 40%

Reading list

To be specified in the course syllabus.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


Prof. David Henley