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Seminar III: Futures of South and Southeast Asia (1718)


Admission requirements

Propaedeutics exam of the BA South and Southeast Asian Studies, and 45 EC from the second year, including Seminar II: Heritage of South and Southeast Asia or Seminar II: Current Affairs 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 Coordinator of Studies indicating 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 videos 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 on current news topics by specialists in particular areas. The majority of the seminars in the series are structured around interpretations and discussions of specific primary sources, led by second-year presenters. 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



Mode of instruction

Twelve seminars including lectures (8 × 1 hour) and participatory discussions (8 × 1 hour plus 4 × 2 hours). The discussions include introductory student presentations, one to be given by each student during the duration of the course, of 10 minutes for second year students and 20 minutes for third year students
Attendance and active participation are obligatory. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (that is, due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the conveners of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be compensated for by an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than twice can result in exclusion from the final exam and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

140 hours in total for 5 ECs, of which 24 hours of lectures and student seminars, and the remainder to be spent on reading (average of 4 hours per week), preparing web postings in response to the set readings, preparing one presentation, preparing a mid-term essay, and preparing for the final examination, of which 2 hours are the final examination.

Assessment method


Webpostings, presentation, participation, mid-term assignment and final examination.


  • web postings: 10%

  • presentation: 10%

  • participation: 10%

  • mid-term assignment: 30%

  • final examination: 40%


In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A resit of the final examination (40%) 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.

Exam review

If a student requests in writing a review of his/her examination answer script within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.



Reading list

To be announced.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading "Act.nbr.".

Not being registered means no permission to attend this course. For information on how to register, see 'Registration procedures for classes and examinations'.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Neither 'Studeren à la carte' nor 'Contractonderwijs' is possible for this course.


Prof.dr.David Henley
Dr. Sanjukta Sunderason


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of the course to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in a timely manner in accordance with the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work, with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text.