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Politics of Southeast Asia


Admission requirements

Having successfully finished Propaedeutics SSEAS or equivalent knowledge of South and Southeast Asian history and society. Please, contact the student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os or Prof.dr.David Henley, if you are interested in taking this course, but do NOT fulfill the abovementioned requirement.


In the last fifty years, Southeast Asia has undergone a remarkable positive transformation: from a theatre of war and conflict to one of the most peaceful regions of the world; from fragmentation and hostility to increasingly effective regional cooperation under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); from poverty and backwardness to rapidly rising levels of prosperity and technological modernity; and from a region of authoritarian and semi-authoritarian states to one increasingly dominated by democracy and democratic values. At the same time, many serious problems and challenges remain: intractably high levels of corruption in public administration, politics, and business; wholesale destruction of natural environments; rising levels of economic inequality; and persistent religious and ethnic tensions.

This course offers an informative overview of the politics of the whole Southeast Asian region, now and in recent decades, and a critical review of analytical concepts and approaches developed in relation to Southeast Asian politics by writers from inside and outside the region. Key concepts discussed include populism, developmentalism, traditionalism, neoliberalism, institutionalism, Islamism, environmentalism, and regionalism. Cross-country comparison is an integral part of the teaching method. In terms of reading material, the emphasis in this second-year course is on a limited number of book-length sources, which students are taught to read and summarize efficiently, rather than on a large number of short articles and extracts, as was typical of first-year courses. The theoretical and analytical aspects of the material are complemented by an emphasis on human agency and experience, many of the recommended readings consisting of biographies and personal memoirs.

Course objectives

  • To give students a good understanding of Southeast Asia’s political history in the last fifty years.

  • 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’ presentational and writing skills.



Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Course Load

140 hours in total for 5 ECs, of which 24 hours of lectures/student seminars and the remainder to be spent on reading (average of 4 hours per week), preparing one assignment and seminar presentation, and preparing for the final examination.

Assessment method

  • Presentation: 10% (op)

  • Written assignment: 30% (wp)

  • Final examination: 60% (we)

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an an overall mark of 6 or higher. A resit of the final examination is possible for students who have participated in the main final examination and received an overall mark for the course of 5 or lower.

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.


This course makes full use of Blackboard for making available course materials, readings, announcements and grades.
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

To be announced.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Contractonderwijs



Prof.dr.David Henley