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Asia through Consumption (ResMA)


Please note: this course description might still undergo some minor alterations.

Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (research). Students from other departments are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course


Mass availability of consumer goods has had the most significant impact upon the way of life of ordinary people during the last hundred years. No aspect of daily life has been left untouched by the emergence of the consumer society. It has not only satisfied our needs, and created new ones, but also in many ways affected the ways we view the world and our position in it. Consumerism, which may be defined as the cultural expression and manifestation of the routine practices of consumption, not only structures our everyday lives, but also offers us the illusion of freedom. This course will explore the historical transformation of consumption and its growing impact on society, with particular reference to Asia.

Course objectives

This course aims to introduce students to the key theoretical and conceptual literature on consumer society and to familiarize them with the ways to apply this literature to the study of Asian societies in both historical and contemporary contexts. We will explore the place of consumption (of both material objects and experiences) within modernity and post-modernity.


See timetable on the departmental website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and participation are mandatory.

Course load

Total course load for this course is 280 hours

Assessment method

Participation element (attendance, assignments) 40%
Analytic element (library assignment) 20%
Research element (research essay 4,500 words) 40%

Participation element does not offer a resit opportunity. Analytical element can be re-submitted (the same assignment) before the end of block III. Research element consist of two deadlines, the first one followed by an extensive feedback.


Blackboard will be used extensively in this course.

Note: there is no separate Blackboard page available for this ResMa course. Please subscribe to the Blackboard page of the regular MA course.

Reading list

Readings will be made available for download through Blackboard and/or the University Library, or will be on reserve in the East Asia Library.

It is recommended that students purchase the key reading for this course (Contradictions of Consumption by Tim Edwards), as the book will be used in nearly every session. It is available relatively cheaply via


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. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.


Mw. Prof. Dr. K.J. Cwiertka


In order to prepare for the first session, please sign-up for this course on Blackboard, download the syllabus and follow the instructions.

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 their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform 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 (with quotations and/or citations).