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Law and Governance in Asia


Admission requirements

This course is suitable for 2nd and 3rd year students in law, social sciences (e.g. anthropology, sociology, development studies, public administration), and humanities (history, area studies, arts). Non-law students should be willing to acquire a basic understanding of legal scholarship, whereas law students should be willing to engage in subjects beyond the rules of black letter law. For this course a sufficient command of English is required (IELTS 6.5 or higher).


Asia is on the rise in a global world, and law and governance are key to this process. The present course examines the legal cultures and traditions in the Asia-Pacific region, and it examines to what extent they provide support for the rule of law and access to justice. The course starts with a general introduction into the origins and features of the major legal systems of this region in a globalised world. It considers colonial and post-colonial law, state and non-state law, religious and secular law and proceeds with an analysis of the key concepts of rule of law, access to justice and legal culture in the Asia-Pacific context. Subsequently the focus will shift to three major countries in the region that represent different traditions: China, Japan and Indonesia. For each of these countries topics will be selected that provide particularly salient insights into the state of the rule of law, the extent to which citizens have access to justice, and what is special about their respective legal cultures. These topics may range from the role of constitutional courts in political process to access to justice in labour disputes, and from participation of citizens in criminal procedure to divorce proceedings. The approach of the course is socio-legal: the emphasis is on the functioning of law and governance in practice. This means that students will also become familiar with aspects of society and politics in the countries studied.
At the end of the course the insights gained will be combined in a broader comparison. Are legal systems in Asia converging or diverging and do they have a specific place in the global system so that we can actually speak of Asian law?

Course objectives

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

  • Students are able to explain the main features of the development and functioning of law and governance in the East and Southeast Asia region, in particular Japan, China and Indonesia, using key concepts such as rule of law, access to justice and legal culture.

  • They can define these concepts and explain how they relate to a bottom-up and a top-down approach of law and governance in Asia.

  • Students are able to critically assess orally and in writing academic articles and more popular claims about law and governance in Asia.

  • They are able to independently use English language materials to critically evaluate the abovementioned subject; and to present their findings in short oral and written assignments.


Available on the website.

Mode of instruction

The course uses a variety of teaching methods, including lecturing, student group presentations and debate. Students are expected to prepare well and participate actively in class.


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures/workgroups: 14

  • Name(s) of lecturer(s): Adriaan Bedner, Rogier Creemers and Hoko Horii.

  • Required preparation by students: Tba

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Written exam (50%)

  • Group research (30%): presentation (15%) and essay (15%)

  • Three short written assignments (20%)

If the overall grade is lower than 5,5 the student can do a retake of the exam. If a student has not passed the course by the end of the academic year, the scores on the assignments, the presentation and the (re-)exam are no longer valid.

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide, the contents of the lectures and seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • Syllabus will be made available via Brightspace

Recommended course materials: May be announced during the course.


Students have to register for this course in uSis.
Exchange students have priority and will be registered for the course first. Any remaining seats will be available for students from Leiden University and other Dutch Universities.

Contact information