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Classical Cultures of South and Southeast Asia: Seminar 1


Admission requirements

Admission to the BA South and Southeast Asian Studies. All other students interested in this course should contact the Coordinator of Studies.


This seminar offers an introduction to the cultural heritage that has linked South and Southeast Asia through the ages. We focus on the early and pre-Modern period in particular. Hinduism and Buddhism were important shared cultural phenomena. We also look into the role of the great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana in offering a narrative backbone for arts and media.
We will study the visual heritage in the form of sculptures, paintings and architecture (mostly created for religious purposes) as region-specific manifestations of the common cultural tradition.
The rich manuscript tradition of South and Southeast Asia, which illustrates the use of scripts with a common origin and formats familiar to both regions, also exemplifies the cultural bond between the two regions, as we shall see. Finally we will learn about the lively trade in particular luxury textiles between India and Southeast Asia, which presents a maritime expression of the long-lived links between India and countries in Southeast Asia. These subjects are discussed by means of selected academic literature. Information on how to access this literature is given via Blackboard.
The seminar combines studying this contents with practical exercises focused on training specific academic skills, such as reading and abstracting, presenting, essay-writing, and using online resources for academic purposes. A study visit to the South and Southeast Asia galleries of the Museum Volkenkunde (of Ethnology) at Leiden is part of the programme.
Important: Part of this course involves compulsory meetings on Academic Skills (Oral Presentation Skills and Academic Writing Techniques) offered by the EAV.


Classical Cultures of SSEA: Seminar 1 has to be successfully completed for a positive binding study advice. Failing for this course implicates that you cannot continue your SSEAS programme!

Course objectives

  • To get familiarized with characteristic cultural traditions that connect South and Southeast Asia historically and up to the present;

  • To develop a first working knowledge of the nature and relevance of primary and secondary sources for the study of the shared heritage of South and Southeast Asia;

  • To discover ways to access such sources (along traditional roads and digitally) and to judge them for their usefulness, quality and reliability;

  • To train the specific academic skills (academic reading, abstracting, presenting, writing) discussed in the mentorship meetings, while focusing on content issues related to the classical shared cultural itage of South and Southeast Asia.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method

Practical exercises:

  • In the first half of the semester the emphasis is on reading, summarizing and interpretation skills. These are linked to 3 mandatory home assignments. These assignments need to be handed in on time via TurnitIn/Blackboard according to the planned schedule of submission (to be found in Blackboard). They are graded (10 %).

  • Early in the second half of the course the students prepare in small groups a joint presentation (20 %).

  • Later in the second half of the semester they write a short paper to test academic skills related to use of sources and academic writing (20 %). A passing grade of 5.50 or higher for this part is required.

Final exam:

  • The literature read in weeks 2-11 is examined by means of a 2-hour written exam with open questions in the concluding exam week (50 %).

Participation in classes and mentorship meetings is obligatory and so are the home assignments that are related to developing academic skills. Students are required to submit all parts of the practical exercises as listed above (both in academic skills and in the seminar). Students who do not fulfill these requirements cannot sit in the final exam and will automatically fail the course.

Passing Seminar I with a sufficient result (6 or higher) is an entry requirement for students in SSEAS for admission to BA2 of SSEAS.


The final mark of the courses is established by the weighted average (see above), with the passing grade for the presentation/paper component as an additional requirement.


There will be a re-sit of the written exam. The grade for this re-sit will replace the grade of the first final exam and have a weight of 50%. A re-sit is not possible for those students who did not participate in the practical exercises.

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.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Links to chapters from books or articles or info on how to access them is offered via Blackboard.

  • A syllabus with a reading list is made available before the start of the course.
    Literature needs to be read in advance based on the list. This includes reading for the first meeting.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.



Classical Cultures of SSEA: Seminar 1 has to be successfully completed for a positive binding study advice. Failing for this course implicates that you cannot continue your SSEAS programme!