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State, Politics and Economy in modern South and Southeast Asia



No previous knowledge required.


Countries of South Asia and Southeast Asia share promises of unparalleled economic development but confront myriad social and political problems ranging from undemocratic regimes to religious extremism. This course examines the political and economic landscapes of these two regions.

We will pay particular attention to the paradoxes of democratization and ask what makes democracy resilient in the largest democracy, India and so fragile in others – for instance Burma, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh – where the army has been such a powerful actor. The religion-politics nexus which includes the mainstreaming of Hindutva in India, political Buddhism in Sri Lanka and the islamization of the public sphere in Malaysia and Indonesia will be addressed in a comparative perspective.

Another theme covered by this course is the politics of underprivileged, minority and ethnic groups through formal processes as in India’s rise of the lower castes or through social movements and anti-state insurgencies as in Nepal or East Timor. We will address the dynamics of the economic development of South and Southeast Asia focusing on the preconditions for pro-poor growth and the role of ASEAN and SAARC in integrating economies. The course will conclude with an assessment of the alternative models of modernity and development offered by these regions and their refashioning of ideas of plurality, secularism and democracy.

Leerdoelen/course objectives

This course aims to equip students with a basic knowledge of the political and economic challenges faced by countries in South and Southeast Asia in the last fifty years. It also invites students to think critically about practices of democracy, development and social justice in a variety of settings.

Rooster/course schedule

See website

Onderwijsvorm/educational methods

Lectures and workgroups

140 hours in total for 5 ECTS, of which 24 hours of lectures and the remainder to be spent on reading (average of 4 hours a week) and preparing for two assignments and the final exam.


  • written assignments: 40%

  • final examination: 60%


Blackboard page available


To be anounced


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Prof.dr. N.K. Wickramasinghe