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Nation, community, self: questions of culture in South and Southeast Asia





This course provides an introduction to the contemporary cultures of South and Southeast Asia—the cultural practices as well as their study. The course is arranged as a series of connected themes. In each class meeting one theme is discussed from South and Southeast Asian perspectives as well as comparatively.

We begin by unpacking the major categories in terms of which the contemporary cultures of South and Southeast Asia are commonly analyzed, such as the “modernity” versus “tradition” paradigm, the idea of a “South Asian” versus a “Southeast Asian” region, and the notion of “culture” itself. The next three meetings are devoted to ordinary, everyday culture: daily life and religious practices, urban cultures, and media. This is followed by three lectures on domains that are sometimes called “high culture”, namely the visual arts, literature, and various genres of performance. We will discuss their authority as well as their ordinariness. In the next two meetings we take, quite literally, a more detached perspective, addressing questions of cultural diversity and diaspora, respectively. The political significance of heritage is next, followed by an examination of the cultural policies of states and institutions. We conclude with an overview of the main questions addressed in the course: matters cultural that are relevant to nations, communities and individuals in South and Southeast Asia.


  • kennis van en inzicht in belangrijke culturele domeinen in het hedendaags Zuid- en Zuidoost-Azië

  • kennis van en inzicht in actuele debatten over cultuur in het algemeen evenals met betrekking tot Zuid- en Zuidoost-Azië

  • training van het analytisch vermogen m.b.t. culturele vraagstukken door middel van kritische beschouwing van wetenschappelijke literatuur over cultuur in Zuid- en Zuidoost-Azië


Zie website




  • schriftelijk tentamen met essayvragen (60% van het eindcijfer)

  • drie opdrachten over de leesstof, in te leveren op vastgestelde punten tijdens de collegeserie (40% van het eindcijfer)


Blackboard wordt gebruikt voor:

  • inhoudsopgave van de collegeserie

  • collegematerialen

  • het inleveren van opdrachten

  • mededelingen


Een leeslijst, nader te bepalen. De literatuur dient bestudeerd te worden voorafgaand aan het desbetreffende college.


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Prof.dr. B. Arps
Prof.dr. N.K. Wickramasinghe