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Politics of Southeast Asia


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Histories of Modern South and Southeast Asia and Nation, Community, Self: Questions of Culture in South and Southeast Asia and State, Politics and Economy in Modern South and Southeast Asia or equivalent knowledge of South and Southeast Asian history and society. Please, contact the student advisor or Prof.dr.David Henley, if you are interested in taking this course, but do NOT fulfill the abovementioned requirement.

Exchange students interested in taking this course are advised to familiarize themselves with the course reference book before the start of the course: Richard Robison, The Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics, (London: Routledge, 2012).


In the last fifty years, Southeast Asia has undergone a remarkable positive transformation: from a theatre of war and conflict to one of the most peaceful regions of the world; from fragmentation and hostility to increasingly effective regional cooperation under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); from poverty and backwardness to rapidly rising levels of prosperity and technological modernity; and from a region of authoritarian and semi-authoritarian states to one increasingly dominated by democracy and democratic values. At the same time, many serious problems and challenges remain: intractably high levels of corruption in public administration, politics, and business; wholesale destruction of natural environments; rising levels of economic inequality; and persistent religious and ethnic tensions.

This course offers an informative overview of the politics of the whole Southeast Asian region, now and in recent decades, and a critical review of analytical concepts and approaches developed in relation to Southeast Asian politics by writers from inside and outside the region. Key concepts discussed include populism, developmentalism, traditionalism, neoliberalism, institutionalism, Islamism, environmentalism, and regionalism. Cross-country comparison is an integral part of the teaching method. In terms of reading material, the emphasis in this second-year course is on a limited number of book-length sources, which students are taught to read and summarize efficiently, rather than on a large number of short articles and extracts, as was typical of first-year courses. The theoretical and analytical aspects of the material are complemented by an emphasis on human agency and experience, many of the recommended readings consisting of biographies and personal memoirs.

Course objectives

  • To give students a good understanding of Southeast Asia’s political history in the last fifty years.

  • To give students an ability to discuss, in an informed way, major issues in the current politics of the region.

  • To give students instruction and experience in using, summarizing, and critically interpreting book-length secondary sources.

  • To improve students’ writing skills.



Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

Course Load

140 hours in total for 5 ECs, of which 24 hours of lectures and the remainder to be spent on reading (average of 4 hours per week), preparing one assignment and preparing for the final examination.

Assessment method

  • Written assignment: 40% (wp)

  • Final examination: 60% (we)

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A resit of the final examination (60%) is possible for students who have participated in the main final examination and received an overall mark for the course of 5.49 or lower.

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.


This course makes full use of Blackboard for making available course materials, readings, announcements and grades.

Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

To be announced.


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.

Registration Contractonderwijs

(Studeren à la carte is not possible for this course.)


Prof.dr.David Henley


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).