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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 (anthropology, sociology of development, 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. This course examines the legal cultures and traditions present in the Asia-Pacific region, and 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 them 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 legal culture. These topics may range from protection of citizens against dispossession of their land to legal practices for birth control, and from participation of citizens in criminal procedure to legal education . 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 into 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

  • To gain basic knowledge of the development and functioning of law and governance in the Asia-Pacific region

  • To acquire an understanding of rule of law, access to justice and legal culture in this region, both from a top-down and a bottom-up perspective

  • To understand the functioning of law and governance in specific (local) Asia-Pacific contexts

  • To enhance a critical understanding of academic literature and public debates (English language material) on this subject.

  • To improve academic skills by reading and analysing academic materials in English, by giving presentations, participating in group discussions, and by writing two essays.

  • To learn how to study a new system of law and governance in its societal context

The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course

After completing the course students will have:

  • Knowledge and critical understanding of the development and functioning of law and governance in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular with regard to the rule of law, access to justice and legal culture

  • The ability to independently use English language material to critically evaluate the abovementioned subject; and to present their findings in short oral and written presentations


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

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: 7

  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 7

  • Names of lecturers: Erik Herber and guest lectures

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Written exam (50%)

  • Class participation, including one group presentation (10%)

  • Two written assignments (15% and 25%)

    If the overall grade is lower than 5,5 the student can do a retake of the exam. 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.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials



Course information guide:

Reader will be made available via Blackboard

Recommended course materials:

Registration Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: dhr. Dr. E.D. Herber

  • Work address: KOG, room B3.13

  • Contact information: by appointment via email

  • Telephone number: +31 (0)71 – 527 7260

  • Email:


  • Institute: Metajuridica

  • Department: Van Vollenhoven Institute

  • Room number secretary: KOG, room B3.13

  • Opening hours: Monday – Thursday 9.00 – 12.30 and 13.130 – 16.00 h.

  • Telephone number secretary: +31 (0)71 527 7260

  • Email:


Students who are interested, can write a paper for an extra credits of 5 ECTS. Please contact the teacher about this possibility.