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Seminar II: Current Affairs of South and Southeast Asia


Admission requirements

Successful completion of at least 45 EC from the first year of the bachelor’s programme in South and Southeast Asian Studies, including Seminar I: Classical Cultures of South and Southeast Asia. If you do not meet this requirement but would still like to take the course, please mail both the course coordinator David Henley and study coordinator Nicole van Os indicating the reasons for your interest.


This seminar deals with current events in South and Southeast Asia and their representation in local, national, and international media. Students familiarize themselves with important contemporary issues and learn to interpret the reporting of those issues in news media of various kinds, from government press releases to dissident blogs and from academic current affairs fora to TV channels owned by business oligarchs. The course puts academic knowledge of the histories, cultures, and institutions of South and Southeast Asia into practical use as an aid to the understanding of important current events. Probable specific topics (contingent of course on ongoing developments) include the South China Sea dispute, the ‘rape crisis’ in India, and the international controversy surrounding deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia.

The format of this combined second/third year course is inclusive and participatory, featuring student presentations and debate as well as guest lectures on current news topics by specialists in particular areas. The majority of the seminars in the series are structured around interpretations and discussions of specific primary sources, led by second-year presenters. Other seminars take as their starting points presentations of ongoing dissertation research by third year students.

Course objectives

  • to stimulate students to expand and apply their knowledge of South and Southeast Asia, past and present

  • to give students instruction and experience in analysing primary sources

  • to improve students’ ability to review secondary literature in a comprehensive and critical way

  • to improve students’ ability to present and contest arguments

  • to encourage students to relativize culturally and historically specific assumptions, and to use their imaginations

  • to meet the need for a regular gathering of, and discussion among, all students of the South and Southeast Asian Studies programme at a stage when most other components are optional and specialized

  • to allow second year students to benefit directly from the knowledge and experience of the third year cohort, particularly in the area of BA thesis research and writing



Mode of instruction

Twelve seminars including lectures (8 × 1 hour) and participatory discussions (8 × 1 hour plus 4 × 2 hours). The discussions include introductory student presentations, one to be given by each student during the duration of the course, of 10 minutes for second year students and 20 minutes for third year students. Attendance is compulsory. If you are not able to attend a seminar, please inform both David Henley and Sanjukta Sunderason in advance. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam.

Course Load

140 hours in total for 5 ECs, of which 24 hours of lectures and student seminars, and the remainder to be spent on reading (average of 4 hours per week), preparing web postings in response to the set readings, preparing one presentation, preparing a mid-term essay, and preparing for the final examination.

Assessment method

  • presentation (10%), participation (10%), and web postings (10%): 30% in total

  • mid-term assignment: 30%

  • final examination: 40%

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A resit of the final examination (40%) is possible.



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 Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Studeren à la carte nor Contractonderwijs is possible for this course.


Prof.dr.David Henley
Dr. Sanjukta Sunerason


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