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Politics of South and Southeast Asia


Admission requirements

Students who have successfully completed State, Politics and Economy in Modern South and Southeast Asia (BA South and Southeast Asian Studies, Year 1) will be admitted automatically. If you do not meet this criterion but would still like to take the course, please send a mail both to the course coordinator (David Henley), and to the study coordinator of the BA South and Southeast Asian Studies programme (, explaining your interest and listing any relevant previous courses you have taken in Leiden or elsewhere.


In the last decades of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first, South and Southeast Asia underwent a series of dramatic transformations: from theatres of war and conflict to arenas of international cooperation, from poverty and backwardness to growing prosperity and technological modernity, and from a part of the world where most countries were under authoritarian rule to one where most were moving toward democracy and democratic values. The last ten years, however, have seen headwinds and regressions, with economies apparently stuck in 'middle income traps', democracies in retreat or under threat, and regional cooperation in disarray. Older problems, meanwhile, have persisted or intensified: inequality, corruption, religious tensions, environmental destruction. This course offers an overview of the politics of the South and Southeast Asian regions, now and in recent decades. The approach is thematic, based on a selection of the most important ideas, ideologies, and movements in South and Southeast Asian politics; examples include developmentalism, non-alignment, Islamism, populism, and communalism. Cross-country comparison is an integral part of the course. There is an emphasis too on human agency and experience, the main set reading each week being a biography, memoir, or excerpts from the writings of, an influential political figure - for instance, Ho Chi Minh, Benazir Bhutto, Lee Kuan Yew, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Narendra Modi.

Course objectives

  • To give students an understanding of the political history of the southern rim of Asia in the last few decades

  • 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.


The timetables are avalable through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Written assignment: 40 %
Final examination: 60 %

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Literature to be specified in the course syllabus.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the instructor.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof+