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Politics South and South-East Asia


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.


The countries of South and Southeast Asia are experiencing a period of rapid economic growth and democratization. But they also face many problems and challenges, ranging from gross socioeconomic inequality to religious extremism. This course provides a broad overview of the politics of the southern rim of Asia. It begins by sketching the institutional framework that shapes political behaviour in the region, and which is shaped in turn by political forces. Other key topics explored are the politics of class, capital, and the underprivileged; the influence of civil society (in both secular and religious forms); the interplay of ethnicity, nationalism, and separatism; and the development of international relations, including regional organizations such as ASEAN as well as relations with China and the West. Finally, the political challenges of the twenty-first century will be assessed.

Lecture Topics

  • Lecture 1. South and Southeast Asia: doing democracy

  • Lecture 2. Rules of the game: institutions and constitutions in Southeast Asia

  • Lecture 3. Institutions and constitutions in South Asia

  • Lecture 4. Political economy: class, caste and capital in South Asia

  • Lecture 5. The politics of class and capital in Southeast Asia: from Ho Chi Minh to Indomie

  • Lecture 6. Civil Society and globalisation in South Asia

  • Lecture 7. Beyond government: civil society in Southeast Asia

  • Lecture 8. Ethnicity and nationalism in South Asia

  • Lecture 9. Dealing with diversity: the politics of ethnicity in Southeast Asia

  • Lecture 10. International and regional politics of South Asia

  • Lecture 11. Golf, karaoke, and durian: international relations in Southeast Asia

  • Lecture 12. Political challenges in South and Southeast Asia

Course objectives

  • to equip students with a basic knowledge of the political challenges recently experienced, and currently faced, by countries in South and Southeast Asia

  • to enable students to think and write critically about power, politics, and democracy in a variety of settings


The timetable will be available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture and tutorials

Attending lectures and tutorials is compulsory. If you are not able to attend a lecture or tutorial, please inform the tutor of the course. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam or essay.

Assessment method

  • Tutorials 30%

  • Midterm Exam 30%

  • Final Exam 40%

If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the full 70% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier mid- and endterm grades. No resit for the tutorials is possible.


Blackboard will be used. Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

  • Paul R. Brass (ed.), Routledge Handbook of South Asian Politics (2010)

  • Richard Robison (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics (2011)


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.