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Culture South and South East Asia


Admission requirements

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


When studying a particular region of the world, knowledge of its cultural universe is crucial; the study of culture allows the understanding of the deeper structures behind history, politics and economy. Culture is the symbolic repertoire that gives form and content to national and collective identities, the subjectivity of individuals, and the environment. Culture is expressed in both material and immaterial resources, through which relations of legitimacy and domination are built in specific temporal and geographical contexts. Culture is a domain in which strategies for winning consent and cohesion are reflected, but it also includes mechanisms of in- and exclusion or conflicts on the basis of e.g. nationality, language, religion, ethnicity or gender. This course looks at these processes in specific cultural contexts of the world, and revises the regional scholarly traditions in the study and circulation of culture.

This course provides an introduction to the contemporary cultures of South and Southeast Asia—the cultural practices as well as their study. The course is arranged as a series of connected themes which are discussed from South and Southeast Asian perspectives as well as comparatively.
We begin by unpacking the major categories in terms of which the contemporary cultures of South and Southeast Asia are commonly analyzed, such as the “modernity” versus “tradition” paradigm, the idea of a “South Asian” versus a “Southeast Asian” region, and the notion of “culture” itself. The series of classes that follows is devoted to ordinary, everyday culture, “high culture”, questions of diversity and diaspora, heritage, and other themes. We conclude with an overview of the main questions addressed in the course: matters cultural that are relevant to nations, communities and individuals in South and Southeast Asia.

Course objectives

  • knowledge of and insight into important cultural domains in contemporary South and Southeast Asia

  • knowledge of and insights into actual debates about culture in general and with regard to South and Southeast Asia

  • training of analytical skills with regard to questions of culture, by means of critical analysis of internet objects from South and Southeast Asia and of scholarly studies on culture in South and Southeast Asia


The timetable is 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 30%
Final assignment 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.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an an overall mark of “6” or higher.
An exam resit is only possible if the student participated in the first written exam and received an overall mark for the course of “5” or lower.
The course is an integrated whole. The final written examination and the work related to the tutorials must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


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

Blackboard serves as the primary channel of communication about the course between instructors and students outside class meetings. Registration for the course on Blackboard is essential.

Blackboard is also used for:

  • announcements

  • the extended course description (syllabus), including the reading list

  • matters relating to the tutorials (including written work produced for and discussed in tutorials)

Reading list

The readings are in the syllabus, which students can find on the Blackboard course site. The readings must be studied prior to the class in question.


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.


Prof.dr. B. Arps, email
Dr. S. Sunderason, email