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Elective: WWII in Asia: Images, Realities, Legacies


Admission requirements

This course is only available for second year students in the BA International Studies. The number of participants is limited to 25.


This course explores myths and realities of the Asian experience of Japanese wartime occupation and aftermath as part of a broader understanding of modern regional history, global history, and postwar and contemporary international relations. The war remains a “hot button” issue in Asia, and debates over this history continue to haunt Japan’s relations with its Asian neighbors as well as with the West. Such representations of the war can tell us much about the political “uses of the past” in struggles over national identity, nation-building, and international relations, but often do little justice to a complex, varied, and fascinating wartime past. The remarkably varied experiences and legacies of Japan’s military occupations in Asia reflect the diversity and complexity of the Second World War period and of modern Asia itself. This course seeks to explore both the complexity and diversity of this experience, and the mechanisms—in history writing, popular memory, literature and film—through which it has been subsequently (mis-)understood, used, and abused.

Experiences and representations considered include those of people in wartime Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia. Themes and issues include oppression and atrocity, collaboration, gender, wartime and postwar media, film and literature, and memory and nation-building. In readings, in-class discussions, and research, students are encouraged to compare and contrast with wartime experiences and their representations in Europe and elsewhere. Readings are assembled from a variety of sources that will be made available on the course Blackboard site.

Additionally, the students will work through W.C. Booth, G.G. Colomb, J.W. Williams, The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Course objectives

The elective courses for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the interdisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.
Academic skills that are trained include:
Oral presentation skills:
1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using up-to-date presentation techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience;
3. to actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.
Collaboration skills:
1. to be socio-communicative in collaborative situations;
2. to provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position;
3. adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.
Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:
1. to collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques;
2. to analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability;
3. to formulate on this basis a sound research question;
4. to design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved;
5. to formulate a substantiated conclusion.
Written presentation skills:
1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured written presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

This course will proceed as a seminar, meeting for one 2-hour session per week.
Each class will center on discussion of assigned readings, with introductory
remarks by the professor and intensive student-led discussion and debate. The
instructor will also provide guidelines in advance of each class consisting of strategies for digesting the reading and material to prepare for class discussion. In addition to contributing informal web responses to a blackboard site before class, students will write one formal essay and produce one peer review of another students’ essay.

Course Load

A brief calculation of the course load, broken down by:

  • Total course load for the course: 10 × 28 hours= 280 EC. – Hours spent on attending lectures: 24 – Time for completing assignments, whether in preparation at the college: 96 – (If applicable) time to write a paper (including reading / research): 160

Assessment method

One 4, 000-word research essay – 50%.
One 1000-word peer review/take home exam – 10%
Class participation – 20%
Weekly Web postings– 20%

Note: The maximum possible grade to be obtained for re-submission of the final essay is a 6.0


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrollment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

Readings from a variety of sources, to be made available on Blackboard.


Enrollement through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

The student administration will register all first year students for the first semester courses in uSis, the registration system of Leiden University.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. E. Mark, email