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Classical Cultures of South and Southeast Asia: Seminar 1


Admission requirements

Admission to the BA South and Southeast Asian Studies. All other students interested in this course should contact the study co-ordinator.


This seminar offers an introduction to the classical cultures of South and Southeast Asia, in particular to those aspects that have linked both regions through the ages. We focus on Hinduism and Buddhism as cultural phenomena and we discuss the role of the great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana in offering a narrative backbone for arts and media. We will study the visual heritage in the form of sculptures, paintings and architecture (mostly created for religious purposes) as region-specific manifestations of the common cultural tradition. The rich manuscript tradition of South and Southeast Asia, which illustrates the use of scripts with a common origin and formats familiar to both regions, also exemplifies the cultural bond between the two regions, as we shall see. Finally we will learn about the lively trade in particular luxury textiles between India and Southeast Asia, which presents a maritime expression of the long-lived links between India and countries in Southeast Asia.

These subjects are discussed by means of selected academic literature that is made available via Blackboard. The seminar links studying this contents with practical exercises focused on training specific academic skills, such as reading and abstracting, presenting, essay-writing, and using online resources for academic purposes. A study visit to the South and Southeast Asia galleries of the Museum Volkenkunde (of Ethnology) at Leiden is part of the programme.

Part of this course involves compulsory meetings on Academic Skills (Oral Presentation Skills and Academic Writing Techniques) offered by the EAV.

Course objectives

  • To get familiarized with characteristic cultural traditions that connect South and Southeast Asia traditionally and up to the present;

  • To develop a first working knowledge of the nature of the sources for the study of the classical cultures of South and Southeast Asia (both primary and secondary);

  • To discover ways to access such sources (along traditional roads and digitally) and to judge them for their usefulness, quality and reliability;

  • To train the specific academic skills (academic reading, abstracting, presenting, writing) discussed in the mentorship meetings, while focusing on content issues related to the classical cultures of South and Southeast Asia.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation is mandatory. The mentorship meetings during the first and second semester form an integrated part of this course and are therefore also mandatory.

Course Load

140 hours (5 ECx28 hours):

  • 2 contact hours per week = 11 × 2=22 hours;

  • 2 contact hours per two weeks of mentorship (first and second semester) (Academic skills) = 11 × 2 = 22

  • 4 hours reading for ca. 10 classes = 40 hours;

  • 3 home assignments (3 x ca. 5 hours = 15 hours);

  • preparing the presentation: 6 hours;

  • writing a short paper: 15 hours;

  • preparing for the exam: 1×12 hours = 12 hours;

  • museum visit 2 hours.

Assessment method

Practical exercises:

  • In the first half of the semester the emphasis is on reading, summarizing and interpretation skills. These are linked to 3 mandatory home assignments throughout the course. These assignments need to be handed in on time via TurnitIn/Blackboard according to the planned schedule of submission (to be found in Blackboard). They are graded (10 %).

  • Early in the second half of the course the students prepare in small groups a joint presentation (20 %).

  • Later in the second half of the semester they write a short paper to test academic skills related to use of sources and academic writing (20 %).

Final exam:

  • The literature read in weeks 2-11 is examined by means of a 2-hour written exam with open questions in the concluding exam week (50 %).

Participation in classes and mentorship meetings is obligatory and so are the home assignments that are related to developing academic skills. Students are required to submit all parts of the practical exercises as listed above. Students who do not fulfill these requirements cannot sit in the final exam and will automatically fail the course.

There will be a re-sit of the written exam for those who did not achieve an average of minimum 5.50 (=6) for the exam and practical exercises together. The grade for this re-sit will replace the grade of the first final exam and have a weight of 50%. A re-sit is not possible for those students who will not have participated in the practical exercises.

Students who pass the course (obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher) are not allowed to take the resit.

The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Blackboard is used for making available readings materials, presentations, supporting materials both for contents on the classical cultures of South and Southeast Asia and for the academic skill exercises. The Powerpoint presentations used in class are also made available via Blackboard. All administrative matters regarding classes, timings, exams, exam results and other activities related with the course are also communicated through Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Chapters from books or articles, offered via Blackboard.

  • A reading list is made available before the start of the course. Literature needs to be read in advance based on the list. This includes reading for the first meeting.


Students of the BA program South Southeast Asia Studies are required to register through uSis before August/January 15. 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.”.

Other students are requested to send an email to the study co-ordinator including their name, student ID number, course title and prospectus or catalog number. Depending on the availability of places, the study co-ordinator will register these students after August/January 15. By September/February 1 at the latest the student will be able to see in uSis whether (s)he is registered or not.

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.


Mw Dr. E.M. Raven


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 accommodations 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 used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).