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State, Politics and Economy in Modern South and Southeast Asia


Admission requirements



In recent decades, the countries of South and Southeast Asia have experienced a period of rapid economic growth and democratization. But they also face numerous problems and challenges, ranging from gross socioeconomic inequality to violent religious extremism. This course examines the social, political and economic landscapes of the southern rim of Asia. We will pay particular attention to the paradoxes of democratization, asking what has made democracy resilient over more than 60 years of independence in the largest country of the region, India, but chronically fragile in others – for instance, Pakistan and Thailand – and almost unknown in a few, such as Vietnam . A related theme covered will be the politics of underprivileged, minority and ethnic groups, whether pursued through democratic institutions, or by means of armed rebellions such as the Naxalite insurgency in India or the separatist movements in parts of Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Attention will be also be given to the dynamics of economic development, in particular the preconditions for pro-poor growth and the reasons for the divergent economic performances of the countries in the region. Interactions between religion and politics, such as Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) in India, political Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and the Islamization of the public sphere in Indonesia and Malaysia, will be addressed in comparative perspective. The evolution of civil society and non-government organizations in the various countries will be outlined, and its political implications assessed. Finally, likely scenarios for the social, political and economic future of South and Southeast Asia will be considered.

Course objectives

  • To equip students with a basic knowledge of the political and economic challenges faced by countries in South and Southeast Asia in the last half century.

  • To enable students to think and write critically about practices of democracy, development, and social justice in a variety of settings.



Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

Course Load

140 hours in total for 5 ECs, of which 24 hours of lectures and the remainder to be spent on reading (average of 4 hours per week), preparing two assignments, and preparing for the final examination.

Assessment method

  • Written assignments: 40% (as)

  • Final examination: 60% (we)

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A resit of the final examination (60%) is possible.

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.


This course makes full use of Blackboard for making available course materials, readings, announcements and grades.

Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

To be announced.


Students are required to register through uSis. 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.”.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registrationprocedures 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.


Prof.dr.David Henley


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 accomodations 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).