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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 since the end of the colonial period.

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


The timetable is available on the website of the Timetable

Mode of instruction


Course Load

140 hours in total for 5 ECs
Lectures: 24
Readings: 56
Preparation for assignments: 28
Preparation for exam: 30
Examination: 2

Assessment method


Written assignments and final examination (essay questions).


  • Written assignments: 40%

  • Final examination: 60%


Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • all normal purposes

Reading list

There are no course textbooks as such. However, a number of the weekly readings are drawn from the following two volumes: (1) Paul R. Brass (editor), Roultledge handbook of South Asian politics (2010); (2) Richard Robison (editor), Routledge handbook of Southeast Asian politics (2011). Both books are available electronically via the University Library.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Choose from the options below:

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


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).