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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Angkor and Khmer Art in Southeast Asia

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1
This course introduces Khmer arts such as sculpture, reliefs, temples and cities and the diverse disciplines and literature commonly employed in its interpretation. It is designed thematically over the term: the site and its ‘discovery’ by the West, chronology of the art, architecture and cities, and meaning of this to the ancient Khmer. The focus is on Angkor and Northeast Thailand as well as the relationship of Khmer culture to other cultures in Southeast Asia and issues surrounding their sustenance today. As such, it raises wider questions of historiography, nationalism and the use of criteria such as ethnicity and a single religious practice to define past or present material culture.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • Develop an understanding of some of the methods, practice and key issues in Khmer arts spaces.
  • Provide a supportive context for a critical appraisal of the various approaches and issues developed within this profile of Khmer material culture.
  • Develop a range of skills relevant to an understanding of Khmer arts and their present role within the cultures of Southeast Asia.

Scope and syllabus

The course defines the principal elements of Khmer art in the region of Angkor and in Northeast Thailand. It aims to provide a concentrated understanding of the development of Khmer culture in Cambodia and Thailand circa 500 - 1500 AD and also since its inscription as a World Heritage site in 1992. In covering this wide period of time, the course aims to develop critical expertise and visual literacy relevant to both the making and sustaining of Khmer art and heritage.

Structuring ‘Khmer art’ in two geographical political and geographic regions raises wider questions of historiography, nationalism and the use of criteria such as ethnicity to define material culture. You are required to read, to attend lectures and seminars, and to take an active part in discussions. This will provide you with exposure to a range of material, and many different views and authors, many not agreeing with one another with the aim of fostering a plural perception of Khmer art at Angkor and in Northeast Thailand.

Method of assessment

Assessment is based on 30% written work and 70% on an exam. Written assessment is based on two pieces of written work 500 and 2000-2500 words in length. Details and deadlines for online assignments/presentation will be included in the reading list and online.

Suggested reading

  • Coe, Michael. Angkor and the Khmer Civilization. (London: Thames and Hudson, 2003)
  • Coedès. G. 1968. The Indianized states of South-east Asia. F. Vella (ed) translated by S. Brown Cowing (tr). Honolulu: East-West Center Press.
  • Jessup, H. The Art and Sculpture of Cambodia. (London: World of Art, Thames and Hudson, 2003)
  • Roveda, Vittorio. Khmer Mythology. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1997)
  • Smitthi Siribradra & Moore, E. Palaces of the Gods, Khmer Art and Architecture in Thailand. (Bangkok, London: River Books/White Mouse editions. 1992)
  • Woodward, H. The Art and Architecture of Thailand. (Leiden: Brill, (2003)