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Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia

Sex and the City in South East Asian Film

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 2


Pre-requisites 155901320: Introduction to South East Asia (0.5 unit) and 155901318: South East Asia on Film (0.5 unit) (or equivalent).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On successful completion of this course students will:

  • Have acquired knowledge of a selection of films by South East Asian filmmakers (or by Western filmmakers set in South East Asia) that deal directly with the topic of sexuality and its place in the modern cityscapes of the region.
  • Be able to work critically on aspects of gender and sexuality in South East Asia, most notably on issues of gendered representation in film.
  • Have developed a critical consideration of modernity and, implicitly of Westernization/globalization in the South East Asian cultural context.
  • Be able to employ background knowledge of South East Asian culture gained from the year one courses Introduction to South East Asia and South East Asia on Film.
  • Have learned how to extract and process information from cinematic and secondary sources, and to combine the two in essays.
  • As a result of the emphasis on group discussion of the cinematic texts explored in this course, be able to contribute constructively to debates, accommodate the views of others in the learning group and present own views orally.


A total of 11 weeks teaching with 4 hours classroom contact per week (2 hours of which are film viewing).

Scope and syllabus

The course will examine the key issues pertaining to gender, sexuality, the urban (in contrast to the rural), modernity and globalization as typified by a selection of films made by South East Asian filmmakers (and in one case a film set in Thailand but made by an Australian filmmaker). The range of countries to which this course refers includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. It may also touch on diasporic cinema.

The course will examine representations of sexuality, as coloured in particular by the urban context in which they are depicted. It will achieve this through weekly film viewings followed by specific lectures and seminars on the film under consideration and on works related to it thematically, visually, historically etc. Each of the films selected for viewing and discussion will provide scope for the discussion of key issues pertinent to understandings of South East Asia and the most significant events in its political history. As a result the content of this course builds on the introductory lectures provided in Introduction to South East Asia and South East Asia on Film (although it can be taken as a discrete half unit and is not dependent on these courses).

Method of assessment

One 3,000 word essay to be submitted on the first day of term immediately after that in which the course is usually taught (50%). Five reaction papers of 600 words each to be handed directly to the class tutor in weeks 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 (10% each).

Suggested reading

  • Altman, Denis. 2001. ‘Global sex. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
  • Altman, D. 1996 On Global Queering. Australian Humaities Review. Issue 2 http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-July-1996/altman.html
  • Anchalee Chaiworaporn. Undated. ‘The Birth of Film Screening in Thailand’. See http://www.thaicinema.org/Essays_04TheBirthOfFilmSceeningInThai.php and/or
  • Barmé, Scot. 2002. Woman, Man, Bangkok: Love, Sex and Popular Culture in Thailand. Rowman and Littlefield: Lanham, Boulder, New York and Oxford.
  • Berry, Chris, Annette Hamilton and Laleen Jayamanne (eds.). 1997. The Filmmaker and the Prostitute. Sydney: Power Publications.
  • Boellstorff, Tom. 2005. The gay archipelago: sexuality and nation in Indonesia. Princeton University Press. Princeton.
  • Bradley, Mark Philip. 2001. ‘Contests of Memory: Remembering and Forgetting War in the Contemporary Vietnamese Cinema.’ In Hue-Tam Ho Tai (ed.), The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Clark, Marshall. 2004. ‘Men, Masculinities and Symbolic Violence in Recent Indonesian Cinema’. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 35 (1) 113-131
  • Creed, Barbara. 1993. The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Creed, Barbara. 2004. Pandora’s Box: Essays in Film Theory. Parkville, Victoria: Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
  • Dang Nhat Minh and Pham Thu Thuy. 2003. ‘Representations of doi moi society in contemporary Vietnamese cinema.’ In Lisa Drummond and Mandy Thomas (eds.), Consuming Urban Culture in Contemporary Vietnam. London: Routledge Curzon, pp. 191-201.
  • Dome Sukwong and Sawasdi Suwannapak. 2001. A Century of Thai Cinema. London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Gullick, J. 1995 Adventurous Women in South EastAsia: Six Lives. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.
  • Hamilton, Annette. 1992. ‘Family Dramas: Film and Modernity in Thailand’. In Screen, Vol 33 No 3, pp. 259-273.
  • Hamilton, Annette. 1994. ‘Cinema and Nation: Dilemmas of Representation in Thailand.’ In Wimal Dissanayake (ed.), Colonialism, Nationalism in Asian Cinema. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
  • --- 2002. ‘The National Picture: Thai Media and Cultural Identity”. In Faye D. Ginsburg, Leila Abu-Lughod and Brian Larkin (eds.), Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain. Berkeley: London: University of California Press, pp. 152-170.
  • Harrison, Rachel. 2000. ‘The Disruption of Female Desire and the Thai Literary Tradition of Eroticism, Religion and Aesthetics.’ In Tenggara, Volume 41.
  • Harrison, Rachel. 2000. ‘Sita Writes Back: Reinventing the Ramayana, Redefining Female Roles in the Work of Leila C. Chudhori and Sidaoreuang’. In Tenggara, Special Issue. Volume 42.
  • Harrison, Rachel. 2002. ‘A Hundred Loves, A Thousand Lovers: Portrayals of Sexuality in the Work of Thidaa Bunnaak’. Journal of South East Asian Studies, Volume 33, Number 3.
  • Harrison, Rachel. 2004. ‘Wild Roses and Urban Boring Bees: (Western) Feminist Readings of a Thai Feminist Text?’ In Tenggara, Volume 47/8.
  • Harrison, Rachel. 2004. ‘Facing Demons: Sida Marries Totsakan in Sidaoreuang’s Modern Thai Reinventions of the Epic Ramayana (Ramakien)’. In Labarthe, Judith (ed.), Formes Modernes de la poesie epique: Nouvelle Approches. Brussels: PIE, Peter Lang.
  • Harrison, Rachel. 2004. ‘Sex in a Hot Climate: Moral Degeneracy and Erotic Excess in The Story of Jan Daraa’ . In Michael Worton and Nana Wilson-Tagoe (eds.), National Healths: Gender, Sexuality and Health in a Cross-Cultural Context. London: University College Press.
  • Harrison, Rachel. 2005. ‘Cultures of Criticism, Constructions of Femininity and the Impossibilities of Female Desire’. Review articles in South East Asia Research. Volume 13.
  • Harrison, Rachel. 2005. ‘Amazing Thai Film: The Rise and Rise of Contemporary Thai Cinema on the International Screen’. In Asian Affairs. Volume XXXVI, Number 3, November, pp. 321-338.
  • Harrison, Rachel. 2006, South East Asia on Screen. Guest edited special volume of South East Asia Research, Volume 14, part 2, July.
  • --- Forthcoming (2007). ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Global Projections/Local Allusions in ‘Tears of the Black Tiger’/Fa talai jone’. In Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. Volume 8, number 2, June.
  • Harrison, Rachel. Forthcoming. ‘Pandora’s Pot: The Monstrous Feminine in Contemporary Thai Horror’ (draft paper available from RH).
  • Healy, Dana. 2006. ‘Laments of Warriors’ Wives: Regendering the War in Vietnamese Cinema.’ In South East Asia Research, Volume 14, part 2, pp. 231-259.
  • Heider, Karl. 1991. Indonesian cinema. University of Hawaii Press. Honolulu.
  • Jackson, Peter A. and Nerida Cooke. 1999. Genders and Sexualities in Contemporary Thailand. Chiangmai: Silkworm Books.
  • Kepner, Susan 1996 Anna (and Margaret) and the King of Siam. Crossroads 10:2:1-32.
    Kepner, Susan. 1996. The Lioness in Bloom. Modern Thai Fiction about Women. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Knee, Adam. 2003. ‘Gendering the Thai Economic Crisis: The Films of Pen-ek Ratanaruang. In Asian Cinema, Fall/Winter, pp. 102-122.
  • Knee, Adam. 2005. ‘Thailand Haunted: The Power of the Past in the Contemporary Thai Horror Film’. In Steven Jay Schneider and Tony Williams, Horror International. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
  • Manderson, Lenore 1997 Parables of Imperialism and Fantasies of the Exotic. In Sites of Desire, Economies of Pleasure, L. Manderson and M. Jolly, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • May Adadol Ingawanij. 2006. ‘Un-Thai sakon: the scandal of teen cinema’. In South East Asia Research, July.
  • May Adadol Ingawanij and MacDonald, Richard Lowell. 2005. ‘The Value of an Impoverished Aesthetic: The Iron Ladies and its Audiences.’ In South East Asia Research, Volume 13, number 1, March, pp. 43-56.
  • Mills, Mary Beth. 1995. ‘Attack of the Widow Ghosts.’ In Aihwa Ong and Michael G. Peletz (eds.), Bewitching Women, Pious Men: Gender and Body Politics in Southeast Asia.Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Murtagh, Ben. 2006. Istana kecantikan; the first Indonesian gay movie. Southeast Asia Research, 14 (2) July
  • Pattana Kitiarsa. 2005. ‘’Lives of Hunting Dogs’ : muai thai and the politics of Thai masculinities.’ In South East Asia Research, Volume 13, number 1, March, pp. 57-90.
  • Reynolds, Craig J. 1998. "Globalization and Cultural Nationalism in Modern Thailand." In Southeast Asian Identities: Culture and the Politics of Representation in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, edited by Joel S. Kahn. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
  • Reynolds, Craig J. 2002. National Identity and its Defenders: Thailand Today. Chiangmai: Silkworm Books.
  • Said, S. 1991. Shadows on the silver screen: a social history of the Indonesian film, Jakarta: Lontar Foundation, 1991.
  • Sen, K. 1982. The image of women in Indonesian films: some observations. Prisma 24: 17-29.
  • Sen, K. 1983. The taming of shrew or film in the production of femininity in Indonesia. Collection of papers presented at the Second Women in Asia Workshop, Monash University July 1983.
  • Sen, K. 1985. Hidden from history: aspects of Indonesian cinema 1955-65. Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs 19, 2.
  • Sen, K. 1986. Film remaja: the construction of parental power. Asian studies association of Australia review, November 1986.
  • Sen, K. 1988. Filming ‘history’ under the New Order. In Histories and stories: cinema in New Order Indonesia. ed. K. Sen, Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University.
  • Sen, K. 1989. Power and poverty in Indonesian cinema. In Creating Indonesian cultures, ed. P. Alexander, Sydney: Oceania.
  • Sen, K. 1991. Si Boy looked at Johnny: Indonesian screen at the turn of the decade. Continuum 4, 2.
  • Sen, K. 1991. The politics of melodrama in Indonesian cinema. East-West film journal 5, 1: 67-81.
  • Sen, K. 1993. ‘Politics of melodrama in Indonesian cinema’ in Wimal Dissanayake (Ed.) Melodrama and Indonesian cinema. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. pp. 205-217.
  • Sen, K. 1993. Repression and resistance: interpretations of feminine in Indonesian cinema. In Culture and society in New Order Indonesia. ed. V. Hooker, Kuala Lumpur: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Sen, K. 1994. Indonesian cinema: framing the New Order. London: Zed Books.
  • Sen, K, and David Hill. 2000. National cinema; global images, contested meanings. Chapter 5 in Media, culture anmd politics in Indonesia. Oxford Univeristy Press, Melbourne.
  • Sen, K. 2003. What’s “oppositional’ in Indonesian cinema? In A.R. Guneratne and N. Dissanayake (eds.) Rethinking third cinema.. New York: Routledge, 146-165.
  • Sen, K. 2006. ‘Chinese Indonesians in national cinema. Inter-Asia cultural studies, 7 (1) 171-184.
  • Stoler, Ann 1995 Race and the Education of Desire. Durham: Duke University Press. ------------- 2002 Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Vail, Peter. 1998. ‘Modern Muai Thai Mythology’. In Crossroads. 12,2, pp. 75-95.
  • van Esterik, Penny. 2000. Materializing Thailand. Oxford and New York: Berg.