SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Culture and Society of South East Asia

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2

Please note: As of 2016-17, this module will convert to a 0.5-unit, one-term option course.

A critical examination of ethnographic representations of South East Asia with reference to such topics as: 

  • gender, 
  • personhood, 
  • livelihood, 
  • warfare; 
  • ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ villages and states, 
  • domination and resistance; 
  • cosmologies, 
  • religious practices, 
  • theatre; 
  • indigenous historical and biographical writings.

This module is one of several regional ethnography modules offered by the Department of Anthropology (currently Culture and Society of: China, Japan, South Asia, South East Asia, Near & Middle East, West Africa, and East Africa). Each of these focuses on major cultural and social aspects, but varies in detail according to the characteristics of and scholarship on the region. Masters students in the Department of Anthropology are encouraged to study more than one regional ethnography module (albeit not normally two modules taught in the same term), to explore synergies across regions and gain a broader comparative understanding of the discipline.


This module is open to all Anthropology MA students and to MA Area Studies students. MA Area Studies students wishing to take this module as their ‘major’ will normally hold a degree or substantial part-degree in social anthropology or a closely related discipline. Area Studies students wishing to take this module as their ‘major’ must contact the module convenor for approval.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On successful completion of the course, students will:

  • have acquired a basic knowledge of the anthropology of Southeast Asia and of the complexities and diversity that characterise the societies and cultures of this region.
  • be able to identify and evaluate critically key approaches/theories related to the production of anthropological knowledge related to this region.
  • have acquired a deeper knowledge of selected themes and topics such as power, gender, violence, syncretism, etc.
  • be able to reflect critically on and account for the advantages and disadvantages of the regionalisation of anthropological knowledge as applied to this particular area.
  • be able to compare across different societies and cultures belonging to this region.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules