SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

State and Society In Asia and Africa

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year
This course examines the major issues involved in the study of state/society relations in Asia and Africa. It begins with an analysis of the literature on the subject in Europe, and then discusses the relevance of that literature to contemporary Asia and Africa. Among the topics considered in the first term are fear and greed at the basis of the state, the notions of civil society, absolutism and polyarchy. The second term focuses more specifically on Asian and African cases, borrowing also from literature on Latin America. Topics include Islam and statehood in the Middle East, criminalisation of the state in Africa, Hindu nationalism and democracy in India, capitalist authoritarianism and subversion in South East Asia, bureaucratic authoritarianism in Latin America. The third term deals principally with the issue of democracy in different contexts of Asia and Africa.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On completion of the course students will have:

  • The ability to blend "grand theory" and empirical description to develop conceptual tools useful for comparative work, as well as a concrete empirical base
  • Analyzed concepts such as democracy, civil society, revolution, political corruption and political theatre as they relate to a wide range of examples from Asia, Africa and the Middle East
  • The ability to analyze such issues with regard to less well-known areas of Asia and Africa
  • Developed linguistic and organizational skills through oral presentation and debate, and through comparative written analyses 

Method of assessment

Assessment is 50% Coursework (comprising two 4000 word essays) and 50% unseen examination – all coursework is resubmissible

Suggested reading

Recommended preliminary reading:
R. Jackson, Quasi-States.
J. Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules