SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Introduction to South and South East Asia

Module Code:

The purpose of this module is to introduce students to the diverse cultures of South and South East Asia. It uses contemporary material to introduce key concepts and issues, including debates on the place of older traditions in contemporary South and South East Asia Asia. At the end of the module a student should have an introductory awareness of the basic political, historical, religious, and cultural issues at play in South and South East Asia, as well as an understanding of the historical connections between the two regions and how they have come to be constituted as separate areas in current scholarship.

They will in addition be taught the generic skills essential for undergraduate study at SOAS: the ability to locate, critically evaluate and properly cite material. They will also learn to use and respond to the lectures and the reading provided in order to develop and express their own viewpoints, both in written and oral form.

Topics chosen will be of relevance to both South and South East Asia. The approach will be interdisciplinary, but with a focus on cultural texts. Topics may include the following: understanding area studies as a scholarly category, and what it means to do area studies at SOAS; the history and changing articulation of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam in South and South East Asia; indigenous and Dalit communities as minorities within South and South East Asian societies; the effects of European colonialism in forming the contemporary nation states of the two regions; and the rise and continuing development of nationalist consciousnesses.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. Introduce the students to contemporary South and South East Asia and current cultural issues.
  2. Understand and analyse primary texts and films in the wider context of South and South East Asian culture.
  3. Critically assess key academic texts and non-academic secondary sources such as journalism and popular websites.
  4. Properly reference sources in their written work.
  5. Show increased ability to express their ideas in writing and orally.


There will be 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of seminars per week for 10 weeks.

Method of assessment

  • Book/film review (1000 words) 30% (Friday of week 5, term 1)
  • Report on group presentation (300 words) 10%: (Friday after the final week of teaching, ie week 12)
  • Object analysis (1500 words) 50%: (Friday, week 1 of term following term of teaching)
  • Group research and oral presentation (10 minutes) 10%: (in class in final week of teaching term)

Suggested reading

The primary texts will be updated regularly. Suggested texts are:

  • Ahmed, A. F. S., & Chowdhury, B. M., 2004. Bangladesh, national culture, and heritage: An introductory reader. Dhaka: Independent University.
  • Ayres, A., 2009. Speaking like a state: Language and nationalism in Pakistan. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dharampal-Frick, G. et al., 2015. Key concepts in modern Indian studies. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Dwyer, R., 2005. 100 Bollywood films. London: BFI.
  • Khilnani, S., 2003. The idea of India. London: Penguin.
  • Kratoska, Paul et al eds.2005. Locating Southeast Asia: geographies of knowledge and politics of space. Singapore: Singapore University Press.
  • Liechty, M., 2002. Suitably modern: making middle-class culture in a new consumer society. Princeton, N.J. : Woodstock: Princeton University Press.
  • Owen, Norman G. 2005. The emergence of modern Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i.
  • Reid, Anthony. 2015. A history of Southeast Asia. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.
  • Scott, James C. 2009. The art of not being governed. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Wolters, O.W. 1999. History, culture and region in Southeast Asian perspectives. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Revised Edition.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules