SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Government and Politics of Island Southeast Asia

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 2

This module introduces students to a selection of the literature on island South East Asia to expose them to the broad contours of political change in the region, as well as academic debates and ways of thinking about current and future political trends. The module covers maritime South East Asia, including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, East Timor, and the Philippines. It covers the longue durée of political evolution and ruptures, with both comparative and country-specific topics.

The aim of this course is to provide students with a deep framework for the understanding of the trajectories of island Southeast Asian politics from colonial times to the present. This framework is comparative and rooted in political sociology. It is interdisciplinary in terms of its readings, drawing on historical, anthropological, economic and other materials in addition to works in politics. The course is expected to help students develop a capacity for comparative analysis and for evaluating arguments about the roles such factors as class, race, state-building, culture, economics, international impacts and religion on the political trajectories of the region as whole and individual countries. Through the lectures, seminar discussions, coursework and the examination, students will learn to think more rigorously and comparatively about Southeast Asia in particular and critically about central political dynamic within the region in general.

Class discussions focus on the readings and the issues they raise. It is recognized that students may want to concentrate on a selection of countries of special interest to them, but students are strictly expected to attend all lectures and to participate fully in all tutorial discussions.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • Develop comparisons across complex cases of political and historical development
  • Apply theories in comparative politics to empirical cases in Southeast Asia
  • Understand the relationship between the conditions of colonial rule and the development of post-colonial states 


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with:

  • 1 hour lecture per week
  • 1 hour tutorial per week

Method of assessment

Assignment 1: Current Event Analysis 15%
Assignment 2: Abstract and Annotated Bibliography 20%
Assignment 2: Research Essay 65%

Suggested reading

  • Ariel Heryanto, “Can there be Southeast Asians in Southeast Asian Studies?” in Knowing Southeast Asian Subjects (Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies) (University of Washington Press, 2007), pp. 75-108
  • William G. Skinner, “Creolized Chinese Societies in Southeast Asia,” in Anthony Reid, ed, Sojourners and Settlers: Histories of Southeast Asia and the Chinese (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1996), pp.51-93. Benedict Anderson, Java in a Time of Revolution: Occupation and Resistance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972), pp. 1-34
  • Benedict Anderson, Java in a Time of Revolution: Occupation and Resistance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972), pp. 1-34
  • Eva-Lotta E. Hedman, In the Name of Civil Society: From Free Election Movements to People Power in the Philippines (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006), pp.1-43,166-186
  • Geoffrey B. Robinson. The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66. Princeton University Press, 2018. pp. 292-313


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules