SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Gender, Art and Visual Culture: Explorations in the Representation of Southeast Asia

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2019/2020
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2

Southeast Asia has often been defined negatively: as a cultural sphere caught between the great civilizations of India and China. One of the most pervasive arguments for a coherent Southeast Asian cultural identity has involved isolating an indigenous social system marked by significant sexual egalitarianism, which was later overlaid and eclipsed by the exogenous phallocentric political-cultural structures that were to gain enduring ascendancy in the region. Through close readings of a range of Southeast Asian art forms across historical periods and including the contemporary, this course will examine the intersection of sexual difference and cultural expression within this Area Studies paradigm. Topics include theorizations of Southeast Asian regionalism and classical space; idioms of sexual difference in Khmer and Cham Hindu-Buddhist art; issues of race and intimacy in the colonial context; the mapping of the feminine onto 'Vietnam'; and queer theorizations in contemporary art. The course brings to ongoing debates on the definition of 'Southeast Asia' a focus on the role of art in the constitution of the region as such, exploring what might be said to be Southeast Asian about 'Southeast Asian art,' while also, quite literally, engendering new debates in the field.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • Demonstrate general knowledge of the historical and ongoing debates concerning the definition of the Southeast Asian region and the field of Southeast Asian art
  • Demonstrate theoretical literacy in discourses of gender, sexuality, and queer theory and their imbrication in art historical methods
  • Analyse a range of Southeast Asian art objects, situating them with respect to religious and/or secular tradition, as well as historical and geographical circumstance, and considering how they convey conceptions of sexual difference
  • Critically evaluate historical, art historical and contemporary art critical discourse on the role of sexual difference in defining the Southeast Asian region
  • Apply interdisciplinary approaches to the analyses of visual materials and media across a range of historical and cultural contexts


  • One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Method of assessment

  • Four 250-word responses to questions on readings (worth 20%)
  • One 2 000 words essay (40%)
  • One two hour exam (40%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules