SOAS University of London

South East Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Cultural Studies of Island South East Asia

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 2

This course offers a transdisciplinary look at contemporary cultural products and cultural modes of production in Island South East Asia. Combining the theoretical framework of British Cultural Studies (Hoggart, Hall, During) with the post-colonial discourses that have underpinned the study of culture in SEA, the course will explore how particular cultural practices in Island SEA relate to wider systems of power as embodied in belief systems, ethnicities, national and transnational politics, language, and gender. Working from non-essentialist views of culture as constantly changing sets of practices and processes, the course will seek to introduce the students to reading/readings of cultural texts and use these exercises as engaged approaches to a critical understanding of the cultures of island SEA.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. Learn about foundational themes in the historical and contemporary cultures of Island South East Asia, as well as key concepts and debates in the field.
  2. Gain critical skills for approaching the cultures of Island South East Asia, its place in world history and in contemporary global politics
  3. Learn to critique conventional representations and cultural essentialisms of Island South East Asia
  4. Develop basic research and analytical skills necessary to responsibly approach the study of South East Asian cultures within any academic discipline or professional field.


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

Each week will focus on a specific topic and be divided between lecture and seminar, in which students will focus on one or two readings related to the lecture.

  • Week 1: Monday 8 Jan Introduction: Cultural Studies and Encountering Island Southeast Asia (Key Concepts)
  • Week 2: Monday 15 Jan  Belief Systems:  Syncreticism and Postcoloniality
  • Week 3: Monday 22 Jan  Belief Systems:  Islam: Sufism, Reformism, Radicalism
  • Week 4:  Monday 29 Jan  Racial Typologies: Chineseness in Island SEA
  • Week 5: Monday  5 Feb  Racial Typologies:  The Scourge of  Whiteness: Bleaching as Cultural Text

READING WEEK (12-16 Feb)

  • Week 6: Monday  19 Feb  Making the Nation: Ethnography, Authenticity and  Constructing History
  • Week 7: Monday  26 Feb   Making the Nation: Political Art and Lekra
  • Week 8: Monday  5 March  LGBT and the Nation in Indonesia and Malaysia
  • Week 9: Monday  12 March  Linguistic Hybridity  in Island SEA
  • Week 10: Monday 19 March  Presentations  

Method of assessment

    • One essay (1500 words) to be submitted on the Friday, after reading week, in the term of teaching (45%)
    • One essay (1500 words) to be submitted on Friday, week 1, in the term following that in which the module is taught (45%)
    • One poster presentation due in class in the final week of teaching (10%).

Suggested reading

(Access the Moodle page for specific texts for each lecture)

  • Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 2006.
  • Vicente, Rafael, Contracting Colonialism Duke University Press Books, 2012.
  • Fenella Cannell, Power and Intimacy in the Christian Philippines, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Stoler, Ann Laura. Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power. London/Berkeley: UCP, 2002.
  • Brink, J. and Oppenheimer, J., eds. Killer Images. New York: Columbia UP, 2012.
  • Sears, Laurie J., ed. Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia. Durham: Duke UP, 1996.
  • Heryanto, Ariel. Identity and Pleasure. Singapore: NUS Press, 2014.
  • Laffan, Michael: The Makings of Indonesian Islam. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2011.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules