SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Histories of Ethnicity and Conflict in South East Asia 2 - Non-National Perspectives

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2019/2020
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 2
The course will focus on non-national spaces (transnational, regional, local, periphery/margin, borderland) and histories to illuminate the histories of minority ethnic groups that have been engaged in armed conflict with national governments during and/or after the period of colonial rule in mainland South East Asia.

It will explore the historical contexts of issues that are typically explored through the lenses of anthropology and/or of political science and will encourage students to develop interdisciplinary methodologies and analytical frameworks by which they can develop awareness of an under-studied aspect of South East Asian history.

The course will operate independently from but in relation to ‘Histories of Ethnicity and Conflict in South East Asia (1)’ by shifting attention to the alternative geographies of space and community than that expressed primarily through national affinity and citizenship. It will consider the interactions between these various layers of identity over time. By considering particular contexts of ethnicity and conflict in detail, understanding will be developed of the militarisation of identities, from the pre-colonial to the postcolonial context of globlisation and the War on Terror.

The course will also emphasise the different range of source materials that are available for the study of non-national histories and will develop awareness of the methodological and theoretical implications of different kinds of material, visual and oral data. The course will conclude with a discussion of the production of narratives of ethnicity and conflict within ethnic armed groups and within ethnic communities to better understand issues surrounding the production of oral histories of conflict.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • an understanding of inter-disciplinary approaches to explore non-traditional and non-national histories of mainland South East Asia
  • An understanding of the comparative historical processes of state formation in mainland South East Asia, as well as the significance of margins, peripheries, borders and ‘non-state space’ in these processes
  • A critical awareness of the different ways in which ethnographic knowledge has been produced and the social, cultural and political implications of this
  • A critical awareness of ways in which contemporary debates on globalization, transnationalism and development are relevant to historical research on non-national histories
  • A critical and sensitive approach to the production of ideologies and narratives of ethnicity and conflict; this will also involve a study of oral history approaches to exploring histories of conflict
  • An awareness of the ways in which oral, visual and material culture sources can be used to develop methods of historical enquiry
  • That they can evaluate the historical conjunctions and ruptures between colonial and postcolonial strategies of creating ‘ethnic states’ and the significance of these in the emergence of ethnic conflicts
  • A critical approach to a wide variety of types of historical source material
  • An ability to discuss these issues comparatively both temporally and spatially in relation to the whole of mainland South East Asia


This course is taught over a number of 10 weeks. Students will spend an hour in lectures and one hour in tutorials.

Scope and syllabus

The term will be divided into three parts. The first part (weeks 1-4) will consider ideas and debates around notions of non-national space, culture zones, lineage and non-national identities, as well as the ways in which peripheries contribute to the production of centres and the negotiation of political and cultural space between national and non-national identities in South East Asia historically. 

The second part (weeks 5-7) will consider the militarisation of ethnic movements: the significance of ethnic armies from the pre-colonial times onwards, culminating in the impacts of global conflicts, globalisation of commodity flows and of local identities in diaspora. 

The third part (weeks 8-10) will consider the narratives that ethnic minority communities produce about their experience in nation-states, constructions of ‘ethno-history’ and forms of ethnic mobilization through the exploration of specific case-studies. 

Students will be encouraged to develop a sensitive, critical, analytical apparatus for exploring how such discourses have emerged. They will also engage with non-textual materials to develop awareness of the roles that material, visual and oral evidence plays in both representation and conflict. It is also intended that during the term journalists, writers, NGO representatives and ethnic minority leaders resident in or close to London will work with the students in exploring issues relating to their personal experiences of writing about, working within or mobilizing communities in settings of ethnic conflict

Method of assessment

Essay of 3,000 words worth 80% of the final mark, Reaction paper/book review of 1,000 words worth 20% of the final mark


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules