SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Government And Politics Of Modern South East Asia

Module Code:

This module provides an overview of major themes and issues in the analysis of contemporary South East Asian politics. The course takes a comparative historical-sociological approach to South East Asian politics, beginning with a close treatment of the transformation of state structures, class and identity formation, and the emergence of modernity and nationalist consciousness during the colonial era. Through a series of paired comparisons, moreover, the course treats key issues in the modern politics of Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The course also focuses on contemporary themes such as money politics, civil society, class conflict and struggles over religious, ethnic, and regional identities in the region.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate that they can:

  • Examine and assess in a comparative mode the politics and government of key countries in mainland and maritime Southeast Asia;
  • Compare and contrast the formation of modern nation-state, evolution of political institutions, system of governance, contours of political development and decay, contestation of power, and changing politico-economic configuration of countries in the region;
  • Critically evaluate the linkage between politics and economic changes on the one hand, and social and cultural transformation on the other hand, of key countries in the region;
  • Understand and explain the peculiarity of the concepts of democracy, legitimacy, authoritarianism, political development, and nation-state building within the milieu of Southeast Asian; and
  • Comparatively analyse the broad contours of political change and conflict in maritime and mainland countries of Southeast Asia


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

Method of assessment

Assessment consists of two 5,000 word essays each worth 50%.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules