Southeast Asia's Art Histories II

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts

Module overview

This module, which follows on from Southeast Asia’s Art Histories I, includes a 5-day Study Tour of museum collections of Southeast Asian Hindu-Buddhist art and associated research archives in France and the Netherlands. Study Tour costs are covered by the SOAS Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme (SAAAP) . Up to 16 students will be selected for participation in this module from among the student cohort of Southeast Asia’s Art Histories I , in Term 1.

Through first-hand exploration of French and Dutch museum collections of Southeast Asian Hindu-Buddhist art and associated research archives, the module furthers students’ knowledge of Southeast Asia’s Hindu-Buddhist traditions and expands their understandings of how art history and museology have played integral roles in defining the region that came to be identified only in the 20th century as 'Southeast Asia.' The breadth of knowledge gained will ground sustained examination of the past, present and future of the discipline of Southeast Asian Art History, with a view to decolonization of the field. A principle focus will be exploring interpretive paradigms of the selective mediation of Hindu-Buddhist influences to articulate local systems of representation, value, and power. Topics include sculpture and architecture associated with Angkor, Champa, Dvaravati, Sukhothai, and Java; illuminated manuscripts from Southeast Asian Hindu-Buddhist worlds; and ceramics from Vietnam. Institutions to be visited may include, in France, the Musee Guimet, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Ecole française d’extrême-orient, the Musée Cernuschi and the Bibliothèque universitaire des langues et civilisations orientales; and in the Netherlands, the Tropenmuseum, the Rijksmuseum, the Museum Volkenkunde and the Leiden University library.  By honing a disciplinary consciousness and understanding of the institutional contexts in which knowledge of Southeast Asian art has historically evolved, this module enables students to apprehend the vitality of Hindu-Buddhist forms in the arts of Southeast Asia across history and geography, their crucial role in defining aesthetics, cultural belonging, political prestige, and intercultural exchange, and the role of art historical scholarship and museology in the ongoing definition of the region.


Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • Acquire broad knowledge of key periods, styles, and themes in the Hindu-Buddhist art history of Southeast Asia
  • Develop visual literacy across a range of mediums, including architecture, sculpture, metalwork, ceramics and manuscript illustration
  • Sustain critical analysis and interpretations of visual material supported by cultural, political, religious and economic contexts
  • Situate the arts of Southeast Asia in a global historical context
  • Acquire knowledge of the history and collections of major European institutions promoting knowledge of Southeast Asian art
  • Situate the production of knowledge of Southeast Asian art in a global historical context
  • Develop abilities in research, written and verbal expression transferable across academic disciplines and professional pursuits


A one-hour lecture, three two-hour seminars and participation on the 5-day study trip.

Scope and syllabus

  1. Introduction to European Study Tour
  2. Student Presentations: History of Institutions to be visited
  3. Musée Guimet Collections
  4. Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient Research Collections
  5. Bibliothèque national de France, Oriental Manuscript Department
  6. Musée Cernuschi, Vietnamese Collections
  7. Bibliothèque universitaire des langues et civilisations, Research Collections
  8. Rijksmusem Javanese collections
  9. Tropen Museum, Javanese Collections
  10. Volkenkunde Museum Leiden, Javanese Collections
  11. Student Presentations: Object Re-interpretation

Method of assessment

  • One poster on History of Institutions (300 words plus images) - 30%
  • Object Re-interpretation (2,700 words) - 60%
  • Active participation in Intensive Study Tour - 10%

Suggested reading

  • Brown, Robert. The Dvaravati Wheels of the Law and the Indianization of Southeast Asia, Brill, 1995.
  • Falser, Michael, Angkor Wat - a Transcultural History of Heritage, vol. 1, Angkor in France, De Gruyter, 2019.
  • Klokke, Marijke J. Narrative Sculpture and Literary Traditions in South and Southeast Asia. Brill, 2000.
  • Klokke, M.J. and P.L. Scheurleer, Ancient Indonesian Sculpture, KITLV Press, 1995.
  • Reynolds, Craig J. “A New Look at Old Southeast Asia.” Journal of Asian Studies 54, no. 2 (1995): 419-46. - Manguin, Pierre-Yves and Catherine Clementin-Ojha. A Century in Asia: The History of the Ecole Française D'Extrême-Orient, Editions Didier Millet, 2008.
  • Morton, Patricia A. “National and Colonial: The Musée des Colonies at the Colonial Exposition, Paris, 1931.” The Art Bulletin 80, no. 2 (1998): 357-77.
  • O’Connor, Stanley J. “Art Critics, Connoisseurs, and Collectors in the Southeast Asian Rain Forest: A Study in Cross-Cultural Art Theory.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 14, No. 2 (Sep. 1983): 400-408.
  • Stevenson, John, ed. Vietnamese Ceramics: A Separate Tradition. Chicago: Art Media Resources, 1997.
  • Woodward, Hiram. The Art and Architecture of Thailand: From Prehistoric Times through the Thirteenth Century. Brill, 2012


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules