Syllabus 2018

Anthropology 244a Fall 2017

Professor Erik Harms

Course Meetings: T,Th 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Sections: 1hr Optional

Teaching Fellow: Tram Luong

Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2:30-4 pm, Thursdays 2:30-4 pm
Location: TBA

Department of Anthropology

10 Sachem Street


This course offers a comprehensive introduction to the extraordinary diversity of Southeast Asian peoples, cultures, and political economy. Broadly focused on the nation-states that have emerged since the end of World War II (Brunei, Burma [Myanmar], Cambodia, Indonesia, East Timor, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam), the course explores the benefits and limits to a regional perspective. Crossing both national and disciplinary boundaries, the course will introduce students to key elements of Southeast Asian geography, history, language and literature, belief systems, marriage and family, music, art, agriculture, industrialization and urbanization, politics and government, ecological challenges, and economic change. In addition to providing a broad and comparative survey of “traditional” Southeast Asia, the course will place special emphasis on the intellectual and practical challenges associated with modernization and development, highlighting the ways different Southeast Asian nations contend with the forces of globalization.

The principle readings will include key works from a multidisciplinary range of fields covering anthropology, art, economics, geography, history, literature, music, and political science. No prior knowledge of Southeast Asia is expected.


Grades will be based primarily on the written assignments (including drafts and final essays, and in-class writing assignments), and student participation in the class.  The total course grade will be calculated as a percentage of accumulated points. (A = 93-100; A- = 90-92; B+ = 87-89; B = 83-86; B- = 80-82; etc.).

  • · Major assignments are indicated in the chart below, and include blogging assignments, one short essay concerning a Southeast Asian news event chosen by the student, and one independent research paper on a topic chosen by the student. A map quiz will be worth 50 points. Students will also contribute five short responses on select course readings, worth 10 points each. Students will select which five readings they would like to write about after week three.
  • · Attendance and classroom participation are essential to success in the course, and students who fail to attend all class meetings, or who consistently arrive late or fail to participate, will see their final course grade affected.

Major assignments and their due dates are as follows:

Date Due Topic Weight of Paper
Periodic (5 per semester) Reading Responses / Map Annotations 10 X 5 = 50
All Semester Classroom Participation and Preparation 100
Sept. 19 Map Quiz 50
Oct. 6 Ripped from the Headlines Paper 100
Nov. 28 & 30 Final Project Presentation 50
Dec. 8 Final Research Paper 200

 Course Policies

  • Students must attend all of the scheduled classes, unless excused in advance by the instructor.  Students anticipating the need to miss class for religious holidays or for approved participation in University athletics should inform the instructor during the first two weeks of class.
  • Students must hand in papers on time at the beginning of class on the date indicated on this syllabus.  Unless otherwise indicated, papers should be double-spaced, using standard 12 point font, with 1 inch margins.  Unexcused late papers will not receive anything higher than a “B”.  Students anticipating the need for an extension must forewarn the instructor at least one week in advance.  On occasion, I will ask you to submit papers online using the “canvas” course website or via email.  Papers or assignments submitted electronically should always be saved as Microsoft Word documents with standardized filenames according to the following format:

          yourlastname.assignment#.doc  (e.g.: “harms.1a.doc”)

  • Unless otherwise noted, the readings indicated for a particular week should be completed by the first class meeting of the week.  (Note: Readings marked with a hollow bullet point, “○”, are optional).
  • Don’t plagiarize!  Students should be familiar with Yale’s policy on academic honesty, located in the student handbook (pages 42-44):

And students should visit the following useful guide to citing sources at:

If you have questions about citing sources or remain unclear about plagiarism, please feel free to ask prof. Harms, a reference librarian in any of the Yale libraries, or staff members at the Yale College Writing Center. If you plagiarize you will fail the class.

Course Materials

The following required texts are available for purchase wherever you purchase books these days (I wish it was a small independent brick and mortar bookseller, but I suppose I’m a dreamer):

  • Barker, Joshua, Erik Harms, and Johan Lindquist (2012). Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. ISBN: 978-0-8248-3741-9
  • Mills, Mary Beth (1999). Thai Women in the Global Labor Force: Consuming Desires, Contested Selves. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. ISBN: 0-1835-2654-X
  • Scott, James C. (1985). Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN: 978-0-300-03641-1

All other course readings indicated in the course schedule are available as electronic text reserves accessible online via the links on this syllabus or alphabetically at the course bibliography:

  • On an experimental basis, I will be periodically uploading map-based lecture notes and study guides. In order to access these, students should download the free version of Google Earth, available at:



Week 1: Course Introduction: Encountering Southeast Asia

Thursday, August 31st: Introduction to the class.

PART ONE: Geographical, Social-Cultural, and Political Diversity

Week 2: Geography and the Human Landscape

Tuesday, September 5th: Rainy Season / Dry Season, Land / Water, Islands / Mainlands

Thursday, September 7th: Upland / Lowland, Rural / Urban

Week 3: Ethno-Linguistic Diversity

Tuesday, September 12th: Linguistic Diversity and Socio-Linguistic Relationships

Thursday, September 14th: The Politics of Ethnic Diversity

And Read any TWO of the following articles:

Week 4: Kinship, Family and Gender

Tuesday, September 19th: Kinship, the Family, and Identity

**ASSIGNMENT 1 DUE: In-class Map Quiz**

Thursday, September 21st: Gender

Film: Match Made

Week 5: Religion and Cosmology

Tuesday, September 26th: Islam, Hinduism, Christianity

Thursday, September 28th: Buddhism, Confucianism, and the World of the Spirits

Film: Love Man Love Woman

Week 6: Political Systems

Tuesday, October 3rd: Political Developments in Post-Colonial and Post-War SEA

Thursday, October 5th: “Freedom,” ASEAN-style

**ASSIGNMENT 2: Ripped from the Headlines, due on course website by 5pm, Friday Oct. 6th.**

PART TWO: Political Economy and Conflicting Experiences of Modernity

Week 7: Modern Dreams and the Dark Side of Modernity

Tuesday, October 10th: The Cambodian Genocide and Other Modern Nightmares

Thursday, October 12th: The Cambodian Genocide and Other Modern Nightmares

Film: New Year Baby

**PAPER PROPOSALS**Before the end of Week Eight please post a brief, one paragraph proposal for your final paper to the course website. Proposals should include a brief description of the topic, and a preliminary bibliography. As the semester progresses, we will schedule individual meetings to discuss your final paper proposals.

Week 8: Agricultural Economies, Social Change, and Resistance

For this week, please read:

  • Scott, James C. (1985). Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Tuesday, October 17th: What Counts as Resistance? Southeast Asian Agricultural Diversity and Agricultural capitalism

October Recess: Tuesday, October 17th 11 pm — Monday, October 23rd 8:20 am

**Final Paper Proposal Due Before October Recess**

Week 9: Migration and Mobility

For this week, please read:

  • The Bangladeshi Worker and the Aspiring Overseas Student in Barker, Harms & Lindquist (2012) Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity.
  • Mills, Mary Beth (1999). Thai Women in the Global Labor Force: Consuming Desires, Contested Selves. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Tuesday, October 24th: Migration and Mobility

Thursday, October 26th: Migration and Mobility 2

Film: B.A.T.A.M.

Week 10: Development and its Limits: Urbanization and Ecological Crisis

Tuesday, October 31st: The Challenges of Urbanization and Industrialization

Thursday, November 2nd: Ecological and Social Crises of Development

PART THREE: The Arts of Change

Week 11: Literature and Social Change

For this week, please read:

Tuesday, November 7th: Is there a Southeast Asian Literature?

Thursday, November 9th: In-class peer review of Final Paper Outlines / Annotated Bibliography

**Annotated Bibliography and Final Paper Outlines Due in Class**

Week 12: Art and Music

For this week, please read:

Tuesday, November 14th: Understanding Southeast Asian Music

Thursday, November 16th: Art and Music as Political Statement

**Draft of Final Paper Due After November Recess**

November Recess:  Friday Nov. 17th, 5:30 pm – Monday Nov. 27th Nov. 8:20 am

Week 13: Student Project Presentations

For this week, please prepare and practice a presentation of your final research project:

Tuesday, November 28th: Group A Presentations

Thursday, November 30th: Group B Presentations

Week 14: Course Conclusion

For this week, please read:

  • Your peer-review partners’ essay drafts.
  • Comments on your essay from your peer review partners

Tuesday, December 5th:  Peer Review of Final Essays

Thursday, December 7th: Course Conclusion

**FINAL PAPER: due, Friday Dec. 8th**