Syllabus 2021 (Finalized Sept 1st)

Anthropology 244a Fall 2021

Professor Erik Harms

Course Meetings: T,Th 9:00 am – 10:15 am

Teaching Fellow: Vanessa Koh

Office hours: Thursday, 10:30-12:30, room 204

Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2:00-4 pm

Room 120, 10 Sachem St

Location: WTS A48 - Watson Center 60 Sachem Street A48

Department of Anthropology

10 Sachem Street


Default will be to not record sessions, unless an expressed need arises for accessibility reasons.

Enrollment will be capped at 18.


Course Canvas page:

Reading Signup page:…

Course Collaboration Page:…


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 assignment 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 two.
  • 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 (2 per semester) Reading Responses 25 X 2 = 50
All Semester Classroom Participation and Preparation 100
Tuesday Sept. 21 Map Assignment 50
Friday, Oct. 15th Ripped from the Headlines Paper 100
Dec. 2 and Dec. 7 Final Paper Draft and Presentation 50
Friday Dec. 10th 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.  In addition, for several of the writing assignments, students will be asked to post revised versions to the course website, which is viewable by the public. Papers or assignments submitted electronically through canvas 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.
  • Don’t plagiarize!  Students should be familiar with Yale’s policy on academic integrity, 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 Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. If you plagiarize you will fail the class.

Course Materials

All 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:

  • Note that the readings for the course are actually physically stored on the canvas website, in the “files” section of canvas. If a link to the reading from the webpage is not working does not work, you can find the reading there.
  • On an experimental basis, I will be periodically uploading map-based lecture notes and study guides. Students wishing to access those will need the free version of Google Earth, available at:



Week 1: Course Introduction: Encountering Southeast Asia

Thursday, September 2nd: Introduction to the class.

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

Week 2: Geography and the Human Landscape

Tuesday, September 7th: Southeast Asia is No(w)here

Thursday, September 9th: Rainy Season / Dry Season, Land / Water, Islands / Mainlands

Week 3: Ethno-Linguistic Diversity (As well as Ethnonationalism, Racism, and also “Spacism”)

Tuesday, September 14th: Upland / Lowland, Rural / Urban

Map assignment for next week:

Thursday, September 16th: Linguistic Diversity and Socio-Linguistic Relationships

**Ripped from the Headlines Assignment: Begin slowly posting blog posts about SEA Media. Eah student should have made 4 posts by Friday, Oct. 8th.**

Week 4: Kinship, Family and Gender

Tuesday, September 21st: Kinship, the Family, and Identity

**ASSIGNMENT 1 DUE: Map Assignment**

Thursday, September 23rd: Gender

Film: Match Made (view clip in class, link to full film here)

Week 5: Religion and Cosmology

Tuesday, September 28th: Islam, Hinduism, Christianity

Thursday, September 30th: Buddhism, Confucianism, and the World of the Spirits

Film: Love Man Love Woman

Week 6: Political Systems

Tuesday, October 5th: Political Developments in Post-Colonial and Post-War SEA

Thursday, October 7th: “Freedom,” ASEAN-style

**Ripped from the Headlines Assignment: Be sure to have uploaded four blog posts about SEA Media by Friday, Oct. 8th.**


PART TWO: Political Economy and Conflicting Experiences of Modernity

Week 7: Modern Dreams and the Dark Side of Modernity

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

View film in Class: New Year Baby, A Film by Socheata Poev (2008). 57 minutes version:

Thursday, October 14th: The Coup in Myanmar

**ASSIGNMENT 2: Ripped from the Headlines Essay, due to Canvas by 5pm, Friday Oct. 15th. Students will post a copy-edited version to the course website after receiving comments**

**PAPER PROPOSALS**Before the start of October Recess please post a brief, one paragraph proposal for your final paper to the course collaboration page. 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

Tuesday, October 19th: What Counts as Resistance? Southeast Asian Agricultural Diversity and Agricultural capitalism

**Final Paper Proposal Due Before October Recess. Preferably before class today, but you have some leeway**

OCTOBER RECESS Oct. 19th, 11p.m. to Oct. 25th, 8:20 a.m.

Week 9: Migration and Mobility

Tuesday, October 26th: Migration and Mobility

Thursday, October 28th: Migration and Mobility 2

Week 10: Research and Writing Interlude

Tuesday, November 2nd: Research Interlude

  • Two or three peer-reviewed articles of your choice on the topic of your final paper

There will be an in-class exercise in small groups to discuss some of the ideas emerging from your reading of sources for your papers.

Thursday, November 4th: Writing Interlude

In class we will discuss the short story and also engage in some creative descriptive free-writing, using the image you bring as a prompt to get you thinking about your papers.

In class, read excerpt from Tsing (2011) “Dark Rays.”


PART THREE: The (Dark) Arts of Change

Week 11: Ambivalent forces of Social Change (Urbanization and Environment)

Tuesday, November 9th: Cruel Beauty, Dreams and the Dark Side of Development

Thursday, November 11th: Apparitions of Modernity

Week 12: Art and Music

Tuesday, November 16th: The Politics of Southeast Asian Art and Music

Thursday, November 18th: Music Party (and (hypo)thesis sharing workshop)

  • Before class, please post a link to the shared class google slide with at least 2 slides, each containing a favorite song from Southeast Asia (past, present, or future). If you don’t have a favorite song from Southeast Asia, ask a family member, a friend, a lover or even an enemy to suggest some. If you feel inspired, consider picking a song that might work as the “soundtrack” to the paper you are writing for this class.
  • Here’s the link to the Southeast Asian Musical Extravaganza

 In class, we will listen to some of the music selections, and also spend some time in small groups discussing your hypothetical thesis statements and tentative outlines for your papers.

**Be Ready to Give Short Presentations About Your Papers After November Recess**

November Break:  Nov. 19-28

Week 13: Emerging Research in Southeast Asia

Tuesday, November 30: Guest Speaker Vanessa Koh, PhD Candidate in Anthropology, Yale University

Before today’s class, please read Vanessa’s grant proposal and the first draft of a chapter from her in-progress PhD dissertation.

In class, Vanessa will spend about 15 minutes presenting and contextualizing some of the research, and then we will engage in an open discussion of the chapter, as well as the research process more generally.

Thursday, December 2: Group A Presentations

workshop schedule here.

Presentation slides here.

Week 14: Course Conclusion

Tuesday, December 7th: ; Group B Presentations

workshop schedule here.

Presentation slides here.

Thursday, December 9th: Course Conclusion

**FINAL PAPER: due, Friday Dec. 10th. Extensions may be granted if requested in advance, but not at the last minute. Do inquire early in the semester if you expect conflicts with this due date.**