Anthropology 214   
Spring 2010
Dr. Judkins



An ethnographic survey of the ethnic and socio-political groupings of Southeast Asia.  The perspective is primarily cultural and ethnographic, with secondary attention to linguistic, historic and socio-political factors.  Interest is focused in those fundamental, underlying processes, complexities, divisions and complementarities central to understanding the make-up of the cultures and the world-views of the peoples of Southeast Asia, both ancient and modern.  These are traced from prehistory to the present, with an emphasis on the social and cultural life of the region from the Angkor period to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The fundamental divisions of cultural life in Southeast Asia are those of: (1) mainland vs. insular SEA, and (2) upland tribal groups vs. lowland city-state civilizations.  These form the primary logical core of the organization of the course.


1) Students will demonstrate their understanding of the primary ethnographic and prehistoric literature on Southeast Asian social and cultural life through the writing of a midterm and final exam and mandatory class participation.  

2) Students will demonstrate their understanding of major contemporary issue in Southeast Asian culture through the writing of a final exam.

3)  Students will demonstrate their ability to engage in a directed independent research project through the creation of a literature review, class presentation, and research paper on a topic relevant to the Ethnography of Southeast Asia.  


M. Covarrubias. Island of Bali. Tuttle
M. D. Coe. Angkor and the Khmer Civilization. Thames & Hudson
R. Firth. Malay Fishermen: Their Peasant Economy.  Norton
E. Leach. Political Systems of Highland Burma. Oxford U Press
M. Spiro. Buddhism And Society : A Great Tradition And Its Burmese
    Vicissitudes.  University of California Press
M. Spiro. Burmese Supernaturalism. Transaction
A. R. Wallace. The Malay Archipeligo. (multiple e-book versions available), cf.

TBA: Hmong (Miao) Refugee reading packet
TBA: R. Judkins. “Silanting Kuning and His Transformation,” Sarawak
    Museum Jnl
TBA: “Travel Map: Southeast Asia” Globe Pequot Press (or equivalent)


Mid-term, Final Exam, and Paper/Presentation = 1/3 of grade each

Regular and substantial classroom participation and contribution is expected in this “seminar” style course and will be a component of the grading.
Office: Sturges 15    Phone 254-5433
Office Hours: T & Th 11:30 - 1:00    Wednesday (by appt.) 11:00 - 12:30


Week 1 - January 19 & 21
          Reading: Wallace. The Malay Archipelago, chapters 1-9, 40
          SEA map exercise assignments
          Geological maps:
Southeast Asia: the Geological, Geographic and Prehistoric Setting

Alfred Russel Wallace: exploring the cultures, biology & environments of SEA
     co-discoverer with Darwin of the principle of Natural Selection
Geological structure of Southeast Asia, mainland and island
    - Sunda platform and Wallace’s Line
    - ”Eden in the East” thesis
    - river basins and mountain ranges: lowlands - uplands
Geographic factors in the human habitation of Southeast Asia
    - persistent problem of low population densities
Hominid history in Asia and SEA: Homo floresiensis, Homo erectus, H. sapiens
    - “Hobbit people” of Flores: summary of information available
    - implications for human migration
Neolithic and the foundations of Homo sapiens cultures in SEA
    - special consideration of water transportation and watercraft
Archaeological survey of SEA prehistory - significance in world perspective

Week 2 - January 26 & 28
          Reading: Wallace, The Malay Archipelago, chapters 10-14

Southeast Asia: Cultural and Historical Perspectives

Culture areas and ethnic/linguistic groupings in Southeast Asia
Subsistence systems
Mainland Southeast Asia: its peopling and the growth of its cultures
Insular Southeast Asia: its peopling and the growth of its cultures
Survey of nineteenth century history
Survey of twentieth century history
Historic trends and future significance

Week 3 - February 2 & 4
          Reading: Coe, Angkor and the Khmer Civilization

Mainland Southeast Asia: Lowland City States and Civilizations - Angkor Wat

Hindu world-view and the cultural basis of ancient Khmer civilization
Angkor: deva-raja cult & tropical forest civilization of the Mekong basin
Angkor: architectural design
Angkor: individual sites
Angkor: daily life, a contemporary Chinese record
Ankgor: fall and abandonment
Angkor: heritage
Comparisons: Angkor (Cambodia), Borbadur (Indonesia) and Mesoamerica

Week 4 - February 9 &11
          Reading: Leach, Political Systems of Highland Burma
          Video: Chang

Mainland Southeast Asia: Hill Tribes and Ethnic Diversity

“Tribes:” dynamics & process vs. stasis
Tribal Laos, Burma, Thailand, (and cognate groups in China)
Vietnam: northern vs. southern

Week 5 - February 16 & 18
          Reading: Spiro, Burmese Supernaturalism

Mainland Southeast Asian Civilization: Theravada Buddhism

Hindu-Buddhist world view
Kings, Brahmins and the Sangha
Life of the Buddha
Theravada Buddhism: Dharma
Religion and social control
Buddhist folklife in modern Southeast Asia
    - pantheism and a universal religion
    - spirit cults and healers
    - role of astrology: ceremonial and daily life

Week 6 - February 23 & 25
          Reading: Spiro, Buddhism and Society
          Videos: “The Mekong”

Mainland Southeast Asian City States and Civilizations - Buddhist Siam

Siamese kingdoms of the Menam River basin
    - the historic SEA “population problem” (i.e., not enough!)
    - colonization and population dispersals in SEA
    - padi, hydraulic works, & peasant life: Wittfogel on “oriental despotism”
Thai society: historic & modern; Redfield, peasantry & “folk-urban continuum”
    - Thai art and fine arts: statuary; painting; fabrics; music & dance
Lao kingdoms: neighbors and cousins to the Siamese Thai
Case study comparisons: Mons, Khmer, Chams, and Viet

MID-TERM EXAM: Tuesday, March 2nd

Week 7 - March 4
          Reading: Geddes, Nine Dayak Nights
             Judkins, “Silanting Kuning’s Transformation”
          Videos: TBA (Borneo and Hainan)

Island (Insular) Southeast Asia: Ethnographic Survey

Ethnic and linguistic patterns
Peripheries: Formosa; Philippines; Hainan
Indonesia: Sumatra, Java, Bali and beyond
Malay Peninsula: Malays and aboriginal peoples
    - Aslan orang
Borneo: headhunters and hornbills; sultans and seven-headed giants
    - material culture: basketry, woodcarving, fabrics, design
    - folklore: mousedeer stories, etc.

Weeks 8 & 9 - March 9 &11 and March 23 & 25
          Reading: Covarrubias, Island of Bali
          Videos: a “festival” of videos on Balinese religion and culture, incl.
        “Trance and Dance in Bali”

Insular Southeast Asia: Ancient and Historic Kingdoms

Rangda and Barong myths and rituals
amok and latah in Indonesia and Malaysia
Balinese culture and its students: Belo, Bateson & Mead, Covarrubias, Geertz
gamelan music & shadow play
Early maritime kingdoms of SEA
Islam, the control of trade and river port city states of insular SEA
Indonesia: Hinduism, Islam, empire and world view
    - “tolerance” and religion in Indonesia: Anderson and Geertz

Week 10 - March 30 & April 1
            Reading: Firth, Malay Fishermen: Their Peasant Economy

Development in (Insular) Southeast Asia

peasant-urban relations
Islam, Hinduism, Christianity in modern Indonesia and Malaysia
process vs. stasis in island SEA (cf, Leach for mainland SEA)

Week 11 - April 6 & 8
          Reading: T. Harrisson - selections TBA

Case Study: Sarawak and Tom Harrisson

Tom Harrisson biography
Tom Harrisson and the Sarawak Museum

Week 12 - April 13 & 15
            Reading: handouts TBA

Post-WWII Vietnam & Cambodia

Mainland Southeast Asian historical forces: Thai - Khmer - Vietnamese
France & America in the Indochinese Peninsula
Montagnards: the genocide the NYT didn’t report
Cambodia: the genocide the NYT did report: a Khmer case study
    - Prince Sihanouk (personal account and first-hand memories)
        -> Khmer Rouge -> Vietnam “invasion” -> post-war roles

Week 13 - April x20 & 22
            Reading: Hmong reading packet
Refugees: diaspora, resettlement of Hmong, Lao, Cambodians & Vietnamese

Hmong (Miao): refugee case study
SEA refugee resettlement in the US
Crafts, folklore, and life histories

Week 14 - April 27 & 29

Contemporary SEA Issues

    - Minorities
    - Competition between majorities
    - Religious tolerance and intolerance
    - Islamic fundamentalism
    - Social stability vs. individualism
    - Economies: national, regional and global
    - Corruption: persistent and pervasive
    - Tourism: development vs. exploitation and elitism
    - Development & Ecology: forestry (role of Japanese corporations)
    - Global & regional forces: Japan, China, Australia, USA, ASEAN

FINAL EXAM: Wednesday, May 12: 3:30 - 6:30 pm