Teaching

Introduction to History of Southeast Asia 

Description: This introductory survey course traces the formation of Southeast Asia from the thirteenth century till today through the lens of political, commercial and religious networks, European colonialism, and nationalism. Students will closely examine how political, social and religious ideologies developed in different parts of Southeast Asia that includes the nation-states of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Myanmar. The course begins by tracing the conceptualization of Southeast Asia as a region. We first examine political configurations, trade connections and kinship structures in both mainland and island Southeast Asia. We then explore European expansion that drastically transformed trade patterns and political networks in the region. We further examine the significant and wide-ranging impact of colonialism on social, political economic conditions in various colonies in Southeast Asia. We will explore the impact of the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who came up with a theory of natural selection independent of his better known contemporary, Charles Darwin while exploring the Malay Archipelago which is now part of Indonesia. More importantly, he demarcated the ‘Wallace line’ that separated flora and fauna in Asia from those of Australia between the islands between Bali and Lombok, a move that had significant repercussions in the study of ecology. We then explore the environmental history of Southeast Asia by focusing on a catastrophe in 1883 – the volcanic eruption of Mount Krakatoa which changed world climate. In the realm of medicine and health, Southeast Asia was linked to the rest of the world in search of vaccines and remedies for tropical diseases. The Japanese Occupation during the Second World War formed a point of rupture in the history of Southeast Asia which led to intensification of efforts by nationalist movements across the region. The war immediately led to fear of the spread of communism in the region. At the same time, French withdrawal and American involvement in the wars in former French Indochina permanently transformed geopolitical landscape of Southeast Asia.

History of Islam in Southeast Asia 

Description: The upper-level seminar will explore the history of Islam in Southeast Asia by focusing on themes such as authority, continuity and change. Each week we will discuss the readings in depth. We begin by tracing the arrival of Islam to Southeast Asia. Who were the first Muslims? How were Muslims in Southeast Asia affected by reform movements? Why, and how did earlier cultural and religious influences persist and fade away in different parts of the region? The history of Muslims in the region vis-à-vis adjacent regions namely South Asia, East Asia and the Middle East will be examined. How did phenomena that originated elsewhere impact the rise of regional and often competing sultanates for example? How did Muslim reform movements emerge in Southeast Asia? How did European colonialism affect Islamic practices in the region? How did the Japanese presence re-orient Muslim political outlook during Occupation? And lastly, how has the rise of the modern nation-state affected Muslims in Southeast Asia?

Indonesia and the World

This seminar will begin by examining the role of the archipelago later known as Indonesia in global context during the medieval and early modern period. We then trace the coming of Islam to Southeast Asia from the twelfth century onwards, and we will look more closely at the observations of fourteenth-century explorer Ibn Battuta. Historically, political rivalries and religious uprisings were often linked in the archipelago, and these phenomena linked the region to other parts of the Indian Ocean. How did the arrival of the Dutch East India Company during the early seventeenth century transform these political and social links in the region? We explore the deeper effects of Dutch colonial rule from the nineteenth century onwards by focusing on the works of an influential Dutch Orientalist scholar of Islam. We will examine reformist trends that emerged in Indonesia during the early twentieth century. Next, we trace the rocky path to independence from the period of Japanese Occupation during the Second World War to 1949 when the independent state of Indonesia was formally recognized. Finally, we look at the development of an authoritarian democracy in Indonesia from the mid-1960s till late 1990s during the period of New Order under President Suharto, as depicted in the documentary film The Act of Killing (2012). We also examine the exceptional state of Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra which has retained a high degree of independence throughout most of its history, and the history of struggle for independence experienced by the people of East Timor, now the independent nation of Timor Leste.

History of the Indian Ocean 

Description: This introductory survey course aims to acquaint students with the history of the Indian Ocean as a whole by focusing on global phenomena such as Islamic expansion, colonialism, migration and commerce.For centuries, Indians, Chinese, Jews, Malays, Arabs, Portuguese, Africans, Americans, English and a fascinating medley of other peoples have been circulating freely in the Indian Ocean as merchants, pirates, explorers, missionaries and pilgrims. From the Horn of Africa to Indonesia, the Indian Ocean has long witnessed a frantic exchange that cut across ethnic and language affiliations. We begin by exploring the early history of the Indian Ocean up till the eighteenth century. We then trace the spread of Islam the region which has been dubbed the ‘Muslim Lake.’ Next, we focus on the consequences of increased European presence in the Indian Ocean from the late eighteenth century onwards. What effects did European imperial expansion have on Indian Ocean trade, migration patterns and the religious haj pilgrimage? Vivid travel narratives provided by Joseph Conrad and Amitav Ghosh challenge historical periodization that neatly divides world history into pre-colonial and colonial eras. During the nineteenth century, both Europeans and Asians, traders, migrants and haj pilgrims alike, travelled extensively across the Indian Ocean as before, albeit at a faster rate and in much greater numbers. This period coincided with the intensification of Indian and Arab migration to Southeast Asia. How did the advent of colonialism accompanied by immense technological development in the nineteenth century actually affect the political and economic relations in the Indian Ocean?