IPEC 4303.001

Political Economy of South and Southeast Asia.

University of Texas, Dallas, Spring 2017

Murray Leaf

The syllabus is subject to change as we proceed.  Last update 6 May 2017.


Office: GR 3.128                                                                               Meets in: GR 3.606. 

Tues, Thurs 11:30-12:45 pm                                                             Class # 27007


Email: mjleaf@utdallas.edu                                       

url for updates: http://murrayleaf.org/SandSEAsiaSyl2017.htm       


Catalog description:


Political Economy of South and Southeast Asia.  Political Economy, for this course, means everything relevant to the success of nation-states.  This includes relations to other nation-states.  South Asia is the Indian peninsula.  Southeast Asia is the great swath of countries from Burma and Thailand through Malaysia to Indonesia and Australia.  This is a region of great cultural, political, economic, religious, and historical diversity.  This course surveys the region by selectively examining key countries and their mutual interactions.  The major countries, which will always be included, are Pakistan, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia. Additional countries, which will be included according to student interest and available material, include Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, East Timor and New Zealand.


Course Description:


South and South East Asia together make up over half the area and population of the Old World.  It is a huge region of enormous cultural and geographical diversity, which no-one could possibly survey in detail in a single semester.  So the course strategy is to focus primarily on the national and international institutions and relations that have the most effect on the overall welfare and social and political stability of the region, using very good surveys and some supplementary readings that will give additional flavor of the distinctive details of the major sub-regions.  We have three major texts.  Geographically, we proceed from north-west to south-east, South-Asia to Southeast Asia.  One reason is that this has been the general direction of migration through the region throughout history and pre-history.  Following the order of the texts, for South Asia we proceed country by country giving a little history and mainly a contemporary portrait of each.  Then we take up Southeast Asia and proceed topically, from past to present, and end up with a survey of contemporary conditions country by country arranged by cultural-geographic groups.


A major recurrent two-edged problem in the modern period (the last two hundred years or so) is the importance of older ethnic identities as a barrier to forming effective national political systems and the importance of nationalism as a barrier to building interregional cooperation.  Another problem is the often stunning alienation of urban elites from rural "masses."


For each week, in addition to the readings in the text I will have a variety of readings or other kinds of information to give a sense of the flavor of the culture that the text is leaving out.  More and more information is on the web every month, including local newspapers and other locally generated information.  I will focus particularly on what makes each place especially puzzling for Americans, and what needs to be taken into account to make accurate interpretations of what one sees and hears when one is there.  This will include two films and a variety of additional short readings.




Members of the class will take the lead for each block of readings by giving their own understanding and their own view of the issues it raises, particularly behaviors and events that are either well explained or for which the explanations do not make sense.  The preparations should reflect your understandings from the texts, other sources named in the syllabus, and any additional information you can get. Wikipedia is very useful, but be careful that you are reading something worth believing.  It often has information on small but important topics that is not available anywhere else that you can get to.  I do not object to you using it, although since the articles are unsigned you should be especially careful to assure that the information is reliable.  You should also think carefully about what biases it might reflect. I dont want to prescribe so much that you dont have room to bring up things that strike you as particularly interesting, and I have specific questions for most of the preparations to consider, but as a basic framework you should probably cover the following:

1. Location and natural resources. This should include means of subsistencebasic foods and where they come from.

2. Borders: Are they stable, such as following natural features, or are they artificial or arbitrary and likely to change?

3. Major internal social groups, and their place in the political economy of the country.  Most countries in this region have a dominant ethnic group that is a large group in one area, where the capital usually is, and other smaller groups on the peripheries.

4. Form of government, and history if it has been changing.

5. Political economy:  What are the general living conditions, what are the major problems, and what has been or is being done to resolve them?

6. Prospects for democracy, if you have not already covered this in the previous discussion.


Syllabus Updates


This syllabus will be updated as we go along to include who is doing preparations and changes that reflect your interests, weather, and perhaps news events. For the latest syllabus go to murrayleaf.orgnot eLearning.  The heading of the syllabus will always include the date of the last update.




Please remember that a grade is primarily the instructors attempt to convey to the student an evaluation of what they have learned.  The grade will depend on two examinations and a paper.  The exams will probably be take home. We will decide in class, once we see who we are and what our interests are.  The exams will count 30% each, the paper 40%.  Among other things, you should be able to draw a map of each region, locating the main geographical features and present countries.  There is no make-up work or extra credit.  If you miss an examination without making prior arrangements, you have failed it.


For guidelines and suggestions for your term papers, click here.




India: Fourth Edition, 2009.  Stanley Wolpert.

Paperback: 264 pages

Publisher: University of California Press; 4 edition (August 17, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0520260325


Government and Politics in South Asia: Sixth Edition. Y. Malik et. al. [Paperback]  $43.55 

This is very repetitious, but I cannot find anything better.  To make it easier to pull out important information, I have developed the template for classroom analyses in the section above titled preparations.  It is not mandatory and should not stop you from including things of usual interest to yourself or the class.  It is only intended to be helpful.

 Paperback: 504 pages

Publisher: Westview Press; 7th edition (August 19, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0813343895

ISBN-13: 978-0813343891


Southeast Asia: Past And Present, 7th Edition. D SarDesai [paperback]  $45.83

Publisher: Westview Press; 5 Sub edition (September 11, 2003)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0813344344

ISBN-13: 978-0813344348

Note: If you got the 6th editions of the Malik and Sardesai books because the earlier version of the syllabus said to, it will not be a problem.  The 7th editions provide updates, but the main descriptions are still the same.


I will set up a Box (UTD dropbox) folder for the course and put small readings in it, as copyright laws permit.  Each of you will get a link to it.


Some helpful and interesting websites:


Small blurb on a film on M. A. Jinnah planned to answer to the portrait of Jinnah in the movie Gandhi.


 Nehru's Tryst With Destiny Speech (statement of his vision for India.) on YouTube


Human Rights Data Analysis Group, India



Class Recordings

Since the class is discussion and not lecture, recordings are of limited value, but when I can make them I will post them. I will put them in the Box, labeled by date. They will usually be wp3 format. They are named by the date of the class.


Topics week by week


1. Introduction to the Course 10 Jan 2014.


If you can, get the books and look at them.  Also look at the maps I have posted on the website.  We will see and discuss slides from my work in India.


January 12:

Use the week to read all of Wolpert. 


2. 2nd week, 17 Jan 2017.  India.

We will watch the film Gandhi and discuss it and Wolpert’s history together. This will carry over to 19 January and probably Jan 24. It is a great film, and provides a good introduction to the region.  Pay attention to the background; the director is very good at getting it right.

Background: Wolpert.  This provides important background for Pakistan as well.


3. 3rd week. 

24 Jan 2017. Gandhi and Communalism

Finish film Gandhi in class.  Communalism is not Communism; it is conflict between ethnic/religious groups.  This is very important throughout the entire South and Southeast Asian region.  We will discuss it, and also discuss basic Indian ideas of ethics and society that it calls upon.  These are embodied in the system of philosophy called Vedanta.   It is embodied in a Word document I have but in the Box titled Poems from the Vedas.  Actually the first two are from the Vedas (Agni and Purush) while the other two are from the Upanishads, which are ancient commentaries on the Vedas.


26 Jan 2017 The rural-urban divide

Read the chapters on India and Pakistan in Malik et. al.  


Leaf, M. 1985  The Punjab Crisis Asian Survey, Vol. 25, No. 5, pp. 475-498 JSTOR

Gurharpal Singh. 1987. "Understanding the "Punjab Problem." Asian Survey. JSTOR.

Wade, R. 1982. Corruption: Where does the money go? Econ and Political Weekly (dropbox).


I will give a demonstration of Indian farm planning. This basic type of traditional peasant farming exists through all the areas we will discuss.  The reading is: The Physical Farm Budget:  An Indigenous Optimizing Algorithm in Mathematical Anthropology and Cultural Theory. 1:1. Nov. 2000.  (This is an all-electronic journal that permits mathematically active simulations to accompany the articles in a downloadable form.) I also put a couple more spreadsheets in the Box.  They are Excel format.


4. 4th week.

31 Jan 2017.  Pakistan

A good part of what you should know will already have been covered in talking about Wolpert and the film Gandhi.

Pakistan. Still on India and Pakistan but now concentrating on Pakistan. 

For Pakistan read the chapters on Pakistan in Malik.   Also: Leaf Chronology of MQM.

Also:  Constitution of Pakistan.   Read the Preamble. Also look at the First Schedule.  Understand what it means to say that the section on basic rights does not apply.


  I will describe the idea of Factions and the importance of pluralism.


Look on the web for newspaper Dawn (http://www.dawn.com).  It is Pakistan's major paper, and it is very good.

Pakistan preparation:  JC

Specific question on Pakistan: When they get a chance, Pakistanis vote overwhelming for democracy and secularism, and against corruption.  Yet the political and economic system continues to be dominated by the military and an oligarchy of historically wealthy landlord families together with a new (but often overlapping) industrial/economic elite who use their wealth to get goveernmental power and power to get more wealth.  How does this small group stay in control in face of massive public preference for something else?           


   2 Feb 2017 Religion and Politics        

           Leaf continues with description of types of organizational ideas: factions, administration, the government.  Government of India Act of 1938 importance for the region, but especially Pakistan in the absense of a constitution.


5. 5th week. Bangladesh. 

Read chapters on Bangladesh in Malik.

We decided to start each unit with the preparation, then Leaf will follow up.


7 Feb 2017 Bangladesh preparation:  TS


Specific question for Bangladesh: The country started as Peoples Republic, meaning a Marxist state.  It started relatively democratically but became progressively more authoritarian.  The first elected head of state (Mujibur Rahman) was assassinated. He was succeeded by a military coup.  After some turmoil this led to the election of one of the coup leaders as a civilian Ziaur Rahman (aka Zia). Since then, one of the two dominant parties has been led by Mujib's daughter and the other by the widow of President Zia(ur Rahman).      Why did this happen?


I will show introductory power point on Bangladesh in class and we will discuss it.


9 Feb 2017  I will try again to convey a sense of how rational but also how tightly constrained rural life is, using results from the Flood Response Study.       


6. 6th week. Sri Lanka. 

Read the Sri Lanka chapters in Malik. Sri Lanka is one of the very few cases in modern history of a country that started off with a good democratic constitution and a decent standard of living and undermined itself steadily thereafter.

Watch:  Sri Lankas Killing Fields. On You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbl-Elax9uo



            Al Jazeera story on aftermath of Sri Lanka civil war.

The violence of the LTTE in Sri Lanka is similar to the violence of what are Maoist or “Naxalite” movements in India and Nepal.  The LTTE in Sri Lanka did not identify itself as Maoist but they were widely reported as having links to and getting support from Indian Maoist groups.  Their ways of operating were the same.

14 Feb 2017

Sri Lanka Preparation: JD

The key question to focus on is: How did the wealthiest and probably best governed part of Britain’s Empire in South Asia, that gained independence with a well-worked out constitution and good foreign exchange reserves (unlike India or Pakistan), descend into ethnic civil war?


16 Feb 2017

I will show slides from my visit there in 1992, focusing on the role of NGOs against the background of the increasingly deadly civil war. This brings out aspects not in the book.


7. 7th week. Nepal.


Read the Nepal Chapters in Malik.

Nepal, too, is a seemingly successful country that descended into civil war. In this case, however, the country was not a colony, nor was it a democracy.  It was legally independent, although under British hegemony.  In theory, this meant that the British oversaw its international affairs, but left its domestic affairs alone.  It was also a monarchy.  So the question for you is how did the monarchy manage to remain in power despite strong pressure for democracy and the example of India next door?  The rest of the dynamic, represented by the rise of the Maoists, is that when an oligarchy can control the mechanisms of democratic reform, these mechanisms can themselves become tainted and efforts to achieve what most people view as freedom from domination then take forms that are violent and anti-democratic.


 21 Feb 2017 Nepal Preparation

Again we have the problem of explaining how small and mainly urban groups can control power, but in this case we also have a rural movement that unseats them—at least in good part.


Nepal Preparation: JC

Again we have the problem of explaining how small and mainly urban groups can control power, but in this case we also have a rural movement that unseats them—at least in good part.


The texts account stops in 2007.  Since then the monarchy has been ended, the country has declared itself a republic, the Maoists are included in the Parliament, and so far they have given up the demand that establish their own authoritarian state although they have not clearly promised to stop seeking it.  So a second question you might try to consider is: What could Nepal do to assure that this does not happen?


23 Feb 2017

Bhutan Preparation: TS

I have not been to Nepal, although I do know about it as part of Indian history.  Following Tiffany on Bhutan, which is a large chunk of the high Himalayas east of Nepal, I will show photos from Kashmir and the Himalayas just West of Nepal, talk about the Himalayan region and cultures generally, and also fill in gaps in the political history.


MAKE UP MIDTERM. 28 Feb 2017 The midterm will be on South Asia.  We will make it up in class; take-home essay format.  Think of questions.  We will discuss them and make up the exam in class on Feb 28. Possible topics are the importance of constitutions, the difficulty of attaining democracy, the persistence of corruption, the persistence of religious and ethnic conflict (although from the pattern we can see that the religions and ethnic identities themselves are not the causes of the conflict), the persistent abilities of small groups of very wealthy people to retain political power, the persistence of poverty, the relation between the government and the economy, the conflict or contrast between traditional identities and national identities, and of course why Gandhis example worked in India and why it was not followed, or why there were not other Gandhis, in other countries.  These are topics, not questions.  Questions need to be designed to allow you to explain what is important about the topic in a brief, focused, way. The midterm is here: SSEAsiaMidterm.pdf  If the link does not work, it is also in the Box dropbox.


 2 March 2017.  Thursday.  Start the  introduction to Southeast Asia: Historical/Cultural overview and Colonialism.

I will provide overall background for the region.


Watch the film The Ancient Seamasters on Youtube. It describes how insular Southeast Asia was populated. After about 46 minutes some parts are repeated, but it there is enough new material to continue watching. It gives good background to SarDesais detail and should be easy to understand and remember. We will talk about the sailing and navigation.  Note the way the sails are mounted on the traditional boats.   https://youtube/47kAtmYTCmY


Sardesais book is arranged thematically first, and then by region. We will discuss by region.  To do so, we will break out of each thematic section the parts that pertain to each of the regions we will be concerned with. 


For today read Sardesai’s Part I and Part II.  Cultural Heritage and Colonial Interlude. I will provide a general discussion of historical regions and social evolution, comparing it and linking it to what we have already covered for South Asia and we can have preparations on the major colonial regimes.

8th Week. Colonialism and the Wars for Independence.

7 and 9 Mar 2017 Preparations on Colonial impact

This week we will focus on the Colonial interlude for the region as a whole.  A question often asked by people in these regions about the colonial powers that ruled them, is “How can they be so nice to us in their home country, and so awful to us over here?”  The question is more important, theoretically, than it may seem to be. Colonialism gives way to nationalism; the answer to the question, as it was arrivd at by those who were colonized, is very relevant to why and how this happened.

Watch Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8OFDLuY46Q.  This is an NBC Background presentation, seemingly made with US National Security Administration support. It is focused on the Cold War conflict as a whole, but implicitly is actually comparing independence movements in Vietnam and the Philipinnes.    It gives a good sense of the way foreign perceptions overrode local concerns in shaping international actions in the region.

This is a Dutch documentary on the Indonesian war for independence on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U2QImMSzwE   It makes the complexities easier to see and remember.


Presentations (probably two per day):

French Colonialism:  Robert M.

British Colonialism:  John V

Dutch Colonialism: Priyaanka A

Japanese Colonialism (Imperialism): Cami E


14 and 16 March SPRING BREAK

From here on we go country by country, from mainland Southeast Asia to the South Pacific.


9. 9th week. Myanmar and Thailand: 

These are The main continental countries in the South Asian Cultural Sphere within the Southeast Asian continental landmass. Sardesai 15 and 20 (Myanmar), and 11, 16 and 21 (Thailand).


21 March 2016. Myanmar:

Rural background: Review article in dropbox on Furnival's Plural Society and Leach's Political Systems of Highland Burma.  H. G.  Lee 2009. Also:  Lintner 1984. The Shans and the Shan State of Burma, pdf. In the dropbox. 

Background rural concerns: This is a good background article by Al Jazeera on minority ethnic independence movements in Myanmar: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/12/201112193521860555.html

The main question here is to explain first of all long military dictatorship and the way they closed the country off.  How did they manage?  And secondly why have they now started to open up (apparently genuinely).  Sardesai 7th edition covers the latter. Sixth edition does not.


Myanmar Preparation: Imani H

Here, there are two big questions.  The first is why and how they sank into such a long-standing military dictatorship, and the second is why and how they seem to be democratising so suddently. An important part of their situation is the continuing low-key civil war, or rebellion, of the tribal people in the hills resisting the Burmese ethnic plurality in the main rice-growing river valleys.

 Preparation on one or more of these groups: Chin, Kachin, or Shan: Iqbal S. 

  I will talk about Kachin social organization as described by Leach.



23 Mar 2016.  Thailand:

Background on rural concerns: Leaf, ThaiSketch in dropbox.   Durenberger, P. 1976.  The Economy of a Lisu village. Ethnology (JSTOR).  Lisu is one of the important rural ethnic groups.

 There is a very good recent documentary of Thai politics, including the accession of the new king.  It includes the relations between monarchy, military, redshirts, and yellowshirts. The url is: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2016/12/thailand-footsteps-king-161206075540477.html


Thailand Preparation: MD

Thailand is a monarchy and was never a colony.  They have done well, generally. So in this case the question is how they have managed it. How do you explain it?  I have some photos.


10.  10th Week. Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos:

Sardesai chapters 17, 18, 25, 26.  Most of the chapters cover more than one of these countries at a time, and they are adjacent.  This makes historical and political sense.  The borders are also fairly porous, and the recent wars in one have leaked over into the others. 


28 Mar 2016.   Vietnam:


Preparation on Vietnam:   DK


Here, the big question is how they have managed to defeat two major world powers (France and the US) to finally gain independence, and another (China) to keep it.


30 Mar 2016. Cambodia and Laos


Preparation on Cambodia and Laos:  Iqbal


And in this case the main puzzle is the horror story of the Khmer Rouge, especially in contrast to Thailand and Viet Nam.


11. 11th week. Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunai.

Sardesai Chapters 12 (general), 13 and 19 (Philippines).  

Background on rural concerns: Brosius, P. Significance and Social Being in Ifugao Agricultural Production. Ethnology. 1988.  

This is a good video on youtube on Banaue rice terraces (like Bali) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb2sdsHUCLQ

This is a very good Wikipedia article on land reform in the Philippines: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_reform_in_the_Philippines

4 Apr 2017 Philippines:


Philippines Preparation: MK

  Main question is the persistent problem of corruption. Why is it so intractable? Does ethnic diversity and difficulty of travel (hence local isolation) help maintain it?

Preparation on conflictsing claims of Vietnam, Philippines, and China in South China Sea: Alex F

6 April 2017.  Malaysia, Brunai, and Singapore  Sar Desai Chapter 24

News stories: This is a brief piece that gives an internal sense of the relation between Singapore and Malaysia: https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2012/04/21/malaysians-vs-singaporeans-lets-get-this-over-with/

Also: http://sybreon.blogspot.com/2008/02/malaysia-singapore-similarities.html


M Leaf: Powerpoints on Thailand and Philippines.  General background on Malaysia and Singapore. 


12.  12th week. Continuing Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore

11 Apr 2017. 

Preparation on Huks, others, and land reform in the Philippines:  Davit Kassa

Malaysia Preparation: Cami E

Brunei Preparation: Alex F

Singapore Preparation:    Mei D  

In all three cases, the main problems concern the nature of the ethnic politics. Brunei is also something like the Lichtenstein or Doha of the South Pacific.


 13 Apr 2017  Indonesia  Sar Desai Chapters 14, 22, 23, and 27

The Indonesian Constitution is in the dropbox. 

Here is an Al Jazeera report on the Papua New Guinea movement to seek independence from Indonesia, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/08/201182814172453998.html        They have many other articles.


Preparation on Indonesia: John van DS

    The question is whether democracy can now be considered secure.

Preparation on Megawati Sukarno-Putri, who was crucial in Indonesia’s shift from authoritarianism to democracy: Matthew Keeland

Preparation on East Timor rebellion and independence: Connor Ma

Preparation on the protests and outcome in Aceh: Imani H

Preparation on public debate and constitutional change in Indonesia vs Vietnam (Comparing democratic processes.) Irum A

The readings for Irums preparation are new, and in the Box.com. They are: A New Generation and New Thinking in Vietnamese Legal Scholarship,” by Mark Sidell, and “Public Discourse and Constitutional Change: A Comparison of Vietnam and Indonesia, by John Gillespie. Both are in Vol 11, Asian Journal of Comparative Law, Cambridge University Press.  They are in our library. The first article introduces the second. This link should work: https://www-cambridge-org.libproxy.utdallas.edu/core/journals/asian-journal-of-comparative-law/issue/1B6B7FF6769C8F664DD11A37D2A747A1  


13. 13th week.  Bali and the persistence of Indigenous cultures.

Most likely, Bali represents a continuation of the kind of culture that existed all across Indonesia before Muslim and Chinese influences spread into the area from the West, much like Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand on the Southeast Asian mainland.

18 April. 

In class we will watch the film The Goddess and the Computer. This describes the indigenous system of irrigation management on Bali.  It is the only available study that lets you see how much intelligence and social discipline goes into managing these kinds of intensive, highly productive, and sustainable agricltural systems.  The time is 51 minutes, so we should be able to see it in one day.  This gets us back to considering traditional systems of farming.  It also nicely shows the many relations between local ethnic identity and local systems of productionand how insensitive to this the governments usually are.


If there is time we will resume presentations, starting with John on Indonesia.


20 April Polynesian Sailing and Polynesia

Continue with previous presentations that were not finished.

Preparation: Polynesian sailing and Navigation. Irum A

Here is a special issue of an online journal devoted to some aspects: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/3fw7j6dp

There are also other documents on youtube like the Ancient Seamasters. One is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxgUjyqN7FU&t=46s


Preparation: Post-WWII Assertion of Polynesian identities in Pacific Islands, Tahiti and the Cook Islands: Robert Jarzabeck

Preparation: Australias role in the region: Connor M.




14. 14th Week. Final Examination and Conclusion.

25 Apr 2017. Setting Final Exam / Review. Same process as for midterm.  Submit questions by the 23rd evening to be sure I can include them in a handout to discuss.  As we discuss the final exam we need to connect three major themes: the development of national identities, the development of national governments, and economic development that incorporates the interests and productive activities associated with the many ethnic identities in each political region.


27 Apr 2017. Last Class Day.

Culture at the grass roots and bringing the story up to the present.   If there are no preparations remaining to do, I hope to use the time to return to discussing indigenous systems of household farming and the conflict, all across the region, between urban culture (which is also governmental culture) and local culture.  This will also get us into environmental issues.

FINAL EXAMS DUE:  2 MAY 2017   5 PM.



17.  Not a Class.

South and Southeast Asia food study group meeting.    Pot luck dinner at my house with class members bringing regional food HAS BEEN CANCELED.


Course & Instructor Policies

I do not provide for extra credit or make up work.  It takes too much of my time and it is too hard to do it in a way that is fair for other students.  You are expected to complete all assignments on time.  Anything not handed in on time is failed, unless you have made an arrangement with me in advance.


No Field Trips


Standard UTD policies are procedures for all classes are on the U T Dallas website at: http://coursebook.utdallas.edu/syllabus-policies/.