HFKK00011U Civilizing the Margins: Center and Periphery in Southeast Asia and Beyond

Volume 2015/2016

Udbydes efter Studieordning for Asienstudier på BA-niveau med specialisering i de centrale fag Indologi, Japanstudier, Kinastudier, Koreastudier, Sydøstasienstudier og Tibetologi, 2010-ordningen eller

Studieordning for kandidatuddannelsen i Asienstudier 2008-ordningen eller

Studieordning for tilvalgsstudiet på BA-niveau i Sydøstasienstudier 2007-ordningen eller

Studieordning for kandidatuddannelsen i Asienstudier 2008-ordningen


Starting with James C. Scott’s (2009) fulminant monograph The Art of Not Being Governed, this course provides an ethno-historical perspective on the relationship of emerging nation-states and ethnic minorities in the frontier regions of continental Southeast Asia. Calling his book “an anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia”, Scott (2009: 1-3) argues that indigenous ethnic minorities in the upland massive called “Zomia” comprising Burma, China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, assessed state projects of civilizing the margins and made a choice to avoid them. In this course, we will use academic studies, rich ethnographies and case-studies, social and oral histories, fiction and film (including documentary footage) to study the mindset of emerging states towards indigenous people in frontier regions, their project of imposing their vision of modernization upon them and the resistance strategies of ethnic minorities. This incorporation is a colonial project in which the expanding states used violent means to force indigenous people to adopt mainstream culture. Starting with Scott, the course also wants to catch some of the voices and narratives of subaltern people rather than seeing them as mere subjects of government policies. This focus on agency includes the formation of indigenous peoples’ social movements and their claims to protect and safeguard their way of life.

The aim of the course is to provide a comprehensive and theoretically-guided ethno-history of state-society relationships in Southeast Asia, covering colonial and postcolonial times. The students will understand that the contemporary nation-state is a relatively recent phenomenon in Southeast Asia and one that is modeled and shaped by colonial history (Anderson 1991). State-building in modern Southeast Asia is about the formation of an ethnicised kingdom that expands to the frontiers and thereby absorbs and dominates ethnic minorities. Taking over ideas about the nation from Europe, but also from East Asia (especially Japan) Southeast Asian states invented a national culture and imposed it on frontier groups. Emerging Southeast Asian nation-states were eager to extend their control of the territory and to develop the outer regions for the benefit of the national economy. Bringing the work of Scott (2009) into the picture, the course aims second for an understanding of the engagement and response of the ethnic minorities in the frontier regions. People living in the mountains called Zomia did NOT belong to a nation or have a world religion. Students will learn about the inter-faces of state and populations and about the power-relationship between them. The key is the assessment and perspective of people living in frontier regions and their decision to resist to or integrate into the state and its project of modernity and civilization. The nation was usually introduced as superior and the people were perceived as subjects who had to assimilate if necessary against their will and with violent means. The idea of multiculturalism, diversity, autonomy is very recent and often perceived as a threat by authoritarian states. In this course, we study the strategies in which people in the frontier regions defend their human and cultural rights and their livelihood claims in a context of rapid transformation, the expansion of markets, globalization of communication and transport, and further state consolidation. The question is if democracy is a valid model to protect the rights claims and autonomy of the people living in the margins of the emerging nation and the right to own culture, language and access resources. Participating students are also highly encouraged to enrol in the course on Multiculturalism and the Predicament of Cultural Rights, available as a Tilvalg (Elective course) in Minority Studies.

Learning Outcome

BA 2010-ordning:
Sydøstasiatisk realia 1 (fagelementkode HIØB00671E eller HTHB00671E)
Sydøstasiatisk realia 2 (fagelementkode HIØB00741E eller HTHB00741E)
Sydøstasiatisk realia 3 (fagelementkode HTØB00761E eller HTHB00761E)

BA Tilvalg 2007-ordning:
Sydøstasiatisk Realia A (fagelementkode HSØB10051E)
Sydøstasiatisk Realia B (fagelementkode HSØB10061E)

KA 2008-ordning:
Tværfagligt tema (fagelementkode HFKK00356E eller HFKK00372E)
Tekstbaseret emne (fagelementkode HFKK00316E eller HFKK00341E)
Emnekursus A (fagelementkode HFKK00387E eller HFKK00386E)
Formidling (fagelementkode HFKK00326E eller HFKK00355E)
Emnekursus B (fagelementkode HFKK00371E eller HFKK00328E)

Key Textbook

Scott, James C. 2009. The Art of Not Being Governed. An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.


Highly Recommended

Benjamin, Geoffrey and Cynthia Chou (eds.) 2002. Tribal Communities in the Malay World:Historical, Cultural, and Social Perspectives. Singapore: ISEAS and IIAS.

Duncan, Christopher R. 2004. Civilizing the Margins. Southeast Asian Government Policies for the Development of Minorities. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Lectures, Oral Presentations, Group Work, Discussion, Film
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Total
  • 412,5
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assesment