SEAS 455 - Topics in Southeast Asian Studies
Section: 001 Criminality and Power in Southeast Asia
Term: WN 2018
Subject: Southeast Asian Studies (SEAS)
Department: LSA II: SE Asian Studies
Advisory Prerequisites:
Junior, Senior, graduate students.
May be repeated for a maximum of 12 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Rackham Information:
Rackham credit requires additional work.
Primary Instructor:

Criminality and power are intertwined in Southeast Asia, as they are elsewhere. In order to assert the legitimacy of their practices, states and their officials rely on the maintenance of a boundary between legality (e.g. taxation) and illegality (e.g. extortion). At the same time, they not infrequently rely on those they formally criminalize for the informal enforcement of their authority (e.g. “goons”). In popular discourse, criminality tends to oscillate between popular heroism and public menace. How have these dimensions of criminality changed over time and across regimes? How are they reflected in the domains of popular culture and politics? We will focus heavily on Indonesia, where bandit figures became anti-colonial resistance fighters and where gangsters were at times deployed by the postcolonial military regime and at other times were repressively contained by it. Our secondary focus will be the Philippines, where the influence of local mafia-like bosses can be seen largely as a product of a form of democracy, instituted under American colonialism, which favored a political system oriented around local elections. Recently, the Philippines has seemed to follow Indonesia’s repressive template. We will also consider the intermediary case of Thailand which, long ruled by a succession of military regimes, has seen the rise of local “godfathers” as parliamentarians since turning toward parliamentary politics in recent decades. This seminar course will approach its subject theoretically and historically. In addition to reading scholarly work, students will be asked to interpret a variety of cultural products such as journalism, novels, and films. By the end of the course, students should achieve a more nuanced understanding of local interpretations of abstract concepts such as democracy, legitimacy, and the rule of law in Southeast Asia.

Course Requirements:

Course requirements will include weekly reading response papers, rotating student leadership of seminar discussions, and a final research project. Some prior coursework related to Southeast Asia is highly recommended.

SEAS 455 - Topics in Southeast Asian Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
M 1:00PM - 4:00PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 0824813952
Gangsters and revolutionaries : the Jakarta People's Militia and the Indonesian revolution, 1945-1949, Author: Robert Cribb., Publisher: University of Hawaii Press 1991
ISBN: 0877277249
Figures of criminality in Indonesia, the Philippines, and colonial Vietnam, Author: Vicente L. Rafael, editor; [Rudolf Mrazek ... et al], Publisher: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University 1999
ISBN: 0877271348
Gangsters, democracy and the state in Southeast Asia, Author: ed.: Carl A. Trocki, Publisher: Southeast Asia Program Publ. Repr. 1998
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