Fall 2020 - IS 303 D100

Ethnic Minorities, Identity Politics, and Conflict in Southeast Asia (4)

Class Number: 4996

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Surveys the ethnic minorities of Southeast Asia, focusing on their relations with other ethnic groups, especially majority populations, and governments. Examines the treatment of ethnic minorities and the responses of the minorities, including ethnic-based secession movements. Reviews cross-border and broader international issues relating to minorities, such as their status as refugees and cross-border support for insurgencies.


Southeast Asia is renowned for its ethnic, linguistic and ecological diversity. The many different ethnic groups living in the mountains (sometimes referred to as “hill tribes”) often span national boundaries and have been incorporated into nation-states as minorities and marginal citizens. Contemporary rapid development in Southeast Asia is having an enormous impact on these ethnic minorities, who are being displaced from their lands and livelihoods in the name of development and conservation, but at the same time are eager to pursue development “on their own terms”. This has led to various strategies of compliance and resistance, in some places resulting in indigenous social movements that are linked with broader international human rights and environmental networks. This seminar will explore the evolving relationships between ethnic minorities and states in Southeast Asia, from pre-colonial to contemporary situations. We will examine the construction of boundaries and identities in Southeast Asia, and the processes through which ethnic minorities and their territories have been represented, incorporated and/or excluded into nation-states across time. What are the impacts of contemporary development and conservation policies on ethnic minorities in Southeast Asia? How do various understandings of development, environment and citizenship influence these policies? What types of resistance and socio-political movements are emerging?


Students will be given a comprehensive understanding of the background of the various cultures in Southeast Asia. The impact of statehood has created cultural and ethnic tensions in the region. Such tensions will be looked into, to provide students with a detailed response to such tensions and also a response by the various governments to resolve such tensions. Specific case studies will be highlighted throughout the semester to comprehend the various issues in the region.


  • Attendance/Participation/Discussion 10%
  • Term Paper 30%
  • Midterm Exam 20%
  • Presentation 10%
  • Final Exam (Take-home) 30%


Students will be required to submit their written assignments to Turnitin.com in order to receive credit for the assignments and for the course.

The School for International Studies strictly enforces the University's policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Information about these policies can be found at: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html.


This course will be delivered via online platforms, such as Zoom, Canvas, Blackboard, etc.

Students are required to have a computer, with a microphone, webcam, and speakers. They also must have good access to the Internet.

Microsoft Office is required, and a free version of Office 365 is available to SFU students here: https://www.sfu.ca/itservices/technical/software/office365.html.

Students will be required to upload assignments to Canvas and through Turnitin.com.



William Case, Politics in Southeast Asia: Democracy or Less, Curzon Press, 2002

James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, Yale University Press, 2009

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).