SOAS University of London is the leading Higher Education institution in Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.

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21 April – 09 July 2025 (biennially)

Arts of Southeast Asia (online)

(The Arts of Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Burma)

Module Synopsis

This module covers the art of mainland and maritime Southeast Asia from prehistoric times to the present day, with a strong focus on pre-modern Hindu-Buddhist material. A wide range of art objects are considered from the ethnographical to the classical and monumental arts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Art historical, archaeological and ethnographic interpretations are presented side by side so that this inter-disciplinary approach enhances students’ understanding of the vast artistic heritage of the region.

The module covers the ethnographic art of the outer Indonesian islands and New Guinea, and the fertility, ancestor and spirit cults it expresses. It surveys the bronze age and the later dramatic development in social complexity engendered as the maritime trade routes developed throughout Southeast Asia and linked China with the Mediterranean. The profound impact of Hinduism and Buddhism is studied as these Indic systems rich in cosmology, philosophy and ritual infused the sacred monumental art and ‘real-politik’ of Cambodia, Java, Burma, Vietnam and Thailand and produced a boom in magnificent temple construction unmatched in human history.

The module ranges over Southeast Asia’s cultural tapestry to offer insight on its statuary and reliefs, its textiles, ceramics, painting, lacquerware, shadow puppets, metalwork, calligraphy, and wood-carving.


Module Delivery

  • Asynchronous, online lectures given by SOAS academic staff, leading national and international scholars, museum curators, and art market professionals
  • Exclusive contributions from the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Recommended weekly readings
  • Live, weekly seminar discussions
  • Online discussion fora facilitated by module convenors
  • Weekly one-to-one tutorials with your module convenors



  • One written object analysis of 1,500 words or 15-minute oral presentation (20%)
  • One written assignment of 2,500 words (40%)
  • A reflective curatorial or cataloguing exercise (40%)


020 7898 4445