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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22 April – 10 July 2024 (biennially)

Arts of Southeast Asia

(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. 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 interdisciplinary approach enhances students’ understanding of the vast artistic heritage of the region.


The course 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 course 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

  • In-person lectures given by SOAS academic staff, leading national and international scholars, museum curators, and art market professionals, generally taking place between 10.00 and 13.00 Monday through Thursday
  • Exclusive contributions from the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Visits and object study sessions at a variety of museums, galleries and auction houses
  • A series of asynchronous online lectures exploring critical thinking and current methods
  • Recommended weekly readings
  • Weekly review sessions
  • Weekly one-to-one tutorials with your module convenors



  • One object analysis of 1,500 words (20%)
  • One written assignment 2,500 words per module (40%)
  • One 48-hour, take-home exam per module (40%)


020 7898 4451