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RELS202 The Religions of Southeast Asia

A study of religion relating to archaeological sites, the arts and contemporary culture. Buddhism is the primary focus, but Hinduism, Islam and indigenous, including Chinese, traditions are also considered.

Theravada Buddhism is the primary focus of this paper, but the Hindu, Islamic, Chinese and indigenous religious traditions of Southeast Asia are also considered. The paper studies some of the significant archaeological sites of Southeast Asia (Borobudur in Java, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Shwedagon in Burma) and the association between the arts and religion (trance and spirit possession, Cambodian classical dance, Javanese gamelan and shadow puppet theater), as well as ritual healing practices and the use of religion - both as a moral force and as the power behind protective devices such as tattoos, amulets and yantras - during the time of war.

Paper title The Religions of Southeast Asia
Paper code RELS202
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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36 points
RELS 330, RELX 202, RELX 330
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
Teaching staff
Lecturer: Dr Elizabeth Guthrie-Higbee
Paper Structure
This paper is structured around six major themes:
  • Religious systems in Southeast Asia
  • Religion and sacred architecture
  • Religion and gender
  • Religion and performance
  • Religion and political power
  • Religious reform and revival
  • Contribution to online tutorial discussion 20%
  • Essay (2,500 words) 30%
  • Exam (two hours) 50%
Teaching Arrangements
On-campus students will meet four days a week. There is also an online tutorial forum on Blackboard every week. Both on-campus and distance students are required to participate in this online tutorial by reading the other students' posts and by posting responses to these posts and to set questions.

Distance students please note: one of the advantages of online study is that the learning process is asynchronous (ie you don't have to attend scheduled lectures and can study when and where it is convenient). However, you will find it helpful to follow the on-campus lecture schedule when studying, as each unit has been designed to build on information provided in the previous unit.
Textbooks are not required for this paper. All resources will be provided electronically.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Self-motivation, Global perspective. Interdisciplinary perspective.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
The aims of this paper are to:
  • Introduce students to the historical and material evidence for the transmission of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam to Southeast Asia
  • Explore the interaction of these religions with the indigenous religious traditions of Southeast Asia
  • Discuss the relationship between religion and monarchic, colonial and modern state in Southeast Asian history
  • Teach students to research topics using academic texts, journals and other media
  • Show students how to organise and present their ideas in an appropriate scholarly format

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system