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RELS302 Religions of Southeast Asia (Advanced)

A study of religion relating to archaelogical 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 Religions of Southeast Asia (Advanced)
Paper code RELS302
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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One 200-level RELS paper
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
May not be credited together with RELS330 passed in 2006, 2011 or 2012.

Dr Elizabeth Guthrie-Higbee:

Teaching staff
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 20%
  • Essay 1 (4,000 words) 40%
  • Essay 2 (4,000 words) 40%
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 (below) when studying, as each unit has been designed to build on information provided in the previous unit.
No textbook required; a course book has been developed for this paper.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
300-level students who successfully complete the paper will be able to
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the terminology, key theories and debates that lie behind the contemporary literature on Southeast Asian Religions
  • Explore, through critical analysis, the ethical issues and controversies in contemporary Southeast Asia
  • Discuss these concepts with other students in the online tutorials
  • Develop creative and critical approaches when carrying out independent study on an aspect of Southeast Asian Religion using primary and secondary sources
  • Present analytical arguments in two essays using a critical approach and primary and secondary sources

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Not offered in 2023

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