SemesterFall Semester, 2023
DepartmentInternational Master's Program in Asia-Pacific Studies, First Year International Master's Program in Asia-Pacific Studies, Second Year
Course NameSovereignty in Asia: Anthropological Perspectives
Course TypeElective
Course Objective
Course Description
Course Schedule

Course Schedule


Introducing basic concepts

  1. Course Intro-

    1. Why we need new ideas about sovereignty- resources, water, and land

      1. In class writing- what is sovereignty? Why is it important?

The God King and Son of Heaven (5 weeks)

  1. Early Kings- Foundations, Violence, and “Superstition”

    1. Graeber, D., & Sahlins, M. (2017). On Kings. Hau Books. [Introduction, Ch. 1]

    1. Sima Qian. (2007). The First Emperor. Oxford University Press. [Introductions, Ch. 1 and 5]

    2. Mus, P. (1933). [1975] India Seen from the East: Indian and indigenous cults in Champa. Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University.

  1. Superstition in Europe Foundations

    1. Frazer, J. G. (1906). The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings (Part 1). In The Golden Bough: A study in magic and religion. MacMillan and Company. [Chapter 1 & 2 pp. 1-51]

    2. Robertson Smith, W. (1995). Lectures on the Religion of the Semites. Second and Third Series. In J. Day (Ed.), Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series. Sheffield Academic Press.

Video King Lear and the Jester

  1. China – Queens, Emperors, and Nomads

    1. Lewis, M. E. (2007). The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. [pp. 1-29;178-205; Geography of Empire; Religion].

    2. Yongqian, Su, and Kathryn Henderson. 2017. “An Exploration of the Queen Mother of the West from the Perspective of Comparative Mythology.” Journal of Chinese Humanities 3 (1): 72–90.

    3. MacKay, Joseph. 2020. Imperial Chinese Relations with Nomadic Groups. In, Nomad-State Relationships in International Relations: Before and After Borders. Edited by Jamie Levin. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 197-216.

  2. Southeast Asia- Devaraja to Chakravartan

    1. Heine-Geldern, R. (1942). Conceptions of the State and Kingship in Southeast Asia. The Far Eastern Quarterly, 2(1), 15–30.

    2. Day, Tony. 2002. Fluid Iron: State Formation in Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. [Ch. 1 & 3]

    1. Thompson, A. (2016). Engendering the Buddhist State: Territory, Sovereignty and Sexual Difference in the Inventions of Angkor. London: Routledge. [Introduction Presis 2, pp. 2-18; Chapter 2, 71-110]

Sovereignty and Europe

  1. European model of sovereignty and modernity

    1. Bodin, Jean. 2009. On Sovereignty: Six Books of the Commonwealth. Oxford: The Alden Press. [Book 1]

    2. Croxton, Derek. 1999. “The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 and the Origins of Sovereignty. The International History Review 21 (3): 569–91.

    3. Lopez, Julia Costa, Benjamin De Carvalho, Andrew A. Latham, Ayse Zarakol, Jens Bartelson, and Minda Holm. 2018. “Forum: In the Beginning There Was No Word (For It): Terms, Concepts, and Early Sovereignty.” International Studies Review 20 (3): 489–519.

  2. Nomos of the Earth

    1. Schmitt, C. (1985). Political Theology: four chapters on the concept of sovereignty. University of Chicago Press. [Ch. 1 & 3]

    2. McAllister, Carlota, and Valentina Napolitano. 2021. “Political Theology/Theopolitics: The Thresholds and Vulnerabilities of Sovereignty.” Annual Review of Anthropology 50: 109–24.

  3. Sovereign calls the exception

    1. Agamben, G. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford University Press. [pp 1-67- Introduction and Part 1]

    2. Lee, Seung Ook, Najeeb Jan, and Joel Wainwright. 2014. “Agamben, Postcoloniality, and Sovereignty in South Korea.” Antipode 46 (3): 650–68.

Mid-Term Exam-

        Short answer essays dealing with the framing of the course and main concepts


Sovereignty and Colonization

  1. Mainland Southeast Asia –  Sovereign Thailand

    1. Thongchai, Winichakul. 1994. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. [Intro, Ch. 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7] 

  1. East and South Asia

    1. Chen, Edward I-te. 1970. “Japanese Colonialism in Korea and Formosa: A Comparison of the Systems of Political Control.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 30: 126–58.

    2. shoguns of japan –??

    3. Hansen, Thomas Blom. 2021. “Sovereignty in a Minor Key.” Public Culture 33 (1): 41–61.

[trade-sovereignty-energy] Before (or without) the Kings: Egalitarian Myths, Mountains, and Founders

  1. General Concepts: Founders, Zomia, and the land between the kings

    1. O’Connor, R. A. (2003). Founder’s Cults in Regional and Historical Perspective. In N. Tannenbaum &C. A. Kammerer (Eds.), Founders’ Cults in Southeast Asia: Ancestors, Polity, and Identity (pp. 269–311). Yale University Southeast Asia Studies.

    2. Scott, J. C. (2009). The Art of not being Governed: an anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia. Yale University Press. [Preface and Introduction]

    3. Baumann, B. (2020). Reconceptualizing the Cosmic Polity: The Tai mueang as a social ontology. In B. Baumann & D. Bultmann (Eds.), Social Ontology, Sociocultures, and Inequality in the Global South. Routledge.

Sovereignty Reconsidered

  1. Sovereignty and Contemporary Indigenous Movements [

    1. Marisol de La Cadena & Orin Starn. 2007. Indigenous Experience Today (Wenner-Gren International Symposium Series). New York: Berg Publishers. [Introduction and Chapter 7]

    2. Anghie, Antony. 2012. “Western Discourses of Sovereignty.” In Sovereignty: Frontiers of Possibility, edited by Julie Evans, Ann Genovese, Alexander Reilly, and Patrick Wolfe, 19–36. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

    3. Bauder, Harald, and Rebecca Mueller. 2021. “Westphalian Vs. Indigenous Sovereignty: Challenging Colonial Territorial Governance.” Geopolitics 00 (00): 1–18.

    4. Mignolo, Walter D. 2021. The Politics of Decolonial Investigations. Durham and London: Duke University Press. [Chapter 14]

  2. Sovereignty and Territory

    1. Menshawy, Mustafa. 2019. “Constructing State, Territory, and Sovereignty in the Syrian Conflict.” Politics 39 (3): 332–46.

    2. Ginoza, Ayano. 2012. “Space of ‘ Militourism ’: Intimacies of U.S. and Japanese Empires and Indigenous Sovereignty in Okinawa.” International Journal of Okinawan Studies 3 (1): 7–23. .

    3. Burow, Paul Berne, Samara Brock, and Michael R. Dove. 2018. “Unsettling the Land: Indigeneity, Ontology, and Hybridity in Settler Colonialism.” Environment and Society: Advances in Research 9 (1): 57–74.

    4. Longkumer, Arkotong. 2020. “Indigenous Futures: The Practice of Sovereignty in Nagaland and Other Places.” In Indigenous Religion(s): Local Grounds, Global Networks, edited by Siv Ellen Kraft, Bjørn Ola Tafjord, Arkotong Longkumer, Gregory D. Alles, and Greg Johnson. London: Routledge.

  3. Which Sovereign; Which exception?

    1. Anderson, Kay. 2020. Modern Ontologies of the more-than-animal’ Human: Provincializing humanism for the present day. In, Interrogating Human Origins: Decolonisation and the Deep Human Past. Martin Porr and Jacqueline M. Mathews ed. Oxon: Routledge. [pp. 56-71]

    2. Povinelli, E. A. (2016). Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Duke University Press. [pp. 30-56; 92-118; Can Rocks Die? Life and Death inside the Carbon Imaginary; The Normativity of Creeks]

    3. Matthews, Daniel. 2021. “Reframing Sovereignty for the Anthropocene.” Transnational Legal Theory 12 (1): 44–77.

    4. Wright, S., & Tofa, M. (2021). Weather Geographies: Talking about the Weather, Considering Diverse Sovereignties. Progress in Human Geography, January.


Final Exam week – no class- Final paper due 5pm last day of exam week.

Teaching Methods
Teaching Assistant

Course Requirements

Class Participation                                  25%

Midterm exam                                         25%

Final Paper                                              50%

Pop Quiz 4 (extra credit for exams)                        (10%)


Class Participation

Show up, on time, prepared to discuss the week’s readings. Computers or cell phones are for note taking, translation assistance, or researching course-related things. Do not do other work during class time. Be respectful of others’ opinions, share interesting things related to the discussion, be mindful of others who may be more shy than you.



Midterm Exam

Short answer, open book essay exam. You will be provided 6 questions, you will choose 4 and write no more than 1000 words to answer each question. Your answers should be in the form of an academic argument, not a summary, and will be graded on the demonstrated understanding of the material.


Final Paper

Write 15-20 pages on a topic related to the course materials and your own research project. This will be graded on the extent to which it makes an original argument, attends to course materials, has a sophisticated literature review, and provides convincing evidence in support of the argument. The paper should be in a formal academic style and should be considered a draft essay for a journal publication.


Pop Quiz

At random moments during the course, the professor will announce a pop quiz. Students will be given 15 min at the beginning of class to answer a question related to the week’s readings. Quizzes are scored on a 10-point scale according to the extent to which the question is answered and the student demonstrates having read and understood the assignment. 


Textbook & Reference

All course material will be made available on moodle. Students are encouraged to own their own copies of the texts relevant to their studies. 

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