Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Charles F Keyes
ANTH 445
Seattle Campus

Literature and Society in Southeast Asia

Focus on either Vietnam or Thailand. Provides students with opportunity to explore how those living in Southeast Asia have reflected on the radical social changes their societies have undergone through novels, short stories, and poetry. Prerequisite: either one 200-level ANTH course or LING 203. Offered: jointly with JSIS A 447.

Class description

 In 2003 this course will explore how writers in Vietnam and Thailand have reflected on the transformations in their social and cultural and political worlds that have come about because of encounters with Western-derived modernity. In the late 19th century the peoples of the Vietnamese and Siamese empires were compelled by the expansion of French colonialism (and, for Siam, British colonialism) to become subjects of a world shaped by Western modernist cultures. The encounter with the West was most traumatic in Vietnam where French rule was imposed on the populace through a succession of military conquests. But even Siam, which would later be re-named Thailand, the changes instituted by a Siamese court seeking to prevent absorption of Siam into the French or British empires would prove to be at least radically transforming as were the direct encounters with French colonialism in Vietnam. In both countries, Western influences led people to rethink occupational choices, gender roles, and cultural identities. In both countries the revolutionary changes were often associated with violence. In Vietnam resistance to French rule began almost immediately after the last French conquest and subsequently led to a prolonged war of national liberation. This war, in turn, was succeeded by a revolutionary struggle between those promoting alternative visions of political order. This struggle was made more intense by the military support given to one side by the United States and to the other by the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China. While violence has been less prolonged and less devastating in Thailand, it has occurred from time to time, beginning in 1932 and occurring as recently as 1992, as those with different understandings of political order have competed with each other. Beginning in the early decades of the 20th century writers in both countries have used fiction to reflect on and even to help shape ways of confronting Western-derived modernity. Their writings can be seen as being ‘indigenous ethnography’ in that, like anthropologists, the writers have sought to reflect critically on the social and cultural experiences they have observed and participated in. In this course, we will draw on some of the literature in translation by Vietnamese and Thai authors as means to understand changing ideas about the social order, gender, family, social class and social inequalities, and the relationship with the West.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

This course will be organized as a seminar, not as a lecture course. This means that students will be required to lead as well as participate in class discussions.

Recommended preparation

It is preferable that students taking this class have some prior knowledge of Southeast Asia through study or travel or that they will have a particular interest literature as ‘indigenous ethnography’. It is strongly recommended that student have taken ANTH 315 or SISSE 315.

Class assignments and grading

In preparation for the discussion, students will be required to read all or parts of the following books:

For Thailand Anderson, Benedict R. O'G., and Ruchira Mendiones, eds. and translators. 1985. In the Mirror: Literature and Politics in Siam in the American Era. Bangkok: Duang Kamol. 2nd printing, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, Southeast Asia Program, 1991. Siburapha. 1990. Behind the Painting and Other Stories. David Smyth, trans. Singapore: Oxford University Press. Kepner, Susan Fulop, ed. and trans. 1996. The Lioness in Bloom: Contemporary Thai Fiction. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Kukrit Pramoj. 1981. Si Phaendin (Four Reigns). English version by Tulachandra. Bangkok: Duang Kamol. Reprinted by Silkworm Books in Chiang Mai, in paperback, 1999. Available from UW Press. Smyth, David, and Manas Chitakasem, eds.1998. The Sergeant's Garland and Other Stories. Oxford: Oxford University Press (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks).

For Vietnam Lockhart, Greg, and Monique Lockhart. 1996. The Light of the Capital: Three Modern Vietnamese Classics. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. Balaban, John, and Nguyen Qui Duc, eds. 1996. Vietnam: A Traveler’s Literary Companion. San Francisco: Whereabouts Press. Ho Anh Thai.2000. The Women on the Island. Translated by Pham Thanh Hao, Celeste Bacchi and Wayne Karlin. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Karlin, Wayne, Le Minh Khue, and Truong Vu, eds. 1995. The Other Side of Heaven: Post-War Fiction by Vietnamese and American Writers. Willimantic, Connecticut: Curbstone Press. Duong Thu Huong. 1991. Paradise of the Blind. Translated by Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson. New York: Morrow. Le Luu. 1997. A Time Far Past. Translated by Ngo Vinh Hai. Amherst : University of Massachusetts Press. Bao Ninh. 1993. The Sorrow of War. Frank Palmos, ed., Vo Bang Thanh and Phan Thanh Hoa, with Katerina Pierce, trans. London: Secker and Warburg. Nguyen Huy Thiep. 1992. The General Retires and Other Stories. Greg Lockhart, trans. Singapore and New York: Oxford University Press. In addition students will be expected to write three short papers (4-5 pages each) during the term on topics to be assigned at the outset of the course.

Grades will be based on evaluation of participation in classroom discussions (20%) and on evaluation of each of the 4 papers (20% each).


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Charles F Keyes
Date: 02/15/2003