This undergraduate survey explores the social and natural worlds of Southeast Asia. It brings together diverse disciplinary perspectives—from ecology and climatology to history and anthropology—to introduce a geographic perspective on a fascinating region. It begins with biophysical perspectives, situating the region in tropical weather patterns and global oceanic circulations. We investigate its ecological features, from high species diversity and ancient rain forests to colorful reefs and snow-capped mountains. Our historical journey takes us through the modern era, from the rise of powerful kingdoms to European colonial rule, from decolonization and Cold War struggles to diasporic formation and contemporary globalization. We end in the present-day with a survey of topics facing local populations, such as urbanization and deforestation, that challenge all of us to think critically and creatively about our world and where it is headed.
This course aims to introduce a fascinating place rich in history and to animate a geographic imagination students can take anywhere. Through forays to the university library and media center, we learn how to locate and appreciate fact and fiction, primary and secondary sources, text and picture, film and map. Through reading and writing exercises as well as class viewings and discussions, students encounter new points of view, engage scholarly debates, and develop informed perspectives.