Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies

M.A. Modern South- and Southeast Asian Studies


The Master of Modern South and Southeast Asian Studies is a two-year transregional and interdisciplinary program. It combines social sciences, modern history and contemporary issues of South and Southeast Asia. Its mission is to promote the link between both regions which are historically closely intertwined.


Students will be guided by a personal tutor through the organizational phase of their study. An introductory course is offered in the first semester aiming at providing students with theoretical background and specific regional knowledge for each of the disciplines. Students learn to approach South and Southeast Asia from various disciplines, such as history, sociology, linguistics, anthropology and cultural studies. The aim is to locate the region in historical and contemporary global developments, to give an insight into political institutions, social structures and specific cultures. During the course of their studies, students acquire linguistic competences and specialize on a nation or locality of their choice.


Students are encouraged to spend some time, preferably a semester, at one of the partner universities in South and Southeast Asia. There is a partner institution in virtually every country of the region. Languages of instruction are German and English.


Final degree: Master of Arts (MA)
Regular study time: 2 years (4 terms)
The program starts every winter term. 


Curriculum content: 

  • History of modernization processes
  • Culture and Religion
  • Political & social structures
  • Language training


How are South and Southeast Asia related?

You might have asked yourself what South Asia and Southeast Asia have in common. These terms didn’t come into use as names for these respective major geographical and historical regions until the second half of the twentieth century. They were adopted in an attempt to overcome the colonial designations for the areas comprised by these regions. Both regions border the eastern Indian Ocean, which stretches from the Bay of Bengal to the South China Sea, where it meets the Pacific. They are climatically similar, owing to the pervasive influence of the monsoon, which determines the agricultural calendar from today’s Pakistan to the Indonesian-Malay archipelago and Vietnam.

Historically, South and Southeast Asia are joined by linguistic, cultural, political and economic ties that arose though settlement, pilgrimages and trade relationships. By way of these historical connections, Indian religions, art forms and concepts of state spread across Southeast Asia. These developments are exemplified by the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, now a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, which was built according to principles of Hindu architecture.

Today, South and Southeast Asia are reviving their historical connections and intensifying their political, economic and cultural contacts. With their transcultural dynamics, these major regions lend themselves not only to historically oriented, but also contemporary translocal and transnational study.


Structure of the MA Degree Program

The curriculum is divided into six modules. An additional concluding module is reserved for the master’s thesis and accompanying colloquium. The six modules containing the course offerings (lecture courses, research seminars, Lektürekurse, etc.) are:


  • History of Modernization Processes in South and Southeast Asia
  • Cultures and Religions of South and Southeast Asia
  • Political and Social Structures in South and Southeast Asia
  • Languages of South and Southeast Asia
  • Subject-specific electives (to be taken in specified subject areas, e.g., history, cultural studies, gender studies.
  • Open electives (intended in part to deepen career-related knowledge)

English is the language of instruction in some course offerings. More information in the study regulations for the MA Degree Program "Modern South and Southeast Asia Studies".


What qualifications will I gain?

In the MA program, students gain an understanding of the history, politics, societies and cultures of South and Southeast Asia. The historical and contemporary ties between these regions constitute an integral part of the curriculum, as do the regions’ languages, local cultures, national identities and political alliances. All subjects are taught by recognized experts in their fields, whose collaboration gives rise to a multi- and transnational perspective.

South and Southeast Asia are examined within the various frameworks of historiography, cultural studies, sociology, media studies and linguistics. The faculty members from the respective disciplines share a conception of South and Southeast Asia as a single major world region, as well as a commitment to developing an inclusive, interdisciplinary perspective.

The curriculum encompasses lectures, seminars and research seminars. You will learn to independently acquire, express and further develop knowledge of South and Southeast Asia. The program places a central emphasis on expository writing. You will regularly compose research papers, book reviews, essays and reports, learning to write for specific audiences and conduct targeted research. You will also learn techniques of effective presentation and take part in discussions on academic questions.


What can I do with my degree?

This degree program provides you with valuable preparation for careers in politics, economics, culture and media. Graduates find employment in development aid service, for example, or with diverse NGOs and private media companies. You will additionally acquire intercultural competence as is required in areas such as intercultural management. As a course of study in the humanities, the program also teaches students a wide range of “soft skills.”

Graduates with further academic ambitions of course have the opportunity to qualify for doctoral studies. And the program offers all students an open door to India – both through scholarships and through our cooperation with the renowned Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.


How do I enroll?

Studies in the MA Degree Program begin annually in winter semester. The application period for students wishing to enroll in winter semester 2012 is from July 16 to September 15, 2011 (final deadline September 30, 2011). Further application and enrollment information can be found on the university’s website under "Application, Enrollment and Studies." Students may also enroll in person at the Enrollment Office. If you have questions, please contact the Student Administration Office. We will be glad to assist you.


Study regulations of the MA Degree Program

The study regulations of the MA Degree Program: