How do certain built forms come to define and defy a region? Who are the actors shaping them? How are they mobilized and shared across context? Throughout this semester, we will explore the many tangible and intangible forces that have influenced the contemporary built environment in Southeast Asia, from climate change to ghosts. With a focus on twentieth century nation-states, this course begins with the construction of “Southeast Asia.” Each week examines how debates surrounding aesthetics and built form, often global in scope, play out within specific contexts. Some of these topics include environmental change and water management, tensions over public space and street vending, and the impact of economic booms and busts on monumental architecture and urbanism. In other words, we will not only examine how Southeast Asia was constructed and shaped as a region, but more broadly how art, architecture, infrastructure and urbanism is shared across context and what makes it unique to a given time and place.
Students are not only expected to leave this course with a stronger understanding of the actors, global processes and events shaping Southeast Asia and the built environment that defines it, but they should also develop visual analysis skills necessary to read and write about built space. Course discussions and assignments unpack the aesthetic traditions and politics surrounding specific cases in order to complicate what it means to be global, regional or local. As a result, content will go beyond Southeast Asia and the assigned readings for each week cut across disciplines, drawing from Art and Architectural History, Anthropology, Urban Planning, and Geography.