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The Southeast Asia Studies Program provides an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the nations, states, institutions and peoples of Southeast Asia in the 21st century. The program offers courses in Southeast Asia history, politics, economics, development and security.
Students are attracted to the program's unique dual-concentration structure combining international economics and regional expertise. To prepare students for the demanding working environment of Southeast Asia, the Southeast Asia Studies Program offers a rigorous, policy-oriented curriculum, high language proficiency, direct in-country summer internship experience, unparalleled Washington D.C.-based forums that examine domestic politics and international relations of Southeast Asian countries, and an unsurpassed global alumni network.
If interested in graduate studies, you are most welcome to contact Karl Jackson, director of Southeast Asia Studies (202.663.5837), to discuss joining the program.
The Johns Hopkins SAIS Philippines Roundtable, Burma Study Group, Indochina Roundtable, and the Southeast Asia Studies Wednesday Lunch Seminar offer opportunities for students to interact with diplomats, policymakers and academics concerned with Southeast Asia. In addition, conferences, special lectures, book launches and film screenings introduce students to established regional expertise and cutting edge scholarship. More.
The Johns Hopkins SAIS-USKI Asia Democracy Study is a research initiative looking at public opinions on attitudes and behaviors toward democracy and governance in Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. More
Johns Hopkins SAIS 2011 Survey Questionnaire
More than five decades after closing its center at the University of Rangoon, Johns Hopkins SAIS is rebuilding ties to Myanmar as it emerges from a half century of military rule.
Between the first and second year of studies, students participate in internships of eight weeks duration in Southeast Asia. Internships provide students with the opportunity to combine theory and practice, to gain hands-on experience in a professional field, and to experience the rich and varied dimensions of Southeast Asian societies.
Language expertise in Bahasa Indonesian, Burmese, Thai or Vietnamese gives graduates a strong competitive edge. Proficiency in a modern language helps students broaden their regional competency. The program assists students to acquire additional language training in the region during the January inter-sessions in well regarded local academic institutions such as the Alam Bahasa Language School (Yogyakarta), Unity Thai Language School (Bangkok), and the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Ho Chi Minh City).
View our most recent edition (Winter 2016) of the Southeast Asia Studies Newsletter here.
For past editions: Spring 2015, Summer 2013, Fall 2012, Winter-Spring 2012, Fall 2011, Spring 2011, and Fall 2010.
Southeast Asia Studies Program Learning Goals and Objectives
Entering Class 2016-2017
MA students must take the equivalent of 16 non-language courses (64 credits) in order to graduate. Those students who are approved for dual degree or advanced standing may only need to take 12 courses (48 credits) or 14 courses (56 credits) as approved by Academic Affairs.
SOUTHEAST ASIA STUDIES
Students concentrating in Southeast Asia Studies must take at least 4 courses within this program.
Students also must fulfill the general requirements for the field of Asian Studies, that is, an additional 2 Asian Studies courses outside of Southeast Asia Studies.
Students in Southeast Asia Studies also have the option of pursuing a specialization in the International Relations of Asia (AsiaIR).
Students must complete 4 courses within this program.
· Macroeconomics (prerequisite or concurrent Microeconomics)
· International Trade Theory (prerequisite Microeconomics)
· International Monetary Theory (prerequisite Macroeconomics)
Eligible students who pass the waiver exams in these subjects or who pass Micro in Pre-Term must replace those courses with alternate economics courses. Many students choose to pursue an International Economics Specialization in one of four areas of economics and therefore use electives to meet these requirements. Students may also choose to specialize in Emerging Markets.
Students must receive a 2.67 average in the 4 required economics courses or they must retake a course(s) until a 2.67 average is obtained. If any of the 4 courses are achieved by passing a waiver exam or during Pre-Term, the student must substitute an economics elective course(s) in place of the waived course(s) in order to fulfill the economics requirement above. In this case, SAIS will use the highest economics program elective course grade(s) to compute this average if a student is replacing one or more of the 4 required courses of Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, International Trade Theory or International Monetary Theory.
Students must complete one course from the list below.
· Statistical Methods for Business & Economics
· Econometrics (prerequisite Statistical Methods for Business & Economics)
· Applied Econometrics (prerequisite Econometrics)
· Macro Econometrics (prerequisite Econometrics)
· Risk Analysis and Modeling
· Quantitative Global Economics (prerequisite International Monetary Theory)
Students may not double-count a Quantitative Reasoning requirement as one of the four required International Economics courses and vice-versa. Eligible students who pass the statistics waiver exam or pass the statistics course in Pre-Term are still required to take an alternate Quantitative Reasoning course from the list above.
All SAIS students must pass 2 core exams and/or courses in addition to their concentration requirements. Southeast Asia Studies concentrators must pass Comparative Politics as one of their core requirements prior to the start of their third semester. If the second core is not completed by the start of the final semester, a student must enroll in second core course.
· American Foreign Policy Since World War II
· Comparative Politics (old name Comparative National Systems)
· Evolution of the International Systems
· Theories of International Relations
Southeast Asia Studies MA candidates must pass exams to demonstrate proficiency in Burmese, Indonesian, Thai or Vietnamese. All non-native English speakers are also required to pass an English placement exam upon entering SAIS. Native speakers of one of these Southeast Asian languages must pass proficiency in a second language which can include English. Native Southeast Asian speakers who pass the English placement exam or proficiency upon entry are encouraged to pursue language study or proficiency in a Southeast Asian language other than their own.
Southeast Asia Studies concentrators must complete ONE of the following capstones:
For regional specialization, the Southeast Asia Studies Program offers a range of courses on the history, politics, economics, development, culture, and security of Southeast Asia. Students gain in-depth knowledge on specific Southeast Asian countries, as well as cross-regional analysis.
Select course offerings include Myanmar/Burma: Inside Challenges, Outside Interests (SA.770.745), Contentious Politics in Southeast Asia (SA.770.742), Covert Action and Foreign Policy in Asia (SA.755.712), Current Asian Security Issues (SA.755.704), Democracy and Democratization in Southeast Asia (SA.770.631), Domestic Politics of Thailand and the Philippines (SA.770.718), International Relations of Asia: The Policy Process (SA.755.702), International Relations of Southeast Asia (SA.770.712), The Political Economy of Development in Southeast Asia (SA.770.720), Political Parties and Elections in Asia (SA.755.717), and Politics in Indonesia (SA.770.610).
After Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq: Rules Governing Intervention?
Most SAIS courses convey knowledge but do not teach the process of policy-making. This course is designed to make you think like a policy-maker by requiring you to devise, in a group context, policy solutions to a problem that has bedeviled American foreign policy-makers for generations.
In Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, very substantial American economic, political and military resources were applied to nation-building projects that either produced sub-optimal results (Iraq and Afghanistan) or failed outright (Vietnam). The outcomes of the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghan wars challenge the American nation-building model (law and order + economic growth + human rights + civil society + democratic elections can create peaceful and stable democracies). This policy-making simulation is designed to analyze past mistakes and devise a new doctrine to minimize the probability of unsuccessful interventions in the future. As a group of SAIS students you must devise criteria for intervention to preclude repetition of the worst consequences suffered in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
One possible conclusion is “Never again.” This is what my generation said after 1975 but international events force the hands of decision-makers who, under great pressure, reinvent the mistakes of the past. One day, 9/11/2001, temporarily dissolved the American reluctance to commit troops abroad. The erosion of national boundaries, ease of transportation, and the rise of transnational terrorist organizations will all generate situations in which the U.S. will be tempted to intervene. By analyzing the three nation-building efforts retrospectively, what lessons should the U.S. government learn in order to avoid, or at least mitigate, future failures? The failures have been strategic (wrong commitment, wrong war, wrong place, wrong time); cultural (inappropriate theories applied to the wrong context); capabilities-driven (lack of appropriately configured civilian and military capabilities); and political (unrealistic goals in combination with the severe time limits imposed by American democracy on all foreign commitments). The U.S. government needs a more realistic doctrine to guide future interventions, and in this course, you are expected to produce it.
In the first few weeks of the course you will read what “experts” think about the short-comings of the three most extensive experiments in nation-building. In the remainder of the course, as a group, you will be expected to move beyond the “experts” to create your own solutions to these seemingly intractable problems. This is an exercise in policy thinking rather than rote learning; it is about the unknown future rather than the settled past.
The skills demanded for successful policy-making are substantially the same across all large organizations: the capacity to do high quality research under intense time pressure, skill in written and oral expression, and the ability to negotiate trade-offs with other participants in the policy process. You will need these skills in the future, regardless of whether the institution is a multi-lateral organization, a government, a business, a local government or an NGO.
*For Southeast Asia Studies concentrators, this course fulfills a Southeast Asia Studies course credit, if the student is selected to do a Southeast Asian specific topic. Otherwise the course fulfills an Asian-wide course credit. This is also a cross-listed course that can fulfill a requirement for International Development.
Myanmar (Burma) is in the process of a challenging transition—from a centralized, authoritarian, military-run political system to a pluralistic “disciplined-flourishing democracy;” from a socialist, then dirigiste economy to one more market oriented and open to foreign investment; from a society characterized by personalized power to institutional norms; from centralized media and social control to one more open; from a single dominant ethnic group to a more multicultural system; and from a skewed foreign policy to a more balanced approach to international affairs.
This attempt at transition, in less than half a decade, is virtually unprecedented in Asia. Such a complex set of changes is difficult, inviting a clash of vested interests, historical memories, foreign pressures, and advocacy and resulting in asynchronous growth and change. Myanmar/Burma: Challenges of Transition explores the nature of these challenges, their likely trajectories, the roles of foreign pressures and planning, and the lessons that might be drawn from such a complex process.
The course objectives are: (1) to understand the internal and external dynamics of political, socio-economic, and security change in a Southeast Asian democratizing state; (2) to examine the nature, process, and inherent difficulties of Myanmar/Burma’s democratic transition; and (3) to research and write an original paper on the challenges of transition in Myanmar of sufficient quality to merit submission to an academic journal.
The course will be taught by a team of specialists on Myanmar. *This is a cross-listed course that can fulfill a requirement for International Development and Conflict Management.
Events of the last two years have brought Southeast Asia back into the spotlight of international relations for the first time in twenty years. The American “pivot” to Asia, the diplomatic and economic opening of Myanmar, disunity within ASEAN, and the possibility of conflict over islets and shoals in the South China (or West Philippine) Sea have altered the status quo and raised questions about the long-term intentions of the United States, China, and the Southeast Asian nations. Why have all major actors taken stances in Southeast Asia that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago?
All of the data on international behavior are constantly in motion and students of all ages remain frustrated by their inability to make sense of the ever- expanding array of events, actors, and interpretations. In Southeast Asia, as elsewhere, international controversies and day-to-day policies (not to mention the changing statements of political leaders and political parties) present an almost bewilderingly series of factors, any combination of which might (or might not) account for a country or a regional organization’s behaviors. The trick of the first-rate analyst (in a government, bank, or an NGO) is to find a method for determining ‘Why Do Nations Do What They Do?’
This course uses the nations of Southeast Asia as a laboratory for answering this question at multiple levels of individual nation states, the regional organization (ASEAN) and in the context of international political system as a whole. Hence, this course stresses general analytic skills rather than just ‘facts’ about Southeast Asia. The purpose is to impart a method that will retain value even after all of the ‘facts’ have changed and even if you find your eventual professional focus far from Southeast Asia.
Although this is a foundational course for Southeast Asia concentrators, it is actually a methods course suitable for all foreign policy analysts rather than being restricted to Asian studies concentrators. *This is a cross-listed course that can also fulfill a requirement for International Development.
Since 1968, Asia has witnessed the greatest reduction in poverty in the history of mankind as a result of the jobs and wealth generated primarily by burgeoning private sectors. All of this has taken place under governments that in varying degrees have provided neither dependable legal systems nor rules-based systems to protect domestic or foreign investors from unreasonable demands. This course will be about economic development in Indonesia, one of the most corrupt nations in the world that averaged more than 7% annual GDP growth for almost 30 years, 1968-1998. It examines the dynamics of power, business, and politics in Indonesia. The course begins with a review of modern Indonesian history, its political, social and economic development, and the crises that have brought chaos and opportunity to the world’s most populous Muslim state. *This is a cross-listed course that can also fulfill a requirement for International Development.
A government seeking to influence another government, or events, organizations, conditions, attitudes or behavior in another state or territory, has a range of instruments available from diplomacy to sanctions to the use of military force. Covert action differs from other instruments of statecraft in an important way. States use covert action techniques to influence others and gain power, but they do so in ways designed to mask their own role and sponsorship. Covert action is sometimes confused with clandestine intelligence collection, or espionage. While covert action operations may employ similar methods, covert action’s function of policy implementation makes it distinctly different than the function of information gathering.
The objectives of this course are (1) to understand the nature and principles of covert action, how it is employed to achieve foreign policy objectives, and its capabilities and limitations; (2) to analyze critically the record of covert action as an instrument of foreign policy in Asia; and (3) to acquire experience in constructing and briefing a covert action operational plan.
The course will begin with a review of the national security policy setting in which decisions to use covert actions operations are made. We will move quickly into the principles of covert action, the means and techniques involved in its employment, and its early history as an instrument of U.S. and other countries’ foreign policy. We will then analyze a series of covert action cases from the early days of the Cold War to the Global War on Terror, efforts to counter nuclear weapons proliferation, and the Arab Spring. Cases will be taken from China, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iran, Libya, and Syria. To gain realistic experience in covert action planning, we will divide into groups to prepare presidential findings, write covert action operational plans and brief them to the class. *For Southeast Asia Studies concentrators, this course fulfills a Southeast Asia Studies course credit, if course work focuses on a Southeast Asia topic. This is a cross-listed course that can also fulfill a requirement for the Strategic Studies Program.
A strong network of funding sources coupled with a global alumni network support educational and employment opportunities for students. Fellowships include the C.V. Starr Fellowship; the Prem Fellowship for Thai Studies; the Freeport McMoRan Fellowship for Indonesians; the Tran Thi Quynh Hoa Fellowship for Vietnamese; the USINDO-SAIS Edward E. Masters Fellowship Program for Indonesian foreign service officers; the Philip W. Thayer Fellowship (with major funding from the Henry Luce Foundation) for students and visiting scholars from Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam, including junior faculty members from government training academies; and the Southeast Asia Studies Alumni & Friends Fellowship. Additionally, the Southeast Asia Studies Program initiated a joint program with the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS and Chung Ang University to provide full tuition for one Burmese Foreign Service officer for one year at SAIS followed by one year at a Korean graduate school.
Frederic Neumann (Class of 2005) is the senior economist at HSBC in Hong Kong, responsible for the Asia region. Originally from Luxembourg, Fred has taught courses on macroeconomics and Asia and was a consultant for the World Bank and various governments.
Shari Knoerzer (Class of 2002) works for Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold as director of social responsibility and community development - Asia/Africa. Her first five years at Freeport were spent in Indonesia.
Edison Sian (Class of 2004) is in the Philippines setting up a social enterprise to target the healthcare needs of the poorest communities. His goal is establishing micro-clinics throughout the archipelago to combat the five main causes of death in over 70% of the population.
Bruce Schulman (Class of 1998) funded the Paul D. Wolfowitz Fellowship Prize in Southeast Asia Studies in honor of Ambassador Paul D. Wolfowitz, former dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS, to recognize the second-year Southeast Asia Studies MA student with the highest GPA. Prize recipients: Wallis Yu (2011), Sean Creehan (2012), Elizabeth Vish (2013), Daniel Greenland (2014), and Bartholomew Thanhauser (2015).