02.166TS Urban Southeast Asia: Diversity, Sustainability and Change

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Southeast Asia is a region of extraordinary natural, cultural, economic, and socio-political diversity. It is characterised by both patterns of continuity across time and space, as well as far-reaching and rapid social and physical development. These changes often centre around the region’s vibrant urban areas. This course surveys a variety of contemporary trends and challenges found across Southeast Asian cities surrounding the intersecting themes of diversity, sustainability, and change. We will explore what exactly makes this region – our region – so unique: its historical context, geopolitics, cultural and technological innovations, heritage practices, and urban design. At the same time, we will investigate how these factors impact Southeast Asia’s sustainable development goals, and therefore how we might imagine the role Southeast Asia could play in the future of our world. This is a survey course, and while you will be exposed to a wide range of issues relevant to contemporary Southeast Asia, you will also be encouraged to delve deeper into one or two select topics that are of particular interest to you.

Learning Objectives

  1. Recognise complex issues of contemporary importance to diverse urban spaces in Southeast Asia
  2. Critically analyse the overlapping forces that drive contemporary transitions and transformations in Southeast Asian cities and their design
  3. Synthesise different forms of evidence about contemporary Southeast Asian cities (academic literature, global news, policy documents, audiovisual media) in their analysis

Measurable Outcomes

  1. A mid-term assignment in the form of a briefing paper for an Asian city governmental official of their choice to help this official prepare for a fictional meeting on one of the given topical issues
  2. Explanation and interpretation of current issues in case study-based oral presentations
  3. Weekly activities on Padlet such as sharing what students think is the most important news to come out of Asian cities, as well as pop quizzes on readings
  4. An argumentative essay on one out of five broad topics given that synthesise all the themes covered

Course Requirement

Assessment Percentage
WEC – Class participation and weekly quiz 20
WEC – Briefing paper 30
WEC – Presentation 20
WEC – Essay 30

Weekly Schedule

PART I: DIVERSITY (Setting the scene)

Week 1 – Diverse histories

Week 2 – Diverse politics

Week 3 – Diverse economies

Week 4 – Diverse peoples


Week 5 – Sustaining Healthy Cities

Week 6 – Sustaining Creative Cities


Week 8 – Sustaining Communities

PART III: CHANGE (Looking forward)

Week 9 – Changing Technologies

Week 10 – Changing Climate (1)

Week 11 – Changing Climate (2)

Week 12 – Changing Futures

Week 13 – Course Flyover and Essay Workshop


Cheng Nien Yuan