People and Places


People shape and are shaped by the places where they live.

The unit allows learners to appreciate the diversity of Southeast Asian landscapes through the history of how people shape and are shaped by the places where they live.

People and Places examines the interaction between the peoples of Southeast Asia and their various environments across time and space.

Highland, lowland, and coastal communities lived in distinct environments, which produced shared experiences despite differences in nationality, borders language, religion, and ethnicity.

Southeast Asian populations have customized elements of global worldviews (other Asian and Western civilizations, religious-philosophical cultures) to fit their local needs and priorities, hereby producing a pattern of shared experiences across the mainland and island worlds.


UNIT 1 : People and Places


Flood plains and river systems: The case of the Irrawaddy and the Kingdom of Bagan


Way of life and wet rice agriculture in the lowlands: The case of Java


Highlands and agriculture: The case of the Kingdom of Lanna


Highland houses: The case of honai and tongkonan


West Coast Malay Peninsula: The case of the Kingdom of Melaka


Living on the coastlands: The case of the Sama-Bajau in the Coral Triangle


  • Inscription: These are texts written on stone or metal. They can take many forms, some of which including religious texts, announcements and donations to temples.
  • Irrigation canals and ponds: Canals or drains are constructed in areas that have problems with water supply for farming. Irrigation canals move water from a well or river to fields. Sometimes farmers construct ponds to store water.
  • Cassava is a widely-cultivated tropical crop for its roots which are staple food for about 500 million people worldwide. Highly nutritious, the cassava root is used as vegetables in dishes, grated to make cakes, or ground into tapioca flour. It is also called singkong (Indonesia), ubi kayu (Malaysia), kamoteng kahoy (Philippines), man sampalang (Thailand), and cu san or khoai mì (Vietnam).
  • Dewi Sri is the goddess associated with rice, abundance, and fertility among the Balinese, Javanese, and Sundanese of Indonesia.
  • Orion is a formation of stars (or constellation) easily visible in the sky through the alignment of three bright stars making up Orion’s belt. The name Orion is derived from a hunter in Greek mythology.
  • Soul: the spiritual or immaterial part of a living being, regarded as immortal.
  • Slash and burn farming: Crops are planted in small plots of land. After harvest farmers plant new crops in a different plot of land and burns the old fields. Sometimes the village is moved to another location.
  • Entrepot: This is a trading centre in a strategic location. Merchants from outside the entrepot bring their goods to this location and they are either bought and sold, or exchanged with other goods.
  • Straits of Malacca: This is a waterway that runs in between the island of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. It was and still is one of the most important routes for world shipping.
  • Srivijaya: ancient kingdom located in Sumatra, Indonesia which was also a major trading post between the seventh and eleventh centuries.
  • Robbins Burling. Hill Farms and Paddi Fields: Life in Mainland South-East Asia, ASU Program for SEAS, 1995.
  • Charles Keyes. The Golden Peninsula: Culture and Adaptation in Mainland South-East Asia, Honolulu: UH Press, 1995.
  • Anthony Reid. South-East Asia in the Age of Commerce: The Land Below the Winds Volume I, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. [Recommended for this project specifically]
  • Andaya, Barbara and Leonard Andaya (2015): A History of Early Modern South-East Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
  • Clifton, Julian & Chris Majors (2012): Culture, Conservation, and Conflict: Perspectives on Marine Protection Among the Bajau of South-East Asia, Society & Natural Resources: An International Journal, 25:7, 716-725
  • Gusni Saat, (2003) The identity and social mobility of Sama-Bajau. SARI: Jurnal Alam dan Tamadun Melayu, 21 . pp. 3-11. ISSN 0127-2721
  • Nimmo, Harry Arlo (2001) Magosaha: An Ethnography of the Tawi-Tawi Sama Dilaut. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
  • Kortschak, Irfan (2010) Invisible People: Poverty and Empowerment in Indonesia. Mandiri: Godown Lontar:
  • State of the Coral Triangle: Indonesia. Asian Development Bank (2014) Manila: Philippines:
  • Rickleffs, M.C. (2008) A History of Modern Indonesia since c. 1200, Fourth Edition. New Work: Palgrave MacMillen.
  • Islamic Connections: Muslim Societies in South and South-East Asia (2009) Micheal Feener and Terenjit Sevea, eds. Singapore: Institute of South-East Asian Studies Publishing.