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HSTAS 264 A: Violence, Race, and Memory

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
GLD 322
Joint Sections: 
JSIS B 264 A
Laurie Sears
Laurie Sears

Syllabus Description:

"Violence, Myth, and Memory" is built around three popular films: "Perfumed Nightmare" (1977) a classic of third cinema film, "Apocalypse Now: The Director's Cut" (2001, orig. 1979) a blockbuster Hollywood film, and "Opera Jawa" (2006) an Indonesian postcolonial art film. The first two were filmed in the Philippines and engage with racialized constructions of Vietnamese and Filipino peoples, the last was filmed in Indonesia, highlighting some of Indonesia's best dancers. We will use these films as starting points to explore ideas of violence, race, and global modernity in Viet Nam, the Philippines, and Indonesia and the ways in which the U.S. has interacted through violence, war, and migration with these countries. The course will trace the ways in which these films evoke founding myths of Southeast Asian societies, regulate ethnic, racial, and religious tensions, and reflect anxieties about modernity. We will also read three novels. We will read Jessica Hagedorn's novel "Dream Jungle" about two seemingly distinct events in the Philippines under Marcos: the discovery of a Stone Age Tribe and the filming of "Apocalypse Now". We will look at how the colonial encounters (with both Spain and the U.S.) and the Catholic passion play together serve as complex founding myths for lowland Filipino society. For Viet Nam, we will read Duong Thu Huong’s "Novel Without a Name" to investigate ideologies and histories that serve as metaphors for the beleaguered nation. For Indonesia, we will read "Saman," one of the novels of popular author Ayu Utami, addressing constructions of race, gender, sexuality, and postcolonial inequalities. Class assignments include reading the novels, film theory, short historical documents, and the making of a ten minute film/video in groups of 3-5 students based on oral history interviews in place of a 10-12 page research essay.

Books (also on Reserve at Odegaard Undergraduate Library)

Dream Jungle, Jessica Hagedorn (Filipino American novel)

Novel with No Name, Dhuong Thu Huong (Vietnamese novel)

Saman, Ayu Utami (Indonesian novel)

Digital readings: There will be shorter readings almost every week that are uploaded directly onto the class website or through links embedded in this syllabus.


Violence Race Memory 18 materials will be accessible through Canvas (which you can access through being logged in to MyUW), and there are also readings that you can find by links embedded into the syllabus. You must be logged into the UW Library website, either on campus or off campus, to access the embedded links in the syllabus.

 Films (to be screened and discussed in class and section)

Kidlat Tahimik, Perfumed Nightmare [Mababangong Bangungot] (1977, in English)

Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now (1979/2001 Director’s Cut, in English)

Garin Nugroho, Opera Jawa (2006, in Javanese with subtitles)



Students are expected to read assigned readings for each class before coming to class. Students are expected to bring course readings to class for discussions. Students will write two short in-class essays, carry out and transcribe (2.5 pages) one oral history interview, and work together on oral history/film projects related to class themes. If you cannot participate in a group project for a good reason, you may produce one 10-12 page research paper on a research topic related to the class and the student’s personal interests and upon approval by Professor.


Community Expectations

Let’s all work to operate as both teachers and learners in this classroom community. It is important to recognize that our individual differences can be a source of strength and learning for each of us individually and collectively. In this class, people of all ethnicities, genders and gender identities, religions, ages, sexual orientations, disabilities [and abilities], socioeconomic backgrounds, regions, and nationalities are encouraged to share the rich and varied perspectives and experiences that make you who you are today. We want to create an environment that facilitates a robust exchange of ideas, assisting each of us to learn and grow based upon the content we grapple with together. We want each person in this classroom community to experience an authentic sense of belonging and feel supported to actively engage in and contribute to both the teaching and learning that occurs.

(Adapted from University of San Thomas

Community Values

In recent years, months, and weeks, a number of events have threatened the values that are the foundation of any university or democratic society, values such as religious freedom, the freedom to express one’s political ideas without being threatened with violence by those who disagree, and the freedom to be a member of the university community without having to fear harassment on account of one’s religious beliefs or other aspects of one’s identity. We, in the History Department, are utterly committed to defending these values. We stand against gender, sexual, disability, and racial violence, intimidation and religious discrimination. We stand for the inclusion, protection, and overall well-being of all in our community, especially the most vulnerable. Our faculty and staff are here to provide assistance and support.

UW Department of History ( )


Class Participation                              10%  (Attendance and Group Participation)

In-class essays, 15% each                   30%

Oral History Interviews                      15%

Film/Video Projects                            25%                

Final Essay Paper                                20%


All grading will be on a 4.0 scale where 4.0 is the highest grade and 0 is the lowest.


Catalog Description: 
Explores how images and ideas of power, race, violence, and global modernity circulate in memories and discourses about US relations with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Topics include foundations myths, colonial and postcolonial encounters, historiography and narrative, and nationalist and ethnic identity formations. Offered: jointly with JSIS B 264; Sp.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:07pm