Asian Studies Program: Goals and Objectives
Characterized by multiple societies, extraordinary geographies, diverse histories and cultural traditions, Asia has encountered long standing global interactions and dramatic politico-economic transformations. In order to foster an understanding of these complexities, Asian Studies emphasizes interdisciplinary and comparative inquiries into the histories, cultures, contemporary political, social, economic and environmental transformations within Asia. Our program draws upon a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, art, economics, education, geography, history, language and literature, philosophy, political science, religion, and sociology.
Central to our field of study is the intellectual challenge of approaching and learning about societies and issues that are relatively unfamiliar to many students. Our choice of various approaches in Asian Studies is aimed at nurturing within students a broad but also sharply focused knowledge of the different societies and regions constituting Asia. Given the importance of approaching these issues critically and self-reflexively, we pay particular attention not only to epistemological questions but also to the history and politics through which Asian Studies itself has emerged as a field of study.Non-majors who take courses in our program can expect, as in other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, an emphasis on critical thinking, comparative analysis, and synthesis. But, in Asian Studies, these are also skills that will come to them through focused understandings of specific Asian societies and cultures and in ways that can integrate their humanistic and social science dimensions. In highlighting both the general and specific dimensions of these analytical skills, we provide students with an excellent training in the study of different cultures and societies in the world. In addition, an awareness of Asia, in its similarities and differences with other parts of the world, facilitates a critical understanding of non-Asian societies in their historical and contemporary relations with Asia. As a result, students of Asian Studies become more competent in dealing with cultural connections and differences in a global, rather than regional, especially often privileged Western context. By drawing on the intellectual traditions and experiences of a wealth of Asian civilizations—encompassing a significant portion of the world’s population—Asian studies contributes to the cultivation of a more compassionate, better informed and cosmopolitan citizenry.
Courses in the program will enhance students’ knowledge of Asia. But, given Asia’s size, historical significance, cultural diversity and civilizational complexity, this is a task that calls for a complementarity of approaches. The program emphasizes, among other things, the importance of an excellent training in both the humanities and social science ways of understanding Asia. To this end, we offer a wide range of courses that meet the College's general education goals. 100-level program courses are designed exclusively for interdisciplinary or comparative purposes. Participating departments also offer introductory courses with strong Asian content. 200-level courses generally focus on a particular region or disciplinary approach. 300-level courses tend to emphasize faculty members' areas of expertise and use comparative and sometimes multidisciplinary approaches. As a result, students learn to approach Asia through a rich variety of perspectives and come to see it as a set of connected and dynamic regions that has had and will continue to have an increasingly strong impact on all our lives.The program requires majors to focus on a particular region or country, undertake language study, complete intermediate and advanced coursework, and produce a senior thesis. Further, majors are expected to acquaint themselves with other parts of Asia through coursework outside their area of specialty. Correlate students must take six courses with strong Asian content, thereby developing substantial knowledge of Asia, which can complement their majors. To cultivate theoretical and methodological sophistication, majors and correlates are required to choose one or two disciplines and take advanced courses in each.
Majors and correlates are required to plan their programs in consultation with the director and other advisers. They must then submit their plans with an application to the director for his/her approval. By this stage, most majors and correlates have had individual sessions with the director. After students declare their major or correlate, the faculty adviser takes over the advising. Over the last four years, we have discussed these issues extensively in our annual Freeman Grant-funded curriculum workshops, so that our faculty members in the program are well informed about the requirements.