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Asian Studies

Westerners have long referred to lands east of the Bosporus and the Ural Mountains as “the Orient” or “Asia,” terms derived from Indo-European words for “east.” This vague and general designation underscores the longstanding tendency to view the “East” as an undifferentiated “other,” a perspective that has been used to justify Western colonialism and political hegemony, and one that often pervades contemporary views of what is in fact the world’s most culturally and physically diverse macroregion. Today, the realm’s three most populated regions (Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, and Southeastern Asia) contain nearly 3.7 billion people, roughly 56 percent of the world’s population. With Central and Western Asia, these regions with nearly four millennia of continuously recorded history are the birthplaces of the world’s major religions, the home of innumerable languages and dialects, and the domain of several of the world’s largest economies. Asian studies is a multidisciplinary field, providing a wide variety of intellectual perspectives and learning experiences, and recognizing a great range of cultures and a tremendous diversity of peoples.

Students who choose this concentration may focus on a specific topic or set of topics within Asian studies, including language, the visual arts, music, religion, cultural geography, politics, economics, literature, and history. Alternatively, they may design a focus within the Asian studies concentration, for instance, taking a comparative view of the role of women in Asian cultures. Of course, these approaches may also be combined, and students can pursue their own topics of study in consultation with the faculty.


Students are encouraged to take courses focusing on Asia from each of the following three categories: Social studies (anthropology, economics, geography, history, and political science), the arts (art history, visual arts, and music), and the humanities (language, philosophy, and literature), for a total of between 16 and 24 credits, including two 300-level courses. (100-level language courses do not normally count toward the concentration credits.) Students are also encouraged to study Asian languages and to spend a semester or year in Asia, using and building their knowledge of the area. Accelerated Beginning Arabic and Chinese are offered at Simon’s Rock. Higher level courses in Chinese, as well as several courses in Japanese, are available at Bard College. Students may design their own programs based on course work at Simon’s Rock, Bard, and international study-abroad programs with the approval of faculty representatives of the concentration.


Anthropology 217 CP Ritual and Belief:
The Anthropology of Religions
Arabic 100–101 CP Accelerated Beginning Arabic I and II
Art History 209 CP Japanese Woodblock Prints (Ukiyo-e)
Art History 210 CP Impressionism and Japonisme
Asian Studies 202 CP Japanese Civilization
Asian Studies 234 CP Mind and Voice in Traditional China
Asian Studies 237 CP The Unity of Buddhism and State in Japan
Chinese 100–101 Accelerated Beginning Chinese I and II
Chinese 204–205 CP Intermediate Chinese I and II
Geography 326 Modern China from the Margins: Class, Gender, Ethnicity, and the Nation State
Music 213/313 CP Music of India
Off-Campus Program 301 CP Sacred Landscapes and Nature Conservation in China and the Tibetan Borderlands
Philosophy 206 CP Religions and Philosophies of East Asia
Philosophy 208 CP Buddhism: History, Teachings, and Practices
Women’s Studies 218m CP Women’s Words in China, Japan, and Korea

Recent Senior Theses

“Grasp the Mythic Image: A Theoretical Approach. A Visual Exposition to/upon the Javanese Shadow Theater”
“Confronting China and Themselves: Hidden Problems Facing the Tibetan Refugee Community in India”
“Identity, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka”
“Exodus: A Study of Indochinese Refugees, 1975–1980”
“The Political Uses of Hindustani”
“Practice and Theory: Japanese Industrial Organization”
“A Study of Selected Monuments of Pagau: The Ancient Capital of Old Burma”
“Burma in Agony (Experimental Photography)”
“The Development of Organized Crime in Japan”
“Mud and Myrabolam: An Exploration of Pattern, Fabric, and Woodblock Printing Traditions of Jaipui, India”


Christopher Coggins, Joan DelPlato, Hal Holladay, Jamie Hutchinson, John Myers, Paul Naamon, Nancy Yanoshak
Faculty Contact: Christopher Coggins