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Prof. Anne Blackburn says the new minor highlights the dynamism of Asia and allows students to design a unique curriculum around Asian studies that appeals to them and their interests.

June 24, 2021

Reflecting Faculty Research and Student Interests, Asian Studies Department Launches Global Asia Studies Minor

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The Department of Asian Studies is adding a fifth minor to its offerings — launching the Global Asia studies minor in response to the expansive research done by faculty and the thematic interests across Asian studies that students want to pursue. 

Unlike the existing minors offered by the department, such as East Asian studies and South Asian studies, the Global Asia studies minor does not focus on a specific Asian subregion.

Prof. Anne Blackburn, Asian studies, said she believes the new minor highlights the dynamism of Asia and allows students to design a curriculum around Asian studies that aligns with their interests — including topics in Asian diasporas, Indian Ocean studies, transpacific studies, as well as global history and literature. 

“All of our courses aim to cultivate a breadth of knowledge in regional and global contexts related to Asia, and students’ capacity to critically analyze and contextualize phenomena such as linguistic and cultural norms, political structures, media and textual cultures,” Blackburn said. 

According to Prof. Chiara Formichi, director of undergraduate studies for Asian studies, the launch of the Global Asia studies minor aligns with the Asian studies department’s mission statement, revised in January 2021, to critically examine the field by attending to social tensions, ethnic conflicts and racial discrimination.

“We seek to decolonize and deprovincialize our notions of Blackness, Indigeneity, and colonial subjectivity by supporting and including the work of scholars from Dalit, Ainu, Hmong, Uyghur, Black, African American, Native American, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities in our research and teaching,” the mission statement reads.  

Prof. Naoki Sakai, Asian studies and comparative literature, believes that the new minor can help students understand the changing racial hierarchy in modern times and think through the social change they are experiencing.

“The modern international world that was structured by the racial hierarchy for the last few centuries is collapsing,” Sakai said. “The rising anti-Asian violence is a testimony to this changing structure of the modern international world.”

Prof. Suyoung Son, Asian studies, said she believes the minor challenges the monolithic category of Asia in research and reconstructs the discipline by teaching students how the historical categorization of Asia came to be.

“I think that the Global Asia minor allows students to reconsider a rigid, exclusive national boundary, think more critically about what constitutes Asia,” Son said.

To complete the minor, students are required to take a 2200-level or above course from the Asian studies department that covers more than one Asian subregion. Alternatively, at least two 2200-level or above Asian studies courses that cover different but related subregions also fulfill the requirement. Additional electives — from language study to approved study abroad in Asia — that culminate in five courses with a minimum of 18 credits are required to complete the minor. 

As an aspiring urban planner, Lyss Eng ’23, who is also pursuing a minor in Southeast Asian studies, sees how this minor could diversify her studies on urban areas in Asia. 

“[Courses can] cover the institutional, political and economic challenges of planning in multiple countries,” Eng said. “That sounds pretty useful to me, because I’m interested in learning about various perspectives and international development.”

However, Stephanie Naing ’23 said she finds the minor’s requirement to take courses on more than one subregion of Asia further reinforces boundaries within Asia that she called “often quite arbitrary.” 

“Having an academic path of study called ‘Global Asia’ that also divides the continent into subregions can play its part in maintaining borders,” Naing said. “What is called ‘Asia’ is a huge landmass with many different people, cultures and histories.”