Asian Studies Program

Director: Seungsook Moon (Sociology: East Asia); Program Faculty: Christopher Bjork (Education: Japan, Indonesia), Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase (Language and Literature: Japan), Wenwei Du (Language and Literature: China), E. H. Rick Jarow (Religion: South Asia), Martha Kaplan (Anthropology: South Asia and the Pacific); Haoming Liu (Language and Literature: China), Yuko Matsubara (Language and Literature: Japan), Himadeep Muppidi (Political Science: South Asia), Anne Parries (Language and Literature: China), Peipei Qiu (Language and Literature: Japan and China), Hiraku Shimoda (History: East Asia), Fubing Su (Political Science: East Asia), Bryan Van Norden (Philosophy and Literature: China), Michael Walsh (Religion: China and Taiwan), Yu Zhou (Geography: East Asia).

The Asian Studies Program offers a multidisciplinary approach to the study of Asia with courses and advising in anthropology, art, economics, geography, history, language, literature and culture, philosophy, politics, religion, and sociology of Asia. While majors focus on a particular region of Asia (e.g., East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia) including language study, intermediate and advanced coursework, and a senior thesis in this area, they are also expected to be familiar with some other parts of Asia through the introductory courses and some coursework outside their area of specialty. A correlate sequence in Asian Studies is also offered.

While majors take courses on Asia offered in a wide range of disciplines, they are also expected to choose one or two disciplines in which they develop a theoretical or methodological sophistication that they apply to their study of Asia, particularly in their thesis and senior seminar work. Students interested in developing a concentration in Asian American Studies should refer to the catalogue section of the American Culture Program.

A student’s program of study for the major or correlate is designed in close consultation with the director and an advisor. Students should obtain an application form, which includes a statement of interest, from the program office or the Asian Studies website prior to meeting with the program director. This should be done by the end of the first semester of the sophomore year if the student plans to apply for study abroad. The director and members of the program faculty review the application and make suggestions for modifications. Any changes to a plan of study should be discussed with the advisor in advance; significant changes are reviewed by the director.

Study Abroad: Study abroad in some region of Asia greatly enhances a student’s learning experience and understanding of Asia and is highly recommended for program majors. Advice and literature on different programs are available through the Office of the Dean of Studies (Study Away office), Asian Studies, and the Department of Chinese and Japanese.

Asian Studies Courses: Courses approved for the Asian Studies major and correlate include courses offered by the Asian Studies Program including cross listed courses, (see Section I below) and approved courses (courses on Asia offered in other departments, see Section II below). A list of Asian Studies courses approved for majors is prepared and posted on the Asian Studies website before preregistration each semester. Courses not on the list which may be appropriate to an individual student’s plan of study are considered for approval by the director and steering committee upon special petition by the student major, after consultation with the advisor.

Requirements for the Concentration in Asian Studies: 12 units of which at least 7 are normally taken at Vassar. After declaration of the major, all courses taken towards the major must be graded. Students may request, however, that up to 1 unit of independent study or field work be counted towards the major.

  1. Introductory-Level Study: Two introductory level courses either offered by Asian Studies, cross listed, or from the approved course list (excluding language courses).
  2. Language: Competency in one Asian language through the intermediate college level must be achieved and demonstrated by completion of relevant courses or special examination. Normally, 100-level language work does not count toward the major. A maximum of four units of Asian language study may be counted toward the 12 units for the major. Chinese and Japanese are offered by the Department of Chinese and Japanese. Hindi and Korean may be taken through the Self-Instructional Language Program. The language studied should be directly relevant to the area of emphasis and be approved by the Director.
  3. Intermediate-Level Study: A minimum of 3 units of intermediate course work (200-level) of direct relevance to Asia in at least two disciplines, selected from the list of program courses and approved courses below. Recommendation: At least two of these courses should be related to the student’s regional focus within Asia and at least one should be outside the area of regional specialty.
  4. Advanced-Level Work: A minimum of 3 units at the 300-level including the designated Asian Studies “Senior Seminar”, 1 unit of thesis work (Asian Studies 300-301 or Asian Studies 302), and at least one additional 300-level seminar from the lists of program courses and approved courses below. The senior seminar and the thesis constitute the Senior Year Requirement.
  5. Discipline-Specific Courses: Majors are expected to choose one or two disciplines in which they will take courses and develop a theoretical or methodological sophistication that they will bring to bear on their study of Asia, particularly in their thesis and senior seminar work. Introductory work in each discipline should be taken early to fulfill prerequisites for upper level work in the chosen discipline.
  6. Area-Specific Courses: Majors should try to include three or four courses (not including language study) that focus on a student’s geographical area of specialization within Asia, and two courses that include a geographic area other than the region of focus.

Requirements for the Correlate Sequence in Asian Studies: 6 units of coursework on Asia (program courses, cross-listed courses, or approved courses) including one 100-level course and at least one 300-level seminar. Courses chosen for the correlate should reflect a topical, or area, or methodological focus. Asian language study is recommended but not required. Up to two units can be taken outside the College, through Study Away or other programs. Up to two units of Asian language study may be counted toward the correlate. Up to three 100-level courses may be counted (however, at least one has to be a content course). One course can be double-counted for a major and for the correlate sequence. After declaring a correlate sequence, no NRO courses can be taken to fulfill the requirements. Students may request that up to 1 unit of independent study or fieldwork be counted towards the correlate.

A short “Declaration of Correlate” proposal form is available on line at the Asian Studies Program home page, and in the Asian Studies program office. On this form students prepare a short, one paragraph proposal and a list of the six planned courses, after consulting the course list in the catalog and the online schedule of classes and discussing the sequence with an adviser. Declaration proposals should describe the focus of the coursework and how it complements the student’s major. The proposal must be approved by the program director.

I. Program Courses

101b. Approaching Asia (1)

An introductory course in Asian Studies that is multi-disciplinary in approach and/or multicultural in area. May be repeated for credit when a new topic is offered.

Topic for 2008/09: Challenges in a Globalizing Era. This course surveys some major challenges facing Asian countries entering the age of globalization. Major topics include economic development, democratization, security, energy, environment, population, and regional institutionalization. It attempts to highlight convergence as well as divergence in this dynamic region. One major objective of this course is to arouse students’ interests in more in-depth examination of Asian politics, economy, and society in advanced courses. Mr. Su.

Two 75-minute periods.

Open to all students.

[101. Approaching Asia: Literary Paradigms of Traditional Asia] (1)

An introductory survey of the classical literary and cultural traditions of East and South Asia. The course focuses on the foundational ideals of Asian cultures as well as their “prevailing paradigms” found in literature, fine arts, and philosophical texts whose influence continues on to this day. Topics include (from India) Vedic Hymns, Epics, the Presence of the Buddha; (from Japan) the Way of the Warrior, the Lover from the Tales of Genji, and the Aesthetics of Emptiness; (from China) the Philosophy of Taoist Way of Zhuangzi, and the Dream of the Red Chamber. Mr. Jarow.

Not offered in 2008/09.

[110. Asian Studies Study Trip] (1)

Normally the study trip takes place during the spring semester break, rotating to different destinations in Asia. Enrollment for the trip is determined early in the Fall semester.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2008/09.

[111. Social Change in South Korea Through Film] (1)

This course explores cultural consequences of the dramatic and tumultuous transformation of South Korea, in four decades, from a war-torn agrarian society to a major industrial and post-industrial society with dynamic urban centers. Despite its small territory (equivalent to the size of Indiana State) and relatively small population (48 million people), Korea became the eleventh largest economy in the world. Such rapid economic change has been accompanied by Korea’s recent rise to a major center of the global popular cultural production in Asia. In particular, Korean movies have enjoyed growing popularity in the region. Employing the medium of film and scholarly articles, we examine multifaceted meanings of the Korean War, industrialization, urbanization, and the recent process of democratization for the lives of ordinary women and men. Ms Moon.

Not offered in 2008/09.

[122. Encounters in Modern East Asia] (1)

(Same as History 122) Mr. Shimoda.

Not offered in 2008/09.

152a and b. Religions of Asia (1)

(Same as Religion 152) This course is an introduction to the religions of Asia (Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Zen, Shinto, etc.) through a study of practices, sites, sensibilities, and doctrines. The focus is comparative as the course explores numerous themes, including creation (cosmology), myth, ritual, action, fate and destiny, human freedom, and ultimate values. Mr. Jarow, Mr. Walsh.

Open to all students.

Two 75-minute periods.

214a. The Tumultuous Century: Twentieth Century Chinese Literature (1)

(Same as Chinese and Japanese 214) This is a survey/introduction to the literature of China from the late Qing Dynasty through the present day. Texts are arranged according to trends and schools as well as to their chronological order. Authors include Wu Jianren, Lu Xun, Zhang Ailing, Ding Ling, Mo Yan and Gao Xingjian. All major genres are covered but the focus is on fiction. A few feature films are also included in association with some of the literary works and movements. No knowledge of the Chinese language, Chinese history, or culture is required for taking the course. All readings and class discussions are in English. Mr. Liu.

Prerequisite: one course in language, literature, culture or Asian Studies, or permission of instructor.

216b. Food, Culture, and Globalization (1)

(Same as Sociology 216) Ms. Moon.

217a. Japan in the Age of the Samurai (1)

This course explores pre-modem Japan from the late-1100s to the mid-1800s, when it was ruled by a warrior class, or the samurai. Social and cultural developments at the popular as well as elite levels are emphasized, and assigned readings include many primary materials in translation. The most distinctive feature of the course is a weekly screening of classic Japanese feature films dealing with the course themes. This course offers not only an historical introduction to pre-modern Japanese society and culture, but also a graphic impression of how the past is visualized in contemporary Japan. Mr. Shimoda.

One 75-minute period.

One 2-hour film screening.

[231. Hindu Traditions] (1)

(Same as Religion 231) Mr. Jarow.

Not offered in 2008/09.

233a. Buddhist Cultures (1)

(Same as Religion 233) Mr. Walsh.

235a. Religion and State in China (1)

(Same as Religion 235) Mr. Walsh.

[236. The Making of Modern East Asia] (1)

(Same as Geography 236). Ms. Zhou.

Not offered in 2008/09.

238b. China and the World (1)

(Same as Geography 238b) Ms. Zhou.

254b. Chinese Politics and Economy (1)

(Same as Political Science 254) This course offers a historical and thematic survey of Chinese politics, with an emphasis on the patterns and dynamics of political development and reforms since the Communist takeover in 1949. In the historical session, we examine major political events up to the reform era, including China’s imperial political system, the collapse of dynasties, civil war, Communist Party’s rise to power, land reform, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and launch of reform. Thematic session deals with some general issues of governance, economic reform, democratization, globalization and China’s relations with Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States. This course is designed to help students gain some perspectives to comprehend political issues in contemporary China. Mr. Su.

Two 75-minute periods.

255b. History of India (1)

This course focuses on the history and historiography of British India from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. Readings draw on current historical scholarship, primary sources and fiction in order to understand the complex and sometimes unanticipated outcomes of the colonial encounter in the Indian subcontinent. The course provides a chronological as well as thematic account of colonial history, focusing on the formation of the modern state, as well as the institutions of civil society. This class also critically examines colonial and nationalist discourses on race, gender, caste and religious community during this period. Instructor to be announced.

Two 75 -minute periods.

Open to non-majors.

[257. Reorienting America: Asians in American History and Society ] (1)

(Same as Sociology 257 and American Culture 257) Ms. Moon.

Not offered in 2008/09.

262a. India, China, and the State of Postcoloniality (1)

(Same as Political Science 262) Mr. Muppidi.

[267. East Asian Security] (1)

(Same as Political Science 267) Mr. Su.

Not offered in 2008/09.

[272b. Comparative Education] (1)

(Same as Education 272) Mr. Bjork.

Not offered in 2008/09.

283b. The Economy of China (1)

(Same as Economics 283)

285a. East Asian and Australia Prehistory (1)

(Same as Anthropology 285a) Ms. Pike-Tay

290a or b. Field Work (1⁄2 or 1)

Prerequisites: 2 units of Asian Studies Program or approved coursework and permission of the program director.

298a or b. Independent Study (1⁄2 or 1)

Prerequisites: 2 units of Asian Studies Program or approved coursework and permission of the program director.

300-301. Senior Thesis (1⁄2)

A 1-unit thesis written over two semesters.

302a or b. Senior Thesis (1)

A 1-unit thesis written in the fall or spring semester. Students may elect this option only in exceptional circumstances and by special permission of the program director.

306b. Women’s Movements in Asia (1)

(Same as Sociology 306 and Women’s Studies 306). Ms. Moon.

Prerequisite: By permission of instructor.

One two-hour period.

345a. Violent Frontiers: Colonialism and Religion in the Nineteenth Century (1)

(Same as Religion 345a) Mr. Walsh.

363b. Decolonizing International Relations (1)

(Same as Political Science 363) Mr. Muppidi.

Prerequisite: By permission of instructor.

369a. Political Economy of Development Aid (1)

(Same as Economics 369) Mr. Kilby.

374a. The Origins of the Global Economy (1)

(Same as Economics 374) Ms. Jones

[385. Asian Healing Traditions] (1)

(Same as Religion 385). This seminar offers a comprehensive view of the traditional medical systems and healing modalities of India and China and examines the cultural values they participate in and propound. It also includes a “laboratory” in which hands-on disciplines (such as yoga and qi-gong) are practiced and understood within their traditional contexts. From a study of classical Ayur Vedic texts, Daoist alchemical manuals, shamanic processes and their diverse structural systems, the seminar explores the relationship between healing systems, religious teachings, and social realities. It looks at ways in which the value and practices of traditional medical and healing systems continue in Asia and the West. Mr. Jarow.

Prerequisites: Hindu Traditions (Religion 231) or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2008/09.

387b. Senior Seminar: Remembering War in East Asia (1)

The Senior Seminar addresses topics and questions that engage several areas of Asia and Asian Studies as a discipline. Topic may change yearly. The senior seminar is a required course for Asian Studies senior majors; ordinarily it may be taken by other students as well.

(Same as History 387) More than a half-century after World War II, pitched battles continue to rage throughout Asia—this time on the field of historical memory. Even as the war itself recedes into the distant past for countries such as China, Japan, and Korea, questions about how to remember their shared experience grow only more complex and politicized. Recent conflicts over war memory have brought down ministers of state, sparked mass protests, and engendered much diplomatic wrangling. How has this devastating tragedy been remembered, forgotten, and contested by all sides involved? This seminar takes a multi-disciplinary approach—historiographical, political, literary, and visual—to examine topics including the Nanjing Massacre, “comfort women,” atomic bombs, rehabilitative postwar literature, and cinematic representations of war. Mr. Shimoda.

No prerequisites.

One two-hour period.

388b. The Spiritual Gifts of Modern India (1)

(Same as Religion 388) Since Swami Vivekananda brought the message of “raja yoga” to the Parliament of World Religions on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1893, a number of spiritual teachers from India have achieved notoriety on the world stage and have had a major impact in the formulation of a world and secular “spirituality” in our time. Through phenomenological and historical studies, as well as through close reading and study of primary texts, this course considers the works of these major figures, including Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Ananda Mayi Ma, and Bhagavan Sri Osho Rajneesh. Mr. Jarow.

Prerequisites: Religion 152 and /or Religion 231 (231 gets priority)

399a or b. Senior Independent Study (1⁄2 or 1)

Prerequisites: 2 units of Asian Studies Program or approved coursework and permission of the program director.

II. Approved Courses

In addition to the Program courses listed above, there are approved courses given in other departments and programs. These can count towards an Asian Studies major or correlate. Look under the respective departments for course descriptions and semester or year offered. An updated list of approved courses is available in the Asian Studies Program Office and on-line on the Asian Studies Program web site before preregistration. Students are also urged to consult the additional course offerings of Asian Studies Program faculty members listed under their home departments; while these courses may not focus specifically on Asia, they often include case studies, examples, or materials related to regions of Asia.

Anthropology 240 Cultural Localities (when topic is Asian) (1)

Anthropology 360 Problems in Cultural Analysis (when topic is Asian) (1)

Anthropology 363 Nations, Globalization, and Post-Coloniality (when topic is Asian) (1)

Art 257 The Arts of China (1)

Art 258 The Arts of Japan (1)

Art 259 Warriors, Deities and Tea Masters: Japanese Art of the Momoyama Period (1568-1615) (1)

Art 358 Seminar in Asian Art (1)

Chinese 160 Introduction to Classical Chinese (1)

Chinese 214 The Tumultuous Century: Twentieth Century

Chinese Literature (1)

Chinese 215 Masterpieces of Traditional Chinese Literatrue (1)

Chinese 216 Classics, Canon, and Commentary in China (1)

Chinese 217 Chinese Film and Contemporary Fiction (1)

Chinese 360 Classical Chinese (1)

Chinese and Japanese 120 Introduction to Chinese and Japanese Literature: Traditions, Genres, and Methodology (1)

Chinese and Japanese 250 Special Topics in Chinese and Japanese

Literatures/Cultures (1)

Chinese and Japanese 350 Seminar in Chinese Philosophy: Comparative Methodology (1)

Chinese and Japanese 361 Chinese and Japanese Drama and Theatre (1)

Chinese and Japanese 363 Seminar in Transcending the Limit: Literary Theory in the East-West Context (1)

English 229 Asian/American Literature, 1946-present (1)

Geography 276 Spaces of Global Capitalism (1)

Geography 340 Advanced Regional Studies (when topic is Asian) (1)

History 223 Modern Chinese Revolutions (1)

History 224 Modern Japan, 1868 - Present (1)

History 255 The British Empire (1)

History 279 The Vietnam War (1)

History 381 Love and Death in Tokugawa Japan 1603-1868 (1)

Japanese 222 Narratives of Japan: Fiction and Film (1)

Japanese 223 The Gothic and Supernatural in

Japanese Literature (1)

Japanese 224 Japanese Popular Culture and Literature (1)

Japanese 364 The West in Japanese Literature since the Nineteenth Century (1)

Music 212 Advanced Topics in World Musics (1)

Philosophy 110 Early Chinese Philosophy (1)

Philosophy 210 Neo-Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism (1)

Political Science 150 Comparative Politics (when taught by an Asian Studies faculty member) (1)

Political Science 160 International Politics (when taught by an Asian Studies faculty member) (1)

Political Science 268 The Politics of Globalization (1)

Political Science 358 Comparative Political Economy (when taught by an Asian Studies faculty member) (1)

Political Science 363 Decolonizing International Relations (1)

Religion 250 Across Religious Boundaries: Understanding Differences (when topic is Asian) (1)

Religion 320 Studies in Sacred Texts (when topic is Asian) (1)

Religion 350 Comparative Studies in Religion (when topic is Asian) (1)

Religion 355 The Politics of Sacred Centers (1)