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Introduction to Area Studies


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.


While at Leiden University the term Area Studies refers to the study of the Middle East and Asia, more broadly it refers to the collection and interpretation of information from societies displaced from the observer in time or space, no matter the location on the globe. As a result, Area Studies is especially concerned with the ‘Other’. This course is designed to draw attention to some of the challenges of looking at different societies, a practice in which you will be engaged throughout the program in International Studies. Since we observe the Other from the vantage point of a European university, the course will also draw attention to pivotal events involved in shaping what has become (and is un-becoming) something that can be called ‘Western’ scholarship. The course is intended to inspire close reflection on some of the ‘givens’ of our peculiar brand of scholarship. Quite common ideas and concepts, things one might have always taken for granted, will be contested. The course will suggest that it is a question of looking through the looking-glass.

Course objectives

  • To learn the key historical factors determining Europe’s position in the contemporary world order.

  • To develop an appreciation for the European/Western situatedness of academic knowledge.

  • To gain insight into how the local character of European perspective affects its perception of non-Western societies.

  • To become familiar with the major approaches in Area Studies to organizing knowledge about non-Western societies.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

One two hour lecture per week.

Assessment method

Written exam.


Blackboard will be used. Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

Academic articles and book chapters, to be indicated on Blackboard in August 2012.


The student administration will register all first year students for the first semester courses in uSis, the registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable