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Area studies



GC; compulsory first-year course 2013-2016 cohorts.

Admission requirements

None. This is a compulsory first-year course for students of the 2013-2016 cohorts.

Course description

This course seeks to encourage students to consider different ways of knowledge production in different places, and to think critically about how they are related to one another. It is based on the awareness that the study of those defined as “others” is always situated in a particular conception of time and space (i.e. it always comes from a particular position). In other words, one’s own context and culture play a crucial role in producing and shaping knowledge about others, as well as knowledge itself, and of the self.

The course is constructed around a series of case studies from Europe and East Asia, and from different times and places. It is based on a multi-disciplinary approach, and uses insights from social sciences as well as Visual and Material Culture Studies to compare, consider and analyze images and interpretations of “us” and “them”. How are boundaries drawn and categories made? How do we understand our intellectual inheritance? And how should we consider our inter-relationship at the global level? Themes to be considered include mapping, temporalities and modernity. Reading and discussion topics include architecture, art exhibitions and photography.

Since no research is done in an ideal, value and prejudice free environment, it is important for scholars to be self-reflexive about the importance of their own platform for thinking about constructed areas. Where is here/there? Who is asking? Who is speaking? These are the central questions that will guide this course as we explore the various dynamics of interaction between the location of a scholar and the location of his or her area of attention.

Weekly overview

Week 1 – Mapping / (B)ordering the world
Week 2 – (Re)presentations
Week 3 – Self / Other
Week 4 – Politics of (Re/De)nationalizations
Week 5 – Temporalities
Week 6 – Mobilities
Week 7 – Modernity and Area Studies
Week 8 – Reading Week

Learning objectives

This courses aims to make students aware of:

  • the need to recognize that all scholarship is conducted from a given position (i.e. some-where and some-when), and that this shapes findings and conclusions

  • the importance of (self) reflexivity in responsible scholarship, in other words, the urgent need for critical and autonomous thinking

  • the way in which scholarly stances, disciplines and methods generate different ‘epistemic maps’ about the world we inhabit, and that these are social constructs that are reified and naturalized over time

  • the need to connect various disciplinary backgrounds in order to understand contemporary global challenges.

Compulsory textbook

Assigned readings will be made available on Blackboard.