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Core Curriculum: Area Studies


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


Area Studies is, obviously, the academic study of areas. Thus Assyriology is part of Area Studies, and so are Sinology and Japan Studies, ancient and contemporary Middle Eastern Studies, Korean and Southeast Asian Studies, and other scholarly fields concerned with world regions and countries. But things are not as straightforward as this simple definition suggests. These fields are about difficult issues. Areas may be characterized by cultural uniqueness, but also conflict, migration, and identity politics (ethnic, religious, linguistic). Areas exist on the surface of the planet but also in mythology and religious beliefs, not to mention cyberspace. Over and above the complexities of actual and virtual areas, there is the problem of how to study them. Whose perspective should we take when we describe an area and its people, languages, cultures, and politics? What do we focus on? What kinds of questions do we ask? What concepts do we use to help us understand?

The academic fields that make up Area Studies are diverse. At the same time they share important themes, questions, and analytical concepts. Racial discrimination played a role in ancient Egypt as well as the contemporary world, the question of how the local interacts with the global is asked in Modern China Studies as well as studies of the Ottoman Empire, and the concept of diaspora is used in South Asian as well as Hebrew and Aramaic Studies. In a word: Area Studies has a language. To be able to participate in an Area Studies field and to appreciate what it is about and why that matters, one needs to understand these themes, questions, and concepts, reflect on them, and learn to use them. The core curriculum Area Studies is designed, therefore, to help students familiarize themselves with the basic language of Area Studies.

Areas do not just exist. They are created, their extent or shape is contested, and they change. All of this is done largely by people. This is why a fruitful way of thinking about areas asks how they are brought into being and maintained. ‘What makes an area?’ is the central question of this course. ‘Areamaking’ is its core concept.

The course is built around five elementary kinds of areamaking:

  1. Talk about area: how areas are portrayed by means of language but also symbols and maps.
  2. Areas of abode: how areas are made and changed by living in them (or outside).
  3. Mobility, circulation, distribution: how areas are made through the movement of people and things, including of course restrictions on such movement.
  4. Stories of area: how areas are created and given meaning by means of histories, tales, and myths.
  5. These ways of areamaking all play a role in the making of territory, a special kind of area characterized by deliberate in- and exclusion and governance.

We will treat each of these kinds of areamaking on two levels of analysis. First we survey the main cultural practices that constitute the kind of areamaking in question. This is illustrated with case studies from across Asia and the Middle East, past and present. Then we move to a second level of analysis and examine how this kind of areamaking is studied and critiqued. Students read articles that exemplify key scholarly approaches. We highlight the Euro-American tradition of academic scholarship and its various humanities and social science disciplines. We attend to the history of this tradition, including the perspective known as orientalism that is intertwined with imperialism and colonialism. We also point to scholarly traditions elsewhere in the world. These traditions – from ancient Mesopotamian cosmology and classical Chinese ethnography, through Islamic philosophy, to nationalistic ‘pseudo-history’ – are not just fascinating but ask to be taken seriously. We can learn from them.

Course objectives

To develop a practical familiarity with the language of Area Studies, comprising shared themes, questions, and analytical and critical concepts.

  • To develop familiarity with key approaches to area in the main humanities and social science disciplines.

  • To develop awareness of the transdisciplinary nature of Area Studies and the theoretical and methodological advantages and challenges this brings.

  • To develop familiarity with foundational theories in Area Studies.

  • To develop awareness of the diversity of scholarly traditions concerned with area.

  • To foster a reflexive analytical stance, based on an awareness that there is no single perspective from which to know the world objectively.

  • To promote an awareness that Area Studies is an ever-changing field of learning to whose future students may contribute.

  • To practise researching cases of areamaking, and to analyze and describe them in the language of Area Studies.

  • To use digital learning materials, to foster a critical approach to digital sources, and to apply digital communication methods relating to Area Studies.

  • To practise oral and written communication and presentation relating to Area Studies.

  • To foster societal awareness relating to area, areamaking, and Area Studies.

  • To practise independent learning in the various components of the course.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

(Online) lectures
Lectures will become available online every week.

Tutorials are held once every two weeks. Attendance is compulsory. If you are unable to attend a session, please inform your tutor in advance. Being absent at more than two sessions will result in a lowering of the tutorial grade. Absence may also impact the grade of the assignment due for that particular tutorial session.

Assessment method


Tutorial: active participation, written assignments, presentations.
Final Exam: written examination with multiple-choice questions.


Students in the course are graded according to their performance in the following segments, in the following proportions:

Tutorial: 40%
Final exam: 60%

End Grade
The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of the Tutorial grade and Final Exam grade. The weighted average needs to be 5.5 or higher.


No resit for the tutorial is possible. If the end grade is insufficient, there is a possibility of retaking the Final Exam.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

To be announced.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.
For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact : Humanities Student Information Desk


Not applicable.