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Critical Approaches International Relations Asia


Admission requirements

An intermediate level knowledge of Contemporary East Asian politics and international relations is strongly encouraged. This would include completion of two or more of the following courses:

  • BA1 ‘Political Economy of Japan’, ‘Politics and Economy of China’ (or similar),

  • BA2 ‘International Relations of Japan’, ‘Modern Chinese Economy A’, ‘Government and Politics in Modern China’ (or similar) and/or ‘Political and Social Developments in North and South Korea’,

  • BA3 ‘Regionalism and Regionalization in the International Relations of East Asia’, ‘Political Reform in Contemporary China’.


How are power-knowledge relations structured in the formation of International Relations theory? What impact do these knowledge-power relations continue to have on the conduct of international relations in East Asia? Why has there been no East Asian International Relations theory until recently? What contribution can postpositivist and critical theories provide to help us understand the international relations of East Asia? (Why) does International Relations theory require ‘Decolonization’ and ‘Democratization’ and what does this entail?

This course builds on the theoretical foundations that students have acquired through the BA3 Semester One course: ‘Regionalism and regionalization in the International Relations of East Asia’, through the examination of alternative theoretical perspectives and approaches to the international relations of East Asia, such as Orientalism, Poststructuralism, Postmodernism, Feminism, Postcolonialism, the China School of International Relations theory, Critical Theory, Green Politics, and Human Security. Each of these frameworks will be applied to a different case study in order to explore how the theory works in practice. These case studies include: a reappraisal of the Asian Financial Crisis, the hydropolitics of the Mekong Sub-region, Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Burma/Myanmar, perceptions of North Korea in the Six Party Talks, and the December 2009 Copenhagen Conference on climate change. By the end of the course, students will have an advanced knowledge of International Relations theory and be able to approach a myriad of issues in global affairs from a variety of perspectives. Students will also develop a deep understanding of the problematic issues, perspectives and aspects of the field of International Relations today.

The issues addressed in this course will have relevance to a number of disciplines. Students should draw on previous work they have done in other academic fields and demonstrate their knowledge in seminars, as well as in their assessed work. It is also hoped that students will apply the knowledge they gain through studying Critical Approaches in the International Relations of East Asia to other courses they are taking.

Students are expected to use additional sources to those in the suggested reading list and to keep up-to-date with current affairs through reading newspapers, relevant internet sites and online journals.

Course objectives

This module aims to provide a critical examination of key issues and processes related to the international relations of East Asia. The focus of this module is on developments since World War Two, but with a particular emphasis on the post-Cold War period. By the end of the module, students will be able to:
 Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the complex issues in the international relations of East Asia.
 Apply complex conceptual tools to analyze and critique key events and processes in the international relations of East Asia.
 Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, develop the capacity for independent learning, critique major texts on and approaches in the international relations of East Asia, and participate in class debates.


Thursday 11.00-13.00

Mode of instruction

Lectures and Seminars

Assessment method

The final grade for non-thesis students taking the 5 ECTS module will be based on:
Participation element (incl. attendance, participation, web posts and presentation): 40%
Analytical element (critical literature review (1,000-1,500 words)): 20%
Research element (research essay (2,500-3,000 words)): 40%

The final grade for thesis students taking the 10 ECTS module will be based on:
Participation element (incl. attendance, participation, web posts and presentation): 20%
Analytical element (critical literature review (1,000-1,500 words)): 10%
Research element (thesis (8,000 words): 70%


A handbook denoting weekly readings will be posted on Blackboard the week before the start of the semester.
Additional information (powerpoints, useful websites, etc…) will also be found on blackboard over the course of the semester.

Reading list

The course is structured around three core textbooks, which will be available on Dr. Black’s Shelf in the East Asian library. These textbooks may also be purchased from the internet and local bookshops. Students are advised to read Agathangelou and Ling in preparation for the course.
Agathangelou, Anna, M. & Ling, L.H.M. 2009. Transforming World Politics: From Empire to Multiple Worlds. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
Burchill, S. et. al. 2005. Theories of International Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
Hurrell, Andrew. 2008. On Global Order – Power, Values, and the Constitution of the International Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Students can sign up to the class via USiS. Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. L. Black
Room 008, Het Arsenaal;
Office Hours: Tuesday 15:00-17:00
Alternative times are by appointment only


This course provides an advanced understanding and critique of International Relations Theory that will prepare students for studying International Relations at the MA level.