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Introduction to Area Studies




Admission Requirements

There are no prerequisites for this course. This Academic Skills course is compulsory for all first-year students.


This course’s approach to Area Studies is based on the awareness that the study of those deemed other 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. Scholarly work in the social sciences and humanities necessarily focuses on one or more areas, be that the Middle East, Latin America, Europe or China and East Asia, to name only a few. However, it is also important for scholars to be self-reflexive about the importance of their own platform for thinking about these constructed “areas”, since no research is done in an ideal, value and prejudice free environment.

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/her area of attention. This course seeks to encourage students to consider the different ways and statuses of knowledge production in different places and to think critically about how they are related to one another.

Although each section of this course is organized around the same units of analysis (described in the weekly overview), different sections will pay attention to particular geographical areas.

Course Objectives

This courses aims to make students aware of:

  1. the importance of (self) reflexivity in responsible scholarship, in other words, the urgent need of (and for) critical and autonomous thinking;
  2. the way in which scholarly stances, disciplines and methods generate different ‘epistemic maps’ about the world we inhabit, as social constructs that through time are reified and naturalised;
  3. thus, the importance of recognising that all scholarship is conducted from a given position (i.e. some-where and some-when), and this situations shape findings and conclusions;
  4. the necessity to complement theories and methods for studying any given “area”;
  5. the way in which various conventional disciplines must work together (rather than alone) to understand concrete human problemátiques.

Mode of Instruction

  • Biweekly seminars form the main body of this course. The structure is generally based on lectures (45-60 minutes), and questions and debates (30-45 minutes). This will guarantee the introduction of knowledge as well as the students ability to apply what they have read, learned and thought about.

  • The Monday sessions will pose the theme of the week and general reflections in a conceptual/ theoretical fashion, while the Thursday sessions will have a more specific focus on the region being studied in a given section of the course.

  • Students will prepare for each seminar by completing the assigned readings, which will be available through the Blackboard site. In addition, each student will need to complete QAQCCI notes (instructions for which will be found in the syllabus) and pop-quizzes as described in the assessments.

  • Remember that continuous and active participation is fundamental for this course. It is your course, which means it requires the work of all to produce an exciting and inspiring learning community.


Assessment: In-class participation (rising pertinent questions & debating)
Percentage: 10%
Deadline: Ongoing

Assessment: Four pop quizzes
Percentage: 10% (2.5%each)
Deadline: Weeks 1 to 7

Assessment: QAQCCI notes (750 words)
Percentage: 50% (10% each)
Deadline: On Sunday 23.59 Weeks 2 – 6

Assessment: Individual – Final essay (3000 words)
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Reading Week


A reader for the course will be compiled and will be electronically available on Blackboard before the beginning of the course. Students are expected to use the readings during their participation in class, the discussion of their respective regional focus and questions raised from ongoing debates in class.

Contact Information

For further information please contact the course convener Dr. Daniela Vicherat Mattar at: d.a.vicherat.mattar@luc.leidenuniv.nl

Section A – South Asia and its diaspora (Priya Swamy MPhil)
Section B – Europe (Dr. Daniela Vicherat-Mattar)
Section C – Latin America (Dr. Veronica Davidov)
Section D – China and East Asia (Dr. Paramita Paul)
Section E – China and East Asia (Dr. Paramita Paul)
Section F – Europe (Dr. Daniela Vicherat-Mattar)
Section G – Latin America (Dr. Veronica Davidov)

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 – Mobilities
WEEK 6 – Temporalities
WEEK 7 – Modernity and Area Studies
WEEK 8 – Reading Week

Preparation for first session

Reflect upon the following text in Borges, J. L. 1998. “On exactitude in science” in Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions (Trans. Hurley, H.) Penguin Books P.325.

On Exactitude in Science

“… In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.”

(Suárez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lérida, 1658)