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Area Studies (Research): Asia and the Middle East


The research master’s programme offers three specialisations, from which students will pick one:

Within each of these specialisations you may follow your own interest by taking courses in specific fields.

Within Middle Eastern Studies these fields are:

  • Arabic Studies

  • Persian Studies

  • Turkish Studies

  • North-African Studies

  • Islamic Studies

  • Eastern Christianity

Within Asian Studies students can opt for the following fields:

  • Japanese Studies

  • Chinese Studies

  • Korean Studies

  • South Asia and Tibet Studies

  • South East Asia Studies

Students interested in the Comparative Studies specialisation may choose between:

  • Politics and Society

  • Religion and Philosophy

  • Arts and Cultures.

More info

Programme Details
Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation
Contact Information

Programme Details

Title: Master of Arts
Duration: 2 years, full-time
Start dates: September and February
Language of instruction: English
Responsibility: Programme director Research Master Area Studies, Prof. Dr. J.A. Silk


This research master provides core training in an Area Studies approach to knowledge, opportunities for the development of disciplinary skills (politics, history, literature, philosophy, religion, etc.), and possibilities to build upon regional and language specialisation (such as Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Sanskrit, and Tibetan). Master students in Area Studies will develop sophisticated theoretical and methodological tools for scholarly reflexivity as well as tools specific for their research projects – which may be framed in more conventionally disciplinary and regional terms. They will be guided to understand the parameters of the various disciplines and the ways in which they may be creatively combined into sophisticated forms of inter-disciplinarity, suitable to their subject matter. Students will develop in-depth knowledge of one of the regions of Asia (East Asia, South or Southeast Asia [including Tibet]) or the Middle East, and/or a transregional/comparative perspective that tracks particular themes through their relationship with ‘areas.’ The former represent the Area Tracks and the latter the ‘Thematic Tracks’ of this MA programme.


The research master’s programme offers three specialisations, from which students will pick one: Middle Eastern Studies, Asian Studies, and Comparative Studies.

The programme consists of four semesters with a course load of 30 EC each. The courses have a weight of 10 EC each (some language courses have a weight of 5 EC) and students generally follow three courses per semester. During the first year students have to take two Common Core Courses: ‘Theory and Methods of Area Studies’ (semester 1) and one of the two following courses: ‘State and Society in Area Studies: “Philology, History, Ethnography”’ or ‘Arts and Culture in Area Studies: Culture and conquest: the impact of the Mongols and their descendants’ (semester 2). First year students are also strongly advised to attend the ‘Thesis Writing Seminar’ during their first and second semesters. This ‘Thesis Writing Seminar’ is obligatory for all students in their second year (semester 3&4).
All specialisations have a number of elective courses. Therefore, students may follow their own interest and either opt to take all courses from one subspecialisation or take the opportunity to combine them with courses from other subspecialisations. They should be aware, though, that for some of the courses a certain level of knowledge of a particular language is required (see course descriptions). Students are strongly advised to contact the track leader or student advisor when composing their programme. In the third semester students may opt to spend a semester or summer abroad doing fieldwork or studying at an affiliated institution.

Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation

In the third semester students start working on their individual research. This will result in a master’s thesis. The thesis must be based on the student’s own research, including primary data. Whether this material is gathered during fieldwork and/or a study-abroad period depends on the track chosen by the student. The fourth semester is entirely reserved for the writing of the thesis. This phase can also be used to prepare an application for a PhD position. In order to graduate, students need to have successfully completed the 120 EC programme including having completed the thesis (30 EC) as part of that programme. The thesis should be related to the expertise of at least one of the members of staff involved in the chosen track.

This master is the successor of the research master’s programmes in Asian Studies and some of the specialisations of Middle Eastern Studies. For an overview of the courses taught in 2009-2010, please, refer to the e-prospectus of Middle Eastern Studies and Asian Studies.

Contact Information

Mailing address

Area Studies programme
Secretariat Vrieshof 4, rm 112a
P.O.Box 9515
2300 RA Leiden
The Netherlands

Visiting address (also address for courier services)

Matthias de Vrieshof 4, 2311BZ Leiden
Witte Singel 25, 2311BG Leiden


Matthias de Vrieshof 4, room 112a

Opening hours
Monday, 13.30-15.30 hs
Tuesday, 10.00-12.30 hs
Wednesday, 10.00-12.30 hs
Thursday, 10.00-12.30 and 13.30-15.30 hs
Friday, 10.00-12.30 hs

Phone +31 (0)71 527 2253
Fax +31 (0)71 527 3310

Coordinator/Student adviser

N.A.N.M. van Os, MA
Phone: +31 (0)71 527 2937
Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday, 10-12 hs