Five disciplinary / thematic clusters

Students majoring in Asian Studies are encouraged to take at least one unit of study that has an inter-area approach, and at least one unit on another area besides their selected area of focus.

  1. Politics, Economics and Environment
  2. History and the Present
  3. Religion and Philosophy
  4. Arts, Culture and Media
  5. Society, Gender and Sexuality

1. Politics, Economics and Environment

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This cluster is an extremely important area of inquiry, for both premodern and especially for the modern colonial and post-colonial world of global capitalism. Most premodern Asian societies had highly developed monarchical state systems going back to ancient times. In the modern period, anti-colonial nationalism produced new nation-states, militarism, and a new interest throughout the region in state-led economic development. Asia is the only place in the globe outside the modern West where manufacturing, banking, and economic development have rivalled and may even surpass Western Europe, North America, and Australia.

Asian Studies UG units:
ASNS2612 Chinese Religions in Modernity
ASNS2618 Remaking Chinese Society, 1949-Present
ASNS2632 Modern Japanese Social History
ASNS2634 Samurai and Merchants: Tokugawa Japan
ASNS2636 The Enigma of Japanese Power
ASNS2642 Modern Korea
ASNS2660 Islam, Trade & Society-Arabia to SE Asia
ASNS2661 History of Modern Indonesia
ASNS2662 Southeast Asian Dictators & Democracies
ASNS2663 Social Activism in Southeast Asia
ASNS2664 Southeast Asia Transformed
ASNS2672 Japan in East Asia from 1840 until Today
ASNS3617 Citizens and Politics in China Today
ASNS3619 China and Globalisation

Other recommended units:
BDST2615 Buddhism and Contemporary Issues
BDST3611 Buddhist Philosophical Traditions
CHNS2613 Communication and Social Change in China
GOVT2119 Southeast Asia: Dilemmas of Development
HSTY2621 China's Economy: from Mao to Market
KRNS3675 Contemporary Korean Society & Culture

2. History and the Present

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Like the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, Asia is part of the Old World, and has a very long prehistory and recorded history of ancient civilisations, monarchical orders, sacred cities, religious traditions, large peasantries, commercial and maritime trade networks, and highly developed cultural productions in the arts, handicrafts, and printing industries. In the modern period, the region experienced European and Japanese colonisation, anti-colonial nationalist movements and revolutions, formation of modern nation-states, capitalist and state socialist industrial production, land reforms, mass education, language reforms, Westernisation, the destruction of traditional cultures and kinship systems, religious and artistic revivals, consumer cultures, and participation in global and regional mediatized cultures. All Asian Studies students must be exposed to some of this rich Asian history and traditions, and be able to trace for themselves the historical continuities and disjunctures that have taken place.

Asian Studies units:
ASNS1101 Introduction to Chinese Civilisation
ASNS2623 India: Tradition and Modernity
ASNS2631 Origins of Japanese Tradition
ASNS2632 Modern Japanese Social History
ASNS2641 Traditional Korea
ASNS2642 Modern Korea
ASNS2660 Islam, Trade & Society-Arabia to SE Asia
ASNS2661 History of Modern Indonesia
ASNS2664 Southeast Asia Transformed
ASNS2671 Australia & Asia: Ripples & Reflections
ASNS2672 Japan in East Asia from 1840 until Today

Other recommended units:
BDST2615 Buddhism and Contemporary Issues
BDST3611 Buddhist Philosophical Traditions
HSTY2622 The Opium Wars in China (1839-1860)
HSTY2681 Colonialism in Modern Asia

3. Religion and Philosophy

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The history of Asian religions stretches back to prehistoric and ancient times, and includes shamanic, sacrificial, scriptural, meditative, ritual, monastic, alchemical, healing, sacred kingship, and polytheistic traditions. These diverse religious traditions have experienced major transformations in modernity, from Christian missionisation, Weberian-style rationalisation, de-ritualisation, commercialisation, and state secularisation campaigns, and integration into modern nationalist movements, as seen in Hindu fundamentalism, Japanese state Shintoism, and Sri Lankan nationalist Buddhism. Therefore, the Asian Studies program seeks to present these religious cultures not only in terms of their classical scriptures, rituals, and historical development, but also through their modern transformations and adaptations. These units will provide students with a sense of the transnational spread or movement of religious culture across linguistic, cultural and political boundaries, whether in ancient, medieval, or modern times. They cover the major religious traditions that have moved across Asian societies: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Confucianism.

Asian Studies units:
ASNS2612 Chinese Religions in Modernity
ASNS2613 Chinese Thought
ASNS2620 Classical Indian Philosophy
ASNS2623 India: Tradition and Modernity
ASNS2626 Religious Traditions of South Asia
ASNS2627 India, China, Tibet: Cultural Relations
ASNS2631 Origins of Japanese Tradition
ASNS2660 Islam, Trade & Society-Arabia to SE Asia
ASNS2678 The Confucian Cultures of East Asia

Other recommended units:
BDST2613 Zen and Chan Buddhism
BDST2614 Buddhist Lived Worlds
BDST2615 Buddhism and Contemporary Issues
BDST2616 The Buddha's Words
BDST3611 Buddhist Philosophical Traditions
KRNS3670 Korea in Literature and Popular Culture

4. Arts, Culture and Media

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The different forms of modern mass media, whether film, television, radio, or the Internet all have vital connections with the long historical traditions in Asian societies of mythology, literature, drama, and the visual arts. Asian media narratives often address and express the ongoing social problems, political-economic issues, and the changing worldviews of each Asian society. Our approach to teaching about Asian forms of media is informed by an approach that seeks to link media products with Asian history, culture, literature, the arts, and society.

From India’s Bollywood films, to Hong Kong’s martial arts films, to Japanese animation, to the IT industries (both software and hardware) of India, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and China, Asian media products are exported around the world and are an important component of global media culture. Asian films have won repeated prestigious awards at international film festivals, and Asian films are increasingly examined in film journals, and Film Studies classes in the West, which have traditionally been Eurocentric. Within Asia, the youth and popular culture industries of Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are engaged in a dynamic interaction of joint productions and mutual copying and mutual stimulation. Television, Internet access, and mobile telephone usage in all Asian countries have all experienced a huge spurt of growth in the last three decades.

Asian Studies units:
ASNS2111 Dynamics of Language in Southeast Asia
ASNS2640 Mass Media in Korea
ASNS2670 Mass Media in East Asia
ASNS2677 Beyond the Geisha/Samurai Binary
ASNS3618 Popular China

Other recommended units:
ARHT2641 Art and Archaeology of Southeast Asia
ARHT2640 Modern and Contemporary Asian Art
CHNS2613 Communication and Social Change in China
CHNS2614 Understanding News About China
CHNS3632 The Novel in Premodern China
CHNS3633 Lu Xun and China's Modern Literature
CHNS3639 Chinese Cinema
CHNS3634 Gender in Modern Chinese Literature
JPNS3675 Japanese Cinema

5. Society, Gender and Sexuality

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Since its beginnings in the 1970’s in the form of “women’s studies,” the study of gender has given birth to new fields of inquiry such as masculinity studies and gay and lesbian or queer studies. Literary and media studies now expect students to be able to analyse the gender and erotic symbolism and narrative strategies of texts, and historians know that gender struggles define one of the major shifts from patriarchal traditions to modernity.

Premodern Asia witnessed many different social systems that promoted patriarchal power through family and kinship systems, and monarchical systems based on paternal kingly figures and male domination of officialdom and the court. However, in many traditional cosmologies, this patriarchal kinship and state control was relieved by powerful goddesses, female creators, queens and empresses, yin-yang forces of the cosmos, Chinese Daoist valorisation of feminine forces, and Hindu androgyny of gods. Some Asian traditions also gave social prestige to gender ambivalent occupational roles, such as Indian hijras, Indonesian bissu and warias, and Thai kathoey.

Across modern and contemporary Asia, there have been vast transformations affecting gender roles of men and women: changes in traditional family and kinship structures; nationalist movements drawing women out of the domestic sphere; the absorption of women into the industrial labour force; changes in marriage and divorce laws; state provision of welfare, maternity leave, and childcare; mounting militarisms and nationalisms that promote hypermasculinity; the increasing commercialisation of sexual entertainment; prostitution and sexual trafficking across national boundaries; feminist, gay and lesbian movements; and increasing media dissemination of gender and sexual images.

Asian Studies units:
ASNS2632 Modern Japanese Social History
ASNS2663 Social Activism in Southeast Asia
ASNS2676 Gender and Sexuality in Modern Asia
ASNS2677 Beyond the Geisha/Samurai Binary
ASNS3690 Approaches to Research in Asian Studies

Other recommended units:
ANTH2620 China: Contemporary Ethnography
CHNS3634 Gender in Modern Chinese Literature
KRNS3675 Contemporary Korean Society & Culture