The Department of East Asian Studies offers Brown students a window into the worlds of East Asia, a region that has emerged, over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, both as a major site of geopolitical power and as a vital node of economic development within the global economy.
Yet the region’s history long predates the modern era. “East Asia” is identified as one of the great world regions on the grounds that its constituent societies—China, Japan, and Korea—have for centuries shared certain values, social relationships, religious beliefs, political forms and ideals, economic and material practices, and visual and literary cultures—together comprising “East Asian civilization”—that distinguish them from other regions in the world. It is one of the goals of the department curriculum to encourage students to interrogate this claim through multidisciplinary study of “East Asian” history, society, and culture.
Foundational to the intellectual mission of the department is the assumption that East Asia, like most large and complex regions, can best be studied across time and from a variety of methodological perspectives. Thus, the department offers or cross-lists a range of courses in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Asian American literature, history, religion, art history, government, and linguistics. Students are encouraged not only to experiment with different disciplinary approaches but also to explore an East Asian culture or cultures outside their own focus on China, Japan, or Korea.
Language is of course an essential tool for understanding the values and traditions of any society and culture, whether pre-modern or modern. The East Asian Studies language programs offer beginning through advanced-level courses in all the major languages of the region—Chinese (modern and some classical), Japanese (modern and some classical), and Korean—as well as upper-division content courses conducted in each of the vernaculars. We have recently added basic instruction in Vietnamese. The department encourages its students to study abroad in East Asia and provides guidance in the selection of appropriate programs.
The Department of East Asian Studies also serves as a hub for scholars and students at Brown who work on East Asia in different departments. Affiliates of the department in American Studies, Anthropology, Comparative Literature, English, Environmental Studies, History, History of Art and Architecture, Literary Arts, Political Science, and Religious Studies cross-list many of their courses with the department and may advise East Asian Studies concentrators. The department also administers the East Asia Colloquium, which hosts outside lectures, paper presentations by faculty and graduate students, and workshops on East Asia.