The Concentration

East Asian Studies Concentration 

2017-18 Director of Undergraduate Studies: 
Kaijun Chen, Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies

The educational and intellectual objectives of the Concentration in East Asian Studies are: 1) to develop a multi-disciplinary perspective on the study of East Asia, 2) to attain basic proficiency in one of the major East Asian languages, and 3) to study in some depth particular aspects of East Asian culture and society.  The concentration serves students with two different types of academic and professional interests: those who wish to pursue active professional careers related to the East Asian region with a variety of government agencies, international organizations, or in the private sector; and those who will continue their education at the graduate level in the humanities or social sciences with special emphasis on China, Japan or Korea.

Brown has, for an institution of its size, one of the most vigorous and distinguished faculties in East Asian Studies in the country. Students have responded to globalization by thinking of the languages and cultures of East Asia, not as the exclusive domain of esoteric study, but as opportunities that are part of their general education. Even a decade ago, an American addressing a Chinese, Japanese or Korean on the street in their own language would have been a curiosity, but no longer. Faculty and students have all demonstrated outstanding dedication to bringing the study of East Asia into the mainstream of Brown's curriculum and intellectual community.

We expect our concentrators, first, to acquire a working knowledge of an East Asian language of their choice through a minimum of six semesters of training, most likely combined with one or two semesters and/or a summer of study abroad. Our specific goals are: a) to have students obtain advanced level reading skills in the target language, which will enable them to use primary sources written in the original language, b) to enable them with the fluency with which to function in most professional settings (e.g. working in businesses, participating in governmental and/or global non-profit organizations, or conducting interviews in the target language), and c) to prepare students to enter specialized fields (e.g. entering graduate programs, or working as translators).

Second, we expect our concentrators to gain a cultural awareness and sensitivity, and an understanding of the historical and cultural experiences of China, Japan, and/or Korea. They will be expected to understand the cultures of these nation-states as part of a broader East Asian experience as well as part of a global experience. Gaining deeper knowledge of the history, culture, social values, and literary and religious traditions of these three countries is a crucial part of this process. That said, students will also be expected to develop multi-disciplinary and transnational perspectives on the study of East Asia.

Our concentrators themselves consist of students from very diverse backgrounds, but we also have an increasing number of students who are taking courses on more than one language and culture, and several of our classes emphasize approaches that look at multiple East Asian countries in relation to each other. Finally, our students will be expected to develop critical thinking skills as a part of approaching East Asia from these historical, cultural and comparative perspectives.

How to declare East Asian Studies as a concentration