Asian Studies First Year Courses

DirectorD. Yamamoto

Asia holds a unique and vital place within the globalizing world of the early 21st century. Home to an extraordinary range of linguistic and ethnic groups, this broad and dynamic region is rich in cultural and environmental diversity. Engaging the many changes taking place in Asian societies today requires a similarly diverse set of intellectual skills. To this end, the Asian Studies Program at Colgate integrates scholarly approaches spanning the humanities and social sciences: from literature, art, and religion to history, politics, economics, and geography. The Asian studies major encourages students to undertake their own interdisciplinary explorations of this region.

In addition to a wide variety of courses on diverse aspects of Asia, the program encourages students to participate in a study abroad program centered in Kunming (China), Kyoto (Japan), Seoul (Korea) or extended study opportunities in Japan and China. Students are also invited to consider living in the Asia Interest House, which provides a stimulating living and learning environment.

Each year, the Asian Studies Program offers a diverse range of courses and an exciting program of films, speakers, artistic performances, and exhibits. These activities usually complement course offerings, but they are normally open to the public as well.

A number of Asian studies courses are open to first-year students. The earlier you start learning about Asia, the better chance you have to spend an unforgettable semester there before you graduate.



Examines certain subjects and styles in order to comprehend the roles of art shaping our understanding of the Himalayas, the area designated by the impressive mountain range dividing the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan plateau. Students also consider art within complex political events that have occurred there.

Considers the development of collections of South Asian art spanning the period of colonial collecting through the twentieth century. What resulted from shifting definitions of South Asian art as art when American museums began to develop significant collections in the 20th century? How did new trajectories of collecting develop as a consequence of the achievement of independence by India? And how did new concerns in the Cold War era ranging from politics to beatniks spark further interest?

A focus on East Asia's pictorial arts — especially paintings and prints, but also film and new media — from prehistoric times through the 21st century. This chronological survey begins with China, switches to Japan after the mid-term break, and spends the last few classes comparing these regions and taking a longer view of each. Student work focuses upon close analysis of visual materials and scholarly essays, and on the challenges of integrating visual and verbal information.

This introduction to modern standard Chinese emphasizes understanding and speaking, with practice in reading and writing approximately 300 characters in either traditional or simplified forms. It covers basic structural patterns and vocabulary needed for ordinary conversation as well as future development.

Offers continued training in Modern Standard Chinese, with emphasis on reading and writing skills. Grammar review is combined with introduction to variations in speech and writing. Recitation and conversation sessions, role-play, and skits reinforce listening and speaking ability. By the end of the year, students may expect to communicate in both speech and writing on everyday topics.

Offers a wide-ranging and challenging introduction to contemporary India — its famed social, political and cultural diversity, its conflicts and contradictions, its literature and history. India as it is known today, with its population of more than a billion, is a recent creation, a product of the partition of the South Asian colonies of the British Raj (Empire). How has such a diverse region come together, and been held together, as one nation? How have its conflicts and contradictions — of class, caste, ethnicity, language, religion and politics — been managed by its rulers and politicians? How have these conflicts and contradictions been captured in novels and on film? The course goal is to subject the “Idea of India” to a detailed investigation, beginning in the present, and working through a process of excavation, discovery, and critique.

Engages in dialogue with popular discourses, scholarly literature, and primary information sources of Japan and those who live in the island nation state. Focuses on key social and cultural issues that characterize contemporary Japan while also paying attention to its historical experiences and traditions that variably shape the present. Examines such topics as changing ‘western’ views on the Japanese, diversity in Japanese society, socio-demographic challenges, literature and religion, Japanese political economy and globalization, societal response to natural disasters, and popular culture. Employs a wide range of learning methods, including lecture, class discussion, films, hands-on experiences (e.g., calligraphy), and intensive projects which require students to collect, analyze, and synthesize a wide range of scholarly and non-scholarly sources. Ultimately aims to nurture students’ ability to understand and empathize with the logic (and illogic), experiences and emotions of the Japanese people; that is to say, to understand them as you would understand yourselves.

An introduction to significant debates and texts in the field of postcolonial literatures. This course explores how the field engages with questions of race, gender, sexuality, class, caste, and migration. It considers how writers located in the global south or in the West as migrants navigate their spaces when faced with inequality and marginalization. The course examines both the legacies that empires have left and the nature of new empires that are being constructed.

Surveys the history of South Asian from the expansion of the Mughal Empire in the early modern period and the rise of the British colonial power in the 18th and 19th centuries to the emergences of modern nation states. The course also looks at the different political, economic, and cultural trajectories that these nation states, particularly India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, have taken since independence. With the aim of developing a historical perspective to the complex and often paradoxical social, religious, and political identities that the region of South Asia exhibits today, this course introduces students to a diverse set of primary sources ranging from Mughal court chronicles, European travel accounts and autobiographies to public speeches and official correspondences. Although this course complements the survey of the ancient and medieval history of South Asia taught in HIST 268, no prior background in South Asian history is required. (AS)

The first semester of intermediate-level study of Japanese, this course completes the presentation of basic structures of the language. There is continued emphasis on oral communication, with practice in reading simple texts and acquisition of an additional 500 Chinese characters by the end of the term.