Asian Languages and Civilizations invites students to combine the serious study of language—Arabic, Chinese, or Japanese—with rigorous, interdisciplinary courses that explore East Asia, South Asia, West Asia, and Pan-Asia. Taken together, these courses engage some of the oldest and continuous civilizations as well as the most populous region of the world—by some estimates, Asia comprises nearly 60% of the world’s population today.
We believe in the importance of engaging Asia intellectually because we recognize that racism and prejudice, broadly conceived, remains endemic worldwide and affects us all. Central to the important work of challenging racism is serious engagement with others, those often deemed foreign and external, with their experiences, contexts, and ideas. Knowledge and the ability to communicate across linguistic divides break the self/other construction at the heart of racism, and reveals many commonalities, even as it enables us to respect our differences. Knowledge and language are thus at the heart of all attempts to break down “otherness” that leads to and sustains stereotypes and prejudice in all its varied forms. We believe combatting racism and prejudice not only involves identifying specific instances directed against specific populations, but also destabilizing essentialism more radically, challenging binary constructions of self and other—one might say provincializing the self. Learning about many Asian cultures, and their internal diversities over time, is the mandate of the ASLC department—it is intrinsic to all of our courses, from language, literature, art, history, etc.
For these reasons, whether through literature, film, art, architecture, political science, anthropology, religion, or history, Asian Languages and Civilizations invites you to engage this vital and significant part of our world. We are particularly interested in cultural difference and its social and political implications, both within Asia and between Asia and other parts of the world.
Our majors acquire a minimum of third-year level competency in their chosen language and combine that with a highly individualized course of study. Students often study abroad in China, Japan, Korea, Egypt, and Jordan, furthering their language development and experiencing directly local societies and cultures.
What is a major in Asian Languages and Civilizations good for? A few of our graduates pursue graduate degrees in Asian Studies or a related field, but most do not. From Google to law school, education to government service, our majors apply their language, critical-thinking skills, and cross-cultural sensitivities to a wide range of careers in the United States and in Asia.
If you are interested in exploring any of our languages, but have no prior exposure, we recommend you start with the 100-level introductory courses in Arabic, Chinese, or Japanese. If you have some prior exposure to a language you are interested in, please consult the recommendations under “Language Placement Info” on our department website. Our lecturers will help you identify a suitable course level. Our culture courses are all taught in English and we are offering a number of introductory surveys of China, Japan, the Islamic World, Buddhism, and more in Fall 2021.
If you have any questions about courses in Asian Languages and Civilizations, or about the major, please contact the department chair, Prof. Samuel Morse at any time.