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The Information Age Across Asia and the Middle East


Admission requirements

This course is open to students of the MA Asian Studies (research) or MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) only. Other students who are interested need to get permission from the Board of Admissions. To obtain this permission they need to contact the student advisor, Ms. Nicole A.N.M. van Os.


How do information and knowledge cross national and regional borders? How do information systems create global and regional networks which facilitate new technologies and change society? This course studies how Information, information technologies and the transfer of knowledge have contributed to social, political, religious and economic change in the past, and how they do so today.

The course achieves this in two phases. In Phase One (the first half of the semester) we read together a range of scholarly literature from different disciplines about the Information age and the utilizations of information and knowledge in medieval, early-modern, modern and contemporary development, politics, society, religion and commerce. In Phase Two each Research Masters student presents her or his own mini-project discussing ‘The Information Age’ in relation to their own research area and historical or contemporary period. In the second half of the seminar we thereby learn from each other’s specialist areas of research, confronting research on Japan with that on the Middle East, China with India and Korea, the early-modern past with the post-modern present, etc. The idea is to stimulate a comparative approach for thinking about the meaning of an “Information Age” across Asia, the Middle East and beyond.

Course objectives

“The Information Age” is an expression commonly used to refer to an important facet of contemporary globalization. But the term is also used in scholarly writing to discuss the role of Asian knowledge and information systems in much earlier processes of modernization. Modernization in Japan, China and India have all recently been explained through theories which discuss the existence of an “information order” in eighteenth century Asia and the Middle East. This seminar seeks to confront and resolve with each other these different historical and contemporary scholarly approaches to information and knowledge.

The pedagogical aims of the seminar include developing student’s ability to:

  • carry out semi-independent research on topics related to information and knowledge history,

  • present area-specific research in a cross-area and cross disciplinary environment,

  • analyse the relationship between historical and contemporary social science academic literature in a given field,

  • originate and orally present a plan for an original, small piece of research,

  • present a small research project outcome in a professional written format.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Assessment method

  • Web-postings on set readings: 20% (of final grade)

  • Research Presentation: 20% (of final grade)

  • Research Paper: 60% (of final grade)



Reading list

Will be provided on Blackboard in first week of semester.


Enrollment via uSis

Registration Contractonderwijs



Dhr. Dr. K.N. Paramore