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Kerncurriculum: Area Studies


Admission requirements



Area studies is an approach to knowledge that starts from the study of places in the human world. It refers to the collection and interpretation of information from societies normally separate from the observer in time and/or space. This course is especially concerned with what happens to knowledge as a result of the displacement between observer and observed. It is designed to draw attention to some of the challenges of looking at different societies, and to inspire critical reflection on some of the givens of our ways of constructing knowledge. Since we primarily study Asian, African and Middle Eastern societies from the vantage point of a European university, a lot will be said about events pivotal in shaping what has become (and is un-becoming) ‘Western’ scholarship, and the relationship between the modern university and the creation of the global. Along the way, you will be introduced to some contemporary bodies of theory and method which may well be directly applicable to your specific regional interests – whatever they may be. The discussion will be illustrated by case studies from a variety of times and places – India and the global economy before 1800, Maoist histories in China, Captain Cook and the Hawaiians, Japanese visions of modernity and modern visions of Japan, modern Arab nationalism and Islamism, and many others.

Course objectives

  • to develop an introductory-level familiarity with some of the major theoretical and methodological challenges involved in Area Studies.

  • to foster “global positioning sensitivity” based on an awareness that there is no single objective position from which to observe the world

  • to develop a basic familiarity with approaches from a variety of social science and humanities disciplines involved in Area Studies

  • to develop a basic awareness of interdisciplinary approaches to Area Studies, their advantages and challenges

  • through encounters with a series of comparative case studies in different places and times, to develop a broad perspective open to the specifics of local cultural, historical and social experience as well as their inter-relationship and interdependence at the global level

  • to become familiar with some of the foundational texts and theories of contemporary area studies.


The timetable is available on the Name programme Roosterpagina opleiding website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

140 hours, of which:

  • 12 × 2 (24): attending the lectures

  • 10 × 4 (40): preparing for the lectures (readings)

  • 12 × 4 (48): revising the lectures (readings, notes, recordings)

  • 24: studying for the exam(s)

  • 4: exam(s)

Assessment method

Students in the course are graded according to their performance in the following segments, in the following proportions:
Midterm exam : 30%
Final exam: 70%
In order to pass the course, the average of the combined score on the mid-term and final exams must be a passing grade.
Students whose average score on the two exams is less than a passing grade must pass the combined resit (hertentamen) in order to pass the course. The score on the combined resit replaces the previous score on the mid-term and final combined.



Reading list

  1. Pankaj Mishra. From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia. London: Penguin, 2013. PLEASE PURCHASE (reasonable priced paperback available from amazon).
    1. David L. Szanton (ed.). The Politics of Knowledge: Area Studies and the Disciplines. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004, UCP escholarship open access at
    2. Various further scholarly articles and chapters available online.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Yes, open to ALL and ANY students.

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs




not applicable