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First year

Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2

First semester (Fall semester)

Introduction to Asian Studies 5
Thesis & Methods Classes 5

Advanced Japanese Language

Advanced Reading & Writing in Japanese 1 (120 EC) 10

Elective (select 10EC):

Anthropology of Japan 10
Asia through Consumption 10
Topical Readings in Classical Japanese 10
The Politics of Digital East Asia 10
Constructing Digital Language Toolkits 10
Material Culture, Memory and Commemoration along the Silk Roads in Central Asia 10
The Visual and Material Culture of Exchange in Asia and Europe, 1500-1800 10
Reading the Bodhicaryāvatāra 5
Contemporary Japan’s Economy in Global Economic Crises 10

Second semester (Spring semester)

Advanced reading & writing in Japanese 2 (120 EC) 5

Elective (select 10EC):

Democratizing Histories 10
Democratizing Histories 5
Crime and Criminal Justice: East Asian Perspectives 10
Word and Image in Premodern Japanese Culture: Reworking the Classics 10
Academic Year in Japan A 15

Second year

Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2

First semester (Fall semester)

Academic Year in Japan B 25
Thesis Tutorial 1 5

Second semester (Spring semester)

Academic Year in Japan C 5
Advanced Reading & Writing in Japanese 3 (120 EC) 5
Thesis Tutorial 2 5
MA Thesis Asian Studies (120 EC) 15

more info on year in Japan

All students in the Japan 120 track will spend a year in Japan at one of Leiden’s partner universities. The Japan year in our programme follows the normal Japanese University year, and runs from early April in the students first year of enrollment – after the first semester and the first period of the 2nd semester – to late March the next year. The last period of the 2nd semester of the 2nd year is again spent in Leiden writing the MA final thesis and taking the highest level of Advanced Language Training.

Currently, Leiden’s partner universities in Japan include: Doshisha University, Keio University, Kobe University, Kyoto University, Kyushu University, Meiji University, Nagasaki University, Rikkyo University, Ritsumeikan University, Sophia University, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, University of Tokyo, Waseda University and Yamagata University. The number of places available varies by year and placement is based on availability and students’ interests. Here you can find more information on the selection process. Students will be assigned to one of the partner universities in early September of their first year, and prepare for departure in March the following year.

During their stay in Japan, students will enroll at the partner university as full-time students. Courses normally include Japanese language as well as content courses of their choice of level 400 or 500. The type of courses available vary by university and program, but always include language courses as well as courses on specific disciplinary topics or Japanese society, culture, and history.

As one of the primary goals of the Japan stay is to improve Japanese language skills, students are required to earn 30 ECTS (or 15 tan’i) in Japanese language courses or other (content) courses taught in Japanese. Students should specify which courses they intend to follow during their stay in Japan, using the form of the Japanese Language Acquisition Plan. The form is due to the Examinations Committee on June 1 (semester 1) and October 1 (semester II). Students may also submit a plan for the entire year on June 1.

During their stay in Japan, students are also expected to complete research and writing for their MA thesis in form of Thesis Tutorials, and regularly report on their progress in form of Thesis Tutorial I and Thesis Tutorial II. The stay in Japan offers a unique opportunity to access Japanese academic literature and primary sources on the topic of interest, and conduct research for their thesis. Students will conduct their research in Japan in consultation with their thesis advisor (who will be assigned in October of their first year); the nature of research and research activities varies by field and topic.

Critical Heritage Studies

MA focus Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe

‘There is, really, no such thing as heritage’, states Laurajane Smith in her acclaimed book The Uses of Heritage (2006). According to her, heritage is an ‘inherently political and discordant’ practice used by different interest-groups with varying degrees of legitimacy. The MA focus on Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe explores the politics of heritage and the questions of their legitimacy. Who controls heritage? What is the role of heritage in the constructed narratives of nationalism? How is heritage being used as a cultural practice to shape the discourses on nation-building and nation-branding?
The process of heritage-making entails various forms of conflict over the definition, ownership, and use of cultural attributes. Originally a concept coined by the nation-state, heritage has become the object of intellectual reclamation by academics, activists and associations. Institutional and non-institutional social actors in Asia and in Europe are increasingly involved in debating the legitimacy as well as the need to “safeguard” different expressions of heritage. Furthermore, heritage is being used as a marketable commodity for the sake of tourism.
Students enrolled in this focus will examine key issues, concepts, and international frameworks related to the disputed distinction between tangible and intangible heritage. The courses will also explore the genesis and working practices of international heritage administration, charters and conventions. Students will gain insight into the rights and responsibilities of organizations such as ICCROM, ICOMOS and UNESCO. Furthermore, the social impact of heritage themes such as diaspora, ethnicity, and nationalism will be analyzed. Current critiques of the heritage concepts of “authenticity” and “sustainability” will be provided. The courses will also elaborate on the notions of “collective” and “social” memory. In this context, special attention will be paid to the museum as a facilitating actor in the process of understanding and showcasing cultural identity. Students will review case studies of tangible and intangible heritage from Europe and Asia to see how heritage has taken on new and sometimes unintended meanings in the midst of social change, asserting religious identity and political upheaval. Students will be further encouraged to produce their own case studies and approach heritage as a growing interdisciplinary field. The course work will prepare them for careers as researchers, policy-makers, activists and practitioners.

Focus courses

The MA focus Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe consists of compulsory and elective courses. Besides the general MA Asian Studies compulsory courses, the focus offers two compulsory heritage courses – “Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies” (e-Prospectus 5174KHER) at the Faculty of Humanities, and “Heritage and Museum Studies 2” (e-Prospectus 1044M08Y) at the Faculty of Archaeology. Elective courses are offered at the Faculty of Humanities and at the Faculty of Archaeology.


The focus Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe, jointly initiated by the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), considers Asia as a fertile source of both theoretical and methodological insights in this highly contested arena.
Since colonial times, European-based concepts and technical approaches to conservation have dominated the understanding of heritage in Asia, in most cases through top-down imposition of ideas and processes. It is this hegemonic discourse, usually promoted by developmentalist states in Asia and elsewhere, as well as various processes of indigenous response, that this focus area is intended to highlight.

Double Degree Programme

The focus on Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe forms part of a wider ambition to decentralize the production of knowledge and social agency by establishing a network of partner universities located in Asia and Europe. The contributing institutions have already established a fruitful collaboration in research and teaching. In this context, the study of heritage is re-configured as a means of reconceptualising relations between Asia and Europe in terms of mutual respect and exchange, and the creative exploration of cultural forms and practices.
Within this wider ambition, apart from the MA degree from Leiden University, students can also engage in a Double Degree Programme, offered by Leiden University, the IIAS and one of the Asian partner universities, including National Taiwan University (Taiwan) and Yonsei University (South Korea). In order to attend courses at the National Taiwan University, which are partially given in English and Chinese, students are required to have HSK Level 4 in Chinese. All courses at the Yonsei University are given in English.
As far as certification in the Double Degree Programme is concerned, upon successful completion students will obtain three certificates in total: the Leiden University MA diploma, the partner university MA diploma (two-year programme, of which the Leiden MA qualifies as one year) and a separate certificate for the Double MA Degree in Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe, issued by IIAS. The focus on Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe prepares students to work in the following areas: academic research, planning, museum management, tourism industries, and heritage conservation.


For more information, please contact Dr. Elena Paskaleva at: