Department Learning Goals


The Asian Studies Program provides a multi-disciplinary curriculum that develops knowledge regarding the history, politics, religion, society, and visual and literary culture of East Asia and South Asia. Majors concentrate on a geographical area (China, Japan, South Asia, or East Asia) or pursue a comparative study of several Asian areas through a sustained focus on a discipline (e.g., government, history, literature and visual culture, or religion). This is combined with sustained training in a relevant Asian language. Besides being multi-disciplinary, the Asian Studies major also emphasizes broad temporal and regional scope; students thus pursue at least one course outside their chosen area of focus as well as at least one course each in premodern and modern Asia.

A fair number of Asian Studies majors are double majors, finding fruitful connections between Asian Studies and disciplines such as political science, economics, art history, and environmental studies.

In the Asian Studies Program, students will develop the following skills:

  1. Learn about the language, literature, religion, visual culture, gender relations, history and politics of a non-western region and cultivate alternative perspectives on globalization;

  2. Develop a broad historical and cross-regional understanding of Asia;

  3. Demonstrate basic proficiency in an East Asian language consistent with two years of academic study at Bowdoin; for South Asia majors, this expectation is met by intensive language study for one semester in India or Sri Lanka;

  4. Read primary texts critically and situate them in their historical, social, cultural, and political contexts, as well as interrogate key assumptions in secondary texts and provide informed responses and critiques;

  5. Write analytical arguments and speak clearly and articulately about Asia and its diaspora; and

  6. Conduct independent research using primary and secondary sources, applying theories and methods developed within the discipline or field.