Requirements for the Major in Asian Studies
Students major in Asian studies by focusing on a particular geographic and cultural area—China, Japan, East Asia, or South Asia—or by specializing in the subfield of disciplinary Asian studies. Eight courses are required in addition to the study of an Asian language.


Language requirements: Two years of an East Asian language; or one year of a South Asian language; or the equivalent through intensive language study.

  • In addition to the required two years of language study, students may apply up to three, advanced intermediate (2205–2206) or advanced (3307–3308) East Asian language courses toward the total of eight required courses.
  • The College does not directly offer courses in any South Asian language. Arrangements may be made with the director of the program and the Office of the Registrar to transfer credits from another institution, or students may meet this requirement by studying Sinhala on the ISLE Program or Tamil on the SITA Program.

Area-specific option requirements: China, Japan, or East Asia require eight courses, seven of which should focus on the geographical area of specialization, and one in an area outside that specialization.

  • Up to three credits from off-campus study (excluding first- and second-year language courses) may count toward the eight required courses.
  • Students specializing in China must take one pre-modern course in China (2000–2049), and one modern course in China (2050–2249).
  • Students specializing in Japan must take one pre-modern course in Japan (2250–2299), and one modern course in Japan (2300–2499).
  • Students focusing on South Asia require two of the following three areas:
    • Anthropology (2500–2749)
    • History (1026–1038), (1550–1774), (2500–2749), or (2750–2969)
    • Religion (2500–2749) or (2750–2969)

Disciplinary-based option requirements: Students must consult their advisor concerning course selection.

  • At least five courses must be in the chosen discipline, e.g., government, history, literature and visual culture, religion, and other approved areas. One of those five courses must be an advanced course (3000–4079) in the discipline of focus.
  • Three remaining courses must explore related themes or relate to the student’s language study. The study of an Asian language must be in one of the student’s areas of study.
  • Of the eight courses required in total, a maximum of three may be advanced intermediate (2205–2206) or advanced (3307–3308) East Asian language courses. Up to three credits from off-campus study (excluding first- and second-year language courses) may count toward these eight courses.

Additional notes concerning both area-specific and disciplinary-based option requirements:

  • Senior seminar is required (3000–4079) and must be taken at Bowdoin.
  • One first-year seminar may count for the major.
  • One course taken with the Credit/D/Fail grading option may count for the major as long as a CR (Credit) grade is earned and the course is not at the 3000 level.
  • Students must earn a grade of C- or better in order to have a course count for the major.

Requirements for the Minor in Asian Studies

Students minor in Asian studies by focusing on the traditions of either East Asia or South Asia.

Required courses:

  • For East Asia, five courses in one geographic area, or four courses in one geographic area and one course outside that area of specialization.
  • Specialization in South Asia requires five courses. Of those five, two intermediate courses (2500–2749) focusing on South Asia are required from two of the following three areas: anthropology, history, or religion.
  • Two courses may be advanced language courses (2205–3308).
  • Up to two credits from off-campus study (excluding first- and second-year language courses) may count.
  • One course taken with the Credit/D/Fail grading option may count for the minor as long as a CR (Credit) grade is earned and the course is not at the 3000 level.
  • Students must earn a grade of C- or better in order to have a course count for the minor.
  • One first-year seminar may count for the minor.

Requirements for the Minor in Chinese or Japanese Language
Required courses:

  • Four courses are required in the chosen language.
  • One additional course may be either an advanced language class or a literature, film, art history, or visual culture course in the area of language study, including a first-year seminar.
  • Students who have a background in the language must take four classes in their chosen language from the point where they are placed in the placement exam.
  • Up to two credits from an approved off-campus study program may count for the minor.
  • One course taken with the Credit/D/Fail grading option may count for the minor as long as a CR (Credit) grade is earned and the course is not at the 3000 level.
  • Students must earn a grade of C- or better in order to have a course count for the minor.

Off-Campus Study
Study abroad for students interested in Asian studies is highly recommended. Established programs in the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are available for students interested in China. Students are particularly encouraged to attend the ACC, CET, and IUP programs, and the Middlebury Program in Kunming. The SILS at Waseda University, IES at Nanzan University, and JCMU programs are recommended for students interested in Japan, but students may select another program based upon their academic interests. The ISLE and SITA programs are recommended for students interested in South Asia. Students should consult with the Asian studies office or website, and the Office of Off-Campus Study for information about these and other programs.

Up to three credits from off-campus study (excluding first- and second-year language courses) may count toward the major. Up to two credits from off-campus study (excluding language courses) may count for the minors.


Program Honors
A student who wishes to graduate with honors in the program must also write an honors thesis, which is normally a one-year project. Students contemplating honors candidacy in the program must have earned a B or above in program course offerings and present clearly articulated, well-focused proposals for scholarly research. Students must prepare an honors thesis and successfully defend their theses in an oral examination.

(Department/Program website)