Requirements

Asian Studies Major

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 a discipline. 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 above language requirement, students may apply up to three advanced intermediate (2205–2206) or advanced (3307–3309) 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. Students should consult with their advisors on choosing an off-campus and/or study abroad program that will meet this language requirement.

Area- or Discipline-Based Requirements

Area-Specific Option Requirements

A concentration in China, Japan, East Asia, or South Asia requires eight courses, six to seven of which must focus on the geographical area of specialization, with up to two courses in an area outside that specialization.

  • 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 must take courses in at least two of the following disciplines:
    • Anthropology (1026–1038), (1550–1774), (2500–2749), or (2750–2969)
    • History (1026–1038), (1550–1774), (2500–2749), or (2750–2969)
    • Religion (1026–1038), (1550–1774), (2500–2749), or (2750–2969)

Discipline-Specific Option Requirements

Students must consult with their advisor concerning course selection.

  • At least five courses must be in the chosen discipline: e.g., government, history, literature and visual culture (English, cinema studies, and art history), religion, or any other approved discipline. One of these 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.

Additional Notes for Majors

Additional notes concerning both area-specific and discipline-based options:

  • A senior seminar (3000–4079) is required and must be taken at Bowdoin.
  • Asian studies majors may not also minor in Chinese or Japanese language.

Asian Studies Minor

Students minor in Asian studies by taking five courses. Of these five, one may be an advanced language course (2205–3309). There are no area-based, disciplinary, or period requirements to the Asian Studies minor.

Chinese Language Minor

Students minor in Chinese language by taking five courses. Of these five:

  • four courses are required Chinese; 
  • one additional course may be either an advanced Chinese language course or a literature, film, art history, or visual culture course focused on China.

Students who have a background in Chinese must take four language courses from the point where they are placed in the placement exam.

Japanese Language Minor

Students minor in Japanese language by taking five courses. Of these five:

  • four courses are required in Japanese; 
  • one additional course may be either an advanced Japanese language course or a literature, film, art history, or visual culture course focused on Japan.

Students who have a background in Japanese must take four language courses from the point where they are placed in the placement exam.

Additional Information and Program Policies

Major and Minors Policies

  • One first-year seminar can count toward the major or minors;

  • One course taken with the Credit/D/Fail grading option may count toward the major or minors as long as a CR (credit) is earned; if the course is taken for the major, it must not be at the 3000 level;

  • Students must earn a grade of C- or better for a course to count toward the major or minors;

  • One course may be allowed to double count toward the major or minors.

Off-Campus Study

Study abroad 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 on their academic interests. Students should consult with their advisors and the Asian studies office or website as well as the Office of International Programs and 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 toward the minors.

Program Honors


Students contemplating an honors project in Asian studies should have the following:

  • a GPA of B+ or higher in program course offerings, or within their track of concentration;
  • a clearly articulated and well-focused research topic; and
  • a high measure of academic motivation and commitment.

An honors project in Asian studies is a significant scholarly undertaking. It is at once an opportunity and a responsibility. It allows students to conduct intensive research in an area of their choosing, work closely with several faculty advisors, and contribute their voice to an ongoing scholarly dialogue. It takes students into the library and sometimes beyond campus in search for materials and ideas that students make their own. It is, in many ways, what faculty members do in their own scholarly work.

Students interested in pursuing an honors project in Asian studies are highly encouraged to consult with their advisors early in the spring semester of their junior year.


This is an excerpt from the official Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook. View the Catalogue