Overview and Learning Goals


The Asian Studies Program offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Asia that spans the regions of East Asia, South and Southeast Asia, and the Asian diaspora. In addition to language study, students may take courses in anthropology, art history, cinema, gender and sexuality studies, government, history, literature and culture, music, religion, and sociology. For the major, each student is required to concentrate in a geographic area or discipline, acquire a working proficiency in one of the languages of East or South Asia, develop theoretical or methodological sophistication, and demonstrate a degree of applied specialization. These principles are reflected in the requirements outlined below.

Learning Goals

The Asian Studies Program provides a multidisciplinary curriculum that develops knowledge regarding the history, politics, religions, societies, and visual and literary cultures 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 multidisciplinary, 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 an approved study-away program;
  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.

Options for Majoring or Minoring in the Program

Students may elect to major in Asian studies or to coordinate a major in Asian studies with digital and computational studies, education, or environmental studies. Students pursuing a coordinate major may not normally elect a second major. Non-majors may elect to minor in Asian studies, Chinese, or Japanese. 

Program Website

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