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The cultures of Asia are among the world’s oldest and most enduring, and they also play an increasingly important role in modern-world affairs. Emigrant peoples of Asia have reshaped the cultures of the rest of the world in profound ways, expanding what is thought of as Asia beyond national and continental boundaries to include diaspora cultures in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Africa. Asia’s many distinct and interrelated civilizations are thus both ancient, dating to the Neolithic era, and widespread, geographically spanning the globe. The economic and political centers of Asia include the two most populous nations in the world and two of the three largest economies in the world. Thus, Asian Studies challenges students to explore some of the most influential and widespread cultures on the globe.
Because of this wide-ranging historical and geographic scope, Asian Studies must employ an interdisciplinary approach. The core requirement for the major in Asian Studies is a team-taught, interdisciplinary course, which offers students an opportunity to explore the breadth of disciplinary approaches to this study area. Further Asian Studies courses may be found in the departments of political science, economics, history, English, international languages and cultures, philosophy and religious studies, art history and theater, film and media studies. This “area studies” approach demands that students take an active and conscious part in designing their major in Asian Studies.
The Asian Studies faculty strongly recommends that students anchor their study of Asia in language study and study abroad. In addition to Chinese language offerings on-campus, St. Mary’s offers study-abroad programs at Fudan University in Shanghai, China; Lingnan University in Hong Kong, China; Akita University in Japan; and Kerala University in India. Students may pursue the study of other Asian languages through study-abroad programs in other Asian countries, or students may choose to attend language programs at other universities and colleges in the U.S. No study of Asia and its cultures is complete without the study of an Asian language.
In addition to broadening student horizons in the liberal arts, Asian Studies provides excellent preparation for a future career in the U.S. Foreign Service, the United Nations, international non-governmental organizations, multi-national business, and advanced academic studies.