Area studies

Area studies

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Area studies are interdisciplinary fields of research and scholarship pertaining to particular geographical
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

, nation
Nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

al/federal
Federal government
The federal government is the common government of a federation. The structure of federal governments varies from institution to institution. Based on a broad definition of a basic federal political system, there are two or more levels of government that exist within an established territory and...

, or cultural
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 regions. The term exists primarily as a general description for what are, in the practice of scholarship, many heterogeneous fields of research, encompassing both the social sciences
Social sciences
Social science is the field of study concerned with society. "Social science" is commonly used as an umbrella term to refer to a plurality of fields outside of the natural sciences usually exclusive of the administrative or managerial sciences...

 and the humanities
Humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

. Typical area studies programs involve history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

, sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, cultural studies
Cultural studies
Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

, languages, geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

, literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, and related disciplines. In contrast to cultural studies, area studies often include diaspora
Diaspora
A diaspora is "the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland" or "people dispersed by whatever cause to more than one location", or "people settled far from their ancestral homelands".The word has come to refer to historical mass-dispersions of...

 and emigration
Emigration
Emigration is the act of leaving one's country or region to settle in another. It is the same as immigration but from the perspective of the country of origin. Human movement before the establishment of political boundaries or within one state is termed migration. There are many reasons why people...

 from the area studied.

History


Interdisciplinary area studies became increasingly popular in the United States and in Western scholarship after World War II. Before the war, American universities had just a few faculty who taught or conducted research on the non-Western world. Foreign area studies were virtually nonexistent. After the war, liberals and conservatives alike were concerned about the U.S. ability to respond effectively to perceived external threats from the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and the emerging Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, as well as to the fall-out from the decolonization
Decolonization
Decolonization refers to the undoing of colonialism, the unequal relation of polities whereby one people or nation establishes and maintains dependent Territory over another...

 of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

.

In this context, the Ford Foundation
Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is a private foundation incorporated in Michigan and based in New York City created to fund programs that were chartered in 1936 by Edsel Ford and Henry Ford....

, the Rockefeller Foundation
Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is a prominent philanthropic organization and private foundation based at 420 Fifth Avenue, New York City. The preeminent institution established by the six-generation Rockefeller family, it was founded by John D. Rockefeller , along with his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr...

, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carnegie Corporation of New York, which was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 "to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding," is one of the oldest, largest and most influential of American foundations...

 convened a series of meetings producing a broad consensus that to address this knowledge deficit, the U.S. must invest in international studies. Therefore, the foundations of the field are strongly rooted in America. Participants argued that a large brain trust of internationally-oriented political scientists and economists was an urgent national priority. There was a central tension, however, between those who felt strongly that, instead of applying Western models, social scientists should develop culturally and historically contextualized knowledge of various parts of the world by working closely with humanists, and those who thought social scientists should seek to develop overarching macrohistorial theories that could draw connections between patterns of change and development across different geographies. The former became area studies advocates, the latter proponents of modernization theory
Modernization theory
Modernization theory is a theory used to explain the process of modernization within societies. The theory looks at the internal factors of a country while assuming that, with assistance, "traditional" countries can be brought to development in the same manner more developed countries have...

.

The Ford Foundation
Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is a private foundation incorporated in Michigan and based in New York City created to fund programs that were chartered in 1936 by Edsel Ford and Henry Ford....

 would eventually become the dominant player in shaping the area studies program in the United States.

In 1950, the foundation established the prestigious Foreign Area Fellowship Program (FAFP), the first large-scale national competition in support of area studies training in the United States. From 1953 to 1966, it contributed $270 million to 34 universities for area and language studies. Also during this period, it poured millions of dollars into the committees run jointly by the Social Science Research Council
Social Science Research Council
The Social Science Research Council is a U.S.-based independent nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing research in the social sciences and related disciplines...

 and the American Council of Learned Societies
American Council of Learned Societies
The American Council of Learned Societies , founded in 1919, is a private nonprofit federation of seventy scholarly organizations.ACLS is best known as a funder of humanities research through fellowships and grants awards. ACLS Fellowships are designed to permit scholars holding the Ph.D...

 for field development workshops, conferences, and publication programs. Eventually, the SSRC-ACLS joint committees would take over the administration of FAFP.

Other large and important programs followed Ford's—most notably, the National Defense Education Act
National Defense Education Act
The National Defense Education Act , signed into law on September 2, 1958, provided funding to United States education institutions at all levels. The act authorized funding for four years, increasing funding per year: for example, funding increased on eight program titles from 183 million dollars...

 of 1957, renamed the Higher Education Act in 1965, which allocated funding for some 125 university-based area studies units known as National Resource Center
National Resource Center
The National Resource Center Program of the U.S. Department of Education provides funding grants to American universities to establish, strengthen, and operate language and area or international studies centers that will be national resources for teaching any modern foreign language.Also known as...

 programs at U.S. universities, as well as for Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships for graduate students.

Controversy within the field


Since their inception, area studies have been subject to critiques—including by area specialists themselves. Many of them alleged that because area studies were connected to the Cold War agendas of the CIA, the FBI, and other intelligence and military agencies, participating in such programs was tantamount to serving as an agent of the state. Some argue, that there is the notion that U.S concerns and research priorities will define the intellectual terrain of area studies. Others insisted, however, that once they were established on university campuses, area studies began to encompass a much broader and deeper intellectual agenda than the one foreseen by government agencies, thus not American centric.

Arguably, one of the greatest threats to the area studies project was the rise of rational choice theory
Rational choice theory
Rational choice theory, also known as choice theory or rational action theory, is a framework for understanding and often formally modeling social and economic behavior. It is the main theoretical paradigm in the currently-dominant school of microeconomics...

 in political science and economics. To paraphrase one of the most outspoken rational choice theory critics, Japan scholar Chalmers Johnson
Chalmers Johnson
Chalmers Ashby Johnson was an American author and professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He served in the Korean War, was a consultant for the CIA from 1967–1973, and chaired the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley from 1967 to 1972...

: Why do you need to know Japanese or anything about Japan's history and culture if the methods of rational choice will explain why Japanese politicians and bureaucrats do the things they do?

Following the demise of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, philanthropic foundations and scientific bureaucracies moved to attenuate their support for area studies, emphasizing instead interregional themes like "development and democracy." When the Social Science Research Council
Social Science Research Council
The Social Science Research Council is a U.S.-based independent nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing research in the social sciences and related disciplines...

 and the American Council of Learned Societies
American Council of Learned Societies
The American Council of Learned Societies , founded in 1919, is a private nonprofit federation of seventy scholarly organizations.ACLS is best known as a funder of humanities research through fellowships and grants awards. ACLS Fellowships are designed to permit scholars holding the Ph.D...

, which had long served as the national nexus for raising and administering funds for area studies, underwent their first major restructuring in thirty years, closing down their area committees, scholars interpreted this as a massive signal about the changing research environment.

Area studies fields


Fields are defined differently from university to university, and from department to department, but common area-studies fields include:

  • African studies
    African studies
    African studies is the study of Africa, especially the cultures and societies of Africa .The field includes the study of:Culture of Africa, History of Africa , Anthropology of Africa , Politics of Africa, Economy of Africa African studies is the study of Africa, especially the cultures and...

    • Egyptology
      Egyptology
      Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion, and art from the 5th millennium BC until the end of its native religious practices in the AD 4th century. A practitioner of the discipline is an “Egyptologist”...

  • American studies
    American studies
    American studies or American civilization is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the study of the United States. It traditionally incorporates the study of history, literature, and critical theory, but also includes fields as diverse as law, art, the media, film, religious studies, urban...

     (in the United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

     this has traditionally referred primarily to North America
    North America
    North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

     and especially the U.S.)
    • American Studies in Britain
      American Studies in Britain
      American Studies as an academic discipline is taught at some British universities and incorporated in several school subjects, such as history, politics and literature. While the United States of America is the focus of most study, American Studies can also include the study of all the Americas,...

    • African American studies
      African American studies
      African American studies is a subset of Black studies or Africana studies. It is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the history, culture, and politics of African Americans...

    • Appalachian studies
      Appalachian studies
      Appalachian studies is the area studies field concerned with the Appalachian region of the United States.-Scholarship:In 1966, West Virginia University librarian Robert F...

    • Asian American studies
      Asian American Studies
      Asian American Studies is an academic discipline which studies the experience of people of Asian ancestry in America. Closely related to other Ethnic Studies disciplines such as African American Studies, Latino/a Studies, and Native American Studies, Asian American Studies critically examines the...

    • Canadian studies
      Canadian Studies
      Canadian Studies is a Collegiate study of Canadian culture, Canadian languages, literature, Quebec, agriculture, history, and their government and politics. Most universities recommend that students take a double major and French, if not included in the course...

    • Native American studies
      Native American Studies
      Native American Studies is an interdisciplinary academic field that examines the history, culture, politics, issues and contemporary experience of Native peoples in North America, or, taking a hemispheric approach, the Americas...

  • Latin American studies
    Latin American Studies
    Latin American studies is an academic discipline dealing with the study of Latin America and Latin Americans.-Definition:Latin American studies critically examines the history, culture, politics, and experiences of Latin Americans in Latin America and often also elsewhere .Latin American studies...

    • Chicano studies
  • Asian studies
    Asian studies
    Asian studies, a term used usually in the United States for Oriental studies and is concerned with the Asian peoples, their cultures, languages, history and politics...

    • Central Asian studies
      Central Asian studies
      Central Asian studies is the discipline of studying the culture, history, and languages of Central Asia. The roots of Central Asian studies as a social science discipline goes to 19th century Anglo-Russian Great Game...

    • Middle Eastern studies
      Middle Eastern studies
      Middle Eastern studies is a name given to a number of academic programs associated with the study of the history, culture, politics, economies, and geography of the Middle East, an area that is generally interpreted to cover a range of nations extending from North Africa in the west to the Chinese...

       (or Near Eastern studies)
      • Assyriology
        Assyriology
        Assyriology is the archaeological, historical, and linguistic study of ancient Mesopotamia and the related cultures that used cuneiform writing. The field covers the Akkadian sister-cultures of Assyria and Babylonia, together with their cultural predecessor; Sumer...

      • Iranian studies
        Iranian Studies
        Iranian studies , is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the study of history, literature, art and culture of the Iranian people. It is a part of the wider field of Oriental studies....

      • Islamic studies
        Islamic studies
        In a Muslim context, Islamic studies can be an umbrella term for all virtually all of academia, both originally researched and as defined by the Islamization of knowledge...

      • Judaic studies
    • East Asian studies
      East Asian studies
      East Asian Studies is a distinct multidisciplinary field of scholarly enquiry and education that promotes a broad humanistic understanding of East Asia past and present...

      • Sinology
        Sinology
        Sinology in general use is the study of China and things related to China, but, especially in the American academic context, refers more strictly to the study of classical language and literature, and the philological approach...

      • Japanology
        Japanology
        Japanese Studies is a term generally used in Europe to describe the historical and cultural study of Japan; in North America, the academic field is usually referred to as Japanese studies, which includes contemporary social sciences as well as classical humanistic fields.European Japanology is the...

      • Korean studies
        Korean studies
        Korean studies is an academic discipline, focusing on the study of Korea. Areas commonly included under this rubric include Korean history, Korean literature, Korean art, Korean music, Korean language, Korean sociology, Korean political science, Korean economics, Korean folklore, and Korean...

      • Okinawan studies
    • South Asian studies
      • Indian studies
        Indology
        Indology is the academic study of the history and cultures, languages, and literature of the Indian subcontinent , and as such is a subset of Asian studies....

        • Dravidology
    • Southeast Asian studies
      Southeast Asian studies
      Southeast Asian Studies refers to research and education on the language, culture, and history of the different states and ethnic groups of Southeast Asia.-Publication:Southeast Asian Studies is also the English name of the Japanese scholarly journal...

      • Burma studies
        Burma studies
        Burma Studies is a grouping used in research universities around the world as a way of bringing together specialists from different disciplines such as history, cultural anthropology, archeology, religious studies, art history, political science, and musicology, who are doing research in these...

      • Indonesian studies
        • Javanology
      • Khmer studies
      • Lao studies
      • Philippine studies
      • Thai studies
        Thai studies
        Thai Studies is an intellectual category used by research universities around the world as a way of bringing together specialists from different disciplines such as history, anthropology, religious studies, political science, Thai language, Thai literature, and musicology who are doing research in...

      • Vietnamese studies
        Vietnamese studies
        Vietnamese studies in general is the study of Vietnam and things related to Vietnam. It refers, especially, to the study of modern Vietnamese and literature, history, ethnology, and the philological approach, respectively....

  • European studies
    European studies
    European studies is a field of study offered by many academic colleges and universities that focuses on current developments in European integration....

    • Byzantine studies
      Byzantine studies
      Byzantine studies is an interdisciplinary branch of the humanities that addresses the history, culture, costumes, religion, art, such as literature and music, science, economy, and politics of the Byzantine Empire. The discipline's founder in Germany is considered to be the philologist Hieronymus...

    • Classical studies
    • Celtic studies
      Celtic Studies
      Celtic studies is the academic discipline occupied with the study of any sort of cultural output relating to a Celtic people. This ranges from linguistics, literature and art history archaeology and history, the focus lying on the study of the various Celtic languages, living and extinct...

       (includes Irish, Scottish & Welsh studies)
    • Dutch studies
      Dutch studies
      Dutch studies may refer to:* the academic study of Dutch culture and language * Japanese Rangaku...

    • German studies
      German studies
      German studies is the field of humanities that researches, documents, and disseminates German language and literature in both its historic and present forms. Academic departments of German studies often include classes on German culture, German history, and German politics in addition to the...

    • Hispanism
      Hispanism
      Hispanism is the study of the literature and culture of the Spanish-speaking world, principally that of Spain and Latin America...

    • Romance studies
      Romance studies
      Romance studies is an umbrella academic discipline that covers the study of the languages, literatures, and cultures of areas that speak a Romance language. Romance studies departments usually include the study of Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese...

    • Scandinavian studies
      Scandinavian studies
      Scandinavian studies is an interdisciplinary academic field of area studies that covers topics related to Scandinavia and the Nordic countries, including their languages, literature, history, culture and society, in countries other than these. As described in the article on Scandinavia, that name...

    • Slavic studies
    • Russian studies
      Russian Studies
      Russian studies is a field of study first developed during the Cold War. It is an interdisciplinary field crossing history and language studies. It is closely related to Soviet and Communist studies...

  • Pacific studies
    Pacific studies
    Pacific studies is the study of the Pacific region across academic disciplines such as anthropology, archeology, art, economics, geography, history, linguistics, literature, music, politics, or sociology....

    • Australian studies
      Australian studies
      -Subfields:*Australian Aboriginals *Australian languages*History of Australia*Australian literature*Politics of Australia*Economy of Australia*Culture of Australia-Institutions:...

    • New Zealand studies
      New Zealand studies
      New Zealand studies is the academic field of Area studies of New Zealand.Subfields:*History of New Zealand*Literature of New Zealand*Politics of New Zealand*Economy of New Zealand*Culture of New ZealandInstitutions in New Zealand:...


Other interdisciplinary research fields such as women's studies
Women's studies
Women's studies, also known as feminist studies, is an interdisciplinary academic field which explores politics, society and history from an intersectional, multicultural women's perspective...

 (also known as gender studies
Gender studies
Gender studies is a field of interdisciplinary study which analyses race, ethnicity, sexuality and location.Gender study has many different forms. One view exposed by the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir said: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one"...

), and ethnic studies
Ethnic studies
Ethnic studies is the interdisciplinary study of racialized peoples in the world in relation to ethnicity. It evolved in the second half of the 20th century partly in response to charges that traditional disciplines such as anthropology, history, English, ethnology, Asian studies, and orientalism...

 (including African American studies
African American studies
African American studies is a subset of Black studies or Africana studies. It is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the history, culture, and politics of African Americans...

, Asian American studies
Asian American Studies
Asian American Studies is an academic discipline which studies the experience of people of Asian ancestry in America. Closely related to other Ethnic Studies disciplines such as African American Studies, Latino/a Studies, and Native American Studies, Asian American Studies critically examines the...

, Latino/a studies
Latino/a Studies
Latino studies is an academic discipline which studies the experience of people of Hispanic ancestry in the United States. Closely related to other ethnic studies disciplines such as African American studies, Asian American studies, and Native American studies, Latino studies critically examines...

, and Native American studies
Native American Studies
Native American Studies is an interdisciplinary academic field that examines the history, culture, politics, issues and contemporary experience of Native peoples in North America, or, taking a hemispheric approach, the Americas...

) are not part of area studies but are sometimes included in discussion along with it.

Area studies institutions


Some entire institutions of higher education (tertiary education) are devoted solely to area studies such as School of Oriental and African Studies
School of Oriental and African Studies
The School of Oriental and African Studies is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the University of London...

, part of the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

, or the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
TUFS is a specialized institution only in foreign language, international affairs and foreign studies, thus it is not as well-known as other big universities such as University of Tokyo and Kyoto University...

 in Japan. At the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

, St Antony's College specialises in area studies, and hosts a number of research centres covering various regions of the world.
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, is the only institution with immense contribution towards popularising area studies in India.

See also

  • Cultural Studies
    Cultural studies
    Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

  • International Studies
    International studies
    International Studies generally refers to the specific University Degrees and courses which are concerned with the study of ‘the major political, economic, social, cultural and sacral issues that dominate the international agenda’...

  • IATIS
  • Library of Congress Country Studies
    Library of Congress Country Studies
    The Country Studies are works published by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress , freely available for use by researchers. No copyright is claimed on them; therefore, they have been dedicated to the public domain and can be copied freely. Note that not all the pictures used...