Director: Akira R. Takemoto, Japanese  
Jakobina Arch, History
Melisa S.L. Casumbal-Salazar, Politics 
Brian Dott, History
Tarik Elseewi, Film and Media Studies
Krista Gulbransen, Art History and Visual Cultural Studies
Donghui He, Chinese (on Sabbatical, Fall 2015)
Qiulei Hu, Chinese
Charles McKhann, Anthropology
Lauren Osborne, Religion 
Elyse Semerdjian, History
Yukiko Shigeto, Japanese 
Jonathan S. Walters, Religion

Affiliated Faculty:
Shampa Biswas, Politics
Philip D. Brick, Politics
Gaurav Majumdar, English (on Sabbatical, Fall 2015) 

Adjunct Language Faculty:
Hitomi Johnson, Japanese
Wencui Zhao, Chinese

Asian Studies Website »

The Asian studies program aims to create a better understanding of Asian cultures and their place in the world through an integrated course of interdisciplinary study. The structure of requirements and electives (see below) is designed to ensure a comprehensive education, while still allowing participating students latitude to develop their own interests. Additional guidance will be provided by an adviser chosen from among the faculty who regularly offer Asia-related courses.

Learning Goals: Upon graduation, a student will be able to:

  • Major-Specific Areas of Knowledge
    • Understand and engage in discussions about issues in the Asian studies field.
  • Accessing Academic Community/Resources
    • Comprehend, digest, and analyze scholarly works with attention to the author’s thesis, methodology, structure of argument and use of evidence.
  • Critical Thinking
    • Develop skills of critical analysis that are broadly transferable.
  • Research Experience
    • Demonstrate depth of understanding and mastery of a research area through researching and writing a senior thesis.

The Asian Studies major: The Asian studies major consists of 53 credits divided into three main areas: language courses, required courses, and elective courses which fulfill area and subject distribution.

Language Courses: Asian studies majors must complete two years of an Asian language at Whitman (currently Chinese or Japanese), or the equivalent (16 credits). Language classes above 206 can be used to meet distribution credit requirements (see below). Students opting to take at least a full year (eight credits) of a second Asian language (at any level) also may apply those credits to the area and subject requirements. Students placing into second-year language classes will be exempted from eight credits from the language requirement. Students placing into third-year language classes or higher will be exempted from all 16 credits from this area.

Required Courses: All Asian studies majors must take Asian Studies 160, 490, and 492 or 498 (nine credits). In the final year students majoring in Asian studies must pass a senior assessment consisting of an oral defense of their thesis.

Elective Courses: Asian studies majors must complete at least 28 credits, of which 16 must be above the 100 level, from the following list. In addition, selections must meet the following area and subject Elective Requirements:

Subject Clusters (two classes, six to eight credits, in at least two of the following):

  1. Language (if second language or at 300 level or above)
  2. Art and Literature
  3. History and Religion
  4. Social Science

Area Clusters (two classes, six to eight credits, in at least two of the following areas, and one class, three to four credits, in a third area):

  1.  Japan
  2.  China
  3.  South/Southeast Asia
  4.  Middle East/Islamic World

Note: Any course may be used to cover both an area and a subject requirement, but may not be used to cover more than one area and one subject. For example, History 109 may fulfill the history subject requirement and the Japanese or the Chinese area requirement, but not both of the latter.

  • Anthropology 219 Chinese Religion (2, d)
  • Anthropology 233 Archaeology of East Asia (1, 2, d)
  • Anthropology 257 Chinese Society and Culture (2, d)
  • Anthropology 258 Peoples of the Tibeto-Burman Highlands (2, 4, d)
  • Art History 243 Buddhist Art in Asia (2, 3, b)
  • Art History 245 Chinese Art and Visual Culture (1, 2, 4, b)
  • Art History 246 The Art of India (3, b)
  • Art History 248 Ways of Seeing: Japanese Art and Aesthetics (1, b)
  • Art History 356 The Taj Mahal & Beyond: The Art & Architecture of Mughal India (3, b)
  • Art History 358A ST: Art of Colonial India (3, b)
  • Art 301, 302 Special Projects in Asian Art (b)
  • Asian Studies 200 Summer Seminar in Chinese Studies (2)
  • Asian Studies 315/World Literature 315 Between History and Fiction: Classical Chinese Narrative (2, b, c)
  • Chinese 210 Conversational Chinese II (summer) (2, a)
  • Chinese 305, 306 Third-Year Chinese (2, a)
  • Chinese 310 Conversational Chinese III (summer) (2, a)
  • Chinese 405, 406 Fourth-Year Chinese (2, a)
  • Chinese 417 Walk the Walk: Chinese-English Translation Workshop (2, a)
  • Chinese 491, 492 Independent Study in Chinese Language (2, a)
  • Film and Media Studies 345 The Middle East in Cinema & Media (4, b)
  • History 109 East Asian History to 1600 (1, 2, c)
  • History 110 East Asian History 1600 to the Present (1, 2, c)
  • History 127 Islamic Civilization I: The Early and Medieval Islamic World (4, c)
  • History 128 Islamic Civilization II: The Modern Islamic World: The Ottomans to Arafat (4, c)
  • History 235, Arab Spring (4, c)
  • History 241 Early Japanese History (1, c)
  • History 247 Early Chinese History (2, c)
  • History 248 Topics in Asian History (4, c)
  • History 300 Gender in Chinese History (2, c, d)
  • History 305 World War I: Nationalism, Genocide, and the Imperial Mappings of the Modern Middle East  (4, c)
  • History 325 Women and Gender in Islamic Societies (4, c)
  • History 344 China in Revolution (2, c)
  • History 346 Modern Japanese History (1, c)
  • History 348 Horseriders and Samurai: Comparisons in Early Modern East Asia (1, 2, c)
  • History 349 Topics in Asian History (c)
  • History 490 Seminar in Asian History (1, 2, c)
  • Japanese 305, 306 Third-Year Japanese (1, a)
  • Japanese 405, 406 Fourth-Year Japanese (1, a)
  • Japanese 491, 492 Independent Study in Japanese Language (1, a)
  • Japanese 491, 492 Independent Study in Japanese Calligraphy (1, b)
  • Japanese 491, 492 Independent Study in Japanese Tea Ceremony (1, b)
  • Politics 225 Introduction to Indigenous Politics (3, d)
  • Politics 236 Concepts of the Political in Southeast Asia: An Introduction (3, c, d)
  • Politics 303 Gender and Feminism in Southeast Asia (3, d)
  • Politics 337 Globalizing Southeast Asia (3, d)
  • Politics 359 Gender and International Hierarchy (2, 3, 4, d)
  • Religion 207 Introduction to Islam (4, c)
  • Religion 217 Qur’an (4, c)
  • Religion 221 South Asian Religions I: The Formative Period (3, b, c)
  • Religion 222 South Asian Religions II: The Classical Period (3, b, c)
  • Religion 250 Buddhist Civilizations in Asia I: South and Southeast Asia (3, b, c)
  • Religion 251 Buddhist Civilizations in Asia II: Central and East Asia (1, 2, 4, b, c)
  • Religion 310 Hearing Islam (b, c)
  • Religion 321 Islamic Mysticism (4, c)
  • Religion 347 The Buddha (2, 3, b, c)
  • World Literature 222 Introduction to Modern Japanese Literature and Culture (1, b)
  • World Literature 301 Chinese Literature and Film Adaptation (2, b)
  • World Literature 312 Solitude and Literary Imagination (1, b)
  • World Literature 322 Eccentric Monks and Hermits in Japan (1, b)
  • World Literature 325 Imagining Community Through Contemporary Japanese Fiction and Film (1, b)
  • World Literature 328 Haiku and Nature in Japan (1, b)
  • World Literature 330 Introduction to Chinese Film (2,b)
  • World Literature 338 Undoing the Japanese National Narrative through Literature and Film (1, b)
  • World Literature 343 Women Writers in Imperial China: In Search of the “Real” Female Voice (2, b)
  • World Literature 349 China through the Cinematic Eye (2, b)
  • World Literature 359 China’s Brave New World: Contemporary Chinese Literature (2, b)
  • World Literature 387 ST: Introduction to Classical Chinese Literature (2, b)

160 Introduction to Asian Studies
x, 4 Gulbransen

Taught by an Asian studies faculty member, this course is designed to introduce the study of Asia to students with little or no background in the area. Reflecting the geographical and theoretical diversity of the Asian studies field itself, the course is not limited to a particular part of Asia nor to a particular disciplinary approach. Rather, the course introduces students to selected exemplary Asian primary materials and scholarly perspectives on them in order to open up discussion of the larger ideas and issues which concern scholars working in the Asian studies field today.

200 Special Topics: Summer Seminar in Chinese Studies – Social Issues in a Transforming China
2, offered summer 2015

Course offered at the Whitman Summer Studies in China program. Taught in China over a period of six weeks by the Whitman faculty member who is resident director. The course explores selected topics in Chinese studies and incorporates classroom and field studies. Prerequisite: admission to the Whitman Summer Studies in China program.

In Summer 2015 this course will examine contemporary issues facing China today including urbanization, the evolving one-child per family policy, aging population/social security, education reforms and environmental challenges.  To take advantage of our locale, we will focus on how these issues manifest themselves in the city of Kunming and in rural Yunnan Province.  Readings will cover contemporary issues as well as an introduction to Chinese history since the Opium Wars to provide participants with a framework for analyzing the current social challenges and political debates in China.  

Prerequisite: admission to the Whitman Summer Studies in China program. Distribution area: social science or cultural pluralism.

201-204 Special Topics: Intermediate Level

The course explores selected topics in Asian studies at the intermediate level. Any current offerings follow.

221 Silk Roads Field Course
x, 2 Dott

This course looks in depth at selected sites along the silk roads of Asia, both in the classroom and during a field trip. One hour per week throughout the semester, and a field trip to Asia over the spring break. Students will explore the past and current situations of specific sites to be visited during the field trip through pre-trip readings and research presentations, keep a detailed journal during the field trip, and give a multimedia or poster-style presentation of a researched aspect of the trip to the college community near the end of the semester. Students must apply for the course, and pay a course fee to be announced. Corequisites: Biology 121 and History 121.

301 Special Topics: Advanced Level

The course explores selected topics in Asian studies at the advanced level. Any current offerings follow.

315 Between History and Fiction: Classical Chinese Narrative
4; not offered 2015-16

This course familiarizes participants with the major works of traditional Chinese narrative. In order to broaden general knowledge of this rich literary heritage and to acquaint students with works from historical narratives in the Han dynasty to the great 18th century novel Dream of the Red Chamber, the course will combine a close reading of texts with broader questions about literature and culture across different periods of Chinese history. We will explore how these works reflected and influenced the changing ideals of Chinese society—of its readers, writers and critics –paying special attention to issues such as the concept of “fiction” and “fictionality,” the birth of the novel in traditional China, the portrayal of heroic figures, the representation of history, and the treatment of gender relations, among others. Skills emphasized will include close reading, writing analytical papers, and verbal expression. Readings and discussion will be in English. May be elected as World Literature 315. May be taken for credit toward the Chinese minor.

411, 412 Individual Projects
1-4, 1-4 Staff

Directed individual study and research. Prerequisites: appropriate prior coursework in Asian studies and consent of the supervising instructor.

490 Senior Seminar in Asian Studies
3, x Shigeto

Taught by an Asian studies faculty member with guest participation by others. This class expands on themes and ideas about the study of Asia first examined in Asian Studies 160. Like Asian Studies 160 the course is not limited to a particular part of Asia nor to a particular disciplinary approach. The class also will provide seniors a structured program for helping them to formulate a thesis topic based on a firm foundation of methodological and theoretical discussions in the discipline of Asian studies. Students will conduct research related to their thesis topic resulting in a detailed research proposal. Open only to Asian studies seniors.

492 Thesis
2, 2 Staff

Senior majors will work with an adviser to record in a thesis a substantial original research project based on the research proposal completed in Asian Studies 490. Open only to Asian studies seniors.

498 Honors Thesis
2, 2 Staff

Designed to further independent research leading to the preparation of an undergraduate honors thesis in Asian studies. Required of and limited to senior honors candidates in Asian studies. Prerequisite: admission to honors candidacy.