Concentration Revisions

2010 Revisions to the East Asian Studies Concentration

Beginning in 2008, sparked in part by what concentrators were telling us about their interests and goals, the Department started what became a series of conversations with students, faculty, and ultimately the Dean of the College, about the future of the concentration. More specifically, we were interested in thinking about how the undergraduate program might be changed to provide a structure for learning about East Asia that was both more ambitious and more flexible than the existing concentration. A student-faculty committee was formed to survey past and present concentrators, to study other undergraduate programs at Brown and at our peer institutions, and ultimately to report their findings, and recommendations, to the Department. I'm writing now to announce the results of this long process of revision, and to share with you some of the key changes to the East Asian Studies concentration.

If you spoke with one of our advisors, or read about the concentration online or in print prior to this summer, you'd have learned that the requirements for the concentration in East Asian Studies were as follows:

  • At least three years of instruction in Chinese or Japanese, or demonstrate an equivalent level of competency.
  • History 0410 “Introduction to East Asian Civilization: China,” and History 0420 “Introduction to East Asian Civilization: Japan.”
  • Four elective courses focused on either China or Japan, depending on the student’s track within the concentration.
  • One elective outside of the student’s track.
  • A senior thesis, an independent research course, or a “capstone” course.

These requirements reflected, I think, a good balance between language learning, a broad introduction to East Asian history, and China- or Japan-focused coursework "tracks." This balance is one we've relied on since the concentration first took shape in 1985, a quarter-century ago. Our goals in revising the concentration were to build on existing strengths, and to develop a program that would:

  1. Serve students wishing to develop competency in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean.
  2. Provide a structure for the study of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean languages, literatures, and cultures, and the study of China, Japan, or Korea as political and historical entities, or East Asia as a region, through well-defined disciplinary and thematic approaches.

Toward those ends, the revised concentration does away with the China and Japan tracks. This change reflects both the concerns expressed by faculty and students about the limitations of the previous two-track structure, and the Department’s enthusiastic endorsement of a more open and student-directed structure, one which will allow concentrators to develop a course of study which best reflects their own academic goals and interests. Concentrators will have to work especially closely with their advisors to both select courses and to articulate those questions, themes, and/or disciplines, which inform their focus on East Asia. Students in the concentration will draw on a wide range of analytical frameworks as they undertake a sustained exploration of, for example: a particular community, topic or “problem” in East Asia; a form of cultural production; the beliefs and practices which inform religious or intellectual life; or other appropriate topics, which may or may not be limited to a single linguistic tradition.

Other changes include:

  • The elimination of the "capstone course" option.
  • An increase in the number of mandatory elective courses from five to seven.
  • The addition of an advanced research seminar requirement.
  • The addition of Korea as an area of focus, and the option of using Korean (in conjunction with language study abroad) to satisfy the accompanying language requirement.

A full description of the new concentration requirements may be found here.

If you're graduating in 2011 or 2012, you may satisfy either the original concentration requirements or the new, revised requirements. Rising sophomores (class of 2013) and all future concentrators (class of 2014 and beyond) will be subject to the requirements and structures of the revised concentration.

Please don't hesitate to get in touch with me, or with any other member of the faculty, with questions about the concentration. We'll be happy to hear from you.

Kerry Smith
Chair, Department of East Asian Studies