What is Asian Studies?

Asian Studies is an academic field that places the region we call Asia at the center of interdisciplinary inquiry. It encompasses both historical and contemporary perspectives on the geography, history, politics, economics, legal systems, languages and literatures, religious and belief systems, and expressive cultures of Asia, while at the same time acknowledging the shifting and constructed nature of the region and the knowledge produced about it. Asian Studies considers indigenous forms of knowledge and the density of interconnections within the Asian region indispensable to a grounded understanding of the dynamism of Asia. It fosters an appreciation of the multiple ways of being in the world, illuminates the complexity of power relations in Asia both historically and today, and thus challenges the scholarly and political hegemony of the West. Asian Studies is committed to fostering innovative, comparative themes and approaches that can synthesize and ultimately move beyond the confines of, as well as transform, discipline-based education and research.

Who are we?

As UH-Manoa’s fulcrum for scholarship and teaching about Asia, the Asian Studies Program strives to create an environment in which rigorous, critical, and collaborative scholarship about Asia can thrive. Its mandate is to promote teaching, research, and community-based outreach programs about Asia. It is distinguished by its long-standing dedication to broadening the traditional scope of Asian Studies.

The UH-Manoa Asian Studies Program is recognized as one of the best and most comprehensive in terms of the large number of Asianists across the disciplines, providing unparalleled range and depth to study about the region. The program offers BA and MA degrees as well as certificate programs at the graduate level in six areas of Asia. It is home to a cohort of regular and affiliate faculty in Asian-focused research centers who teach courses on East, Southeast and South Asia. These course offerings are complemented by the expertise of the more than 200 regular faculty who teach hundreds Asia-related courses in departments across the Manoa campus. Their courses can be incorporated into an Asian Studies degree, allowing students an unusual degree of flexibility in designing a plan of study suited to their individual interests and goals. Accordingly, in Asian Studies, students may pursue area, thematic, or issue-specific studies across a wide range of disciplines.

Other Asia-related resources on the Manoa campus and in the community further enhance the mission of the Asian Studies Program. These include the East-West Center, the Hamilton Library Asia Collection, the Asia Gallery of the John Young Museum of Art, and a variety of Asian music and dance ensembles. In addition, the College of Language, Linguistics and Literature regularly offers courses in fourteen Asian languages. The scope and scale of this combination of academic and community resources constitutes another important facet in the implementation of the Asian Studies mission.

What makes us unique?

Located in Hawai‘i—the crossroads of the Pacific—and sharing an institutional home with the Pacific Islands Studies Program, Asian Studies at UH-Manoa is especially attuned to the connections between the Asia and Pacific regions. Hawai‘i’s relative proximity (both geographical and cultural) to Asia and the Program’s commitment to fostering collaborative ties with Asian scholars enables a vibrant intellectual community that stretches far beyond the storied shores of O’ahu: conferences, concerts, seminars, workshops, and visiting scholar programs bring teachers, researchers, performers and students from across Asia and the U.S. to Hawaii to learn from each other. At the same time, Hawai’i has long been home to a remarkably diverse population of Asian communities; this multiethnic context brings alive the study of Asia and imparts to students and teachers alike a keen awareness of the relevance of Asia in the world today, and of the interconnectedness of our lives, our pasts and our futures with those of the peoples of Asia.