Remapping Area Studies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Module overview

This module takes the Area Studies of Asia, Africa and the Middle East (AAME) as a field to be pulled into focus through the lens of the regions themselves. It achieves this through attending to questions of what the concept of area/region/nation connotes in the context of AAME and, in particular, how that concept has been mediated through the effects of colonialism and colonial forms of knowledge production. With the objective of decolonising Area Studies of AAME and of looking at its transformation both conceptually and in practice, the module brings to the fore key texts that have emerged from AAME and examines them from the perspective of geographical spaces that provide alternatives to Area Studies in the Western world. The organising themes of the module therefore revolve around notions of borderlands, contact zones, the Silk Roads, Zomia and the Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian Cosmopoleis and the way in which the notion of AAME as a set of interlocking regions is inflected by globalisation and diaspora. Central to this are questions of language and multilingualism, of connection and disconnect, and of local and transregional. Given that Area Studies is interdisciplinary (and/or multidisciplinary and/or non-disciplinary) in nature and that this core module, shared across all Area Studies programmes relating to AAME, is in part intended as a training course for Area Studies students at the Masters level, the module concludes with a section dedicated to necessary skills transfer.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Understand the principle features of Area Studies as defined from the perspective of Asia, Africa and the Middle East(s)
  • Appreciate the need for an alternative, decolonising perspective on Area Studies
  • Reappraise the concept of Area through a non-Western lens
  • Understand the place of language, monolingualism and multilingualism in Area Studies
  • Understand the concept of disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity and know how to write essays and create texts from these approaches
  • Undertake Area Studies-specific research through methodological and fieldwork tools taught through textual and discourse analysis
  • Understand how to write a dissertation in the field of Area Studies of AAME.


This module is taught over 10 weeks, with 1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar time per week.

Scope and syllabus

Topics will include:

  • Mapping Area Studies. What is Area, and why/to whom does it matter?
  • Decolonising Area Studies: Area Studies, the Colonial, Semi-colonial and Post-colonial
  • The Silk Roads/Sanskrit Cosmopolis/Zomia
  • Interconnection and Disconnect: Contact Zones, Networks and Borderlands
  • Language, monolingualism and multilingualism
  • Globalisation
  • Disciplinarity, Multidisciplinarity and Interdisciplinarity
  • Study Skills: Creating Interdisciplinary Texts
  • Study Skills: Fieldwork, Methodologies and Textual and Discourse Analysis
  • Study Skills: Dissertation Writing in Area Studies.

Method of assessment

  • 20% - Reaction paper (700 words)
  • 30% - Podcast (3-5 minutes)
  • 50% - Essay (2,000 words)
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

The following readings may be of interest to prospective students. A full reading list will be made available at the start of the module.

  • Chen Kuan-hsing, Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization . Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.
  • Eaton, Richard, ‘The Persian Cosmopolis (900–1900) and the Sanskrit Cosmopolis (400–1400)’, and Nile Green, ‘The Antipodes of “Progress”: A Journey to the End of Indo-Persian’, in The Persianate World: Rethinking a Shared Sphere , Edited by Abbas Amanat and Assef Ashraf, Leiden Brill: 2019.
  • Harrison, Rachel (ed.) ‘The Past, Present and Future of Area Studies’. In South East Asia Research 27.1 (2019).
  • Orsini, Francesca, ‘How to do multilingual literary history? Lessons from fifteenth-and sixteenth-century north India’, The Indian Economic & Social History Review 49.2 (2012).
  • Orsini, Francesca, ‘The Multilingual Local in World Literature’, Comparative Literature 67.4 (2015).
  • Pratt, Mary Louise, ‘Introduction. Partial Truths’, by James Clifford; and ‘Fieldwork in Common Places’, in W riting Culture: The Politics and Poetics of Doing Ethnography , by James Clifford and George E. Marcus, 1986.
  • Pratt, Mary Louise, ‘Arts of the Contact Zone’, MLA (1991).
  • Takeuchi Yoshimi, ‘Asia as Method’, in What Is Modernity? Writings of Takeuchi Yos himi , edited and translated by Richard F. Calichman. New York: Columbia University Press, [1960] 2005.
  • Thongchai Winichakul. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-body of a Nation . Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994.
  • Wen-chin Ouyang, ‘The Silk Roads of World Literature’, in Cambridge History of World Literature, edited by Debjani Ganguly, CUP, 2021.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules