Asian Studies uses multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches to study Asian societies and cultures, past and present. UBC’s Department of Asian Studies focuses on approaches to Asia based in the Humanities (language, literature, history, culture, religion, philosophy, gender studies, performance, visual culture) and features strong coverage of East Asia (China, Japan, Korea) and South and West Asia (India, Pakistan, and the Persianate world). It is one of the leading programs of its kind in the world. The languages taught are Mandarin Chinese, Classical Chinese, Japanese, Classical Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Punjabi, Hindi-Urdu, Sanskrit and Persian. Asian Studies majors are strongly urged to broaden and deepen their engagement with Asia by participating in a Go Global-sponsored study abroad experience, taking Asia-related courses in other Faculty of Arts departments, enrolling in the Arts Co-op and Internship Programs, as well as taking advantage of the many alumni, lecture, and other events sponsored by the Department.
Intercultural competence and literacy, a first-hand appreciation of linguistic and cultural difference, and a critically informed understanding of one or more cultures and civilizations of South or East Asia are essential to responsible global citizenship and are also highly valued by employers across a wide range of professions. Specialized, sustained, and mentored exposure to one or more cultures of Asia can be mobilized in support of a diverse range of career paths. Graduates from Asian Studies bring these assets and competencies along with strong research, writing, and critical thinking skills to bear in many fields: graduates of the program pursue law and other graduate and professional degrees; work in the Foreign Service, Canada Border Service Agency, and other branches of government; serve in NGOs and not-for-profit organizations; work as translators and interpreters in a variety of contexts; and find employment in diverse educational, cultural, and media institutions.
The department currently offers two undergraduate majors: Asian Languages and Cultures, which combines advanced language study with a concentration in one of five areas (China, Chinese Literature, Japan, Korea, South Asia), and Asian Area Studies, which promotes a comparative approach with less emphasis on advanced language study. Students in both streams engage to a greater (Languages and Cultures) or lesser (Area Studies) extent with one or more languages and cultures of Asia and develop skills that facilitate direct participation in Asia-related professional contexts.
In the current “Asia-Pacific Century” it is essential for responsible global citizens to understand and navigate with confidence the complex historical, cultural, and linguistic dynamics that both help and hinder productive cross-cultural work and engagement. Graduates will value diversity and command a valuable and rare combination of Asia-relevant linguistic and inter-cultural competencies. Graduates become able to contribute to Canada’s evolving relationship with Asia in informed, original, and culturally appropriate ways.
Linguistic Competencies: A large body of research and pedagogical experience shows that it takes English-speaking learners of Asian languages two to four times longer to acquire the same level of proficiency as in “Standard Average European” languages.
- Become Independent (Area Studies) or Proficient (Languages and Cultures) users according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in at least one Asian language.
- Independent users will be able to: understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.; deal with most situations likely to arise while traveling in an area where the language is spoken; produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest; describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
- Proficient users will be able to: understand and translate a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning; express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions; use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes; produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors, and cohesive devices.
- Engage in classroom, community and overseas language study that provides invaluable cultural knowledge and intercultural aptitudes.
- Participate in a wide range of Asia-related inter-cultural activities, including research, community engagement, and international work, without relying solely on translated or English-language re(-)presentations;
- Master techniques of fine-grained textual analysis and word-smithing that also enhance their first-language communication skills and readily translate into diverse professional communication environments.
Intercultural Understanding and Competency:
- Gain knowledge of the histories of Asian regions and communities;
- Understand the origins and developments of major political, cultural, literary, and/or religious movements in one or more Asian communities;
- Gain exposure to current research on relevant discourses about Asia such as: Orientalism, imperialism, trans/nationalism, modernization/globalization, racism, religious conflict, gender/class prejudice;
- Internalize linguistic and socio-cultural competencies that foster the self-reflection and critical evaluation of one’s own and others’ values required for genuine cross-cultural understanding;
- Recognize and understand the historical, social, and cultural dimensions of Canada’s relationship with Asia and the place of Asian communities in the history of North America and other regions of the world;
- Put the skills, knowledge, and perspectives they have acquired to work in academic and creative projects, community involvement, study abroad, and other experiential learning. This prepares them to develop their interests and to reflect on the relevance of Asia for their futures in post-graduate study, work abroad, and other post-graduate career paths.
Expressive and Analytical Competencies:
- Learn to listen and to share their own diverse backgrounds, education, and experiences with peers and scholars in a respectful but rigorous manner, reflecting the insight that cultural context shapes and limits one’s knowledge;
- Acquire hands-on experience with a variety of primary and secondary sources in English and at least one Asian language, learning the significance of perspective and context in the presentation of knowledge;
- Learn to identify and question the assumptions and logic that inform their own and others’ positions through close reading and contextualization of the material at hand;
- Hone English-language communication skills in order to present conclusions based on primary, scholarly, and popular sources and to craft evidence-based evaluations of perspectives and positions taken in the sources;
- Understand and articulate differences/similarities that challenge nation-centred, Orientalist and/or racist narratives of Asian culture and civilization;
- Effectively mobilize knowledge of and about Asia to develop original arguments and express them through written, oral, and creative means.