BA in Asian Studies

Asian Studies is a major offered in the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies to students enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences. The major focuses on East Asia and South Asia, with attention to Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Rim. It provides a broad interdisciplinary and comparative perspective, to deepen understanding of how Asian people, nations, states, regions, and diasporas have developed, functioned, and interacted, and how they view the world and themselves. The major is designed to be flexible, easily tailored to each student’s interests and learning goals, whether those focus on a certain country in the region or on particular transnational issues such as cultural flows, security, or economic development.

Asian Studies majors are well prepared for graduate study and for careers in government, local and international nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector. Majors study an Asian language (Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, or Urdu) for at least five terms, acquiring linguistic and cultural proficiency sufficient for professional life in or related to the region; they also develop competence in both humanities and social sciences. Majors have a continuous opportunity to explore, deepen, evaluate, and perhaps revise their own preexisting beliefs and ideas about the global significance of this large and complex region.

Study Abroad

All majors are strongly urged to spend a summer, term, or academic year studying in Asia. The major is designed to accommodate and encourage study in Asia through Boston University’s Study Abroad programs.

Summary of Requirements

The Major in Asian Studies requires a total of eleven (4-unit) core and principal courses plus fifth-term proficiency in an Asian language. The three core courses and eight principal courses must all be completed with a grade of C or higher. At least six core and principal courses must be at the 300-level or higher. At least six must be taken on BU’s Boston campus or through BU Study Abroad; up to five core and principal courses taken at other universities and accepted for BU units may be counted toward the major with prior approval by the Pardee School Associate Dean for Studies.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate substantive interdisciplinary knowledge of legal, political, economic, social, cultural, and historical factors influencing international affairs.
  • Display an in-depth understanding of an important functional subfield of the discipline and a major geographical region of the world.
  • Conduct theoretically informed and empirically based analysis of real-world conditions and events and present the results of that analysis persuasively in written and oral forms.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Asian Studies will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship, as well as some requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic and Historical Interpretation, Scientific and Social Inquiry, Communication, and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

1. Core Courses (3)

The core requirement consists of three courses on general Asian topics. These courses should be selected from the list below. Note that courses on this list not taken to fulfill the core requirement may be taken to fulfill the principal course requirement (item 2 below).

  • CAS AH 225 The Arts of Asia
  • CAS AN 318 Southeast Asia: Tradition and Development
  • CAS AN 375/RN 375 Culture, Society, and Religion in South Asia
  • CAS AN 379 China: Tradition and Transition
  • CAS AR 390 The Archaeology of Southeast Asia
  • CAS HI 482 Merchants, Pirates, Missionaries, and the State in Maritime Asia, 6002000
  • CAS IR 275/PO 350 Making of Asia
  • CAS IR 368 Contemporary East Asian Economics (meets with CAS EC 368)
  • CAS IR 369 Southeast Asia in World Politics
  • CAS LC 317 Chinese in Modern Society
  • CAS RN 103 Religions of Asia
  • CAS XL 224 Introduction to East Asian Literatures
  • CAS XL 225 Introduction to South Asian Literatures
  • CAS XL 260/LC 260/LJ 260/LK 260/LN 260 Gateway to Asian Cultures

2. Principal Courses (8)

Eight principal courses are required. At least three of these courses must be distributed in the humanities, and at least three in the social sciences. Humanities courses for the major are taught in the CAS departments of History of Art & Architecture, World Languages & Literatures, Philosophy, and Religion and in the College of Fine Arts (CFA) Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology. Social science courses are offered in anthropology, economics, history, international relations, political science, and sociology. Archaeology courses may fall in either category. A cross-listed course can be counted only once to fulfill one requirement or elective in humanities or social science. One or two advanced Asian language courses at the 300-level or above, when taken in addition to courses toward the fifth-term language requirement (see item 3 below), may be used as elective principal courses.

  • CAS AH 225 The Arts of Asia
  • CAS AH 313 Imperial Reflections: Early Modern Islamic Art and Architecture
  • CAS AH 326 Arts of Japan
  • CAS AH 327 Arts of China
  • *CAS AH 527 Topics in Art and Society
  • CAS AH 532 Japanese Print Culture
  • CAS AR 240 Archaeology of Ancient China
  • CAS EN 177 Introduction to Asian American Literature
  • CAS EN 369 Haruki Murakami and His Sources
  • CAS EN 452 Asian American Studies: Theory and Methods
  • CAS LC 250 Masterpieces of Classical Chinese Literature (in English translation)
  • CAS LC 251 Masterpieces of Modern Chinese Literature (in English translation)
  • CAS LC 282 Old Tales for New Times: Folktale in Modern China
  • CAS LC 286 Topics in Chinese Culture (in English translation)
  • CAS LC 287 Screening Modern China (in English translation)
  • CAS LC 313 Chinese through Theater and Performance
  • CAS LC 315 Classical Chinese
  • CAS LC 316 Topics in Classical Chinese
  • CAS LC 318 Chinese through Public Speaking
  • CAS LC 319 Practical Chinese: Chinese in Intercultural Communication
  • CAS LC 320 Advanced Classical Chinese
  • CAS LC 322 Business Chinese
  • CAS LC 420 Topics in Chinese through Media
  • CAS LC 470 Topics in Chinese Literature and Culture
  • CAS LC 480 Modern Chinese Literature and Film
  • CAS LC 486 Workshop on Translating and Interpreting Chinese
  • CAS LJ 250 Masterpieces of Japanese Literature (in English translation)
  • CAS LJ 251 Modern Japanese Literature (in English translation)
  • CAS LJ 283 Modern Japanese Culture in Cinema (in English translation)
  • CAS LJ 316 Classical Japanese
  • CAS LJ 320 Conversational Japanese
  • CAS LJ 350 Readings in Modern Japanese Fiction
  • CAS LJ 360 Haiku
  • CAS LJ 388 World Cities: Tokyo
  • CAS LJ 430 Supernatural Beings in Japan: Mononoke
  • CAS LJ 451 Topics in Japanese Literature
  • CAS LJ 480 Japanese Women Writers (in English translation)
  • CAS LK 250 Introduction to Korean Literature (in English translation)
  • CAS LK 251 Classics of Korean Literature
  • CAS LK 313 Korean Through TV Drama
  • CAS LK 319 Korean Language Through Popular Music
  • CAS LK 375 Growing up in Korea
  • CAS LK 383 Modern Korean Culture through Cinema (in English translation)
  • CAS LK 450 Topics in Advanced Korean
  • CAS LK 470 Korean Literature and Culture
  • CAS LK 475 Major Authors in Korean Literature
  • CAS LN 380 Modern India through Bollywood
  • CAS PH 247 Introduction to Chinese Philosophy
  • *CAS PH 496 Topics in Religious Thought
  • CAS RN 103 Religions of Asia
  • CAS RN 210 Buddhism
  • CAS RN 213 Hinduism
  • CAS RN 364 Buddhist Literature
  • CAS RN 365 Art, Media, and Buddhism
  • CAS RN 388 Oral Tradition as Verbal Art
  • CAS XL 224 Introduction to East Asian Literatures
  • CAS XL 225 Introduction to South Asian Literatures
  • CAS XL 260/LC 260/LJ 260/LK 260/LN 260 Gateway to Asian Cultures
  • CAS XL 342 Travel Writing and the Muslim World
  • CAS XL 343 Alexander the Great in the East
  • *CFA MH 561 Special Topics in Musicology
  • *CFA MH 563 Special Topics in Musicology
Social Sciences:
  • CAS AN 318 Southeast Asia: Tradition and Development
  • CAS AN 320 Muslim Women
  • CAS AN 326 Oral Traditions as Verbal Art
  • CAS AN 344 Culture and Social Change in Japan
  • CAS AN 347 Afghanistan
  • CAS AN 375 Culture, Society, and Religion in South Asia (meets with CAS RN 375)
  • CAS AN 379 China: Tradition and Transformation
  • CAS AN 505 Asian Development: The Case of Women
  • CAS AR 390 The Archaeology of Southeast Asia
  • CAS HI 234 Introduction to India and South Asia
  • CAS HI 363 Early Chinese History
  • CAS HI 364 Modern Chinese History
  • CAS HI 367 The Odd Couple: China and the USA, 1776 to the present
  • CAS HI 369 Introduction to Modern Japanese History
  • CAS HI 370 Samurai, Ships, and Soil: Japan Among the Empires of Asia, 1600–1950
  • CAS HI 382/IR 328 Turko-Persia in the Twentieth Century
  • CAS HI 385 History of Premodern Iran (meets with CAS IR 329)
  • CAS HI 490 Blacks and Asians: Encounters Through Time and Space
  • *CAS HI 500 Topics in History
  • *CAS IR 300 Topics in International Relations
  • CAS IR 332 Understanding and Managing Rising Powers
  • CAS IR 365 Rise of China (meets with CAS PO 352)
  • CAS IR 369 Southeast Asia in World Politics (meets with CAS PO 354)
  • CAS IR 370 China: From Revolution to Reform (meets with CAS PO 351)
  • CAS IR 372 International Relations of South Asia (meets with CAS PO 355)
  • CAS IR 377 Global South Asia
  • CAS IR 501 Conflict and Cooperation in Asia (meets with PO 554)
  • CAS IR 506 India and the World: The Foreign Policy of a Rising Power
  • CAS IR 520 The State and Public Purpose in Asia (meets with CAS PO 550)
  • CAS IR 527 Political Economy of China (meets with CAS PO 548)
  • CAS IR 563 Religion and Politics across Cultures
  • CAS IR 577 Foreign Policy of the People’s Republic of China (meets with CAS PO 576)
  • CAS IR 579 Japan in International Politics (meets with CAS PO 552)
  • CAS IR 582 Taiwan: Politics and Transformation
  • CAS IR 585 Problems and Issues in Post-Mao China (meets with CAS PO 549)

*These courses may sometimes be credited toward the Asian Studies major with advisor approval, and when the topic is relevant to Asia.

      3. Required Related Language Courses

      The major requires study of one language (Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Urdu, or, where appropriate, another Asian language) through at least the fifth-term level, or equivalent proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening as demonstrated through testing. Students interested in graduate study in an Asian field or employment in the region are advised to pursue the language beyond this level, through either advanced language courses at Boston University or study abroad. To encourage the development of advanced linguistic proficiency, one or two Asian language courses at the 300-level or beyond, when taken in addition to courses toward fulfillment of the fifth-term language requirement, may be counted as elective principal courses.

      Honors in the Major

      Honors in the Asian Studies major within the Pardee School may be earned by completing two terms of independent senior honors work (CAS IR 401/402) and presenting an original research paper (thesis) in written and oral form to a committee of faculty readers. The committee will consider both the thesis and the result of the oral examination to determine whether the student will receive honors in the major. A grade of B+ or better in each term of IR 401/402 is also required for the award of honors. CAS IR 401 carries one of each of the following Hub requirements: Writing-Intensive, Critical Thinking, and Research & Information Literacy. CAS IR 402 carries one unit in Writing-Intensive and a unit in Oral and/or Signed Communication. Students are required to attend structured workshops in the fall and spring related to each of these competencies. The research and writing are conducted under the guidance of a faculty advisor who will serve as the instructor of record for CAS IR 401 and 402. In consultation with their faculty advisor, students are also required to complete cocurricular activities that expand their understanding of their research topic. Asian Studies majors may earn principal course units for CAS IR 401 and 402.

      Admission to the Honors program requires a 3.50 cumulative and 3.60 major grade point average, at the time of application. To learn more about the application process, please visit the Pardee School of Global Studies website. Interested students should contact their Academic Advisor to discuss ideas for research and faculty advisors. Students typically apply for the Honors program in the spring of their junior year. Effective fall 2022, students may not simultaneously study abroad and participate in the Honors program.