Back to: Asian Studies major Asian Studies major

Everything you need to know about Change of Preference


Knowledge about Asia is a crucial national asset at a time of rapid globalisation and social change. The Asian Studies program at the University of Melbourne is one of the largest in Australia and comprises a comprehensive range of subjects in the intellectual, cultural, political and religious traditions of Asia, with a focus on China, Indonesia, Japan and South-east Asia.

Asian Studies subjects are taught in English and do not require language prerequisites. Study abroad programs are available and Asialink offers a stimulating program of events and activities with an Asian focus.

Careers

  • International relations
  • Diplomacy
  • Community development
  • Communications
  • Government

Subjects you could take in this major

  • This subject examines the intimate relationship between language and society in the historical and contemporary contexts of three internationally strategic regions: East Asia, insular Southeast Asia, and the Arabic world. It will explore recurring themes such as the relationship of language to power, hegemony and political struggle. the effect of nationalism on language. language as a means for creating social organisation and hierarchy. the relationship between minority and majority languages and cultures. and the role of the media, popular culture and literacy in contemporary linguistic and social relations.

  • This subject investigates the political, social and cultural significance of performing arts in contemporary East, Southeast and South Asia, with particular attention to Japan, China, Indonesia, and India. Throughout this region, performance functions as entertainment, communicative medium, religious ritual, political act and as a site for social conflict and accord. Diverse styles including music, dance, theatre and screen performance are examined as ethno-local, national and transnational phenomena, which play a key role in the construction of individual and collective identities. Students become familiar with different analytical and aesthetic approaches to the study of performance through readings, discussion, media and hands-on workshops.

  • This subject examines cultural and social tendencies in contemporary China, and shows how they have developed from the socialist system. It analyses the culture of China's different social groups - men, women, young people, workers, farmers, the elites, minorities, intellectuals and business people. It aims to give a sense of the contemporary Chinese cultural landscape and how this has been analysed by scholars.

  • This introductory subject examines Chinese society and culture by looking at the relationship between cultural systems and imperial power. It addresses the long-term development of social and intellectual structures in China in relation to empire as a political order and a system of territorial domination. Students should gain a foundation for further study of Chinese society and culture and specific skills in the writing of essays.

  • This subject examines basic themes in contemporary Japanese society, as well as commonly used theoretical models. Topics for discussion include the tension between individuals and collective society; notions of regional, gender and age-based status identities and the effects of social change. Students are expected to think critically about current events in Japan and apply these ideas to their own culture and society.

  • This subject deals with human rights issues in mainland China and other regions of East Asia such as Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The impact of the pre-modern Confucian tradition will be assessed on the shaping of human rights discourse in China and East Asian contexts. An important conceptual issue is the perceived contingent nature of human rights in non-Western locations. Students will be encouraged to investigate case studies drawn from democratic and workers rights movements, cases of religious and ethnic discrimination, media censorship, and resistance to patriarchal authority. The diverse ideas put forward by Chinese and East Asian human rights theorists will be evaluated as part of an ongoing debate about the dynamic and contested nature of human rights discourse East and West.

  • From the growing influence of Islam and contemporary efforts to deal with past violence, this subject explores the history and lasting legacies of political, social and cultural change in modern Southeast Asia. Using case studies from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, East Timor and the Philippines from the 19th and 20th centuries we will explore European colonisation, anti-colonial resistance, the Japanese occupation, the Cold War and their impact on the societies of Southeast Asia. We will also examine nationalism, decolonisation, and contemporary issues ranging from ethnic tensions, separatist movements, religious revival, economic globalisation and human rights challenges. The focus of this subject will be the experience of Southeast Asian peoples of key moments in history and of broad social changes. The subject will encompass approaches to social and political history and draw extensively on translated primary documents including memoirs, speeches and literature.

  • This subject examines the growth of Islamic civilisation in the period between the revelation of the Quran and the beginnings of the second Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century. The study focuses on the Arabic and Turkish-speaking areas of western Asia, North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, and its aim is to understand the conditions in which religiously founded dynastic states appeared, the relationships between religion, power, culture and economy, and the role of ethnicity and language in the creation of political and cultural communities. On completion of the subject students should be familiar with the theories about the causes of the rise and fall of the Islamic states and understand the role of religion in integrating and disintegrating multi-ethnic states.

  • This subject examines urban cultures in Asian contexts. It will focis on the role of urban culture in creating and representing politics, social movements, popular expression and economic development. Students will develop an understanding of the interplay between urban culture and the dramatic changes that have occurred in Asia from the post-colonial and post World War II period through to Asia’s rise to economic, political and cultural prominence in the 21st century. Topics that will be examined include consumerism, identity, resistance and hegemony, with particular emphasis on trends in the media, popular culture and contemporary art in East and Southeast Asia.

  • This is a broad, historically-based survey course of Chinese politics. It is designed to offer an overview of and background to, contemporary Mainland Chinese politics and society. It is more historically oriented than many of the other survey courses offered in the Politics program. This emphasis on history is deliberate. We shall begin with the development of the Communist Party and its escape from the Shanghai massacre through to its period of governance in rural China, examining the background to the Long March in the process. This will be followed by a look at the Yan'an period in communist history - a time of ideological reformation and Mao Zedong's rise to power. The experience gained by the Party during this period served as a dream-model of how the country would be run in the future socialist state. This will bring us to the founding of the People's Republic of China in October 1949, and the adoption of the Soviet model of economic planning and governance. The study of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution will focus on the intense, revolutionary and binary politics behind these two campaigns. Then we will look at the reasons Mao initiated these campaigns and why they failed. The transition China has undergone since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 will form an important part of this course. From a state dominated by a revolutionary politics of commitment China has become a society that is almost entirely market driven. This transition from politics to economics is almost a parable of our post 9/11 times. Chinese politics gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the two types of politics that dominate our world. Chinese politics also gives us a chance to see how one state moved from a social dynamic that was intense, revolutionary and binary in form to one in which money and the commodity dominates. It also allows us to see how a politics of commitment can give way to the appearance of apolitical policy.

  • In this subject students will be introduced to the distinctive characteristics of Chinese civilization from a comparative East-West framework. The focus will be on how the ancient Chinese found solutions to universal human problems, such as how to set up social and political organizations, the operations of kinship systems, and the impact of human settlement on the environment. The focus will be on Chinese ideas relating to government, religion, belief systems and law. Students will read and interpret key primary texts in English translation and assess the value of ancient Chinese material culture (including art, technology and architecture) in understanding the past. On completion of this subject students will have an overview of key notions in Chinese civilization and an appreciation of the relevance of these to contemporary beliefs and practices.

  • This subject explores the interlocking themes of identity and ideology in a variety of Asian contexts. It examines how the ways in which people define themselves - 'identities'- are affected by socially-structured systems of thought - 'ideologies'. National ideologies and identities from across the Asian region will be explored in conjunction with study of ethnic, religious, class, gender, and regional forms of identity and ideology.

  • Students will read, analyse and discuss selected works from modern Indonesian literature in a variety of genres, including for example novels, short stories and poetry. Works will cover the Nationalist period to the present. The subject highlights the social and cultural context of literature and its historical and contemporary role in framing Indonesian society. Particular emphasis is given to transformation in the lives of literary protagonists and how these may reflect transformative moments in Indonesian society. This subject is conducted in Indonesian.

  • The history of twentieth century China is explored as a history of cultural change. Changes in political culture, urban and rural life, material culture and views of self and society are traced from the end of the Chinese empire through the Republican era, Liberation and the Cultural Revolution up to the Reform era.Exposure to primary source materials including film and other visual materials, together with readings in contemporary scholarly analysis of Chinese society and history, will help students develop approaches to thinking and writing about change in recent Chinese history. 


    Students enrolling in this subject should be aware that concurrent enrolment in another intensive subject will make it difficult for them to complete this subject successfully.

  • This subject focuses on two areas, namely the location of a particular study of popular culture within the broader study of cultures, and questions of aesthetic and political values with specific reference to Indonesian contexts. Students will examine critically selected analyses of different genres of popular cultures in Indonesia. The subject will refer to theoretical texts on ideology, cultures, hegemony, identity politics and resistance. Issues of gender, ethnicity and religion will be of importance.

  • This subject aims to prepare students for more specialised studies in Japanese society and culture. The subject offers interdisciplinary views of the political, economic, religious and cultural ideologies which foster inequality between different social groups in Japan. Students should become aware of the heterogeneous aspects of Japanese society, as well as the public and private institutions that deal with these issues, such as ethnicity, caste and disability. The subject will also include an examination of the relevant institutions (such as the family registry system, employment protection laws and social welfare programs) which promote or attack prejudice against heterogeneous social groups.

  • This subject introduces students to migration and settlement as major processes in Chinese cultural history. It examines the expansion of Chinese culture beyond its traditional heartlands, taking Taiwan as a key example. Taiwan will be examined alongside other Chinese "settler cultures" for example Singapore, elsewhere in Southeast Asia, or Australasia.

  • This subject is a historical survey of the major events, movements and relationships that have participated in the making of the modern Islamic and Arab Middle East since the end of the First World War. The subject enables students to understand the interplay of religion and foreign rule and intervention in shaping the politics and society of the modern Middle East; comprehend the differences between local points of view and those of outside commentators, historians and rulers; and explore the role which historians and the study of history has played in shaping the course of events in the region.

Entry requirements & Prerequisites

This major is available through more than one course, both of which have their own separate entry requirements.

You can read more on the the Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Arts Extended pages.