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 Southeast Asia.
Asian Studies subjects are taught in English and do not have language prerequisites. Study abroad programs are available and Asialink offers a stimulating program of events and activities with an Asian focus.
- Community development
- International relations
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 is a multidisciplinary introduction to key concepts in the social sciences and cultural studies and their application in the study of modern Indonesia, covering the historical, political, cultural, social, and linguistic factors that have helped shape the contemporary nation-state of Indonesia. The subject should prepare students for research in the field of Indonesian studies. This subject is taught two times per year: it is available either as an overseas intensive subject taught in Indonesia or as a semester-long subject taught on the Parkville campus. Enrolment in the overseas intensive option is by application and limited to a maximum of 15 students.
This subject investigates the political, social and cultural significance of the arts in contemporary Asia. Throughout Asia, visual and performing arts function as entertainment, communicative medium, commodity, religious ritual, political act and as sites for social conflict and accord. Diverse genres are examined as local, national, and transnational phenomena, which play key roles in the construction of individual and collective identities. Notions of the ‘traditional’ and the ‘contemporary’ are investigated and students become familiar with different analytical and aesthetic approaches to the study of the arts as social phenomena that can break down as well as create social barriers, national borders, and urban-regional divides.
The emergence of Asia as a global economic force has instigated the discourse of the ‘Asian Century’ in international media and policy papers. This subject will examine to what extent this discourse is in line with developments in the real world, in whose interests the discourse is being used, and what its impact has been both inside and outside Asia. The subject will address the regions, issues and groups and individuals that are being included in the ‘Asian Century’ as well the people and problems that have generally been left out. Topics that are covered include politics, business, culture, society, class, gender, the media, migration and international relations.
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.
How are genders and desires imagined, performed, reproduced and contested in the diversity of societies and cultures of the Asian region? How does mobility and sociocultural change influence, or impact on everyday notions of gender within Asia, and in discourses about Asia? What is the influence of histories, religions, languages and media on gender and sexualities in the Asian region and Asian diasporas? This subject critically engages with gender and desire in relation to the Asian region by drawing on contemporary gender theories and a diversity of perspectives from the humanities and social sciences. Topics will cover the Asian region and diasporas, with a focus on languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian and Japanese.
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.
This unit addresses the politics of modern Indonesia in relation to broader social developments and the changing global context. Students will learn about the evolution of Indonesian politics from the early post-colonial period, through to the authoritarian New Order and the current democratic era. What have been some of the most prominent sources of tensions and contradictions within Indonesian politics? How are they related to broader changes in Indonesian society? How have domestic social and political transformations in Indonesia been intertwined with the changing global political context from the Cold War to the post-Cold War era? How are developments in Indonesian politics and society relevant to the broader region and to Australia?
This subject examines the media in Asian contexts. It will focus on the role of the media in creating and representing politics, social movements, popular expression and economic development. Students will develop an understanding of the interplay between the media 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, urbanisation, with particular emphasis on trends in film, television, music, fashion and urban lifestyle in East and Southeast Asia.
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 Spanish Christian reconquest of Granada in 1492. The study focuses on the Arabic 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.
The subject explores the wide variety of Asian religious traditions, from examples of indigenous and folk traditions to analyses of the major world religions originating from Asia. Attention is given to Asian religion’s cosmologies and philosophy of life, their role as a normative foundation of culture and society, and their relevance to politics. Asian religion’s growing popularity in the West will be considered together with the growing influence of Islam and Christianity in Asia, charting historical processes of interaction between civilisations and the contemporary rise of global religions and identities.
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 focuses on the transforming power of creative arts and communicative technology in social history, with specific empirical reference to modern Indonesia. Students will closely examine the profound social transformation brought about by art, print, broadcasting and social media at a time of global invasion of electronic high technology. Contemporary politics, popular cultures, social networks, urban spaces and creative enterprises will be some of the key issues in the subject.
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.
This subject focuses on the role of personal, societal, and historical contexts in the use and development of languages in the Indonesian archipelago, focussing on specific Indonesian societies (eg. Batak, Javanese, Maluku) and the Indonesian nation as a whole. The subject engages with issues of language in society including language planning, literacy, politeness, multi-lingualism, interpersonal interaction, traditional and modern communication systems, differences in style according to genre (eg. written and spoken language), function (eg. conversational, ritual, or political language) and social identity (eg. class, ethnic, gender or sexual identification). Students should develop an understanding of the close relationship that social context, interpersonal interaction, and culture have with language form and usage.
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 underlying 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; the development of the different states of the region; the differences between local points of view and those of outside commentators, historians and rulers; and the effects of these changes on the wider population of the various countries.