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Courses and Requirements

The goal of Hamilton’s Asian Studies program is to introduce students to the diversity of Asian cultures and enable them to develop critical perspectives on Asia, while honing their skills in speaking, writing and research. Through multidisciplinary practices, students cultivate intellectual curiosity and flexibility about Asia’s aesthetic traditions, religions, politics and society, and histories. 

In this multidisciplinary area of study, students focus on the diversity of Asian cultures across the liberal arts. In consultation with the Program Chair or academic advisor, students approach Asia through four thematic lenses: 


Aesthetic traditions including art, architecture, film, literature

Textual and material sources on Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam

Contemporary political and social issues

Critical approaches to the study of the past in Art History, History, Religious Studies


The Asian Studies program encourages students to explore one of Asia’s societies across disciplines or to pursue comparative study across Asian societies.


Beginning with the class of 2024

A concentration in Asian Studies consists of nine courses, including one course in each of four thematic areas: aesthetic traditions; textual and material sources on religion; politics and society; and critical approaches to the past. Concentrators take an introductory 100-level course, two courses at the advanced 300-level, and must demonstrate intermediate ability in an Asian language by taking courses at Hamilton through the intermediate level or their equivalent in an off-campus program, or by passing a proficiency examination. Concentrators fulfill the College SSIH requirement through successful completion of ASNST-180 Exploring Cultures in Asia and are encouraged to pursue the study of structural hierarchies in the senior project. Students fulfill the senior project requirement through AS 550. Courses taken for Cr/NC do not count toward the concentration.


Honors in Asian Studies will be awarded to concentrators who achieve an 3.3 (88) average in the concentration and who complete 550 with a grade of at least A-. 


A minor in Asian Studies consists of five courses, including one course in at least two of four thematic areas: aesthetic traditions, textual and material sources on religion, politics and society, and critical approaches to the past. Students must complete the Exploring Cultures in Asia course and take at least one course at the advanced level. Courses taken for Cr/NC do not count toward the minor.


For Concentrators prior to the Class of 2024:

The Asian Studies Program offers an interdisciplinary approach to studying the cultures, societies, and languages of Asia. Concentrators may study one of three tracks that focus on China, Japan, or South Asia. Students may, in consultation with the program director, elect to develop a comparative course of the study of Asia.

A concentration in Asian Studies consists of nine courses distributed among at least three departments: Anthropology, Art History, EALL (Chinese, Japanese), English, Government, History, Religious Studies, and Theatre. Concentrators must (1) successfully complete ASNST-180, (2) take at least three courses at the 300 level or above, and (3) study an Asian language through the intermediate level in coursework at Hamilton or appropriate language study off campus. Concentrators fulfill the College SSIH requirement through successful completion of ASNST-180 and are encouraged to pursue the study of structural hierarchies in the senior project. Students fulfill the senior project requirement through successful completion of ASNST-550. Honors in Asian Studies will be awarded to concentrators with at least an 3.3 (88) average in the concentration and who complete ASNST-550 with a grade of at least A-.

A minor in Asian Studies consists of five courses, including ASNST-180 and four electives approved by the program director.

Building upon this interdisciplinary approach, Asian Studies concentrators are well-prepared for study in an Asian country. In the senior year, concentrators draw together their knowledge from coursework and experiences in Asia to complete senior projects.

Students double majoring in Asian Studies and East Asian Languages and Literatures (EALL) may use upper-level Chinese or Japanese language courses to satisfy the Asian Studies requirements, providing they are not used to count toward the EALL concentration.


There are three tracks within the Asian Studies concentration: China Studies, Japan Studies, and South Asia Studies. Ordinarily, students choose to focus their coursework and language study in one of these three regional areas. Students with thematic interests in Asia may pursue a comparative course of study in consultation with the Director. A partial list of courses regularly offered in each of these three areas can be found in the 2020-2021 College Catalogue..


110 F Who, me? Biography and Life Writing in Chinese Literature.
Introduction to Chinese biographical and autobiographical writing from the 2nd century B.C. to the present. Readings include "Biographies of Assassins" by China’s first historian, medieval autobiographical poetry by women, and the disturbing and provocative "Diary of a Madman." We track the development of the narrative formulas Chinese historians, poets, and novelists have deployed to commemorate exemplary figures, as well as to give their own lives shapes future readers might recognize. Topics include the nature of free will, fate, ethical action, kinship, authenticity, gender, and sexuality. (Writing-intensive.) No previous knowledge of China, the Chinese language, or Chinese literature is required. Maximum enrollment, 18. Christopher Elford.

115 F Science & Islam: Global Histories.
What is science? Should scientists and historians agree on what science means? How did science in Islamic Asia influence Europe? What role has religious thought and practice played in the history of science? We explore the long term, from the 9th to 19th century, from cosmopolitan Greco-Arabic translation projects, to the rise of European empires; consider change in human-nature relations in the late medieval and early modern human sciences from the Islamic world, including medicine, geography, anthropology, erotology, astronomy. Readings of primary sources in translation. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Sabrina Datoo.

160 F Everyday Islam.
Introduction to the study of Islam as an everyday lived religion. The course uses interdisciplinary approaches to understanding Muslim beliefs, practices, and institutional practices. Particular focus on questions of revelation, devotion, law, spirituality, and aesthetics. Students develop facility with analyzing Islamic texts and material culture. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as Religious Studies 160 and Religious Studies 160.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Usman Hamid.

180 S Exploring Cultures in Asia.
History of South and East Asian cultures beginning in ancient times, emphasizing both their commonalities and distinctive features in comparative context. Critical examination of structural hierarchies that have shaped Asian societies, focusing on ritual and kingship, the spread and transformation of Buddhism throughout Asia, Islamization of South Asia, gender, and the formation of empire. Students read secondary and primary sources, including selections from epic traditions, ritual and mythic sources, and literary texts. (Writing-intensive.) (Social, Structural, and Institutional Hierarchies.) (Same as History 180.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Trivedi and Wilson.

[209] Islamic History and Culture.
An interdisciplinary exploration of Muslim societies from the 7th century to the present. Beginning with the origins of Islam, the history of the Quran, and the biography of the Prophet, the course examines how questions of political authority, religious practice, and cultural exchange were navigated as the Muslim community developed. We read texts from Islam’s rich literary heritage and pay close attention to the ways in which the Muslim past continues to animate contemporary debates, practices, and imagination. (Same as History 209 and Religious Studies 209.)

211 S Islamic Spirituality, Mysticism, and Devotion.
Introduction to the rich tradition of Islamic spirituality, mysticism, and devotion, sometimes lumped together under the category of Sufism. We shall adopt an interdisciplinary approach, focusing on key ideas, practices, and institutions that mark these diverse traditions. Students will read Qur’anic verses, Prophetic traditions, didactic literature, devotional poetry, and hagiographies. At the same time, we shall engage closely with questions of rituals, lived experience, built environments, and aesthetics. (Proseminar.) (Same as Religious Studies 211.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Usman Hamid.

215 S Medicine, Science, and Culture.
Are medical and scientific knowledge universal? How have the social contexts of empires, Asian and European, shaped the histories of medical and scientific thought and practice? Drawing on primary sources from the 1500s to 1940s we think through how warfare, the accumulation of wealth and territory, cultural ideals of beauty, virtue, nature, and bodily integrity, historically shaped thought about health, disease and well-being. Global networks of migration, commodity flows, and the transition from intra-Asia manuscript circulation to global print publics will contextualize our exploration. (Social, Structural, and Institutional Hierarchies.) No previous knowledge of Asia required. Sabrina Datoo.

228 S History of Iran.
This course traces the history of Iran from Late Antiquity to the modern period. It looks beyond the geographic territory of the modern nation state of Iran and considers the impact of Persian culture in the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. Topics include the cultural and political legacy of pre-Islamic Iran; the impact of the Arab conquest; the Perso-Islamic cultural synthesis; the rise of Turkic and Mongolian dynasties; the emergence of Shi’ism as a state religion in the early modern period; and social and political roots of the Iranian revolution in the twentieth century. (Same as Religious Studies 228 and History 228.) Usman Hamid.

256 S Islam in South Asia.
An exploration of the rich history of Islam in South Asia with a particular focus on the pre-colonial period. Beginning with questions of Islam’s arrival to South Asia, we shall explore the rise of Muslim polities and communities in North India, the proliferation of Sufism across the subcontinent, and the elaboration of Sultanate court culture before focusing on the political, cultural, and religious landscape of Mughal Empire. The course will conclude with a discussion of the impact of colonial rule, modernity, and nationalism in South Asia. (Same as Religious Studies 256 and History 256.) Usman Hamid.

309 S Asian Temples in a Digital World.
Examination of Asian religions in ritual, bodily, and spatial contexts. Discussions of textual and visual sources on human ritual interactions with gods; the use and layout of temples and altars, including food offerings, music, dance, representations of deities; and meditation and internal alchemy. Readings in scholarly sources, instruction in digital historical methods of collecting and analyzing materials on the web. Writing assignments include short essays and a final research project of the student’s design to be presented with text and images in digital form. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as History 309 and Religious Studies 309.) Maximum enrollment, 12. Thomas Wilson.

329 F Art of Devotion: Visual and Material Culture of Islam.
What is the relationship between aesthetics, material culture, and religious experience? In this course we explore this question by examining the aesthetic traditions of Islam, focusing on how Muslims have used literature, visual art, musical performance, and architecture as modes of religious expression and creativity. Through studying aesthetics and devotion in the Islamic tradition, we will reflect on questions of cultural appropriation and reuse, politics of representation, and the global circulation of objects, peoples, and capital. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one 200-level course in Asian Studies, History, or Religious Studies. (Same as Religious Studies 329 and Art History 329 and History 329.) Maximum enrollment, 12. Usman Hamid.

550 F Senior Project.
Seminar in which concentrators develop individually-designed research projects in consultation with the instructor and one other member of the Asian Studies Program Committee. Students discuss their ongoing research with their peers throughout the semester, culminating in formal presentations of the final projects, which demonstrate mastery of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of Asia. Prerequisite, at least one Asian Studies course offered at the 300-level. Maximum enrollment, 20. Program Director.

(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)

Contact Information

Asian Studies Program

198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
315-859-4236 315-859-4390 asianstudies@hamilton.edu
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