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Asia: Pre-History to Present

The University of Washington offers graduate training in the pre-modern histories of East, South and Southeast Asia. The Chinese history program is particularly strong in social history and the history of women of the early imperial modern period, and the social, cultural and political history of the later imperial period. Our South Asia program is particularly focused on religious movements in the Mughal and post-Mughal period. Fields of specialization in Southeast Asian History include the pre-modern histories of Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, with particular focus on the politics of language. We are also able to offer instruction in pre-modern Sino-Vietnamese history.

The University of Washington offers graduate training in the modern histories of East, South and Southeast Asia. Fields of specialization in East Asian History include the cultural social and political history of imperial and modern China, the political and social history of modern Japan, and the history of imperial and modern Korea. The Chinese history program is particularly strong in the history of women of the imperial and modern periods. Fields of specialization in Southeast Asian History include the modern histories of Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, with particular focus on the related issues of social memory, colonialism, nationalism, and the politics of language.

The University's long-standing commitment to teaching in these areas is reflected in a significant infrastructure supporting study. The teaching of Asian histories draws also on the offerings of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature, which teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese and Korean and Sanskrit. Instruction is also offered in Filipino, Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese. The University has federally funded Interdisciplinary Area Studies Centers in EastSoutheast and South Asian Studies, which provide fellowships and organize seminars and provide outreach to the community in their respective areas. In addition, there are endowed ChinaJapan and Korea Studies centers that also organize programs and provide fellowship and research support. The East Asia Library has significant holdings in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Tibetan; while South and Southeast Asian materials are found in the relevant sections of the Suzzallo Library.

Associated Faculty

Professor Purnima Dhavan
Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Howard and Frances Keller Endowed Professor in History
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    Graduate students preparing a field in the history of South Asia 1200-1800 will be expected to gain a broad familiarity with the history of the Sultanate and Mughal period in addition to the histories of various regional dynasties. The social, cultural, and political history of the period is emphasized and includes state formation and the emergence and transformation of caste and ethnic identity, religious traditions, warrior and peasant cultures, trading networks, and intellectual traditions.

    Students will create a specialized course of study in consultation with the professor. Proficiency in one South Asian language and/or Persian is required for students who wish to pursue a primary specialization in this field. Students who select this as a secondary field need not have knowledge of a South Asian language.

    Division: Comparative History (Historiography & Comparative Gender)*

    Students preparing a field in Historiography will study the impact of modern historical theories and methodologies on our understanding of early modern South Asian history including nationalist, feminist, marxist, and subaltern modes of analysis. The course of study in the field will also explore oral traditions, mythological concepts of time, memory and history in textual sources and art from the early modern period.

    A field in Comparative Gender in South Asia from 1200-1800 will examine the construction of gender in early modern South Asia and its specific interactions with caste, social class, and ethnicity. Readings will focus on the construction of gender in courtly, warrior, ascetic, and mystical traditions in the early modern period as well as the considerable body of theoretical and methodological debates about the history of gender put forward by modern scholars.


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Madeleine Yue Dong
Professor, Joint Appointment: Jackson School of International Studies
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    Students preparing this field will consider China in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including social, cultural, gender, urban history.

    Division: Comparative History (Comparative Gender & Comparative Ethnicity & Nationalism)*

    Students preparing a field in Comparative Gender will consider the transformation and reconstruction of gender boundaries and identities through political, social, and cultural discourses and practices. Students preparing a field in Comparative Ethnicity and Nationalism will study China from an empire to a nation state, and formation/transformation of regional, ethnic, gender, and class identities in the process, as well as Chinese nationalism and revolutions and their relations to imperialism and colonialism.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.


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Patricia Ebrey
Professor, Williams Family Endowed Professor in History
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    Graduate students preparing a field in Early Imperial China are expected to gain a broad familiarity with the history of the period sufficient to prepare them to teach undergraduate survey courses covering Chinese history from its beginnings through the Song dynasty (that is, to 1279 CE). In addition, they should acquire more detailed knowledge of a specific time period (such as a dynasty) and a specific type of history (such as social, cultural, intellectual, political, economic, or gender). Emphasis is placed on command of the English language literature on the subject, and students should submit a list of 75-100 books and articles that they will have read.

    Students preparing early Chinese history as a secondary field need not have Chinese language competence and can select any time period and specialty. Students wishing to do their dissertations in this field must have strong Chinese language skills and are encouraged to work in the Tang or Song periods.


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Professor Christoph Giebel
Associate Professor, Joint Appointment: Jackson School of International Studies
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    Professor Giebel offers fields covering the material and human history of Viet Nam from the beginnings to the present. Students focusing on the period before 1800 will emphasize local cultures and early kingdoms through the study of religion, architecture, art, archaeology, economics, ecology, and textual studies (literature, laws, chronicles, and oral traditions). Students working in the modern period will focus on the social, political, cultural and economic changes in Viet Nam from 1800 to the present. Emphasizes the growth of staes, imperialism, nationalism, the transformations of modernity, independence and the challenges of gendered, ethnic, and religious identities in the post-colonial world.


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Professor Matthew Mosca
Assistant Professor, Joint Appointment: Jackson School of International Studies
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    Graduate students taking a field in Late Imperial Chinese History will develop a general knowledge of the Ming and Qing periods (1368-1912), the development of relevant historiography, particularly in English, and specialized expertise in one or more subfields. The field will cover both China and Inner Asia. A reading list will be determined in consultation with the instructor.  Students for whom Late Imperial China is their primary field will be expected to command at least literary and modern Chinese in order to develop research proficiency. Students taking this as a secondary field are not required to know Chinese.


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Professor Hwasook Nam
Assistant Professor, Joint Appointment: Jackson School of International Studies, James B. Palais Endowed Assistant Professor in Korea Studies
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    Students preparing a field in modern Korean history will consider the social, cultural, political, and gender history of Korea in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with an emphasis on the colonial period and post-WWII nation building.

    Division: Comparative History (Comparative Colonialisms)*

    Students preparing a field in Comparative Colonialisms with Professor Nam will focus on Western, Chinese, and Japanese imperialisms and colonial practices in Korea and in other parts of Asia (Manchuria, in particular) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and their relations to the rise of modern nation states and ethnic nationalism in North and South Korea.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.


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Professor Vicente Rafael
Professor
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    This field is constructed with an emphasis on island Southeast Asia and the Philippines from 1521 to the present.

    Division: United States History

    Asian American socio-cultural histories, with an emphasis on Filipino Americans and Filipino overseas workers

    Division: Comparative History (Historiography, Comparative Ethnicity & Nationalism, and Comparative Colonialisms)*

    A field in Comparative Historiography will include Nationalist and postcolonial conceptions of history, deconstruction, critical theory especially as these relate to the politics of translation, religion, and media technologies. A field in Comparative Colonialisms will carry a focus on United States and Spanish imperialism in Asia and the Pacific. The field in Comparative Nationalism and Ethnicity focuses on the historical and technological conditions for the rise of nationhood, as well as the role of mass media, translation and the languages of power in nationalist discourses.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.


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Laurie Sears
Professor, Walker Family Endowed Professor in History
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    Professor Sears offers fields covering the material and human history of Indonesia from the beginnings to the present. Students focusing on the period before 1800 will emphasize local cultures and early kingdoms through the study of religion, architecture, art, archaeology, economics, ecology, and textual studies (literature, laws, chronicles, and oral traditions). Students working in the modern period will focus on the social, political, cultural and economic changes in Indonesia from 1800 to the present. Emphasizes the growth of staes, imperialism, nationalism, the transformations of modernity, independence and the challenges of gendered, ethnic, and religious identities in the post-colonial world.

    Division: Comparative History (Historiography & Comparative Colonialisms)*

    The goal of the Historiography field will be to look at the intersection of history and theory through a critical investigation of ideologies, post-modernities, the breakdown of rationalism, and the de-centering effects of postcolonial and feminist theories. How does post-modern critical discourse affect historical studies? What is the fate of history in the postcolonial world? Can one be a feminist, a Marxist, and a post-modernist? (Would one want to be?) By taking an interdisciplinary approach to "culture," theory, and history, this field will blend together a number of different methodologies associated with ethnography, semiotics, Frankfurt school theory, Birmingham school media criticism, feminist theories, Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, postcolonial theories and deconstruction. The emphasis will be on different ways of "seeing" and how these intersect with changing notions of subjectivity. Each student will construct an individual list of required readings for this field specific to his or her research interests.

    This field in Comparative Colonialisms approaches the comparative study of colonialism by investigating spatial and temporal constructions of modernity and what is sometimes called post-modernity. The field draws novelists, cultural critics, and scholars of Asia and Europe into comparative historical conversations about "non-western studies". Continuing the dialogues with the social sciences that comparative studies have always entailed, this field integrates literary, historiographical, postcolonial, and psychoanalytic theories into these discussions by questioning the development of nations and identities, and the disciplinary constructions of modernity, ethnicity, gender, and culture.

    For the purposes of this field, we will avoid positing a past time of tradition that has been overcome by modernity. Tradition and modernity both come into focus at the same time, and scholars can only recognize tradition in the light of modernity. What becomes known as "culture" comes into focus in the 19th century as colonial empires are consolidated and colonial scholars begin the process of cultural representation that has sometimes been named Orientalism. What we must call culture, for lack of a better term, cannot be separated from the colonial moment and posited as an unchanging part of non-European civilization waiting for Europeans to uncover, interpret, document, or eventually reconstruct it. What social scientists call "tradition" developed within an atmosphere in which 19th century discourses of progress and science were percolating, both contributing and drawing from European, African, and Asian intellectual interactions. This field strives towards a re-envisioning of European and Asian histories by highlighting the mutual exchanges between Asian and European knowledges and mentalities. Each student will construct a different list of required readings for this field specific to his or her research interests.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.


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Professor Anand Yang
Professor, Chair, College of Arts and Sciences Term Professor
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