HSE Expands Offerings in Asian Studies with Opening of Joint Department with RAS Institute of Oriental Studies
HSE has been offering courses in Asian Studies for 10 years now with numerous departments and programmes producing research in the field and offering in-depth courses. In December 2019, the HSE Academic Council approved the opening of a Joint Department with the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IOS RAS). How will the IOS RAS transfer its vast experience and resource to its new home at HSE? And what traditions in the study and teaching of Asian studies already exist at HSE?
The School of Asian Studies is the oldest Asian studies programme at HSE University. It was founded 10 years ago as the Department of Asian Studies, which was part of what was then known as the Faculty of Philosophy. A few years later, renamed as a ‘School’, the School of Asian Studies joined the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs.
Undergraduate students can major in the School’s Asian Studies bachelor’s programme, where the curriculum is built around a principle of academic width and depth. The programme core consists of general courses in Asian area studies, language, history, geography, ethnography, literature, and more. In their second year of study, students select their area of specialization. These areas of deeper study include political science, international relations and economics, society, culture, and history. The curriculum also has a strong emphasis on project-based work that allows students to put their acquired expertise into practice in a professional environment.
Students can choose from four tracks: China, Korea, Japan and almost all Arab countries (Egypt, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Oman, etc.). Students learn the language of their chosen area in addition to its history, philosophical and religious systems, culture, and other developmental aspects. Students also study their chosen area’s features of modern development, including its business sector, economy, political system, and international policies. In addition, students may take a second Asian language as an elective.
A unique bonus of the programme is its internship placement system, which allows students to work in their chosen country and language.
At the master’s level, the School of Asian Studies offers an English-taught master’s programme in Socioeconomic and Political Development of Modern Asia. The programme focuses on developmental trends in East Asia (Korea, China, Japan) and related regions.
Additionally, the School offers a School of the Young Scholar of Asian Studies, where students learn about the history, culture, and philosophy of the countries of Asia and Africa and determine whether they would like to pursue a future career connected with the East.
Professor Andrey Karneev, Head of the School of Asian Studies, identifies certain qualities are important for future scholars of Asian studies. Applicants should have a genuine interest in the countries of Asia and North Africa (i.e., in the regions that traditionally comprise the ‘East’), and a desire to study and master unfamiliar civilizational features, world views, customs and habits, and behavioral stereotypes. The ability to adapt to an unfamiliar environment and show curiosity and tolerance in understanding the cultural codes of foreign environments will also be useful.
‘Hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to systematically apply oneself are very important, because mastering an Asian language is impossible without devoting a substantial amount of time and effort,’ says Professor Karneev. ‘In addition, modern life requires good digital skills, and digital culture at our university also occupies a special place. And, of course, being an Asian studies scholar requires creativity, an independent perspective, unconventional thinking, and the ability to create something new.’
Professor Karneev believes the relevance of Asian studies will only increase due to the growing importance of the countries of Asia and Africa in world politics, economics, demography, science, and culture. In his view, the world order based on the dominance of Europe and the West as a whole is giving way before our eyes to a multipolar and polycentric one. In this new world order, the countries of Asia (and Africa) will, along with the old ‘masters of the world order’, will determine the rules of the game and behavioral norms.
Our profession will certainly develop, but as competition and the number of Asian studies researchers grow, the more highly trained and advanced specialists will have to be in order to be in demand. I think that Asian studies will become more strongly integrated with other areas within interdisciplinary frameworks and methodologies. Asian studies scholars will subsequently make countries of the East more accessible both to the Russian public as well as to the political, business, and academic elite.
The Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies was launched in the Faculty of Humanities in 2017. The Institute is research-focused with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity, languages (both dead and living), and cultures of the East. The Institute staff is comprised of specialists in Asian studies, ancient history, and classical philology who include both world-renowned scholars and recent graduates. Among these specialists are world-renowned scholars as well as recent graduates of the Institute.
Offered areas of specialization include: China; Japan; Korea; Vietnam; Laos and Thailand; Mongolia and Tibet; Iran; ancient India; Islamic India and Pakistan; the Languages and Cultures of Dravidian India; Turkey and the Turkic-speaking states of Central Asia; the Arab World, Africa: Ethiopia and Eritrea; Ancient Mesopotamia; the Old Testament and its World, the Christian East; Syrian and New Aramaic Studies; Ancient Greece and Rome; Archeology of the Ancient East; and Eastern and Southeastern Regions of Russia. More than 50 languages are studied and taught at the Institute.
In the future, the Institute staff plans to expand the purview of their research and open programmes in Egyptology and other areas of study in Africa, as well as Indonesia and Malaysia.
The Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies (IOCS) currently offers seven programmes of study:
- Language and Literature of Iran
- Biblical Studies and History of Ancient Israel
- Indian Languages and Literature
- Japanese Language and Literature
- Languages and Literature of Southeast Asia
- Classical Studies
IOCS Director Ilya Smirnov notes that people have always been interested in the East. ‘Interest has only periodically expanded and moved, say, from Japan to China and Korea, and now to Southeast Asia, from the Arabic states to Iran. Interest in Africa is returning, which is why we are opening a programme on Ethiopia and planning other African programmes for the coming years.’
For the 2020/21 academic year, the Institute welcomes applications to its programme in Classical Studies. It also welcomes applications to its new bachelor’s programmes in Mongolia and Tibet; Turkey and the Turkic World; and Ethiopia and the Arab World. In addition, the Institute has opened two master’s programmes, which will be accepting its first cohorts: Muslim Worlds of Russia (History and Culture) and Classical and Oriental Archeology.
In the Institute’s admissions process, new cohorts are only admitted to the Asian studies programmes once previously admitted ones graduate. This allows the Institute to coordinate its programmes more effectively.
Studies at the IOCS emphasize the connection between formal study and applied research. Students participate in their professors’ research, attend international summer schools, and travel on expeditions. Archeological expeditions, as well as those that focus on languages and folklore, are an integral part of the Institute’s curricula.
New Joint Department with the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies
In December 2019, the HSE Academic Council approved the opening of the Joint Department with the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IOS RAS).
‘Transferring the Institute’s vast experience to HSE, which has been offering Asian Studies in its current form for the past 10 years, is a significant step in the development of this academic field at the University,’ says Grigory Lukyanov, Deputy Head of the new IAS RAS department.
HSE as a whole and the School of Asian Studies in particular already have their own traditions, Mr. Lukyanov notes. However, the School and other departments offering programmes in this area are still quite young and therefore able to change and develop, which is both a benefit in itself and a competitive advantage.
‘HSE offers a wide range of programmes that are engaged in the research and teaching of Asian studies, but for the most part, they work autonomously, occasionally even hindering one another in their common goal,’ says Grigory Lukyanov. ‘One of the tasks of the Joint Department with the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies will be to promote effective coordination of the research and academic activities of HSE’s Asian studies scholars in order to widen our academic offerings, increase graduate career opportunities, and make HSE a reputable international centre for Asian studies in both its theoretical and applied forms.’
Faculty members of the Joint Department with the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies plan to instill a strong research focus at all levels of the curriculum, from the bachelor’s level to the master’s level. Students will engage in individual and collective research projects, which will include term papers, project work, and graduate theses. The department will also increase research collaboration between professors and students and foster research guidance and mentor-mentee relationships. Students will have the opportunity to complete internships at the IOS RAS, and faculty members, with the support of the Department, will be able to mentor and supervise undergraduate and graduate students in their research.
In the 2020/2021 academic year, HSE’s School of International and Regional Studies, together with the Joint Department with the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies, will offer new minor options. Beginning this spring, students will already be able to register for courses that fulfill the new minor, ‘Middle East and North Africa: Economics, Politics, and Security’. Mid-term plans include considering the possibility of opening new Master’s programmes and developing fundamentally new academic and research tools. In addition, Mr. Lukyanov adds, faculty members of the Joint Department with the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies will supervise select tracks offered in HSE’s new doctoral programme in International Relations.
Grigory Lukyanov agrees with colleagues from the Institute of Oriental and Classical Studies: Russia has always had an interest in the region. This interest, in his view, results from several factors. ‘The countries of Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa are very different from us, and therefore rouse our curiosity and fascinate students. This fascination inspires many students to formally study the regions. There are also objective political and economic factors. The level of cooperation between Russia and countries of Asia and Africa is steadily increasing and, correspondingly, so is the demand for experts on these regions of the world.’
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