MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Great Ideas Change the World

Major in Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies

Detail, from the "Nine Dragons" handscroll, painted by Chen Rong, during the Song Dynasty. Scroll located in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. In this detail, the dragon (an auspicious symbol of strength and good luck in Chinese iconography) has grasped the pearl of wisdom. (Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.)


The Major in Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies is designed for students interested in serious intensive research on the languages, history, politics, and cultures of Asia and/or the Asian diasporas. The geographic region of Asia includes countries such as Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. In consultation with the major advisor, students may focus their coursework on a sub-region of Asia, on one of the Asian diasporas, or design their program to offer a comparative study across different regions and/or cultural groups. The goal of the Major program is to provide balanced coverage of language, humanistic and social science offerings on the region and to expose students to some comparative perspectives within the region. The MIT Departments of Global Studies and Languages, History, and Political Science offer a substantial number of subjects related to Asia and the Asian diasporas. All Interdisciplinary Major students must write a senior thesis on a topic of their choice to be determined in consultation with an MIT faculty member whose specialty falls within Asian studies. The thesis research may include knowledge of an Asian language.

The Major in Asian & Asian Diaspora Studies consists of a minimum of nine subjects (108 units) beyond the pre-thesis and thesis, including two language subjects in Area I (or equivalent proficiency), and seven other subjects selected from at least two of the three disciplinary areas (Areas II-IV).

Area I: Language

Area II: Humanities and the Arts

Area III: Social Sciences

Area IV: Historical Studies

Up to six subjects (72 units) may be used for both the major and the GIRs, but the units from those subjects may not count toward the 180 units required beyond the GIRs. No more than one HASS Distribution class may be counted towards the major and towards the HASS Distribution Component of the GIRs. Of the subjects required for the major, at least eight must count only toward this major (and not toward any other degrees, major or minor).

The language requirement can be satisfied by taking two intermediate (Levels III and IV) subjects in an Asian language. Students with proficiency at this level in the spoken and written language can either take two more advanced language subjects (highly recommended), or two more courses from Areas II, III and IV. Chinese and Japanese are taught at MIT. Other languages may be taken at Harvard, Wellesley, or during the summer with permission from the relevant Transfer Credit Examiner.




The language requirement can be satisfied by taking two intermediate (Levels III and IV, or Very Fast Track equivalent) subjects in an Asian language.

Language subjects offered at MIT


21G.103 Chinese III (Regular), HASS-H

21G.104 Chinese IV (Regular), HASS-H

21G.105 Chinese V (Regular): Discovering Chinese Cultures and Societies, HASS-H

21G.106 Chinese VI (Regular): Discovering Chinese Cultures and Societies, HASS-H

21G.109 Chinese III (Streamlined), HASS-H

21G.110 Chinese IV (Streamlined), HASS-H

21G.113 Chinese V (Streamlined), HASS-H

21G.142 Intermediate Chinese I: Very Fast Track, HASS-H

21G.143 Intermediate Chinese II: Very Fast Track, HASS-H

21G.503 Japanese III, HASS-H

21G.504 Japanese IV, HASS-H

21G.505 Japanese V, HASS-H

21G.506 Japanese VI, HASS-H

21G.514 Linguistic Theory and Japanese Language, HASS-H


Areas II, III, IV: Four subjects to be selected from at least two areas.




21G.011 Topics in Indian Popular Culture, HASS-H, CI-H

21G.027J Visualizing Japan in the Modern World [CMS.874], HASS-H, CI-H

21G.030J Introduction to East Asian Cultures: From Zen to K-Pop [WGS.236], HASS-H

21G.036J Advertising and Media: Comparative Perspectives [CMS.356], HASS-H

21G.038 China in the News: The Untold Stories, HASS-H

21G.039J Gender and Japanese Popular Culture [21A.143, WGS.154], HASS-H

21G.040 A Passage to India: Introduction to Modern Indian Culture and Society, HASS-H

21G.044J Classics of Chinese Literature in Translation [21L.044, WGS.235], HASS-H

21G.046 Modern Chinese Fiction and Cinema, HASS-H, CI-H

21G.063 Anime: Transnational Media and Culture, HASS-H

21G.064 Introduction to Japanese Culture, HASS-H, CI-H

21G.065J Japanese Literature and Cinema [21A.142], HASS-H, CI-H

21G.199 Chinese Youths and Web Culture, HASS-H

21G.S01 Special Subjects: Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures (Spring 2016 only)

21M.291 Music of India, HASS-A

21M.863 Advanced Topics in Theater Arts: China On Stage, HASS-A (Fall 2015 only)

21W.788J South Asian America: Transnational Media, Culture, and History [CMS.334], HASS-H

WGS.226J Science, Caste, and Gender in India [STS.023], HASS-H




17.407 Chinese Foreign Policy, HASS-S

17.433 International Relations of East Asia, HASS-S

17.486 Japan and East Asian Society (G)

17.53 The Rise of Asia, HASS-S

17.537 Politics and Policy in Contemporary Japan, HASS-S

21A.140J Cultures of East Asia [21G.047], HASS-S

21A.141J Images of Asian Women: Dragon Ladies and Lotus Blossoms [21G.048, WGS.274], HASS-S




21G.043J Introduction to Asian American Studies: Historical and Contemporary Issues [21H.107], HASS-H, CI-H

21G.045 Global Chinese Food, HASS-H

21G.075J The Global Chinese: Chinese Migration, 1567-Present [21H.253], HASS-H

21H.151 Traditional China: Earliest Times to 1644, HASS-H

21H.152 Modern China: 1644 to the Present, HASS-H

21H.154 Pre-Modern Japan: Earliest Times to 1868, HASS-H

21H.155 Modern Japan: 1868 to Present, HASS-H

21H.157 The Making of Modern South Asia, HASS-S

21H.351J Shanghai and China’s Modernization [11.153], HASS-H

21H.354 World War II in Asia, HASS-H

21H.357 South Asians in the British Empire: Trade, Labor, Literature, Politics, HASS-H, CI-H

21H.358 Colonialism in South Asian and African History, HASS-H


This list is not exhaustive. Relevant subjects that are no longer offered and subjects with variable topics (such as “special subjects” or “selected topics” courses, for example) may also be counted at the discretion of the major advisor.

[ ] Jointly listed subjects

(G) Graduate subjects which are open to qualified undergraduates, with the permission of the instructor


Additional information can be obtained from the Major Advisor:
Professor Ian Condry, 14N-314, x2-5058
Or from the Global Studies and Languages Office, 14N-305, x3-4771