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.

Click here for the latest listing of eligible subjects and the current degree chart.


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.

Additional information can be obtained from the Major Advisor:
Professor Hiromu Nagahara, E51-255G, x4-4977
Or from the SHASS Academic Adminstrator, 
Andrea Wirth, 4-240, x3-4443