Bard College at Simon's Rock: the Early College
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Asian Studies Courses

In addition to the courses listed below, Asian Studies draws from courses in other disciplines including Art History, Geography, and Philosophy. Students also have the opportunity to study Chinese.

Modern China from the Margins: Class, Gender, Ethnicity, and the Nation State

Asian Studies 225 CP | Coggins | 3 credits

This course examines the making of Chinese modernity through the construction and contestation of spaces delineating class, gender, ethnicity, and nationhood. Our project is to explore relationships between space and time in narratives on identity dating roughly from the Opium War of the mid-19th century to the era of globalization in the early 21st. Materials for study include scholarly works, political tracts, fiction, essays, documentaries, administrative maps, landscapes, technologies, and more. Our dialogue revolves around the following questions: First, is the concept of the modern nation-state applicable to the People’s Republic of China and is the Chinese nation-state strictly a modern phenomenon? Second, how have cultural others--the non-Han peoples--contributed to the idea of “Zhongguo,” the “Central Kingdom(s),” as opposed to “waiguo,” the outside ethno-political entities, through time? What justifications and social controls have been used to facilitate the incorporation of non-Han territories into the Chinese realm and how is this process continuing in the 21st century? Third, how has the concept of socioeconomic class been conceived by modern Chinese political theorists, and upon which varieties of pre-modern social networks and cultural relations were these ideologies cast? How have class-relations developed over the course of the 20th century and into the present day? Fourth, how have gender relations and sexuality served as catalysts for political revolution and social change since the early 20th century? How have they informed Chinese Communist Party policy since 1949 and how are they changing in the post-reform period of economic liberalization and the hollowing out of the state? Fifth, how has space been defined in regard to the nation, the individual, the body, labor, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, the urban, the rural, and national boundaries in a globalizing world?” Sixth, how have Chinese intellectuals engaged with these issues and the question of China’s position in the global community in the post-Mao period, particularly within the engagement between “patriotic worrying,” post-modern theory, and the prospect of an end to the country’s geopolitical marginalization?

Prerequisites: Completion of Accelerated Beginning Chinese, a 200-level course in Asian studies or a 200-level course in social studies.  

Sacred Landscapes and Nature Conservation in China and the Tibetan Borderlands: Trekking, Research, and Service-Learning

Off-Campus Program 301 | Coggins | 4 credits

This course introduces students to the physical and cultural diversity of the coastal plains, interior plateaus, and mountain ranges of China. Through readings, talks, personal observation, and service work, students gain an appreciation of the biogeography and culture history of the subtropical Southeast Uplands, the Yellow River Valley, the loess plateau, the North China Plain, and the snow-capped Hengduan mountain region of the Sino-Tibetan borderlands. The course focuses on human-land relationships, nature conservation efforts, and the social geography of sacred sites in rural mountain regions. We work from two bases: First the Meihuashan Nature Reserve, in Fujian Province, home of the South China Tiger Recovery Program (where conservation officials are training captive tigers for reintroduction to the wild); and second, the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of NW Yunnan Province, where Tibetans and other indigenous peoples are actively engaged in local and region-wide efforts to conserve nature and maintain distinctive cultural identities in the face of radical change, globalization, and commercialization. At both sites we work closely with village communities on projects initiated by our hosts, focusing on socio-economic development, environmental protection, or both. En route to our main sites, we visit several major cities, including Hong Kong, Beijing, and Xi’an, where we observe pre-modern relicts in the urban landscape, the impacts of colonialism, and the changing urban morphologies associated with the post-reform period. We also pause for a two-day hike in Huashan, one of the five sacred mountains of Daoism. In Meihuashan villages, resident experts interpret the cultural landscapes associated with Feng shui and its sacred trees and forests. In Diqing Tibetan villages local people explain the relationship between everyday life and the God Mountains, sacred springs, and groves associated with a range of presiding deities. The course can also serve as a foundation for continuing research and writing for additional classes, tutorials, and independent studies.

Prerequisites: One 200-level course in Asian studies and one 200-level course in social studies; and must be in extremely good physical condition. Additional charges apply. This course is a Simon's Rock Signature Program .