What Does Area Studies Mean To You?
OSGA faculty and students share why Area Studies is important to them, their community and the world.
Head of OSGA; Professor of Russian and East European Politics
'I’m a political scientist who believes that knowledge of the diversity of political systems and behaviours gained from in-depth study of regional and local contexts is essential in making sense of the world that we live in. By exploring how politics can vary across locales, area studies provides the empirical puzzles that shape our theoretical understanding of the world. My own PhD research was initially inspired by a fascination with communism and its collapse in what was called the Soviet Union. This was not for ideological or personal reasons; I was simply hooked by an ‘area’ that dominated the airwaves when I was a student. Over the last thirty years, this area continues to shape our understanding of world politics, and explaining why, is largely what motivates my research.'
Professor Kate Sullivan de Estrada
Director of South Asian Studies, Associate Professor in the International Relations of South Asia
'It’s an exciting time to be an International Relations (IR) scholar who works primarily on India. Scholarly momentum for the development and mainstreaming of accounts of the global that are centred beyond the West is building. Many colleagues are working towards a new vision for the discipline—a ‘Global IR’—advocating greater pluralism, diversity and reflexivity in their accounts and narratives of the global. Area Studies has much to contribute to this project. Area Studies scholarship offers numerous approaches for reading and mapping the local, the extra-local and the global. I see a great deal of potential for Area Studies and IR to combine forces to more deeply understand the complex patterns of power diffusion and the varying forms of social, economic, and political change that constitute and are constituted by the global.'
Research Fellow and Departmental Lecturer in Japanese and Chinese Studies
'As an anthropologist, I have always been interested in how people understand the world and attribute meaning to make sense of their experiences. What on the surface may appear to be a similar phenomenon might be experienced and interpreted very differently depending on where and how actors are situated within their local contexts and relationships. My fundamental belief in the importance of localising knowledge production is what draws me to Area Studies. I am fascinated with how such local knowledge constantly challenges our taken for granted assumptions. For example, in my current project, I am examining, with a focus on Japan, how seemingly universal concepts, such as “gender equality,” are shaped by the shifting cultural and demographic contexts in which their deployed.
Teaching and researching at OSGA, I am very excited about the contributions Area Studies can make to expand and enrich our understanding of the world. I continually enjoy the opportunities I have to engage with our students who have different regional and disciplinary interests, and constantly question what we take for granted.'
Current OSGA DPhil Student (China Studies)
'To me, Area Studies provides an ideal platform to acquire holistic knowledge of an area – be it a small village, a large metropolitan city, or an entire country. I value how Area Studies has a foot in both the social sciences and the humanities, and I think this is important as it enables students of the discipline to look at a combination of elements that make up the sociocultural and political economic fabric of a region. The highly interdisciplinary nature of Area Studies provides the freedom to conduct research from a variety of different angles and perspectives, enabling its students to move between the micro and the macro, the theoretical and the practical. Throughout my studies in Area Studies, I have been able to not only learn and ground myself in a variety of classical theories and methods from disciplines within the social sciences and humanities, but I have also been afforded the space to be theoretically and methodologically innovative.'
Current OSGA DPhil Student (African Studies)
'I find Area Studies fascinating due to how it offers the avenue to use cross-disciplinary methodological approaches in posing new questions to what seems to be familiar issues but yet has a lot of unexplored gaps in the tensions and contentions regarding people's understanding of past and the present.'