Combining critical theoretical perspectives with an in-depth regional focus, this unique programme provides you with the tools to make sense of the ascendance of Asia and its impact on contemporary culture and geopolitics.
You will be taught by renowned academics. Teaching on China is led by Professors Wang Hui, Scott Lash, and Michael Dutton, while Indian material is covered by Professors Sanjay Seth, John Hutnyk, and Dr Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay. Dr Rajyashree Pandey provides expertise on Japan.
Core courses will introduce you to the most advanced theorists of politics and cultural studies, and to the most up to date issues facing contemporary Asia. For instance, how are the present political economies of China, India and Japan linked to traditional Confucian and Daoist, and in some cases Buddhist and Hindu, philosophies? Must the idea of India, for example, be understood as a product of colonial and capitalist subsumption, or is a global outlook now co-terminus, even constitutive, of the present national imaginary? In China, is the re-emergence of neo-Confucianism indicative of a challenge to Western-style liberal values? And how does Japan complicate this narrative as both coloniser and colonised?
We teach you to reflect critically on the validity of Western history-making and its distinctiveness in actuality from fiction. Can fiction and other forms of material culture equally become a means to tell a much broader story about Asia, as in the case of Manga/Anime in Japan and mud statues in China?
We consider the role of social and political movements, from the struggle for Independence in India to street protests and festivals across all of Asia. At the end of the course, we ask you to write a dissertation that consolidates what you have learnt and which prepares you for further study or engagement in the politics and cultures of contemporary Asia.
What you study
You will take core courses in Critical Asian Thought and Politics and Culture in Asia, and a Dissertation. You can also tailor your degree to your own individual interests, by selecting additional papers from a range of options from across different departments that complement the programme’s focus.
In terms of practical skills, the MA is unique in offering students the opportunity to study Mandarin in co-operation with Goldsmiths’ newly established Confucius Institute. These courses will provide a platform for those interested in learning Mandarin as a new language, or those already advanced in the language who wish to further improve their skills. Classes will follow a syllabus that has been approved by the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Hanban for short), and provide students with a HSK-equivalent qualification useful in many Asian countries (the HSK qualification itself is not a part of the course, but the test may be taken separately).
These courses will increase students’ employability in Asia, as well as provide them with the means to carry out PhD research on topics that require experience in Mandarin.
Critical Asian Thought
This core course provides theoretical grounding for the degree programme as a whole. We cover a range of key texts in cultural and critical theory, while seeking to re-evaluate their significance for the contemporary world in the light of Asian philosophies, histories and modernities.
Are liberalism and neo-liberalism specifically Western problematics? Can we locate an ‘alternative modernity’ in the emergence of early market economies in 11th- and 12th-century China and India or during the later colonial expansion of the East India Company? What is the nature of the political in Japan, China and India? Is sovereignty in Asia an issue of statehood, or alternatively of nation, of empire, or of Hindu or Confucian civilisation? What conceptions of art and culture, of revolution and violence would do justice to these sites? In exploring these questions and others, we seek to reframe our understanding of global politics, art and culture.
Politics and Culture in Asia
From the macro-scale to the everyday, this core course explores some of the key transformations in religion and cosmology, politics and economics that define the landscape of contemporary Asia.
In these seminars and lectures, you will encounter cutting edge research into specific issues from Japan, China and India, learning to identify the politics inherent in cultural forms. Outside of conventional politics, we find anxieties about nuclear disaster and utopian fantasies surfacing in Japanese anime and manga. We examine how Chinese Kongfu movies reify and ‘modernise’ ancient traditions such as that of ‘rivers and lakes’ (Jianghu yiqi), how the idea of ‘flow’ (liu) is set against a Confucian tradition of ‘wen’, meaning stability, and how in this worlding the traditional built environment was never ‘utilitarian’ in the Western sense but mapped onto this world of sacred and symbolic understandings. How, too, do we account for the extraordinary popularity of religious festivals like the Ganpati festival in Pune, India – a burgeoning economic powerhouse? Challenging preconceptions about modernity and secularism, the centrality of sacred is here given careful attention, as we aim to understand how other modes of conceptualising gods, spirits and being, continue in critical ways to inflect the form modernity takes in the present.
The degree culminates in the dissertation, researched and written over the summer. This is an opportunity for you to undertake your own research project on a topic of significance to study in the field of contemporary Asia, drawing on the knowledge, understanding and skills developed through the rest of the programme.
Intellectual support, advice on sources and planning, as well as general methodological assistance are provided under the guidance of a dedicated supervisor allocated from either CCS or the Department of Politics.
Aside from the core structure of the programme, you are given a variety of other ways to further immerse yourself in the subject of contemporary Asia.
In addition to the two core courses that provide the foundation of the course as a whole, you may tailor your degree to your own individual interests, by selecting additional papers from a range of options from across different departments that complement the programme’s focus.
For instance, you may choose to study Contemporary Asian Film, Politics and Difference, Global Cultural Theory, Postcolonial Theory and Fiction, or modules relating to the field of Urban Studies. Some of these courses will be there to extend the groundwork of the course, while others will be more specially oriented toward advanced study in a particular substantive area or topic.
In terms of practical skills, the MA is unique in offering our students the opportunity to study Mandarin in co-operation with Goldsmiths’ newly established Confucius Institute. These courses will provide a platform for those interested in learning Mandarin as a new language, or those already advanced in the language who wish to further improve their skills. Classes will follow a syllabus that has been approved by the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Hanban for short), and provide students with a HSK-equivalent qualification useful in many Asian countries (the HSK qualification itself is not a part of the course, but the test may be taken separately).
These courses will increase your employability in Asia, as well as provide you with the means to carry out PhD research on topics that require experience in Mandarin.
You take two standard-length option papers, or two half-length and one standard-length option paper, in addition to the core course content. At least one option paper must be selected from the following. The remainder can be chosen from the wide range available from Goldsmiths departments and centres.
Contemporary Asian Film
This module introduces films drawn from one or more of the regional film traditions within Asia in the last 60 years – for example Bengali New Wave, Chinese Fifth Generation, Japanese films of Kon, Ichikawa, etc. Each year a regional tradition or director will be chosen by the course leader (Professor Hutnyk) for in-depth study. Ten films, or combinations of shorts and documentaries of suitable length, will be introduced, screened and discussed in terms of content, context and significance. The course is taught through film screenings and seminar discussions, and a premium is placed upon critical film theory and cultural theory contextualisation.
Contemporary Asia: Debates (NB not available 2013-14)
This course teaches you how to combine high-level critical contemporary theory with practical knowledge and understanding of Asia. The course is taught by several members of CCS and Politics, with significant additional input and teaching contributions from visiting professor, Wang Hui.
The module will further the programme’s explicit aim to train graduates who are able to interpret and translate the rapid changes currently sweeping across Asia, and adapt to and even influence these changes through highly developed powers of intellectual engagement in current debates surrounding contemporary Asian culture and politics. For example, we raise the question of whether we should reimagine China as something like what Wang Hui has recently coined the ‘civilisation-state’, a conceptual configuration which recognises China’s diverse regional and ethnic complexities. Through this conceptual prism, we assert a politics of imagining Asia that takes into account not just interregional relationships, but international relations between India, China, Japan, as well as the configuration of Europe and other parts of the Western hemisphere.
Mandarin Level 1
This course provides practical experience of Mandarin at beginner level. The course is designed to improve your cross-cultural competency and advance proficiency in a language through coursework, exams and intensive linguistic training in small classes with others at the Confucius Institute.
1 year full-time or 2 years part-time.
Applicants are encouraged to submit by 31 May, though applications after this date may still be considered. If you’re applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline. For example, the deadline for applicants applying for AHRC funding is 1 March.
Find out more about applying
Degree of at least UK upper second class (or equivalent) in a related subject. If your first language is not English, you normally need a minimum score of 7.0 in IELTS (including 7.0 in the written element) or equivalent. Find out more about our English Language requirements.
UK/EU students may be eligible for AHRC funding. Applications must be received by 1 March. Contact Lisa Rabanal, firstname.lastname@example.org, for further information.
The MA provides a sound basis for international careers in areas including, but not limited to: journalism, media, translation, publishing, the Civil Service and voluntary sector, local government, NGOs, teaching and research, and the commercial world (for example semiotic analysis and brand development consultancy firms, and companies that would benefit from bi-lingual or multi-lingual employees).
Special expertise and knowledge of Asia; critical and analytical skills; language proficiency; ability to synthesise insights from a range of disciplinary perspectives; detailed and sensitive grasp of key issues in contemporary media, politics, economy, culture and religion.
Please see Tuition fees.
Please see Staff research interests.
Contact Lisa Rabanal