Education About Asia: Online Archives

EAST ASIA FOR UNDERGRADUATES: Balancing Regional Themes and Distinctive Cultures

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In 2001, four years after returning to academic life as an anthropologist from a career spent largely in government, I returned to teaching about Asia. The last time I had done so was twenty years earlier. That previous course had been about mainland Southeast Asia, at the graduate level, and for a small group of students with some measure of Asian experience. My primary country emphasis had always been Vietnam, and I had generally placed that in a Southeast Asia context. However, I also had some background in Chinese history and had spent eight of my earlier years in Japan. Since my current department offered Southeast Asia courses that dealt only lightly with Vietnam, it made sense to develop an East Asia course that would include Vietnam. Although that may not be the usual regional categorization, it seemed clear to me on historical and cultural grounds that Vietnam could be approached at least as effectively from an East Asian perspective as from a Southeast Asian one.