Devaluation of the humanities

A trend of devaluation of the analytical and comparative intellectual pursuits of humanistic disciplines is being experienced in many universities and research institutes due to drastically reduced state and private funding. Increasingly a reductionist discourse influenced by quantitative analysis conceptions of what investigative knowledge of cultures and societies becomes dominant. This is especially the case in what was once called in the West area or regional studies – historically, geographically and culturally contextualized, language-based knowledge of the different regions, cultures and societies of the world.

This regressive current goes in parallel with a multiplication of centers of knowledge production across the world, including in those very regions that were once objects of these studies. The challenge is to seek creative responses to the apparent predicament of area or regional studies by moving beyond obsolete methodological boundaries framed during an era of exclusive Western academic domination.

New research networks

Built on a close interaction between Asian, European, African and American partners, the programme aims to foster new humanities-focused research and educational opportunities in the field of Asian studies on the basis of a trans-regional inter-disciplinary platform. In the process, it seeks to shape academic communities around new themes of research, emphasizing the inclusion of young and aspiring scholars from the four world-regions and beyond.

IIAS’ experience in pioneering new trends

The International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) has long fostered such an approach by transforming a wide array of scholars and social practitioners, in Asia and the West and elsewhere, into active stakeholders capable of shaping an Asian intellectual agenda in context, in a multifaceted global reality. Due to its open mandate, the IIAS can act as an effective transnational facilitator and clearing house. Since its creation in 1993, the Institute has pioneered new collaborative models and has profoundly contributed to the expansion of the field of Asian Studies. The three-year pilot project Rethinking Asian Studies in a Global Context aims to create a more viable global collaborative model.


In the third year of the programme, a roundtable will be organized, in collaboration with Columbia University, to evaluate the programme’s outcomes and discuss a continuation of the initiative. Inspired by an event organised in November 2011 by IIAS entitled ‘Shifting Patterns in Global Interactions and Identities’, which investigated new topographies of power in North-South and South-South geopolitics and its implications for the academic study of Asia, the 2015 event will bring together researchers engaged in the five fora as well as external experts from Asia, Europe, the America’s, Africa and beyond.