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Graduate Studies at Vanderbilt - Asian History

Updated October 10, 2018

Vanderbilt hosts an accomplished faculty in Asian history and is particularly strong in the twentieth century, early modern, and medieval periods. We emphasize global interconnections and broad comparative approaches both within the department and in affiliated programs across campus.

With a small cohort admitted each year, students benefit from close mentorship with Asia faculty, including one-on-one independent study and directed research. Students will be expected to take history department courses in other regions (Europe, US, Latin America, Middle East, Africa) and methodologies (including Visual Culture, Spatial Histories, Empire, and History of Science). Students can also explore related topics with Asia faculty in History of Art, languages and literature (Asian Studies), Religious Studies, Sociology, English, and Political Science.

Doctoral students in the history of Asia typically take four semesters of classes, followed by qualifying exams at the end of their fourth semester. The third year is devoted to developing the dissertation research prospectus and preparing for field work. Students spend their fourth year pursuing dissertation research.

All students in the program must pass two examinations in languages other than English, with one typically being the student's primary research language. In order to improve language skills, students may enroll (without receiving credit) in language classes offered to undergraduates. Languages currently offered include Chinese, Japanese, and Hindi/Urdu. Funds are available to support advanced summer language training.

South Asia: Vanderbilt is emerging as an important location for the study of early modern and modern South Asia, especially in the fields of political history, religious history, and the history of western India (Samira Sheikh). Graduate students admitted to study South Asian history may be supported by faculty in related fields, such as Indian Ocean history (Tasha Rijke-Epstein), the history of the British empire (Catherine Molineux), and the Islamic world (Leor Halevi, David Wasserstein). Distinguished South Asia specialists elsewhere at Vanderbilt include Tony K. Stewart and Anand Vivek Taneja in Religious Studies, Tariq Thachil in Political Science, Akshya Saxena in English, and Heeryoon Shin in History of Art. Those interested in premodern links between India and east Asia may benefit from scholars of Buddhism and Chinese architecture (Bryan Lowe, Tracy Miller).

Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Northeast Asia: With specialists in the cultural and intellectual history of modern/contemporary Japan (Gerald Figal, Yoshikuni Igarashi) and modern China/Northeast Asia (Ruth Rogaski), Vanderbilt is an excellent place to train in topics such as colonialism and empire, war, history and memory, contemporary culture, and history of the body and medicine. Faculty in US history (Tom Schwartz, Paul Kramer) also maintain strong interests in Sino-US relations. Associated faculty include Guojun Wang in Chinese literature, Lijun Song in Chinese medical sociology, and Brett Benson in contemporary Chinese politics.

Early and Middle-period Imperial China: Vanderbilt hosts a strong faculty in the political organization, military history, and material culture of the Song dynasty (Peter Lorge), with the capacity for comparative study in other medieval societies (Europe, Middle East, South Asia). Students can also explore topics as diverse as sacred landscapes, regional networks, and religious identities with affiliated faculty in history of Art (Tracy Miller) and Chinese religions (Rob Campany).

Current Graduate Students include Dipanjan Mazumder (joined 2018), Shounak Ghosh (joined 2017) and Patrick Rasico (joined 2013).
Completed dissertations include Ashish Koul (graduated 2017), now a tenure-track assistant professor of South Asian History at Northwestern University.