Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS)


Area studies is an approach to knowledge that starts from the study of places in the human world from antiquity to the present, through the relevant source languages, with central regard for issues of positionality.

It is a dynamic synthesis of area expertise and disciplines in the humanities and social science, relying on sensitivity to and critical reflection on the situatedness of scholarship, and foregrounding the areas studied as not just sources of data, but also sources of theory and method that challenge disciplinary claims to universality. It should be inherently interdisciplinary, by testing the boundaries of the disciplines; and actively but carefully comparative, by treating the why, how, and what of comparison as anything but self-evident.

This vision draws on both tradition and innovation in scholarship. It is informed by the history of the field, and its ongoing development in a postcolonial, multi-polar, globalizing world.

Read more about our vision of area studies in ‘ Where Is Here?


LIAS has as its aim the advancement of this inclusive, globally conscious vision of area studies at Leiden University and in the wider academic community, focusing on Asia and the Near and Middle East, and with emphatic attention to the relevance of education and research for society at large. To this end, it wants to be a meeting place of multiple fields of inquiry, theories and methods, historical periods, and areas, with the latter defined along geographical and/or cultural and/or linguistic and/or political lines. Area studies as an approach to knowledge that starts from the study of places in the human world is undergirded by deep linguistic and cultural knowledge, critical reflection on the notion of translation, engagement with the areas, effective multi- and interdisciplinarity, and engagement with the disciplines.

Areas and disciplines

As argued in Where Is Here?, areas and disciplines are by no means self-evident. Accordingly, there are various possible ways to group the scholars working in LIAS along more or less culturally / linguistically / geographically defined lines, surveyed  here: Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies, Korean Studies, South Asian Studies, Southeast Asian Studies (Asia); Arabic Studies, Persian and Iranian Studies, Turkish Studies, Assyriology, Egyptology, Hebrew and Aramaic, and Papyrology (Middle East).
The School of Religious Studies (LUCSoR) within LIAS has for its aim to study the constant changes in the expressions and significance of religion in society. It adopts a comparative, multidisciplinary perspective that intersects with area studies.

LIAS staff have disciplinary expertise in anthropology, archeology, art history, development studies, economics, film studies, history, international relations, language pedagogy, law, linguistics, literary studies, material culture studies, media studies, performing arts studies, philology, philosophy, political economy, political science, the study of religion, and sociology.

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