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During the first semester first year students of International Studies are required to pick an area and a language to specialize in. After starting the programme with a broad range of introductory core courses, students will follow area courses and language training in the second semester and the subsequent two years.

Area overview

On this page you can find an overview of the areas you can choose from.

When you choose to specialise in Africa, you choose for the future, as Africa is the region which holds the most promises and potential. In terms of economic development, the continent is home to many of the world's fastest-growing economies. It is also at the forefront of the energy transition, is playing an increasingly important role in the globalised security environment and has become the centre stage for the fourth wave of democratisation. What is more, Africa experiences the highest demographic growth in the world, with half of the continent’s population being under the age of 25. We study the region’s internal diversity and its global connections, focusing on current issues such as climate change and migration. We examine the historical trajectories of some of these current issues, and as such pay attention to histories of slave trade and colonisation, which have contributed to an underrepresentation of the continent and black voices in general. We encourage students to study the region in its own right as opposed to accepting its marginal exposure in general textbooks and mass media.

Corresponding languages: Arabic, French, Portuguese, Swahili.

East Asia is an economically dynamic, socially complex, and politically diverse region. Electoral democracies like the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Japan, and Taiwan exist side-by-side with authoritarian countries like the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). Regional processes in East Asia range from close cooperation to outright hostilities. The East Asian economy is one of the most dynamic and fast-growing regional economies in the world. Due to the export-led economic development in Japan and Korea in the post-war era and in China since the 1978 reforms, the East Asian economy has become greatly interconnected and connected to other regions of the world. The term ‘East Asia’ suggests a shared territory, history, and culture.  To what extent can we talk about coherent culture(s) in East Asia? What diverse identities can be found in East Asian societies and how are they formed? How are these identities shaped by the history of the region, and how do they impact the politics of today? With the area specialization East Asia, you will study these questions and learn to place their implications in their local and global contexts.

Corresponding languages: Japanese, Korean, Mandarin.

Europe is a complex collection of local, national, and transnational connections. From the local shrimp fishing on horseback (Oostduinkerke, Belgium), to the national celebration of Constitution Day (May 3rd, Poland) to the establishment and inner workings of a political and monetary union, to the Euro as a symbol of prosperity and opportunity, the interaction between different layers of history, society, and politics is explored. The focus is mostly on (pre-)modern Europe, using many contemporary examples to understand the past and ongoing development of the region and its peoples. Key events and concepts such as civilization, nationalism, communism, capitalism, the development of democracy, the (re)construction of identities, and international contact and relations are addressed from different perspectives to uncover the interconnectedness of history, culture, economy, and politics in general and in the context of this area in particular.

Corresponding languagesDutch, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish.

Latin America necessitates a multidisciplinary approach. The region offers a rich setting for a historically grounded analysis of global and local dynamics of economic, political and social development. It is also a region rich in contention. The pendulum of change seems to swing further and faster than elsewhere. The conditions prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s, centred on state led industrialisation, have disappeared. The debt crisis of the 1980s and the structural adjustment that followed could not tackle the structural weaknesses that prevailed throughout the 1990s and 2000s albeit sustained economic growth. Dissatisfied with neoliberal reforms, many countries ‘turned to the left’. Such ‘post-neoliberal’ turn raised expectations but also growing concerns about its sustainability and legitimacy, as diversity, linguistic and otherwise, poses challenges for inclusion in political and socio-economic processes. Students are thus exposed to a variety of alternatives and narratives which are approached critically and remain object of debate.

Corresponding languages: Portuguese, Spanish.

This painting “Interculturalidad” by Oswaldo Guayasamin captures the diversity of the region

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are characterized by incredible cultural diversity and social complexity. The region’s cultural pluralism manifests itself in the linguistic and religious patchwork of the Eastern Mediterranean, and the African indigenous and European colonial legacies in North Africa. Despite authoritarian repression in many countries, political contestation is rife and takes on various forms, from Islamism to liberalism and from LGBT rights activism to libertarian socialism. The region also offers interesting case studies for studying the global political economy. Examples are the socialist modernization projects in the mid-twentieth century and the petroleum driven development of hypercapitalist Gulf cities. The MENA region is regularly in the news because of war, state repression, outbursts of popular revolt or religious fanaticism. Such media coverage rarely appreciates the socio-cultural complexity that form the context of the reported events. With the area specialization Middle East you will study these phenomena in their local articulation as well as their global dimensions.

Corresponding languages: Arabic, Modern Hebrew, Persian.

The North American continent, and the United States in particular, has dominated global economic, political, and cultural developments for the past hundred years. As a student of North America, you will study the position of these developments within a regional and a larger global context. Among other things, the programme looks at the global impact of Trump’s presidency, the lasting effects of slavery and migration on American identities, and the economic ideologies behind Reaganomics. While the North American continent also contains Canada and Mexico, the programme focuses predominantly on the U.S. The area track North America prepares you for the MA North American Studies (read the entry requirements carefully). Choosing this track, it makes sense t0 do a semester exchange or internship in the U.S., Mexico, or Canada. The BASIS North America Area Committee also organizes exciting events related to North America.

Corresponding languages: French, Spanish.

Throughout its turbulent history, Russia and Eurasia has seen dramatic downturns and abrupt upheavals and yet arisen again and again from the ashes. This applies to its people’s remarkable ability to farm in frigid climates, settle and colonize a gigantic swathe of land, ward off intruders, send a man into the cosmos before anyone else, create a socialist economy from scratch, and start all over again with capitalism. 

This specialization offers advanced training in the history, politics, culture, society, and languages of this culturally rich region. It offers an excellent foundation for any career that requires broad area expertise, proficiency in the Russian language, and excellent research, writing, and communication skills. The specialization’s main focus is contemporary, although essential historical background will be presented as necessary. Some of the topics we cover include: the effort to construct new political institutions and a functioning market economy in the wake of the Soviet Union’s demise; the role of energy rents and oligarchic interests in the region’s economic development; the pernicious effects of informal patronage networks that permeate the region’s societies; and the struggle to stem population loss.

This programme considers processes of democratization, economic reform, nationalism, separatism, federalism, and war in post-1991 Russia and Eurasia. By the end of the programme, students will be able to critically assess to what extent the region’s prevailing state capitalism and lingering authoritarianism are distinctive in the international system and to what extent are they representative of changing global realities.  Significant time will be devoted to investigating topics at the intersection between state and society – identity dilemmas, political economy, parties and elections, and civil society. We also aim to foster understanding of recent major turning points in the region, such as a switch from pro-Western internationalism to “Eurasianism” or the effects of a raft of unprecedented punitive sanctions subsequent to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and we examine the political, economic, and identity-driven pressures that contributed to these changes.

The specialization’s hallmarks are combining academic rigor with policy engagement, promoting interdisciplinary perspectives, and recognizing that Russia and Eurasia cannot be understood in isolation from each other or from global trends. Our alumni pursue careers in a variety of fields, including government service, non-profit management, academia, and the private sector. The curriculum is designed to offer students the flexibility to tailor their personal plan of study to meet their academic and professional goals, while also ensuring a sound understanding of the history, politics, society, and culture of Russia and Eurasia.

Corresponding language: Russian.

One third of the world’s inhabitants live in South and Southeast Asia. Comprising 18 countries it is the fastest growing region in the world economically and demographically. It is also the most religiously and ethnically diverse. It has been the cradle of Hinduism and Buddhism and is today home to two countries (India and Indonesia) that host the largest Muslim populations in the world. Diasporas from the region are spread across of the world with their journeys shaped by key historical events ranging from the slave trade, indentured labour to the impact of the Cold War.

The region is a puzzle on many levels. Economic dynamism is accompanied by growing inequality, authoritarianism within democratic regimes and environmental crises. It is witnessing urbanization on an unprecedented scale with attendant challenges of infrastructure employment and public health. Historically, countries in this region exported labour and goods in the context of colonial exploitation. Today as hubs of cheap labour in a globally connected economy there is growing internal migration within the region producing new hierarchies and issues that demand fresh research. Colonial impact and postcolonial theories are a critical background to understanding the lineages of knowledge produced on and in the region, but they no longer suffice to fully explain contemporary issues. We thus require new epistemological and methodological approaches making the region one of the most challenging but also exciting to study. It is often said the future of the world lies in Asia!

Corresponding languages: Hindi, Indonesian.

World map

Area fair

The decision for your area specialisation can be difficult. To make this a little easier the BA International studies organizes an Area Fair every year. On the Area Fair students can familiarize themselves with the various areas and languages. During the event, students can attend short area presentations given by lecturers of the areas they are most interested in. Moreover, an information market is organized. This is where students can ask more specific questions to representative area tutors, language lecturers and students. 

The Area Fair takes place at the end of October or beginning of November every year. Take a look at the events on this website to see when the next fair has been planned.

Areas and languages

In addition to your area, you will choose to study a language which is relevant to the area. Here you can find an overview of the areas with the corresponding languages.

Area Foreign Language
Africa Arabic, French, Portuguese, Swahili
East Asia Japanese, Korean, Mandarin
Europe Dutch, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish
Latin America Portuguese, Spanish
Middle East Arabic, Modern Hebrew, Persian
North America French, Spanish
Russia and Eurasia Russian
South and Southeast Asia Hindi, Indonesian
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