Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden Institute for Area Studies

To truly understand complex regions such as the Middle East and Asia, you have to know their culture, history and local societies inside out. Driven by curiosity for other cultures, the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) provides an understanding and analysis of current and historical developments in Asia and the Middle East.


One of the key strengths of LIAS is that it belongs to a strong network of research institutes and collections including the National Museum of Antiquities, the Netherlands Institute for the Near East, the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) and the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS).

The research at LIAS attracts the attention of other academic institutions. Moreover, embassies, ministries and the national media call on its researchers for the context of a certain region or culture or an analysis of crucial developments. LIAS’s expertise is drawn on in the run up to state visits or trade missions, for instance.

Asia and the Middle East

The two fields of research at LIAS – the Middle East and Asia – converge in various projects. Its research is of enormous breadth, covering all the regions between Morocco and Japan, from 3,000 BC to today.

The research into the Middle East includes such topics as the rise of empires. How did these powerful empires develop? And how did they endure? The research begins with the Achaemenid Empire in Persia (500 BC) and spans the earliest period of Islamic conquests (around 700 AD) to the spread of the Turkish-Persian culture from Central Asia (1,400 AD).

From food culture to the Japanese occupation

There is enormous breadth within the Asia group too. The research ranges from the Digital Humanities research into networks in China in the premodern era (How did the literate elite function within this Asian country? And how did the cultural elite of China work together?) to the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies.

The LIAS researchers focus not only on the past but also on the present. Within the ‘Garbage Matters’ project, which follows on from their research into eating habits, they are researching the history of rubbish in the region of East Asia. Other researchers are bringing together the work in the two research areas of the Middle East and Asia. One example is the research into Indian labour migrants in the Gulf states.

Global relationships

Further knowledge and understanding of the Middle East and Asia are essential to understanding the global relationships of the present and past. With their knowledge, expertise and years of experience, the LIAS researchers play a key role in this, thus assuring us of an accurate analysis of these complex regions in the future too. As lecturers, the researchers are also active in numerous degree programmes at the Faculty, including the popular International Studies in The Hague.

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