What Does Area Studies Mean To You?
OSGA faculty and students share why Area Studies is important to them, their community and the world.
Head of OSGA; Professor of Russian and East European Politics
'I’m a political scientist who believes that knowledge of the diversity of political systems and behaviours gained from in-depth study of regional and local contexts is essential in making sense of the world that we live in. By exploring how politics can vary across locales, area studies provides the empirical puzzles that shape our theoretical understanding of the world. My own PhD research was initially inspired by a fascination with communism and its collapse in what was called the Soviet Union. This was not for ideological or personal reasons; I was simply hooked by an ‘area’ that dominated the airwaves when I was a student. Over the last thirty years, this area continues to shape our understanding of world politics, and explaining why, is largely what motivates my research.'
Professor Kate Sullivan de Estrada
Director of South Asian Studies, Associate Professor in the International Relations of South Asia
'It’s an exciting time to be an International Relations (IR) scholar who works primarily on India. Scholarly momentum for the development and mainstreaming of accounts of the global that are centred beyond the West is building. Many colleagues are working towards a new vision for the discipline—a ‘Global IR’—advocating greater pluralism, diversity and reflexivity in their accounts and narratives of the global. Area Studies has much to contribute to this project. Area Studies scholarship offers numerous approaches for reading and mapping the local, the extra-local and the global. I see a great deal of potential for Area Studies and IR to combine forces to more deeply understand the complex patterns of power diffusion and the varying forms of social, economic, and political change that constitute and are constituted by the global.'
British Academy Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
'The importance of Area Studies lays on its power to project new ideas on how international society is organised. Through Area Studies scholars and policymakers do not simply survey stand-alone regional projects, but explore how change in many different societies sheds light on human rights, development, security, and governance affairs. Area Studies plays a crucial role in promoting the plurality of views that can explain these and other world challenges using different levels of analysis and scales of depth. Area Studies thus welcomes the debate on how within one world we can discover political, economic, and social values that enrich our knowledge on modern human interaction.'
Postdoctoral Research Officer in Middle East Studies
'For me Area Studies is not an alternative but an essential complement to ‘global’ studies and more macro endeavours. Comparative and global perspectives are incomplete without better knowledge and understandings of the workings of the 'local'. More importantly, it is this critical ‘local knowledge’, in-depth context offered by Areas Studies, that not only helps us to build but also push us to continually test, corroborate and refute the grand or macro narratives and templates that frame our understanding of the world.'
Current OSGA DPhil Student
'To me, Area Studies provides an ideal platform to acquire holistic knowledge of an area – be it a small village, a large metropolitan city, or an entire country. I value how Area Studies has a foot in both the social sciences and the humanities, and I think this is important as it enables students of the discipline to look at a combination of elements that make up the sociocultural and political economic fabric of a region. The highly interdisciplinary nature of Area Studies provides the freedom to conduct research from a variety of different angles and perspectives, enabling its students to move between the micro and the macro, the theoretical and the practical. Throughout my studies in Area Studies, I have been able to not only learn and ground myself in a variety of classical theories and methods from disciplines within the social sciences and humanities, but I have also been afforded the space to be theoretically and methodologically innovative.'
Current OSGA DPhil Student
'I find Area Studies fascinating due to how it offers the avenue to use cross-disciplinary methodological approaches in posing new questions to what seems to be familiar issues but yet has a lot of unexplored gaps in the tensions and contentions regarding people's understanding of past and the present.'