This course is discontinued

EAST4503 – The Making of East Asian Modernities

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The forcible inclusion of the East Asian region into the capitalist world-system, which began in the mid-19th C. with the Treaty of Nanjing and Commodore Perry’s expedition to Japan, brought with it momentous changes in the ideology of East Asian societies, as they were now “synchronized” with the capitalist West’s historical time. Those new ideologies that came into being as a result of East Asia’s “localization” of the imported meta-narratives of “race” and “nation”/”nation-state”, “revolution”/”socialism”, “development”/”progress”, Christianity, and many others, are the topics the course focuses upon. Special attention is paid to the ways in which the nationalist ideologies in Japan, China, and Korea influenced each other, and the strategies used by the East Asian nationalists to construct both the historic pictures of the past and geopolitical projects for the future. The course is also aimed at tracing the pedigrees of the discursive strategies used for constructing the stereotyped visions of things “Oriental”/”national”: “the Yellow Race”, “Oriental culture”, “Confucian/Asian values”, “wise mother, good wife”, etc. All the topics are treated in a comparative perspective, with ample use of material from all the three main East Asian cultures. The period between 1868 (Meiji Restoration) and 1910-1911 (colonization of Korea and revolution in China), when the archetypical regional interpretations of “nation”, “race”, “modernity”, “religion” and so on were first constructed, is especially emphasized. All the source materials and secondary literature assigned are in principle in English, but those students who have already acquired proficiency in one of the East Asian languages may also be provided with individualized assignments in the language(s) of their choosing.

The students are expected to put their research into the regional perspective, even if they focus primarily on one country only.

Learning outcome

The aim of the course is to provide students with basic information about the main ideological currents of modern East Asia, their “genealogies” and mutual connections, and also their “linkages” to the global discourse of the modern world-system and ties to the regional traditions. Students will acquire skills in understanding and analyzing complex ideological formations with the help of diverse methodological approaches, including those of world-system theory, post-colonial cultural and gender studies, and will also develop a critical, scholarly attitude to both primary sources and secondary research literature.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

See the general enrolment criteria for the MA programme option in East Asian Studies

Recommended previous knowledge

The course requires good knowledge of English. The course may be specially recommended for those, who have previously taken a 40-credits group in East Asian Studies.


Teaching is in the form of lectures and seminars. Active participation and at least 80 per cent attendance is required. In case of the student sojourning abroad, active participation through Fronter is required instead.

Students are to present an essay on a topic chosen in cooperation with the teacher, closely connected to the content of the course. A draft sketch of the essay is to be presented to the teacher for preliminary evaluation and collective discussion in class. In the process of collecting the materials for and writing the essay, students are offered individualized personal instruction.

Approved compulsory activites, including the draft sketch of the essay, are only valid for one semester.


The presentation of the draft is the prerequisite for later being allowed to submit the final text of the essay (semesteroppgave: ca. 10 pages, 2300 characters per page), and active participation in the discussions on each other’s draft is obligatory. The students are expected to write in English, unless otherwise agreed upon.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Periodic Evaluation Autumn 2011

Periodic Evaluation Autumn 2009


The course is an obligatory part of MA program in East Asian studies. It may be also chosen by the students taking other MA programs.

Facts about this course




The course will not be offered again after Autumn 2011.

Teaching language