Area Studies: Australian, Asian, American, European

In this global era we are constantly confronted by the effects of being connected economically, culturally, technologically and many other ways. This pervasive blurring of boundaries means that there is significant value in developing a critical understanding of the multi-disciplinary factors which shape each region, and the most effective ways we can engage with them.

Having a broad and thorough knowledge of regional histories, anthropologies, politics, social issues, economics, industries, security issues and relationships has become essential as technology, mobility and economics shrink the globe. Understanding the pressures and contexts of other nations allows us to engage with them more appropriately and strategically.

The dramatic rise of Asia will shape and define the 21st century. Australia’s location in this rapidly changing region puts us in close proximity to the emerging superpowers India and China. This has important ramifications for trade, economic trends, national security, cultural development and regional relationships. UNSW has one of the strongest cohorts of Asianists in Australia, contributing high-profile, innovative research that collectively seeks to better understand and engage with our regional neighbours.

Australian Studies has been an important field of study since the 1970’s, and UNSW has emerged as a world-class centre of research in this area. With a large group of scholars working across a range of disciplines our researchers share distinctive themes pertaining to the geographical, political and ideational boundaries of Australia in its transnational and colonial contexts. Much of their work centres on the construction of cultural, legal, social and political subjectivities by and against recent immigrants, indigenous peoples, women, children and through the Australian environment.

Staff within Humanities and Languages are engaged in a wide range of research related to Europe, ranging from literature and philosophy to social, political and cultural history. Continental philosophy and modern European history are areas of particular strength. Across Arts and Social Sciences our scholars are also engaged in research on Europe in a range of fields such as politics and international relations, film and performance studies.

The Impact of our Work

The impact of our research in Area Studies is both significant and diverse, combining the work on the political, ideological, social and cultural forces that have shaped the contemporary landscape of these regions.

Our Australian Studies scholars are exploring the greater questions of human experience and dilemmas: the nature of polity, of citizen’s rights and obligations; the extent, power and limitations of shared ethical and cultural beliefs, and how these work in practice; how inclusion also works to exclude; and how the past informs the present. These questions play a crucial role in the development of an informed and critically engaged citizenship and foster analytical and creative engagement with Australia in its global relationships.

Our Asian Studies scholars focus on research related to the following key questions: How do nations tackle issues of poverty; What is the past trajectory, current status and future potential of Australia’s relations with Asian nations, particularly India and China; What are the emerging environmental and health challenges in Asia and how are ethical, political, security and welfare issues, and governmental and organisational structures, relevant in understanding Asia; How is Asia impacted by and impacting on changing media landscapes; What do the classical texts of Asia reveal about the conceptual frameworks of thought in these societies; How are the notions of self, relationships and life conceived of in Asia.

While it is important to understand the process of European integration and the workings of the EU, European Studies is not limited to these questions. Our scholars also explore the political, ideological, social and cultural forces that have shaped contemporary Europe

Evidence of Excellence

Our researchers in this area have received prestigious recognition for their work, including the Prime Minister’s Literary Award, NSW Premier’s History Awards, the American Historical Association’s Littleton Griswold Prize, the NSW Urban History Association’s best Non-American Urban History Prize and the Australian Vogel Literary awards, as well as being shortlisted for many other prizes and awards.

Competitive grant success in Australian and overseas, combined with a significant number of prominent monographs and scholarly articles in high profile journals, demonstrates the quality of our work and the strength of this area at UNSW. Our international networks are strong, with staff involved in research collaboration or visiting positions with numerous organisations and universities in Australia, Asia, America and Europe.

UNSW is the host institution of several area studies journals of international repute, and home to editors and editorial board members of long-standing serial publications which set global standards for the publication of path-breaking research, such as South Asia: Journal of Asian Studies and the Asian Studies Review. Members of FASS are well represented in scholarly associations and societies, giving shape to their disciplines, forging transdisciplinary research and providing policy advice to governments, think tanks and stakeholders.