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The University of Southampton

RESM6024 Concepts and methodologies for Area Studies

Module Overview

This module deals with the conceptual, theoretical and methodological challenges of researching area studies. Indicative content includes defining area studies, understanding the history of area studies, definitions, theoretical frameworks, key issues and themes, introduction to social science disciplines, multi- and inter-disciplinarity, comparative methods in area studies.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the origins and history of area studies
  • Recognise the value of different disciplinary approaches and theoretical frameworks in addressing research problems
  • Appreciate the value of multi- and inter-disciplinarity and the differences between them
  • Make informed choices about research design in area studies
  • Design a research project in area studies, recognising philosophical, theoretical and methodological demands and constraints


Definitions: • What is area studies? What is an area? What is a region? What is a border? Exploring the practice of naming and making areas. What is the role of language in defining an area? What is local/regional/global? • The history of area studies; the cold war context; the colonial/post-colonial dimension; recent developments in area studies – e.g.: exploring the capacity of this approach to dismantle ethnocentrism. • Introduction to the social science disciplines that inform and are applied by area studies research, their theoretical assumptions and methodological possibilities, what distinguishes them from each other: politics, IR, history, anthropology, sociology, economics, cultural studies. • Interdisciplinarity: how is it different from multi-disciplinarity and trans-disciplinarity/cross-disciplinary study? What is the potential for being inter-/multi-/cross-disciplinary in your research? What are the limitations? Methodology: Theoretical frameworks: Which ones are available, how to choose an appropriate one for the purposes of the research, how to ensure some theoretical grounding for the argument. To include inter alia: • Discourse analysis and critical discourse analysis. • Discourses and processes through which borders are defined and challenged, globalisation and the challenges to borders – e.g. the process of Europeanisation and resistance to this process; the ‘Latinisation’ of South America and the resistance to this process, etc. • The colonial and debates around the post-colonial/postcolonial; their implications for area studies. • The transnational vs. the comparative vs. the national approach to history and politics; the implications for area studies. • Ethnography. • Narratives and story-telling in language-based area studies. Key issues and themes in area studies (coverage will vary from year to year, depending on students’ specialist areas of interest) Key regions and countries studied by area studies. Importance of historical contextualisation, especially given the colonial, post-colonial background of many of the areas covered in area studies. Comparative regionalism. Key themes: Development; nation and identity; class; citizenship and discrimination; governance; security.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

• Multi-disciplinary lectures • Topic specific seminars • Independent study

Completion of assessment task40
Preparation for scheduled sessions67
Wider reading or practice60
Total study time200

Resources & Reading list

Edith CLOWES & Shelly Jarrett BROMBERG (eds.) (2016). Area Studies in the Global Age: Community, Place, Identity. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 70%
Individual Presentation 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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