Area Studies: Origins, Dilemmas, Key Concepts and Future Development: Lecture 2 | Prof. Tim Niblock

On April 4, 2019, before the Tomb Sweeping Day, Prof. Tim Niblock, Member of Faculty Council at the Institute of International and Area Studies (IIAS) of Tsinghua University and Professor Emeritus of the University of Exeter brought the 2nd lecture of “Area Studies: Origins, Dilemmas, Key Concepts and Future Development” to doctoral students of IIAS. In this session, Prof. Niblock gave us a general explanation of the development and evolution of area studies from late 18th century to 1980s, focusing on several research theories and methodologies that flourished during this period.

Regarding development and evolution, he explained that after the Second World War, the United States began to invest heavily in regional research due to political demands, which greatly promoted the development of area studies at that time.

In terms of research theories, Prof. Niblock first reviewed Orientalism, which is controversial in the academic world, followed by many other research theories and methodologies from 1960s to 1980s. He also compared the characteristics of different research theories, focusing on Behaviorism, Structuralism, Post-colonism, Modernization Theory, Dependency Theory and Political Economy.

In the face of these theories, he provided a method to classify them. The first category can be called “descriptive” and contains many mainstream theories in the field of social sciences, such as Behaviorism, which tends to only make explanations instead of moral judgments, without any moral inclinations. The second category is known as “normative”, which has a moral purpose, trying to change the development of human behavior in a moral direction, such as Post-colonism.

With the deepening of the lectures, doctoral students have a more comprehensive and systematic understanding of area studies they are focusing on. We look forward to the next wonderful lecture by Prof. Niblock!

By Cheng Yao & Wang Tingyi