Area Studies: Origins, Dilemmas, Key Concepts and Future Development: Lecture 3 | Prof. Tim Niblock

On 10AM, April 12, 2019, 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 3rd lecture of “Area Studies: Origins, Dilemmas, Key Concepts and Future Development”, under the topic of “Themes in Contemporary Scholarship in Area Studies” to more than 20 doctoral students of IIAS.

In this session, Prof. Niblock focused on the theoretical evolution and paradigm changes in the field of area studies from 1990s to 2000s, as well as the development trends and paradigm differences between European and American regional studies. He further explained the impact of Structuralism and Postcolonialism on area studies and the deep-seated causes of cultural factors, identity, social structure and function shaping that lead to area differences.

Prof. Niblock believed that the disintegration of the Soviet Union was an important initial event in this period, which had an essential impact on the development of disciplines and area studies. Democratization and globalization became the key trends and ideological concepts at this stage, and had multiple influences on academic research. The work represented by “The End of History and the Last Man” reflects liberal democracy and the spread of economic liberalism theory. However, economic liberalization, democratization waves and political system changes vary in different regions and countries of the world. The authoritarian regime in the Middle East represented by Arab countries has shown strong political stability and resistance to liberalization, and triggered a large number of academic debates and writings on religious factors, political economy, the theory of profitable state, the theory of limited democracy, civil society, tribal structure and other explanations emerge in endlessly. Globalization and democratization have failed to eliminate the differences across the world, but have caused people to further reflect on these differences.

In the second half of the session, Prof. Niblock discussed with the participants on the history and writings of area studies in China, asked doctoral students studying different areas about their understanding of relevant literature, and explored the personal value of area studies, the differences in area studies between China and the West, which was warmly responded by the students.

By Cheng Yao & Wang Tingyi