Association for Asian Studies

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The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) is a scholarly, non-political and non-profit professional association open to all persons interested in Asia and the study of Asia. It is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. With approximately 8,000 members worldwide, from all the regions and countries of Asia and across academic disciplines, the AAS is the largest organization focussing on Asian studies.

Through its Annual Conference (a large conference of 3,000+ normally based in North America each spring), its publications, its regional conferences, and other activities, membership in AAS provides members with a unique and invaluable professional network. The AAS is a member of the American Council of Learned Societies, actively participating with its sister societies in a wide range of activities, including joint participation in research and informational exchanges.


Shortly after World War One the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, had given Mortimer Graves a mandate to develop Chinese studies. Kenneth Scott Latourette recalled in 1955 that at that earlier time the "people of the United States and those who led them knew little of the peoples and cultures of the Far East," and that this was true "in spite of political, commercial and cultural commitments in the region and of events which already were hurrying them on into ever more intimate relations."[1] Graves worked with Arthur W. Hummel, Sr. of the Oriental Division of the Library of Congress, the Institute of Pacific Relations, the Harvard-Yenching Institute, the American Oriental Society, as well as with colleges, universities, and museums. Twenty-eight people attended the first meeting of this planning group, which was held at the Harvard Club in New York in 1928, and further meetings were held over the next decade. In 1936, the Far Eastern Bibliography appeared and in June 1941 The Far Eastern Quarterly issued its first number as an organ of the Far Eastern Association.[2]

After the war, an organizational meeting of some 200 people was held at Columbia University April 2, 1948, following the annual meeting of the American Oriental Society, to which many of the Far Eastern group belonged. [3] The first president of the Association was Arthur W. Hummel, Sr. In 1956, the organization was renamed to the Association for Asian Studies to expand its scope to cover all areas of Asia, including South and Southeast Asia.[4] Attendance grew from 200 for the organizational meeting in 1948 to 605 at the first annual meeting in 1949 and to 2,434 in 1963.[5]

The organization was further restructured in 1970, when four elective area Councils were formed, representative of each of the four areas of Asia—South Asia (SAC), Southeast Asia (SEAC), China and Inner Asia (CIAC) and Northeast Asia (NEAC). These councils were formed so that each area of Asia could have a proportionate voice in the Association and on the Board of Directors. In 1977, a Council of Conferences (COC) was established in order to coordinate the regional conferences held by the Association, and also to discover ways to better serve the needs of Asian Studies scholars in various parts of the United States. Area library organizations have been formed for South Asia (CONSALD), South East Asia, and East Asia (CEAL).

Background and controversies[edit]

World War II brought many academics into the government, some in the active military and some in the Office of War Information or the Office of Strategic Services, both of which were intelligence agencies which used academic disciplines and scholarly forms of analysis. When the war was over, political scientists, historians, and social scientists continued these concerns with contemporary affairs. The Far Eastern Association reflected an Area studies approach, that is, geographically grounded division of labor rather than by academic discipline, with the association sub-divided into East Asian, Southeast Asian, and South Asian Studies. (In the late 20th century, the field of Central and Inner Asia was added.) The Ford Foundation provided money and coordination to area studies centers, which in turn supported the AAS.[6]

Some members were critical. Bruce Cumings, writing in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, later charged that for the AAS to participate in this way of funding scholarship on Asia led to confusing academic research and government intelligence work. He further argued that the Areas Studies approach in general emphasized contemporary social science theory not the classic approaches of Oriental studies, which used philology and studied ancient civilizations. Cumings called this an “implicit Faustian bargain.” [7]

In the 1960s, some members agitated for the AAS to express opposition to American involvement in Vietnam. AAS President Wm Theodore de Bary called for the organization to take a position on the war that was “nonpolitical but not unconcerned.” The active opposition to the war was left to the much smaller Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars. [8]

Annual Conference[edit]

Each spring, the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) holds a four-day conference devoted to planned programs of scholarly papers, roundtable discussions, workshops, and panel sessions on a wide range of issues in research and teaching, and on Asian affairs in general. The 2013 Conference was held in San Diego; Philadelphia (March 27–30, 2014); Chicago (March 26–29, 2015); Seattle (March 31 – April 3, 2016); Toronto (March 16–19, 2017); Washington, D.C (March 22-25, 2018).

List of Presidents[edit]


  • The Bibliography of Asian Studies: Now an online database, the BAS is the single largest record of research and scholarly literature on East, Southeast, and South Asia written in Western languages. It comprises over 800,000 citations and can be electronically searched. Started as an annual section of the Far Eastern Quarterly edited by members in 1941, the BAS grew to an annual supplement produced by a specialized professional staff. However, by the mid-1980s, gathering the burgeoning data and printing the increasingly thick volumes led to the annual editions falling several years behind. The Association determined to transfer BAS to an electronic database, incorporating all entries from the print volumes for the years 1971 to 1991 and entering new citations from 1991 onward. [9]
  • Key Issues in Asian Studies: designed for use in undergraduate humanities and social science courses, as well as by advanced high-school students and teachers, and anyone with an interest in Asia.[10]
  • Asia Past and Present: a scholarly monograph series covering all countries of Asia and all disciplines.[11]
  • The Journal of Asian Studies: The Journal of Asian Studies has been published quarterly since 1941, when it was founded as The Far Eastern Quarterly. JAS publishes the empirical and multidisciplinary work on Asia, spanning the arts, history, literature, the social sciences, and cultural studies.
  • Education About Asia: Education About Asia (EAA) is a journal published three times a year which contains scholarly articles and practical teaching resources for secondary school, college, and university instructors, as well as for students, scholars, libraries, and others with an interest in Asia. Topics include anthropology, Asian studies, business and economics, education, geography, government, history, language and literature, political science, religion, and sociology. The complete run of the journal was put online for free access in 2014. [12]

Sources and further reading[edit]


External links[edit]