Area Studies is a field of academia that strives to examine and understand a culture or a nation or a region as completely as possible—through its arts, politics, memories, customs, histories, economies, beliefs, geographies etc. It studies an area from different perspectives using a variety of disciplines. This holistic approach makes Area Studies both interdisciplinary and comparative. An “area” can be a single culture such as Chuuk (Federated States of Micronesia), a nation such as South Korea, or a region such as Southeast Asia.
An important question for Area Studies is: what makes an area distinctive, but at the same time what are features that it holds in common or shares with other areas? The question is central for the School of Pacific and Asian Studies. Its organization suggests the possibility of Pacific Asia as a single entity. For example, Austronesian languages describe a broad geographical sweep from Taiwan and Southeast Asia in the west to Hawaiʻi and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the east. While the Pacific-Asia area shares many common features in terms of its history, culture, social and political structures, economic relations, beliefs, arts, myths and so on, the countries or regions that make up the area can be, and are often quite different from one another.
Presently there are growing political and economic relationships between nations in the Pacific and Asia. Therefore, by actively engaging in the comprehensive, interdisciplinary examination of these peoples and their heritages, Area Studies helps us to understand this dynamic and increasingly important part of the world.