About: What Are Areas Studies?

Area studies are interdisciplinary fields of research and scholarship pertaining to particular (mainly human) geographical and socio-cultural regions. The term exists primarily as a general description for the aggregation of many separate fields of research, encompassing both the social sciences and the humanities. Typical area study programs involve history, political science, business, economic development and trade, sociology, cultural studies, gender studies, ethnic studies, languages, geography, literature, and related disciplines. In contrast to cultural studies, area studies often include diaspora and emigration, as well as institutional reach, from the area. Many political-scientific environmental issues such as global warming/climate change, desertification and population studies are studied within area studies regions or across several regions.

Although controversial during the cold war for receiving funding from government, at the end of the cold war, such government support ended. In 1994, the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies, terminated their recognition of area studies. However, a quarter century later, area studies and the areas themselves continued to exist.

All geographic understanding of the world begins with some system of classification: The basic system is Us against Them, employed by the ancient Greeks (Greeks vs Barbarians), Romans (Romans vs Barbarians), Chinese (China vs. Barbarians), Hegel (free Germanics vs unfree Asia), Islam (Muslims (Dar Al-Islam, “Abode of Peace”) vs. Infidels (Dar Al-Harb, “Abode of War”), Cold War USA (Capitalist Freedom vs. Marxist Slavery), and Cold War USSR (Communist Freedom vs. Capitalist Slavery), and Global South-Global North. In addition, there are many ephemeral divisions of the world, for example, the world divided into countries that consume more or less energy than world Bitcoin mining (c. 2017) (https://powercompare.co.uk/bitcoin/ ).

All world regionalization systems are geographically nominal. For example, small nations like the Maldive Islands are easily neglected if made a part of a South Asian region. Once the archipelago of small island offshore banking centers spanned the world, but it was a region with few other common features. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), especially those fearing sea-level rise represent too small and disparate a subject matter for a separate area studies discipline. Other regions are vast but have almost no people, such as the Circumpolar North or Antarctica. (We attach Antarctica to South America in our regionalization schema.)

Fundamentally, regionalization schemes must make both interdisciplinary and institutional sense. Mediterranean Studies is a fascinating area studies region, but does it make more sense for Libya to be part of a Middle East & Africa Database, or a Eurasia-Atlantic Database? (It does make sense as a descriptored subfile within both of those databases.) Moreover, these regionalization schemes reflect the underlying university systems that sustain area studies, and that means there cannot be a very large number of such Areas Studies, or, for our present purposes, Area Studies Databases.

We produce five curated Area Studies databases that correspond to this world-geographic and socio-cultural regional criteria, as well as to the existing university studies and their corresponding university digital library knowledge infrastructure:

Indo-Pacific Database (ASIA) (previously the Asia-Pacific Database,  1990-2017 (ASIA))

Middle East & Africa Database (MIDA)

Eurasia-Atlantic Database (EURA)

Tordesillas: Luso-Hispanic Database (TOR) (no new subscribers until 2020)

American Studies Database (AMER) (coming in 2019)