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Unit information: East Asian Societies: Alternative Modernities in 2020/21

Unit name East Asian Societies: Alternative Modernities
Unit code SOCI20076
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Yamashita
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit is a survey of social, cultural and political patterns in the East Asian societies of Greater China, Japan and Korea. Emphasis is on the shared traditions that define East Asia as a region, and its component societies with the forces associated with cultural, social and political “globalization” historically and during recent decades, and on the particular characteristics of each society. The study of East Asian society provides a unique opportunity to explore differences in the construction and articulation of key social divisions between countries and regions, as well as compare and critically examine existing conceptualizations of them. Going beyond dichotomies of East and West, traditional and modern, this course will examine sociological issues from a theoretically informed and comparative perspective among East Asia and between East Asia and Europe.

The unit aims to:

  • Introduce students to a body of analytical knowledge about different social systems, norms and social institutions in East Asia, with additional reference to socio-economic contexts and history;
  • Provide students with a deepened understanding of regional social, demographical, cultural characteristics in comparison with Western counterparts.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate understanding of regional, social, demographical, cultural characteristics of East Asia in comparison with European societies
  2. with reference to East Asia, be familiar with the ways in which different social systems, norms and social institutions are affected socio-economic contexts and history;
  3. demonstrate understanding of how the social norms, systems and institutions identified in East Asia have a wider international relevance;
  4. collect, analyse and interpret secondary data and literature on East Asian societies.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

Formative: 1500 word essay

Summative: 3000 word essay (100%)

Both assessments assess all learning outcomes.

Reading and References

  • Armstrong, C. (ed.), (2006) Korean Society: Civil Society, Democracy and the State, London: Routledge.
  • Sugimoto, Y. (2003) An Introduction to Japanese Society, Cambridge, Cambridge UP.
  • Charlotte, I. (ed.) (2004) Filial Piety: Practice and Discourse in Contemporary East Asia, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Morris-Suzuki, T. (1997) Re-Inventing Japan: Time, Space, Nation. Armonk, NY and London: M. E. Sharpe.
  • Myron L., C. (2005) Kinship, Contract, Community, and State: Anthropological Perspectives On China, California: Stanford University Press.