Councils and Committee

Council on African Studies

African studies at Yale began in the late eighteenth century with study of African languages. Yale was one of the first universities to incorporate African studies into its mainstream curriculum prior to World War II. As the home for the undergraduate major, M.A. in African Studies, Graduate Certificate of Concentration in African Studies, and the Program in African Languages—including programs in Swahili, Twi, Wolof, Yorùbá, and Zulu—the Council on African Studies is an interdisciplinary humanities and social sciences program that nurtures a community of Africanist scholars and provides training to individuals who are specializing in African topics.

Students enter the B.A. and M.A. programs with a variety of experiences and backgrounds, and find the curriculum to be an excellent first step toward an academic career or an important supplement to professional training in politics, policy, medicine, public health, or environmental and nongovernmental advocacy work. An important component of the program is its multinational as well as multidisciplinary approach. Students’ interests reflect this diversity, as they focus not only on particular regional zones in Southern, Western, Eastern, or North Africa but on particular thematic topics whose disciplinary homes range from political science to arts and literature, anthropology, economics, and the study of religion.

Annual council events include weekly brown bag lunch seminars, a graduate working group seminar series (a graduate student-run weekly series designed to provide an informal environment in which students, staff, and faculty at all levels at Yale and in the community can present work-in-progress), the Yale Africa Film Festival, the Spring Skit Night sponsored by the Program in African Languages, conferences, weekly lectures, and roundtable discussions.

Committee on Canadian Studies

Building on three centuries of close ties with Canada, Yale continues to play a significant role in the development of Canadian Studies in the United States and has graduated the second-highest number of Canadians among American universities. The Committee on Canadian Studies annually brings a distinguished Canadian academician to the campus as the Bicentennial Visiting Professor, due to a generous gift from the Canadian government to Yale University in 1976. In addition, the committee offers a number of activities and special courses.

Council on East Asian Studies

The formal study of East Asia at Yale dates back to 1878. Since then, East Asian Studies has expanded and evolved into a comprehensive program of study that plays an essential role in the University. Founded in 1961, the Council on East Asian Studies (CEAS) provides an important interdisciplinary forum for academic exploration and support related to the study of China, Japan, and Korea. Its mission is to facilitate the training of undergraduate and graduate students and to foster outstanding education, research and intellectual exchange about East Asia. For sixty years, it has promoted education about East Asia both in the Yale curricula and through lectures, workshops, conferences, film series, cultural events, and other educational activities open to students, faculty, K–16 educators, and the general public. With more than twenty-five core faculty and twenty language instructors spanning twelve departments on campus, East Asian Studies remains one of Yale’s most extensive area studies programs. Its interdisciplinary emphasis encourages collaborative linkages across fields and departments and contributes to diversity across the curricula and in the classroom. Approximately 150 courses on East Asia in the humanities and social sciences are offered each year.

CEAS administers B.A. and M.A. programs. While the B.A. program focuses on the study of either a country or an area within East Asia, the M.A. program focuses on the study of China, Japan, or a transnational region in East Asia. Graduates of both programs have gone on to distinguished careers in the fields of academia, business, nonprofit organizations, and government service.

East Asian Studies endowments make it possible for CEAS to offer grants and fellowships for Yale students conducting East Asian-related research and language study, as well as to support student organization programming and conferences.

Every year CEAS welcomes domestic and international scholars to campus as guest lecturers, visiting fellows, research scholars, and professors. In 1999 the council initiated a postdoctoral associates program, bringing talented individuals into the community of scholars at Yale to conduct research and teach advanced undergraduate seminars.

Study and research in East Asian Studies at Yale are supported by one of the finest library collections in the country. The Chinese, Japanese, and Korean language print resources in the East Asia Library at Sterling Memorial Library constitute one of the oldest and largest collections found outside of East Asia. The Asian Art department at the Yale University Art Gallery also supports classroom instruction, faculty research, and community outreach activities.

European Studies Council

The European Studies Council formulates and implements new curricular and research programs on European politics, culture, economy, society, and history. The council builds on existing programmatic strengths at Yale, while serving as a catalyst for the development of new initiatives. It supports individual and group research projects, conferences, film series, symposia, workshops, courses, and community outreach as they relate to the study of Eastern and Western Europe. European Studies offers an undergraduate major in Russian and East European Studies administered by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and a master’s degree program in European and Russian Studies. The council strongly supports the interdisciplinary study of Western Europe, as well as Russia and Eastern Europe, and their interaction. Additionally, the council offers students in the University’s graduate and professional degree programs the opportunity to obtain a Graduate Certificate of Concentration in European Studies. European Studies is also the home of active programs in Baltic Studies; European Union Studies; Hellenic Studies; and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. The council sponsors a dynamic cultural initiative in Polish, as well as the Center for Historical Enquiry and the Social Sciences (CHESS) and other topic-specific Reading Groups.

The M.A. program is unusual in its embrace of the entire spectrum of European nations and cultures. Students develop a national or thematic focus geared to their interests and language skills relating to East or West Europe, while also acquainting themselves with the traditions and issues associated with the other parts of Europe. In this way, the program translates the political realities and challenges of the post-Cold War era into a flexible and challenging academic experience. M.A. students have the opportunity to gain insight into such diverse topics as labor migration within Europe, the changing role of socialist parties, transnational tendencies in literature and the arts, and Europe’s relations with other world regions. Areas of special focus include the European Union, Poland, Greece, the Balkans, and the states of the former Soviet Union.

Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies

The Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies (CLAIS) at the MacMillan Center seeks to enhance the understanding of Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula through collaborative efforts focused on meaningful partnerships and exchange of ideas and academic research. Established in 1962, CLAIS serves as the central hub for intellectual exchange and collaborations in Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. The council works to strengthen exchange and innovation through a broad array of courses, cultural events, student collaborations, scholarly lectures, international conferences, and academic research. More than forty-five Yale faculty conduct research and teach courses with substantial Latin American content. Recent years have seen increased collaboration between Latin Americanists in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the professional schools in the areas of the environment, global health, nursing, medicine, law, and human rights.

CLAIS offers an undergraduate major in Latin American Studies and a Graduate Certificate of Concentration in Latin American and Iberian Studies for graduate and professional students at Yale. Graduate students conducting research on Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula can also be a part of the CLAIS Graduate and Professional School Student Affiliates Network. The council offers travel fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students, hosts eminent visiting scholars, and supports faculty research and curriculum development. CLAIS supports the study and development of new resources for language teaching in Spanish, Portuguese, and other languages such as K’iche’ Maya and Nahuatl. CLAIS promotes linkages with other U.S., Latin American, and Iberian institutions to bolster cooperation and understanding of these interconnected regions.

Council on Middle East Studies

As globally significant developments in the Middle East unfold daily, the Council on Middle East Studies (CMES) continues its role as an academic platform in which students and faculty can debate the myriad contemporary, historical, political, and cultural issues of relevance to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and beyond. As a National Resource Center for Middle East Studies (funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s HEA Title VI), CMES serves as a central resource for the Yale community, the region, and the nation on issues pertaining to MENA. More than fifty Yale faculty members in a wide range of departments and professional schools teach more than 175 Middle East-related courses, including in the four major Middle East languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish, to the advanced level).

The major in Modern Middle East Studies (MMES), offered for the first time in 2008–2009, will have about thirty courses (not including language courses) to choose from this year. CMES also offers a Graduate Certificate of Concentration in MMES for M.A. and Ph.D. students interested in a regional focus.

CMES has been pivotal in the organization of major international conferences on wide-ranging topics, such as the region’s relations with the United States, the health impacts of violent conflict in the region, changing political regimes in MENA, and Islamic attitudes toward science and technology. CMES also offers a biweekly colloquium series, a yearlong film program, and many other educational events, all free and open to the public. CMES’s initiative to promote richer understanding of contemporary issues in the Middle East is growing considerably and includes regional initiatives in Iranian Studies, Turkish Studies, and North African Studies. In addition, CMES has strong links with Yale professional schools, particularly Architecture, Divinity, Law, and Public Health. CMES also assists in the acquisition of new materials in the Near Eastern Collection at Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library.

South Asian Studies Council

The South Asian Studies Council promotes the University’s teaching and scholarship on all aspects of South Asia and its diasporas. Drawing on faculty from across the University, the council’s members annually offer courses in the humanities, social sciences, professional fields, and the languages of South Asia, including Sanskrit and Hindi. In partnership with Columbia and Cornell universities, using videoconferencing technologies, Bengali, Tamil, and Tibetan are also being offered for Yale College and South Asian Studies credit.

A variety of directed independent language study programs are possible, depending on interest and availability. Nepali, Punjabi, Telugu, Tibetan, and Urdu were among the languages taught in the past three years. The council will continue to support directed independent study of these languages and any others that students may request. Travel fellowships awarded by the council allow Yale College students to engage in intensive study of languages, conduct research, undertake internships, or perform social service in South Asia. Fellowships also support graduate students in attending professional meetings and conferences to present their research on South Asia, and in traveling to South Asia for research and advanced language study.

Yale undergraduate students have the opportunity to elect South Asian Studies as a second major. The major combines the study of premodern, modern, and contemporary South Asia and emphasizes the study of South Asian languages. Each year, visiting scholars typically teach new courses in music, literature, cinema, gender and family, politics, and religion.

Throughout the academic year the council sponsors lectures, conferences, and cultural events related to South Asia, including a number of performances showing and teaching the classical and modern arts of India, as well as numerous talks and special events featuring public figures, scholars, and creative artists. The council hosts a series of presentations by postdoctoral scholars and other visitors in residence at the council, as well as the weekly South Asian Studies Colloquium. The South Asian Brown Bag series, which is coordinated by graduate students, includes distinguished visitors from India and researchers from near and far. The council hosts an annual Modern South Asia Workshop for new interdisciplinary work on South Asian history, politics, society, and literatures. It also organizes an annual Hindi Debate, an intercollegiate event featuring participants from top universities across the eastern seaboard.

Delegations of Yale faculty, researchers, and expert staff from different parts of the University also travel to India to participate in a growing number of collaborations between Yale and Indian counterparts, ranging across libraries and museums and the fields of art history, industrial ecology, urban studies, law, environmental studies, politics, and modern history. The South Asian Studies Council is also cosponsor of the InterAsia Initiative, working with the Council on East Asian Studies and the Social Science Research Council.

Council on Southeast Asia Studies

Yale established its Southeast Asia Studies Program in 1947, the first area studies program in the United States to embark on the study of Southeast Asia in all disciplines. Southeast Asia Studies at Yale became an endowed program in 1961 and today helps to maintain one of the most extensive library collections in the country. Students with interests in the countries of Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam may turn to the Council on Southeast Asia Studies, whose mission is to promote research, education, and intellectual exchange on the politics, cultures, and economies of the region, both historical and contemporary.

Due to the region’s linguistic diversity and variety of colonial experiences, the promotion of scholarship in Southeast Asia is challenged by extensive language training needs. In addition to formal instruction in Indonesian and Vietnamese, the council endeavors to provide support for other relevant language training or tutoring needed by any student, including summer language study in the United States and abroad, and contributes to initiatives such as Yale’s Directed Independent Language Study in lesser-taught languages.

Learning and scholarship on the region are supported by the council through summer research fellowships for eligible Yale graduate and undergraduate students, and by an annual program of seminars, lectures, workshops, conferences, cultural events, film screenings, and educational activities open to faculty, students, and the general public.

The council provided start-up funding and, together with the Department of Music, continues ongoing support for the Yale Gamelan ensemble, and for programs of the Indo-Pacific Art department at the Yale University Art Gallery. The council regularly cosponsors numerous activities in association with related organizations throughout the University including co-sponsorship of the InterAsia Initiative, and it works with the student board of ALSEAS (Alliance for Southeast Asia Students) to coordinate support for activities of the various Southeast Asian student groups on campus.

Publications by the Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies have included a Cultural Report Series, a Bibliography Series, and a Translation Series, with volumes (now out of print) dating from 1948 to 1979. The council continues to edit and publish its long-running Monograph Series, the first volume of which was printed in 1961. This series includes books on the history, cultures, and politics of Southeast Asia, as well as economic and anthropological subjects relevant to the region.