This program involves two components – a pair of courses taught on campus during fall quarter 2009, followed by a four week abroad in Vietnam (3 weeks) and Cambodia (1 week) during December break 2009. The academic theme of this program is an exploration of what constitutes a country’s sense of identity – the basic characteristics of national identity and the forces (external and internal) that shape national identity. Three countries that relate historically and culturally (Japan, China, and Vietnam) will be used as case studies. While on campus, students will develop tools for understanding a country’s history, culture and identity by studying Japanese history and Chinese politics. These tools will then be applied to a third country, Vietnam. Throughout the program students will make comparisons among the three countries. The reason for including a trip to Cambodia is for context and comparison. Cambodia has both influenced and been influenced by Vietnam, and the two cultures blend along the lower Mekong River.
The overall focus on national identity will encompass several themes:
- How do people create nations?
- What forces shape national identity?
- What are the basic characteristics associated with a country’s identity?
- How do these characteristics vary in emphasis or degree within different countries?
- How does one gather and interpret evidence of these characteristics?
Students will explore these themes from two different disciplines – history and social sciences. The historical method will emphasize specific events and themes in a country’s history to determine cause and effect relationships. The social science method will focus on observation and analysis of human behavior, customs, values, and institutions within a society. This method will be most prevalent during the in-country Vietnam portion of the program as students will observe and analyze artifacts, cultural performances, individual and group behavior and interactions, as well as meet with and interview various members of Vietnamese society.
In addition to these academic learning themes, spiritual growth is a priority of this program. Therefore, as much as students will learn about Asia and grapple with the topic of a nation’s identity, students will also come to understand more of their own individual identity as the child of God.