About Us

Asia, Africa and the Middle East

Asia, Africa and the Middle East contain most of the world’s population as well as the dynamic economies of the Asia-Pacific region and India.

The Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS is one of the most exciting places in the world to learn about global politics with a focus on the politics of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, complex and vibrant areas that capture a rapidly expanding share of the world’s attention. What distinguishes a SOAS Politics degree from other Politics degrees is that the students have the opportunity to apply the concepts and methods of the discipline to historical and contemporary conditions of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as to broader trends in international relations. By contrast, in Politics departments elsewhere, the empirical focus tends to be narrowly on Europe and North America, with the rest of the world receiving insufficient attention.

Dynamic economies

Asia, Africa and the Middle East contain most of the world’s population as well as the dynamic economies of the Asia-Pacific region (China, Japan, Korea, ASEAN) and India. Some of the principal hot spots in the world today (such as Iran, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan) are also located in these regions. The discipline of Politics has long involved debates about the forms of government most appropriate to the common pursuit of good life (as Aristotle wrote). The study of Politics is still built upon this fundamental question. At SOAS however, we go beyond the study of governments and also examine political contention, economic development, and ideologies and culture.

The creation of the department

Originally established as the Department of Economic and Political Studies in 1962, two separate departments of Political Studies (& International Studies) and Economics came into existence in 1990. There are at present nearly 500 students studying for degrees (BA, Certificate, MSc and MPhil/PhD) in the Department. The department also hosts visiting students who join the programme as part of a year’s work towards degrees in other countries (notably the United States, EU, Korea and Japan).

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