The International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) was established in 1993 in Leiden and Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to operate as an autonomous national and international organisation promoting academic engagements with and in (rather than on) Asia.

Originally supported by a consortium of Dutch universities, IIAS operates as a transregional programme facilitating different intellectual endeavours pertaining to Asia and Asian studies. Since 2010, IIAS has been more directly linked to the University of Leiden. It is through this university that it receives its core funding from the Dutch Ministry of Education. The IIAS Board continues to represent members of different Dutch universities. An International Advisory Council is being set up.

Since 2011, IIAS operates under three broad thematic clusters: ‘Heritage and Culture’; ‘Cities and Urban’; ‘Global Connections’. Always working in collaboration with partners from multiple regions and sectors of knowledge, the Institute has grown into a unique institutional model as both incubator and facilitator of research, teaching and public services activities.

The Institute has been successful in connecting people and their respective institutes, often through inclusive alliances shaped by shared humanistic agendas. One could say of IIAS’s approach that it is always in-progress, always experimental and open-ended.

IIAS activities can be framed in four operational categories: (a) research facilitation and dissemination; (b) development of international networks; (c) support of educational activities; (d) Community-based initiatives.

(a) Research facilitation and dissemination: IIAS Newsletter (50,000 readers); IIAS Book Reviews; international post-doctoral fellowships; publications;

(b) Creation/facilitation of international networks: European Alliance on Asian Studies (EAAS); International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS); Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA); Association for Asian Studies in Africa (A-ASIA);

(c) Support of educational programmes: itinerant international thematic Master Classes (annual); Double-Degree MA track on Asia-Europe Critical Heritage Studies, with Leiden University, National Taiwan University, Yonsei University, Gadja Madah University;

(d) Community-based initiatives: In situ policy roundtables (with cities and community organisations); professional capacity building programmes (‘Tailor-Made Training’ scheme)

Since 2014, IIAS collaborates with the Andrew Mellon Foundation to explore ways to expand humanistic ‘connected knowledges’ within academia. With the “Rethinking Asian Studies in the Global Context” project (2014-2016), IIAS and its partners reflected on the epistemological relevance of ‘Area and Regional Studies’ in today’s academia and on ways to integrate trans-regional and trans-cultural knowledges in a wider humanistic global-local platform. This initiative laid the foundations for the second present pedagogical programme “Humanities Across Borders: Asia and Africa in the World” (HaB) which began in 2017.

Philippe Peycam

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