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Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

What is AMES?

The Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) course ranges from Japan in the East to Morocco in the West, from classical times to the present day. To study one of these cultures through its language enables you not only to develop a set of practical skills and knowledge that can be used later in many different ways, but also to engage with different ways of understanding our shared world. Many of our students are looking for something different that takes them away from languages and area studies they took at A-Level, most commonly French, Spanish or German.

Men to Devils, Devils to Men by Barak Kushner

Whilst the language components of the course are the most rigorous sections in the first year, students are also exposed to the history, politics, literature, culture and economics of the region as well. Parts IA and Part IB consist of practical language work, oral practice, and the study of the literature or history of the language. 

Language exercises continue in Part II, and options expand to include work on the classical versions of target languages and other courses ranging from upper-level history and politics seminars, to a comparative or inter-disciplinary course, including film.

Given the unique combination of language and content, AMES classes tend to be smaller and more intensive than some universities, but our small group supervision teaching provides an excellent framework to rise to the challenge.

Why study AMES at Corpus?

The Persian Book of Kings: Ibrahim Sultan's Shahnama (Treasures from the Bodleian Library)The responsibility for directing AMES at Corpus is shared between Prof Barak Kushner and Dr Firuza Melville. Although Prof Kushner is a specialist on China and Japan, the College arranges for teaching to take place in all areas of the AMES Tripos.  Corpus also offers travel grants for vacation study and some assistance with year-abroad funding. Prof Kushner has worked on a range of topics you can learn about on his personal website, and most recently has been working on war crimes and pursuit of justice in East Asia. His recently published book "Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice" won the American Historical Association's 2016 John K. Fairbank Prize. You can listen to Prof Kushner talking about Japan's war on the BBC.

Dr Melville's research interests include Classical Persian literature, Medieval Persian book art, Persian literary classics in contemporary art and Russian cultural Orientalism, especially in literature, opera and ballet, in Iran, Central Asia and the Caucasus. The cover at right is from her book "Treasures from the Bodleian Library: Ibrahim Sultan Shahnama".

What do we look for in applicants?

Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, By Phillip Maiwald (Nikopol) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Our typical offer levels in AMES are A*AA in A-levels, or 41-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level in the International Baccalaureate. An A-level or the equivalent in any language, though not essential, is seen as desirable. Through interviews and its selection of candidates, the College tries to assess previous linguistic interest, travel and exposure, literary and cultural interests, experience and general motivation.  There is no requirement to have studied any of these languages prior to application, but a student with no foreign language experience must be sure of his/her reasons for choosing one area over another. We also require written work to be submitted (if slected for interview). If you want to combine AMES with the study of a European language you must have an A-level or equivalent in that European language. In addition, an applicant wishing to combine AMES with a European language will have to take the Medieval and Moden Languages college registered assessment.

Corpus usually admits 2-3 students per year to read Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Persian or Hebrew. These programmes necessitate four years before graduation, including a third required year spent in the target country. Further information about year-abroad arrangements can be found on the departmental website. The Faculty’s Undergraduate Handbook contains information about courses and examinations, staff, dissertations, facilities, and other important details about studying there.

What do our students think?

Hear first-hand from our fourth year AMES student Lara about her interests in Japanese language and culture, her accommodation, and her experiences studying at Corpus.


What do our Fellows think?

Hear first-hand from our former and Honorary Fellow Master Stuart Laing on the benefits of students Arabic at Cambridge.